The X5 is an impressive 4×4. It has impeccable road manners and feels more like an executive car than an off-roader, but it is capable in the mud, too. Buyers can choose between 3-litre, 6-cylinder petrol or turbodiesel engines, or 4.4-litre and 4.8-litre V8s. All offer more than enough power for overtaking and cruising, but the diesel models are particularly powerful. On the road, passenger and driver alike will enjoy the refined, comfortable ride. The X5 offers almost as much poise as the 5-Series saloon, as well as a similar amount of equipment. It is an expensive car to buy, but holds its value impressively, with some models retaining as much as 75% over three years, or 36,000 miles.
LAND ROVER DISCOVERY
The new Discovery, which hits UK showrooms this autumn, is a bigger car than the model it replaces, making it a true seven-seater. It is spacious, with improved legroom and better access to the rear seats. The car promises good protection in the event of an accident, with curtain airbags for all occupants. Inside, it retains the good driving position of the old model, with better materials used on the dash.
The Range Rover is an excellent off-road vehicle and a luxurious on-road car. The latest model is the best yet, with superb build quality and a great ride. Occupants are well protected from rutted or bumpy roads, but there is a touch of body roll on cornering. The choice of engines available is limited to the 4.4 V8 petrol or the 3.0 diesel. Both are good cruisers, but the diesel struggles in slow-moving traffic or on an incline.
This is a sensationally refined on-road car, but has limited off-road capability. The 3-litre V6 engine offers ample urge for overtaking, and the five-speed automatic gearbox allows the driver to shift manually. The RX300 tackles corners cleanly and offers an impressive ride. Uneven and broken roads are well disguised, and road noise is only heard on the roughest surfaces. Behind the wheel, the Lexus feels incredibly well-built with a touch of luxury, and the dash is laid out simply. There is plenty of adjustment in both the driver’s seat and steering wheel. Resale values are strong, but the absence of a diesel is a major drawback.
The M-Class is a capable and comfortable 4×4, but struggles to keep up with newer cars when it comes to on-road ride and handling. It doesn’t seem to have the quality of the BMW X5 and is expensive to run. Of the engines on offer, the diesel is the best all-round performer, with plenty of power for accelerating and cruising. The 5-litre V8 is extremely quick. The M-Class performs well off-road, but on-road it’s not as refined as many of its competitors, and while engine noise is well suppressed, wind noise intrudes, particularly at speed. Behind the wheel, the car is roomy and comfortable. The Mercedes badge on the bonnet means residuals are strong.
The Shogun has a good image, particularly in diesel guise, so it holds its value well. It is a capable off-roader, but can’t match its rivals on the road, where the ride is unsettled, wind noise intrudes, and ruts and bumps aren’t as well smothered. Inside, the mish-mash of materials used make the cabin seem untidy, but it all works well and everything is easily reached from a good driving position. This is a spacious car – five-door models seat seven in comfort – and all models have a huge boot. There is a generous level of safety and security equipment.
Porsche’s first 4×4 is certainly different, with an image no other off-roader can get close to. It also has looks that, for many, are an acquired taste and an engine range that spans the sublime to the ridiculous. The 3.2 V6 offers a sporty 250bhp, but if that’s not enough power for you, the mighty 4.5 V8 ups that to 340. If you’re still not satisfied, the twin turbocharged 4.5 V8 T has a huge 450bhp and a blistering pace, reaching 0-60mph in just 5.6 seconds. It handles well, and is full of safety and security kit. The Porsche badge ensures strong residual values, too.
TOYOTA LAND CRUISER AMAZON
Yet another superbly built and luxurious car. The Amazon is very capable off-road and as good as its more prestigious rivals. This huge vehicle can be tricky to manoeuvre in town because of its size, but its handling is safe and predictable, if not exciting. Cruising, the big Toyota is hushed and comfortable, rivalling luxury brands. However, the 4.2-litre diesel can be a bit raucous, particularly if stretched. The standard equipment list reads like that of a luxury saloon, and safety and security kit is good.
The Touareg is better looking than its Porsche relative, the Cayenne, and is good both on-road and off-road. There is a choice of four engines, ranging from the 217bhp 3.2 V6 petrol to the hugely powerful 5-litre turbodiesel, which puts out 309bhp. The on-road ride is smooth and comfortable, and handling is excellent. Off-road, the Touareg performs well. Wind and road noise are well suppressed, but the big V10 TD is obviously a diesel. The VW’s residuals can’t compete with its rivals.
Volvo’s big 4×4 is good to drive, and though it isn’t thrilling, it rides comfortably. It doesn’t have the body control of its main rival, the BMW X5, so there is more lean through corners. Off-road, the XC90 is not as capable as other models. However, it is refined, keeping wind and road noise to a minimum.