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Coming into the family SUV class a full 10 years after the Nissan Qashqai turned it into a core category, Vauxhall really had to do something special with the Grandland X if it wanted to capture the imaginations of buyers in an oversaturated marketplace.
However, instead of taking the opportunity to blaze a trail and develop something unique, Vauxhall took the easy route, producing a toned-down version of the Peugeot 3008 on which it's based.
The only saving grace was that the Grandland X offered buyers a generous list of standard equipment and a competitive price (as long as you opted for Tech Line Nav trim). All of which makes Vauxhall’s decision to release a new top-of-the-line variant seem a little questionable.
It’s called Ultimate and comes packed with every optional extra Vauxhall offers: heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, wireless mobile phone charging, a Denon premium sound system, a 360deg panoramic camera, premium LED adaptive forward lighting and adaptive cruise control with pedestrian detection. As Vauxhall puts it: "You won’t be left wanting."
But, of course, that alone is not enough to command a £7000 premium over the ‘lesser’ Elite Nav model. Buyers who opt for Ultimate trim will also get a new 174bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission.
2018 Vauxhall Grandland X Ultimate on the road
This 2.0-litre diesel may be the most powerful in the range, but 0-62mph still takes a leisurely 9.1sec and it never feels particularly brisk on the road. Granted, there’s a decent amount of low-end shove that should come in handy if you plan on loading up your Grandland X with family and gear (our long-term 1.2-litre petrol Grandland X felt somewhat limited on a recent trip to Switzerland). However, it can be frustating to use an eight-speed gearbox that's far too keen to change down a gear when it should be using the torque on offer.
What you can expect is decent fuel economy. The 2.0 unit is very competitive against its rivals, being more powerful and yet more fuel-efficient than an equivalent Qashqai and Renault Kadjar. And while it's the gruffest-sounding of the Grandland X range, it still excels when it comes to towing. Indeed, if you tow caravans or other heavy loads, you’ll be happy to know that an Ultimate model can tow up to 2000kg (compared with 1100kg for the 1.2 petrol and 1400kg for the 1.6 diesel).
In terms of handling, the Ultimate car is essentially identical to cheaper models. That’s to say it’s perfectly adequate but not exceptional. The steering remains a little remote around the straight ahead and then builds in quickness as you turn in to the corner. This, combined with quite a bit of body roll, can take a while to acclimatise to; in a Seat Ateca or Skoda Karoq, the steering is more progressive and intuitive.
Surprisingly, standard-fit 19in wheels do little to ruin the ride. The suspension still manages to take the edge off bumps and expansion joints that the firmer-riding Ateca would thud over. This comparative softness does allow the Grandland X’s body to move around a fair bit over undulating roads that can in turn jostle you and your passengers around a little. However, it’s something you’ll be aware of rather than be overly annoyed by.
For more in-depth driving impressions, make sure to visit the Driving section of our full 16-point review here.
2018 Vauxhall Grandland X Ultimate interior
To all intents and purposes, the interior of the Ultimate edition looks the same as lesser Grandland Xs. The dashboard feels very solid and the choice of interior materials is relatively plush, so long as you don’t spend too much time investigating the lower sections of the interior. We just wish Vauxhall had used this opportunity to add a bit more pizzaz to proceedings à la 3008.
One area that has been improved, however, is the sound system. The standard Denon stereo comes with eight speakers, a subwoofer and a 240W amplifier. As expected, it delivers a bass-heavy low end that's perfect for rap or electronic music, although we were less enamoured of the top end, which sounded a little tinny and harsh.
In terms of infotainment, the Ultimate edition gets an 8.0in screen and sat-nav as standard. It can be difficult to select what you want on the touchscreen (particularly when travelling down a bumpy road) but there are handy shortcut buttons to get to all the major functions. A bigger disappointment is that the 360deg panoramic camera presents you with a slightly distorted and pixelated image – not ideal when you’re trying to squeeze into tight spaces.
Other extras such as the heated steering wheel, heated rear seats and wireless mobile phone charging all work as they should. You can read more about general functionality in the Space & Practicality section of our full Grandland X review here.
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