Buying used: Audi Q5 v BMW X3 v Land Rover Freelander v Volvo XC60

Buying used: Audi Q5 v BMW X3 v Land Rover Freelander v Volvo XC60
Buying used: Audi Q5 v BMW X3 v Land Rover Freelander v Volvo XC60

As winter draws on, which of these SUVs would make you feel all warm inside?

Winters now seem to be either fairly warm or else filled with a sudden cold snap that can catch people out. In these circumstances, being able to rely on the wheels beneath you is a major plus, and there’s nothing as reassuring as an SUV to get you home.

Not everyone has the budget to buy a smart SUV new, so here are four fabulous examples that have taken at least a 50 per cent hit on their new price.

1: BMW X3 xDrive 20d SE Auto

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★★★★★
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol/diesel
List price when new: £32,660
Price today: £15,000
Power: 181bhp
Torque: 280lb ft
0-60mph: 8.3sec
Top speed: 123mph
Fuel economy: 50.4mpg (Official average)
CO2 emissions: 147g/km

Engine and performance

The Land Rover leads the snowy charge with a 2.2-litre engine, making it more powerful than the 2.0-litre engines in all the others. With commensurate torque, the Freelander is ready to go, whatever the revs.

However, that go has to tug a fair amount of weight around so the only marginally less powerful but lighter BMW can show it a clean, if salty, pair of heels. Add in an eight-speed gearbox that seems to be always on the alert compared to the slightly more lethargic six-speeder in the Land Rover, and it’s not surprising that the BMW clears off not just from the Freelander but from the other pair as well.

The Audi would be closer if it didn’t take a while to get going. Once you’re under way it’s seamless and progressive, but it’s not quick off the line. The Volvo is the least powerful vehicle here and definitely feels it. It’s not too slow, but you do find yourself waiting for the engine and six-speed gearbox to actually get on with it.

Ride and handling

2: Volvo XC60 

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★★★★☆
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol/diesel
List price when new: £31,765
Price today: £13,500
Power: 161bhp
Torque: 295lb ft
0-60mph: 12.3sec
Top speed: 112mph
Fuel economy: 41.5mpg (Official average)
CO2 emissions: 179g/km

The Volvo is the only one here without four-wheel drive. It was an option when new, and this example didn’t have it. That made it less able to climb icy roads, but otherwise the XC60 handles and rides remarkably well. It’s also fairly quiet, which is more than can be said for the Freelander.

The Land Rover suffers from noise from wind, road and engine, making it the least refined feeling here. It also sways a lot in the corners but if you’re after a comfy, wafting sort of ride, then the Freelander delivers handsomely.

Both the BMW and the Audi feel considerably more road-car orientated. The Q5’s ride is consequently quite firm, and there’s some road noise, but otherwise you’re rewarded with a fine-handling SUV. Same goes for the BMW and then some.

The X3 handles quite wonderfully for an SUV, and it’s quiet too. The downside is that the ride can be very hard, although our particular vehicle had got round that by being fitted with the Variable Damper Control. Somebody spent an extra £930 at some point and we were glad they had.

Interior

3: Audi Q5 2.0 TDI 170 SE S Tronic

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★★★☆☆
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol/diesel
List price when new: £33,115
Price today: £16,500
Power: 168bhp
Torque: 258lb ft
0-60mph: 10.9sec
Top speed: 119mph
Fuel economy: 40.4mpg (Official average)
CO2 emissions: 184g/km

A classy cabin comes as standard with the X3. It’s very BMW, so you’ll recognise much of it from other BMWs, which is no bad thing. An even better thing is the iDrive, the best screen system around. Audi can match the quality of the BMW’s cabin, and probably edges it. You won’t find anything sloppy in here, apart perhaps from the driver.

The Volvo takes a different approach, being full of lighter colours, and a more arty approach, while still offering top-notch fit and finish. It’s a delightful alternative to the more conservative German counterparts. The Land Rover delivers the best 4×4 seating, with a high and commanding driving position, but fit and finish isn’t quite up there with the other three unfortunately.

Running costs

If you liked the BMW’s cabin then you’ll love the economy figures. Where the other three hover around the 40-41mpg mark, the X3 can manage a whisker over 50mpg. The X3 can follow that up with low tax compared to the others, lower servicing costs and a purchase price notably below the Audi.

The Q5 is easily the most expensive vehicle here. While you can console yourself that you’ll suffer lowish depreciation, in real terms you’ll lose the same amount of money as the other, cheaper vehicles.

The Volvo only scored average in the latest JD Power Vehicle Dependability Survey, so that’s not encouraging. But it’s positively exemplary compared to the other three. They’re all prestige brands, big, imposing vehicles, and they all scored badly in the reliability survey. How badly? Well, the Freelander finished bottom. And neither Audi nor BMW have much to snigger about.

Verdict

However, overall the winner’s WH Smith’s gift token goes to the BMW X3. It’s a great drive and is comfy in SE trim, such as we had. The fact that it’s the cheapest to run by a margin seals the deal.

4: Land Rover Freelander 2.2 SD4 190 XS auto 

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★★★☆☆
Engine: 2.2-litre petrol/diesel
List price when new: £31,765
Price today: £14,500
Power: 188bhp
Torque: 310lb ft
0-60mph: 8.9sec
Top speed: 117mph
Fuel economy: 40.4mpg (Official average)
CO2 emissions: 185g/km

The Volvo XC60 comes in a very creditable second place. It’s the cheapest but doesn’t feel cheap, and it’s a great compromise vehicle in every department.

The Audi Q5 might have scored higher but while it’s very good indeed it’s also very expensive in this company.

The Land Rover Freelander would do well if pure 4×4 ability was scored higher, but as it is it comes in bottom of the pile. It’s not as spacious as the rest, feels the sloppiest, is definitely the noisiest and its expensive price doesn’t correspond with its poor rating in reliability surveys.

We’ll leave the BMW X3 wondering what to buy with its token. It deserves it.

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