Best buys: SUV
Volvo’s new XC60
The best one: Volvo XC60
While all the focus of Volvo’s revolution has been on its larger cars to date, it is the XC60 that’s the most important new car the firm has introduced in years. This is where the volume sales are made, so get this wrong and Volvo’s story or resurrection could quickly become a Scandi-Noir.
Thankfully, the new car excels in its class. It’s comfortable and refined, loaded with the latest innovative tech and better handling than either the new XC90 or the S90. The car also features the same range of four-cylinder engines. Initial options in Ireland are the 190bhp D4 or 235bhp D5 diesels, or the T8 plug-in hybrid version with 320bhp petrol engine combined with an 87bhp electric motor. This hybrid has been a surprise hit globally and worth consideration, though the price is a bit steep at €66,340.
Within months of launch expect a smaller 150bhp D3 diesel and a T4 197bhp petrol added to the line-up. Initial cars will be all-wheel-drive, but a front-wheel drive is also on the way. The smaller engines feature a choice of automatic or manual transmission. Currently starting at €53,950 for the D4 AWD, prices are up on the current range but expect them to come down when the D3 and front-wheel drive versions arrive.
Best model: D4 AWD 190bhp Inscription with Intellisafe Pro Pack for €62,300 (or wait for D3 to arrive).
Price range: €53,950 to €71,640.
Co2 emissions: 49 to 144g/km.
Sum up: A match for German rivals.
Worthy contender: Mercedes-Benz GLC
The selection of the GLC here comes with one big caveat – it still uses the old Mercedes 2.1-litre diesel engine, which is to be honest too noisy to really be able to keep up with the best of what the competition can offer. Thankfully, in every other respect, the GLC is as classy as they come, with a gorgeous cabin (think of it as a C-Class estate with lifts in its shoes and you’re getting the idea) and lots of space for those in front and back. Epically comfortable seats too, although if you’re looking for seven of them, you’ll be disappointed. Handling and dynamics are plucked from the very highest branches, and the GLC manages the trick of being comfortable around town, but rewarding to drive on the open road. A very, very well-thought out, well-engineered car, this one.
Best model: GLC 220d 4-Matic AMG Sport for €51,085.
Price range: €47,830 to €73,835. Finance from €556 per month.
Co2 emissions: 121 to 190g/km.
Sum up: Stuttgart on stilts.
Worthy contender: Audi Q5
While we respect the Audi Q5, it’s not necessarily the easiest car to love. It does have tremendous walk-up appeal, though, with that handsome, big-chinned face and the usual deft touch of Audi’s styling department. The interior is pretty lovely too, with much taken from the A4 (not that there’s a whole lot wrong with that) and plenty of space in the rear seats and boot. The 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine is also excellent, with good refinement and plenty of punch, but without exerting too harsh a penalty at the fuel pumps. As long as we’re allowed to buy diesel, it’s a hard one to beat. The only problem is a slight lack of fun or engagement about proceedings – the Q5 cruises quietly and comfortably, and goes where you point it, but there’s little in the way of actual enjoyment and you do start to wonder if you should have saved some cash and bought a Tiguan instead.
Best model: 2.0 TDI 150 quattro S-Line for €54,750.
Price range: €48,350 to €58,650. Finance from €459 per month.
Co2 emissions: 127 to 138g/km.
Sum up: Excites the eyes, but not the rest of the senses.
Wild Card: Kia Sorento
A big, bluff Kia mixing it with Mercedes and Audi? Oh yes, come the socialist revolution, you’ll all have to give up your posh German cars and slum it with the rest of us plebs down at the Korean car dealership, Comrade. Not that it would actually be much of a hardship, as the Sorento is actually really good. For a Korean car it looks and feels distinctly American (good American, not Trump American) and it benefits from a cabin big enough to generate echoes. There are seven seats, the front ones of which are massively comfortable, and overall build quality is just excellent. There’s good equipment, and if the 2.2 diesel is a bit behind the cutting edge, it’s decent enough and pulls well even with seven on board. Not the coolest car you’ll ever drive, it’s true, but one that’s hard to give up once you’ve sampled it (all of which goes ditto for the Sorento’s close cousin, the Hyundai Santa Fe).
Best model: 2.2 Platinum 4x2 for €40,395.
Price range: €39,395 to €49,900. Finance from €398 per month.
Co2 emissions: 149 to 177g/km.
Sum up: Korea’s best American accent.