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Volvo XC60
 
 

Premium SUV XC60 from Volvo is in august company in India

Battle of compact luxury SUV's has just got more interesting with Volvo XC60. Car experts reviews BMW X3, Audi Q5, Land Rover Freelander and new Volvo XC60 to give you a winner.

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ecardlr.com National

 BMW X3 2.0D VS AUDI Q5 2.0D VS VOLVO SC60 D5 VS LAND ROVER FREELANDER


The XC60 won the last time around. Can the new X3 beat the Volvo, the more powerful Freelander 2 and sophisticated Q5.


Finding gaps within segments can give you a first-mover advantage and that’s exactly what BMW got when it first launched the X3 in 2009. It was the first compact luxury SUV that carved a niche within the niche luxury SUV segment. When we first tested the X3, we came away impressed with its sharp handling and peppy performance but despite all its appeal the SUV didn’t sell particularly well. It was expensive for what it offered and with only a petrol option available at first, it wasn’t what people really wanted. The diesel option that followed didn’t do too well either.


This segment may only account for a few crumbs of the Indian automotive pie but as you can see, three others have joined the bandwagon. Audi followed hot on BMW’s heels with the Q5, Land Rover barreled in with its Freelander 2 and them came Volvo with the acclaimed XC60.


Earlier this year, we compared the XC60, the Q5 and the Freelander (the new X3 hadn’t been launched here yet) and it was the Volvo that won us over with its comfort, safety features and irresistible price. But now the BMW X3 is back. In its latest iteration, it’s bigger, better and greater value than before. Now that it’s locally assembled, BMW has packed it with more features and priced it competitively.


The importance of price hasn’t gone unnoticed with the others. The Freelander 2 is now assembled in India as well and now costs about Rs 5 lakh less than before. This new HSE SD4 SD4 variant gets a more powerful motor (40bhp more), plusher interiors and some new equipment making it impossible to ignore. Audi hasn’t been sitting still either. This Q5 has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel, and is a lot cheaper than the Q5 3.0-litre TDI we compared earlier this year. To put a spanner in the X3’s shiny new alloys, Audi has launched the Business Edition of the 2-litre Q5 TDI for a mouthwatering price of Rs 35.80 lakh. And let’s not forget the feature-rich XC60 which still hangs on to its very tempting price of Rs 40.47 lakh


What this means is that the four cars you see here are now on a level playing field. They are much closer in performance, space and luxury. Let the games begin.


REAL ESTATE


The hardiest looking of the bunch is the Freelander. With its traditional upright stance and square lines, it’s the one that looks ready for the crater field that Indian road are. The others look rather dainty in comparison, especially the Volvo with its flowing lines and delicate detailing. Still, it was the one that grabbed the most attention, far more than the BMW. The new X3 looks far better than the old one, but it’s still quite odd and not as well balanced as the Q5. The Audi though relies heavily on its LED headlamps to get noticed. Switch them off and you’re left with what looks like a unusually big hatchback.


On the inside, the X3’s cabin is beautifully built but the design is not very creative. In fact, if you ignore the fact that you are sitting higher, the X3 could be any BMW saloon from inside. But what it lacks in originality it makes up by being fantastically easy to use. The dials are easy to read, there’s no mish-mash of buttons on the centre console and everything you need when you’re driving is easy to find and operate via the iDrive controller. As always, the front seats are brilliantly supportive and the cushioning is close to perfect but you do sit low, much lower than in the Freelander.


In fact, the Freelander is the easiest to drive through traffic because you sit high, the windows are big and the pillars are slim. The raised sections on the bonnet edges also make it easy to place in tight spots. We also love the big, chunky controls (easy to operate with your off-roading gloves on) and the way it feel as lot plusher than the earlier Freelander. Small things like the grain on the leather and the convincing wood finish go a long way in making the interiors feel more upmarket. The front seats are comfortable and thanks to the Freelander being the tallest, there’s plenty of headroom. That said, it is showing its age in the way the dashboard design is so square and the dials with their green backlighting hark back to the 1990s. Interestingly, there is one small detail that links the Land Rover and the Volvo – the power window switches and the electric mirror adjust are identical – both companies were one owned by Ford, remember?


The Volvo has an interesting dash. Neat touches like the floating centre console and the nice mix of aluminium trim and soft-to-touch surfaces mean the XC feels expensive yet subdued. And, typical of a Volvo, the seats are large and comfortable and the cushioning is perfect as well.

The Q5 too feels properly expensive from the inside, although we weren’t too keen on the acres of back. The design, like in the BMW, apes every other Audi around today (save for the new A6 and A8), but it does feel sporty. We especially like the red lighting and the well-contoured seats.


The BMW has the longest wheelbase of the lot and it shows in the way there’s so much legroom at the rear. That said, we did find that rear. That said, we did find that the rear seats do lack a bit of thing support. But we’re nitpicking here – all these SUVs are so close on rear seat comfort that there’s no close on rear seat comfort that there’s no clear winner. If anything, it’s the Freelander that’s the best to sit three abreast (it’s the widest), and the Audi’s well contoured seats and good thigh support make it slightly more comfortable that the others to be chauffeur-driven in.


Surprisingly, for their ‘go-almost-anywhere’ nature, the Q5 and the XC come with only a space saver spare wheel, the BMW sticks with its impractical run-flats, and it’s only the Freelander that offers a full-size spare wheel.

There’s not much separating them on the value-for-money front. At Rs 41.2 lakh(ex-showroom, Delhi), the BMW is the most expensive and the pretty long standard features list (you can’t add any options) include a panoramic sunroof, variable dampers, climate control, a six-DVD changer, Bluetooth connectivity, park, distance control, a start-stop fuel saving system and leather seats, which is more than what you would usually need. Compare this to the RS 39-lakh Freelander 2 and you’ll find it has everything that the X3 has and sat-nav and a reverse camera as extra. Sure, it doesn’t have X3’s adjustable dampers but it does come with its specialised off-road programs though.


The Q5 with its Rs 35.80 lakh price tag is the most affordable, but it doesn’t have a sunroof or cruise control and gets only a single CD changer and leatherette seats. In fact, you have to pay a rather steep Rs 1.29 lakh for a panoramic sunroof and Rs 2.59 lakh if you want the luxury pack which includes a six-CD changer and a reverse camera.


With a raft of standard features, it’s the Volvo though that looks the best value. On the safety front, it comes with seven airbags as standard and by paying a few lakhs more you can get Lane departure Warning, adaptive cruise Control, Blind Spot Information System and Collision warning with auto Brakes.


STUMP PULLING


If there ever was an engine/gearbox marriage made in heaven, it’s in the X3. The engine is responsive, it’s got convincing grunt and mated to the new eight-speed automatic, it never leaves you wanting for more performance. Gearshifts are quick and the gearbox helps the 2.0-litre motor make the most out of its 184bhp and 38.7kgm of torque. It’s so peppy that even the Volvo with its, extra 400cc, five cylinders and 21horsepower advantage doesn’t feel as quick off the mark. The thing is the Volvo has two gears less and so, with the longer ratios, builds speed gradually – like a plane taking off. Power delivery is more linear than in the BMW and once the turbos start singing, the Volvo pushes on relentlessly. Proof comes from the XC’s. 9.9sec 100kph time which is just shy of the 154kg lighter X3’s 9.2sec. If only the gearbox was a bit more willing. The six-speed auto can feel a bit slow-witted especially after the lightning-quick shifts of the X3.


The last time we drove the Freelander, it was considerably less powerful than the competition, and it felt so. This time around, its 187bhp is a better match for the rest and, this 2.2-litre motor now, along with the Volvo, makes a chart-topping 42kgm of torque. What this means is that once you get past a tiny bit of initial lag, the Freelander performs convincingly well, There’s a nice surge of power once the engine crosses 2000rpm and it no longer feels strained and stressed like the old Freelander did. Flat out, it’ll keep up with the XC60 and the X3 with its 9.9sec 0-100kph time. But the gearbox isn’t particularly intuitive and you do need to slot into manual mode to get the most out of it. Also going against it is the Freelander’s kerb weight – at 1880kg, it’s the heaviest of this group.


The Q5 comes with a natural disadvantage – it makes the least power and torque. But drive one and you wouldn’t know that it takes about two, seconds more than the others to get to 100kph. It uses it light weight and seven speed twin-clutch gearbox to its advantage, never feeling considerably slower than the others. It’s just that the gearbox has some lag between you putting your foot down and it downshifting, which shows up in the in-gear times, which are a tad slower than the others. That said, gearshifts are lightning-quick once past the initial delay and, like the freelander, the gearbox is at its best when in manual mode.


For all the excitement it offers though, the X3’s motor, like all BMW diesel, is the loudest of the lot, and not in a nice way. Near the redline, it’s audible and even at lower engine speeds the noise doesn’t subside sufficiently. That said, all these motors get audible under load but settle into the background at cruising speeds. It’s just that the BMW is always a bit louder than the others.


For the record, it’s the X3 with its eight-speed gearbox and unstressed engine that is the most fuel efficient of the lot with its 10.9kpl overall average.


ON AND OFF-ROAD


Thanks to the Mumbai municipal corporation’s apathy, we had a lot of roads perfect for a soft-roader test –terrain that they will encounter the most. With its suspension set in ‘Comfort’, the Volvo’s ride is pliant with a hint of underlying stiffness over lumpy bits. The thing is, in this mode, body movements aren’t well contained and switching to ‘Sport’ gives you the best of both worlds. Like the Volvo, the X3 too comes with adjustable dampers. Set it in ‘Normal’ and you get a ride that’s close to the Volvo’s – pliant and completely capable of dealing with our roads.


Even the Freelander, with its long-travel suspension and soft setup glides over bad bits of road. At low speeds, the softly sprung suspension does allow the body to move a bit but since these are not sharp movements, it is never uncomfortable. In fact, the hefty Land Rover is the best at taming patholes.


It’s the Audi with its stiff setup that has the fidgety ride. Lumpy bits aren’t absorbed completely and you can always feel a bit of a shudder as you drive these surfaces. The flip side is superb high speed stability – almost nothing deflects the Q5’s composure at high speeds.


As expected, it’s the X3 that outgrips, outsteers and outmanoeuvres the others. Its phenomenal balance, fantastic steering (despite being electric assisted) and seemingly unlimited grip make it the most car-like to drive. This and that lively engine easily make the BMW the best drive’s car here. The Q5 isn’t too far behind though. It too has great body control and grip, allowing you to really lean into corners. It’s just that it doesn’t turn into corners with the same eagerness as the X3. As for the XC, it prefers a more sedate pace because it’s not as eager to change its heading and the gearbox is usually one gear too high for the corner you’re taking.


The Freelander, as expected, isn’t anywhere close to the X3 on a twisty road. Its tall proportions and soft setup lead to quite a bit of body roll. But once past that initial roll, the Freelander stays planted and unruffled, which is nice.


Where the Freelander excels is when you really go off-road. It has Land Rover’s Terrain Response System with different settings for different terrain. It’ll adjust the way the throttle responds and alters ABS and traction control settings depending on what kind of terrain you are driving on. It’s even got an interesting feature that tells you which direction the front wheels are pointing (useful in low grip situations), and its short overhangs and high clearance will no doubt make clearing obstacles easy. The only off-road toy the others have, apart from all-wheel drive, is hill descent control.


THE END OF THE ROAD


The Q5 has many strengths. It is well built, has quality interiors and is nice to drive. You’ll never notice it’s got the least power in this group and it has, by a small margin, the best rear seats as well. However, it falls short in a few key areas, namely its fidgety ride and the fact that you don’t get as much equipment as the others.


The Freelander 2 is now hugely appealing and extremely competent. It’s priced well, has lot of equipment and it’s the most capable off-road. Its new-found power means it no longer feels slow and the ride is good as well. It loses out because it doesn’t feels as luxurious on the inside as some of its rivals.


The Volvo on the other hand ticks almost all boxes. It is priced well, is extremely well equipped, and rides and handles decently too. However, it is missing a bit of excitement and this is exactly what the BMW has in spades. With its willing engine, fantastic gearbox and brilliant dynamics, the X3 gives you the most thrills from behind the wheel. You won’t complain about the ride when you’re in the backseat either. It may not be as well equipped as its rivals, but it feels really well built and there’s a pervading sense of quality on the inside. It is worth the extra bit of money that BMW is asking for it.

 

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