Volvo XC90, £45,750-£63,705
The new XC90 is one of the most eagerly awaited cars of 2015. It went on sale a couple of months ago and has won rave reviews. Why? Well, it is a good-looking, practical SUV with bags of cutting- edge tech that comes with Volvo’s core values of safety and efficiency as standard. In a segment full of flash machines it is also refreshingly understated for those who find big BMWs and Porsches a little vulgar.
In fact, while many rivals are upping the aggression of the design, Volvo has gone the opposite way and toned things down, with softer edges and a less boxy shape. The driving experience could never be described as fun — and the air suspension isn’t quite as cosseting as you might expect — but these are small gripes.
The cabin’s high-quality design makes the XC90 a pleasant place to be and there is bags of room, even if — as with most cars of this type — the seats in the rear (third) row are really suitable only for children.
All XC90s come with turbocharged 2-litre four-cylinder engines and an eight-speed auto gearbox; choose between petrol, diesel and hybrid versions. While the last of these is impressive, it costs £14,000 more than the 222bhp D5 diesel, which boasts decent fuel economy and is our pick.
- OUR PICK Volvo XC90 2.0 D5 Inscription (£50,185)
- POWER 222bhp @ 4250rpm
- PERFORMANCE 0-62mph: 7.8sec
- TOP SPEED 137mph
- FUEL | CO2 48.7mpg (combined) | 152g/km
Land Rover Discovery Sport, £30,695-£43,000
Few people who buy an off-roader venture near a harsh environment, unless you count Walsall or Burnley. But if you want an SUV that can cope with the rigours of proper off-roading as well as motorway cruising, the Discovery Sport is your best bet.
When it arrived earlier this year, everybody who drove the Discovery Sport heaped praise upon it, but there was something lacking – a decent engine. The sole option was an inefficient and outdated 2.2-litre unit scavenged from the Ford parts bin. Now the 2-litre Ingenium diesel engine has replaced the older version and it is clear that this is the powerplant the car should have had from the off.
The unit comes in two states of tune — 148bhp or 177bhp — but whichever you choose, make sure you shun the six-speed manual gearbox and opt for the nine-speed automatic: it makes the car far smoother to drive.
The Sport’s cabin is well appointed and there’s seating for seven, but the third row isn’t all that roomy; a sliding middle row improves versatility, though. Choose the mid-range SE Tech trim and you get all the essentials plus luxuries such as touchscreen multimedia, front parking sensors, plus automatic headlights and wipers.
- OUR PICK Discovery Sport 2.0 Auto SE Tech (£35,700)
- POWER 177bhp @ 1750rpm
- PERFORMANCE 0-62mph: 8.9sec
- TOP SPEED 117mph
- FUEL | CO2 53.3mpg (combined) | 139g/km
Audi Q7, £47,755-£53,835
Audi launched its first SUV in 2006, and in typical fashion the company went for broke. The Q7 was a full-sized seven-seat 4×4 that dwarfed pretty much everything else on the school run — which is one of the many reasons it was so popular. For almost a decade Audi found eager buyers for the Q7, and now there’s an all-new model that sticks with the same formula but is an improvement in every way.
The new Q7 is lighter, faster, more agile, safer and better equipped than what came before. Audi says that up to 325kg has been shed and it’s this that allows it to claim the Q7 can squeeze almost 50 miles out of each gallon of diesel. On a test rig, of course.
The Q7 comes with Audi’s fabulous six-cylinder 3-litre TDI diesel engine, in either 215bhp or 268bhp form. An eight-speed tiptronic automatic transmission comes as standard, with drive going to all four wheels. As a result the only choices you have to make are which power output and which of the two trim levels (SE or S Line) suits you better.
The answer for most people will be the 268bhp engine with SE trim, for effortless cruising in luxury. The third row of seats is still pretty tight, and ultimately the driving experience isn’t all that rewarding, but these minor niggles won’t stop long queues forming at Audi dealerships nationwide.
- OUR PICK Audi Q7 3.0 TDI SE (£50,340)
- POWER 268bhp @ 3250rpm
- PERFORMANCE 0-62mph: 6.5sec
- TOP SPEED 145mph
- FUEL | CO2 47.9mpg (combined) | 153g/km
65-plate Special contents
- Electric and hybrid cars
- Family cars
- Sports cars and supercars
- City cars
- Executive and luxury cars
- WAG gags: the words made possible by the 65-plate