Best buys: Large SUVs

Whatever your budget or motoring needs, we identify the best in class, some worthy contenders and something a bit different from the rest

Land Rover Discovery

Land Rover Discovery


The best one: Land Rover Discovery

There is some hint of controversy surrounding the new Discovery, and most of that is down to chief designer Gerry McGovern’s work on its styling. Too blobby, too amorphous say some, and then there are criticisms of such things as the asymmetric tailgate that serves no purpose, and the huge, unadorned chin that looks like Desperate Dan in metallic paint.

Still, away from aesthetics, the Discovery is toweringly (literally) impressive. Half-a-tonne lighter than before, much more affordable both to buy and run, space for seven full-size adults in a gorgeous, airy cabin, widescreen views out. Oh, and the ability to drive up and down just about any terrain you come across, including wading through nearly a metre of water without a snorkel. New twin-turbo 240hp four-cylinder diesel is excellent, and if Land Rover can underpin its quality and reliability claims, then this is going to be hard to beat.

Best model: 2.0 SD4 HSE 7 Seat for €83,410
Price range: €57,815 to €107,895. Finance from €POA per month.
Co2 emissions: 163 to 189g/km
Sum up: Tall in the saddle.
Read our review of the latest Discovery

Worthy contender: Audi Q7

Audi Q7
Audi Q7: Great comfort if not the most engaging drive

The big, bluff Audi is a car of many talents. Go for the standard model and you have space for seven people, a frugal 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine with surprisingly low emissions and great comfort, if not perhaps the most engaging driving experience around. Or, you could go all early-adopter, and go for the Q7 e-Tron quattro, which will (probably) do all your in-town journeys on silent electric power, but has the diesel engine and a decently sized fuel tank for longer journeys.

Or, you could go completely nuts and get the SQ7, with its astonishing 4.0-litre, 435hp triple-turbo (one of which is electric) V8 diesel. It’s a less insane car than it seems at first, but a devastatingly effective way to cross country (any country) at high velocity, and is exceptionally refined too. If only it handled with a bit more enthusiasm, we might call it perfect.

Best model: e-Tron quattro SE for €84,550
Price range: €72,850 to €120,250. Finance from €689 per month.
Co2 emissions: 48 to 199g/km
Sum up: Three-split personality, all of which are enticing.
Read our review of the Q7

Worthy contender: Volvo XC90

Volvo XC90
Volvo XC90: big and pretty

It’s tough for a big SUV to be pretty, as with all that height, bulk, and sheer acreage of metalwork, there’s little space left for prettiness. But the XC90 manages it. OK, so it’s no Audrey Hepburn, but those glowering headlights with their Thor’s Hamer LED highlights, and that countersunk grille have real dramatic presence, and it’s unquestionably the best-looking of the big SUVs.

It arguably has the best interior too, with pretty much as much space for seven as the Land Rover Discovery, and that gorgeous big-screen layout in the dashboard. Comfort levels are exceptional too, as you’d expect from Volvo, and there’s probably no safer car in which to have a crash.

A shame that the ride quality and handling aren’t up to snuff (it’s a bit too firm around town) but the 2.0-litre diesel engine lineup is good, and unlike its rivals, you can have the plugin T8 hybrid and keep your third row seats.

Best model: D4 R-Design for €69,950
Price range: €64,950 to €81,200. Finance from €650 per month.
Co2 emissions: 49 to 149g/km
Sum up: Your new Swede-heart.
Read our review of the latest XC90

Wild card: Lexus RX450h

Lexus RX450h
Lexus RX450h: pays off to get to know it

The RX450h is a tricky car to get to know. The usual motoring journalist instinct is to head for the nearest twisty mountain road and drive the wheels off the car. Do that, and the Lexus responds rather badly. It’s too softly sprung for committed cornering, and constant hard acceleration means that the CVT gearbox is shown off to its shouty, drone-y worst. So, slow down a bit.

Drive like a normal person. Maybe even take a trip into town. Now, the RX starts to respond properly. You sit, cocooned, in glorious silence, on wonderful seats, surrounded by high quality surfaces. No, you don’t have seven seats but there’s impressive space in the back and on the outside, there’s that daring, avant-garde styling.

The ride is soft and relaxing, and you have the power of the 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine on standby should you need it. It’s a very different car to its rivals, the RX, with low Co2 emissions, no plugin option, no diesel variant and a disdain for sporty driving. All of which iconoclasm makes it more appealing than ever.

Best model: RX450h Luxury for €77,950
Price range: €71,450 to €488,050. Finance from €647 per month.
Co2 emissions: 122 to 127g/km
Sum up: Silent like a Ninja.
Read our review of the RX450h

Coming soon: Volkswagen Touareg, Audi Q6, Audi Q8, BMW X7