Best Buys Premium SUVs: Merc comes out on top in tight race
Our choice of the best premium SUVs on the market right now
Best one: Mercedes-Benz GLC
It’s far too easy for any large, posh, tall car to tip over the good taste barrier and into the realms of vulgarity, but the GLC manages to side-step that rather deftly. Mechanically and stylistically it’s basically a tall C-Class estate, so you’re already off to a good start in terms of steering response and ride comfort, and the GLC is most definitely at the peak of its class in these terms. The interior is rather lovely too. It may lack the whizz-bang effect of the big-screen cabins from the E-Class and new A-Class, but there’s quality aplenty in here, and no small amount of comfort. Decent space too. The only problem is the engine - the GLC still uses the old 2.1-litre four-cylinder diesel unit, which is far too gruff, especially compared with the 2.0-litre engine found in the E-Class. Hopefully the new engine, and some hybrid tech, will be fitted shortly to the GLC. AMG versions, with their turbo V8 engines, are properly fast and rather wonderful.
Best model: GLC 220d 4MATIC AMG-Line for €50,450
Price range: €47,235 to €118,290. Finance from €549 per month.
Co2 emissions: 121 to 226g/km
Sum up: Cool, calm, and classy
The X3 now looks as slick as it always should have done (previous versions looked unforgivably gawky) while its cabin now has the sort of fit, finish, and quality that it should do for this kind of money (again, previous models were parlous in this regard) and yet it’s still terrific to drive. SUVs just shouldn’t be able to be this rewarding. Shortcomings? The styling still isn’t perfect, and is rather badly shown up by its more dynamic-looking X2 stablemate, and the X3 is a car that becomes searingly expensive once you start dipping into the options list. In fact, by the time you’ve added a few choice items, you’re well into X5 price territory, which kind of defeats the object.
Best model: xDrive 20d M-Sport for €65,739 Price range: €58,937 to €86,651. Finance from €629 per month. Co2 emissions: 140 to 193g/km Sum up: Truly enjoyable to drive, but you’d be better off with a 5 Series Touring
The only thing holding the Q5 back from outright greatness is a lack of character. While the BMW X3 and Merc GLC have their tiny flaws that help to amplify their talents, the Q5 does more or less everything more or less very well, and yet fails to put in a memorable performance. It’s very good to drive, has a well-made interior and exceptionally good 2.0-litre diesel engines. A brilliant car, then, but one which we struggle to love.
Best model: 2.0 TDI 190 S-Tronic S-Line for €59,450 Price range: €48,680 to €85,250. Finance from €459 per month. Co2 emissions: 120 to 189g/km Sum up: Technically brilliant, emotionally forgettable
Generally speaking, if you drive a premium-badge SUV you’re probably going to, how shall we say this, not be the most beloved member of your community. In fact most people will assume you’re a banker, and yes that’s rhyming slang. However, if you choose a Volvo XC60 that perception might shift a bit. The Swedes have taken their reputation for safety, added extra occupant-saving items and added extra protection for those outside the car. Plus, choose the right model, and you can swish past on silent part-electric power, saving the lungs of passers-by too. Plus, it’s nice to drive, has a truly gorgeous interior, and excellent reliability prospects.
Best model: T8 Twin Engine plugin Hybrid Inscription for €68,450 Price range: €47,950 to €68,450. Finance from €POA per month. Co2 emissions: 50 to 168g/km Sum up: The caring, sharing SUV
Wild Card: Alfa Romeo Stelvio
You may snigger into your sleeves, but make no mistake; Alfa’s back and it’s not messing around this time. The Stelvio sure has its flaws - the cabin feels annoyingly cheap in places, and the infotainment system is antediluvian and the model range is quite limited for now. But the things the Stelvio does well, it does really, really well. The 510hp V6 Quadrifoglio model? A Ferrari with a backpack, and no mistake. Far from perfect, but lots of fun, and gorgeous with it. Good quality, too.
Best model: 2.2 JTD 210 AWD Speciale for €55,995 Price range: €47,295 to €POA. Finance from €519 per month. Co2 emissions: 124 to 210g/km Sum up: Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou? Oh, you’re there, in the sexy SUV…