Type R vs STI , CR-V vs CX-5, X3 M-Sport vs Macan
As a motoring journalist, I have the opportunity to drive almost every single car sold on the market before it’s even released for public consumption, sometimes months before it is launched in the Philippines.
Inevitably, anxious car buyers often reach out to me, and ask what I think of Car A vs Car B vs Car C.
I always tell people (even strangers who walk up to me, and introduce themselves) my thoughts, although I qualify my statements, tell these people my preferences, and ancourage them, at the end of the day, that a proper test drive is more important than listening to what I tell them, or the hype surrounding a new car, or what most people consider a popular choice.
Nonetheless, I thought I’d make a quick compare of some of the hottest, most popular cars on the market so people can have an idea of how these cars are like, and hopefully push them to take a test drive, and eventually make a purchase.
I will do a comprehensive review of the vehicles listed here in my future columns.
Honda Civic Type-R
When the Honda Civic Type-R (codenamed FK8) was announced, people balked at the price and said that a Subaru STI, which has the same power, same size, and almost comparable price, is far better value for money.
But 24 hours after Honda opened its order books for the first 100 units, it was filled up. What makes it an amazing car?
Firstly, it’s amazing to drive. It has medical-grade precision, very fluid steering, a very linear and progressive engine, and despite lacking all-wheel drive, gives amazing stability at high speeds.
Yet, the clutch is light, the supportive seats are comfortable, and the steering is equally light, while still offering precision, feel and feedback.
The gearshift is sniper-rifle precise, a joy to row through. The Brembo brakes are amazingly powerful yet progressive, and the massive 20-inch wheels shod with massive Continental Sport Contact tires still give amazing compliance over the rough stuff.
Flicking to R-mode gives the engine even greater zing, with the steering and suspension firmed up, and feedback wound up all the way to 11. The full 310 hp is unleashed. Vtec-turbo just kicked in, yo!
The Subaru STI, on the other hand, is a more dated option. It has more character, thanks to its turbocharged boxer engine and that unique boxer rumble.
The suspension is a lot firmer, and as a whole, the car is very playful: it likes to move around a lot, like a playful dog.
The brakes are strong, but owners have reported that they can fade under heavy use.
Overall, the STI is perfect for fun runs and track days, but it can be tiring and tiresome when you’re not in the mood.
The added 500 cc of engine displacement gives the EJ257 engine block a broader, more muscular powerband, with a far thicker mid-range torque. A more focused vehicle, and definitely a tarmac terrorist!
The 2018 model gets larger 19-inch wheels and tires, 305 hp and 394 Newton meters of torque, together with better fuel efficiency, 6-piston front Brembo and 4-piston rear Brembo brakes with cross-drilled rotors all-around, and Recaro seats, making it more premium.
Ironically, the Civic Type-R can do 90 percent of what the STI can do, in a more comfortable overall package.
The only clear advantage that the STI has is when the roads are very slippery.
Despite the Civic possessing a slew of electronic driving aids, it’s tough to beat symmetrical all-wheel drive.
So for me, the Civic Type-R is my preferred steed between the two, ultimately because it feels far more precise and tidy on the limit.
Plus, I love the rice-rocket/tuner-special looks of the Civic, which is a real love-it or hate-it affair. I love it!
Honda’s latest CR-V, which helped kick-start the segment in the 1990s, has grown immensely, learned new tricks, yet still appeals to its core “mommy” market more than ever.
The fifth generation CR-V finally gets a diesel engine and a 7-seat option, allowing it to straddle the compact crossover and LCV pickup-based SUV market (think Toyota Fortuner, Mitsubishi Montero Sport, and the upcoming Nissan Terra), all in a package that’s smaller, much more refined and car-like, making it a favorite of women drivers who may find LCV-based SUVs a bit daunting to drive.
And the CR-V drives as well as it should: easy to handle, comfortable, with a myriad of electronic driving and convenience aids.
The third row seats are roomy, but require a significantly large stride to get in, so it’s still best for kids.
The dash architecture is high-tech, fresh and attractive.
On long-drives as well as bumper-to-bumper traffic, the CR-V is in its element. Honda engineers, judging its intended use, well and matched it to its core market.
Show the CR-V winding roads, however, and it begins to lose out to the Mazda CX-5.
The CX-5 is perhaps the best overall crossover in the segment: amazing gasoline and diesel engines that are powerful, responsive yet highly efficient, mated to equally responsive 6-speed automatic transmissions.
Driving position on the CX-5 is the best (the key here is your right foot squaring naturally with the gas pedal, so your right foot and leg don’t feel cramped), visibility in and out is excellent, and feel is very fluid, composed, and confident.
The CR-V, on the other hand, prefers to be quite inert, isolated and aloof at times.
These are things you won’t notice unless you’re a keen driver.
SkyActiv technology really works, a wholistic approach to efficiency and driver enjoyment.
Diesel engines are my top pick for both crossovers, but the Mazda’s 2.2-liter engine gives it more power and a broader powerband outputting 175 hp and 420 Nm of torque, while the CR-V’s modest 1.6-liter diesel feels adequate at best with 120 hp and 300 Nm of torque.
Thankfully, the CR-V’s available 9-speed dual clutch transmission is seamless and helps make the CR-V feel more capable, spreading the powerband better.
My only complaint is that the almost monotone interior of the CX-5 looks a tad boring compared to the contrasting interior, particularly the dash, of the CR-V.
If you spend a lot of time driving rather than being stuck in traffic, you will love the CX-5 more than the CR-V. I know I do.
BMW X3 M-Sport
Porsche Macan Sport
Still on the SUV chapter, but moving far upscale this time, are two new luxury crossovers.
The BMW X3 in M-Sport trim is all new, recently launched in the local market.
Fuel efficiency is amazing, as well as interior space, and it finally looks handsome, aggressive and in tune with the rest of BMW’s vehicle lineup (previous X3s looked like the red-headed stepchild in the family).
Driving is as sharp as ever, but you know that the X3 is meant to be a cruiser, be it on the boulevard or on the highway.
It can do winding roads very well, of course, but it feels very calm, composed and progressive.
In-car entertainment is good, and the iDrive, in its latest iteration, feels more intuitive, less annoying, and more convenient to use.
My main gripe? The transmission tunnel is humongous, so my right foot with my size 11 EEE’s feel kinked.
I’d have to remove my shoes and drive wearing my socks only to feel more comfortable. Otherwise, I’d say it’s the best.
Problem is, Porsche’s Macan Sport just trumps the X3 M-Sport dynamically.
The only two things the Macan loses out to the X3 is (1) fuel efficiency (the Macan is gasoline, the X3 M-Sport is diesel), so that’s 12 km/liter for the Porsche versus 20 km/liter for the X3; and (2) the rear seat space, as the X3 is significantly bigger, and offers more headroom.
Otherwise, the Macan Sport is intense. If the X3 M—Sport is fluid, the Macan Sport is telepathically linked to your brain: it moves at a pace almost too quick, your brain needs to rewire itself and adjust response time.
The Macan’s PDK 7-speed dual clutch is more responsive than the X3 M-Sport’s 8-speed ZF Steptronic automatic, and the addition of air suspension just makes the Macan, despite riding on massive 20-inch wheels, surprisingly more compliant on very rough roads, even when taken at speed.
Flick to Sport+ for the suspension, engage sport mode for the engine and transmission, then slot the PDK to manual mode, and you’ll be embarrassing other sports cars on winding roads.
Want a very capable, very fuel efficient, and stylish cruiser? The BMW X3 M-Sport is for you.
The 2.0-diesel produces 190 hp and 400 Nm of smooth torque providing great fuel efficiency.
Want an intense and hugely satisfying driving experience, while still retaining a good dose of practicality? Look no further than the Porsche Macan Sport.
The 2.0-turbocharged petrol engine provides an explosive 252 hp and 370 Nm of torque to provide an intense driving experience.
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