Used test – winter warmers: Audi Q5 vs BMW X3 vs Land Rover Freelander vs Volvo XC60

These upmarket SUVs are reassuringly high-and-mighty and come with cosseting interiors, making them perfect for winter – but which makes the best used buy?

Words By What Car? team

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Our Verdict

In our recent group test of bargain used SUVs, the Land Rover Freelander fared pretty well, finishing second only to the Hyundai Santa Fe. Here, though, it’s a different story – up against its more upmarket rivals, it doesn’t quite pass muster.

It’s still not a bad SUV, mind you; it’s the most comfortable car here by a long chalk, it comes with a lusty engine and it comes with plenty of equipment. It also looks the part, and if you plan to do any serious off-roading it has the best credentials of the four.

But that soft ride translates to a slightly sloppy driving experience; what’s more, the Freelander isn’t as spacious as its rivals here. Throw in its high running costs and a purchase price that isn’t far off that of the BMW X3, and it becomes a hard car for which to make a case.

The Audi Q5 is an awful lot more fun to drive, and that fact, together with its sturdy dashboard, supportive seats and spacious interior, gives it the edge over the Freelander.

The Q5 is a good car, then, but you don’t half have to pay for the privilege. It’s the most expensive car to buy here, and a poor reputation for reliability suggests it’ll be the most expensive to run, too. What’s more, its firm ride means it isn’t all that comfortable – all of which means it slides into third place.

That leaves the Volvo in second. You do get an awful lot of car for your cash with the XC60, and even though it’s the cheapest, it’s no poor relation. The interior’s spacious, its seats are wonderfully comfortable, and its chassis strikes a great balance between comfort and composure.

But of course, the Volvo is the only car here that doesn’t come with four-wheel drive as standard, meaning you’ll have to seek a 4WD example out if that’s what you want. You also have to live with more noise from the diesel engine than you might like. If you can live with those flaws, though, and you fancy a stylish, comfortable SUV with a top-class interior, it should be on your list.

But it’s the BMW X3 which takes a resounding first place here. Not only is it great to drive, with a gutsy engine and involving handling, but it’s also comfortable enough for most people – in this SE form, at least – and endowed with a beautifully finished interior. Throw in stylish looks and quiet cruising, and it’s already looking like a winner.

There’s more, though, because the X3 is also the cheapest car here to run, and not by a small margin. That should go some way toward mitigating its second-highest purchase price, and even if it doesn’t, the benefits the X3 brings to the table make it worth the additional outlay. Winter motoring has never looked quite so appealing.

Read our review of the Land Rover Freelander’s replacement – the Discovery Sport

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Also consider:

1st – BMW X3

For Exceptionally low running costs; sensational performance; handling

Against Quite pricey to buy

Verdict One of the most satisfying used SUVs out there

Rated 5 out of 5

Read the full BMW X3 review

Find a used BMW X3 for sale in the What Car? Classifieds

2nd – Volvo XC60

For Spacious cabin; great seats; comfortable cruiser

Against Short of pace; engine is gruff when pushed; 4WD optional

Verdict Excellent all-round family car majoring on space and comfort

Rated 4 out of 5

Read the full used Volvo XC60 review

Find a used Volvo XC60 for sale in the What Car? Classifieds

3rd – Audi Q5

For Exceptional agility; swanky image; strong resale values

Against Expensive to buy and run; poor reliability reputation; firm ride

Verdict Smart-looking 4x4 that’s great to drive, but expensive to run

Rated 3 out of 5

Read the full used Audi Q5 review

Find a used Audi Q5 for sale in the What Car? Classifieds

4th – Land Rover Freelander

For Smooth ride; strong performance; plenty of standard kit

Against Too much body roll; cramped cabin; poor resale values

Verdict Well equipped and comfortable, and unbeatable off road

Rated 3 out of 5

Read the full used Land Rover Freelander review

Find a used Land Rover Freelander for sale in the What Car? Classifieds

Specifications: BMW X3 xDrive 20d SE Auto

Engine size 2.0-litre diesel

List price when new Β£32,660

Price today Β£13,950

Power 181bhp

Torque 280lb ft

0-60mph 8.3sec

Top speed 123mph

Fuel economy 50.4mpg (Official average)

CO2 emissions 147g/km

Specifications: Volvo XC60

Engine size 2.0-litre diesel

List price when new Β£31,765

Price today Β£11,495

Power 161bhp

Torque 295lb ft

0-60mph 12.3sec

Top speed 112mph

Fuel economy 41.5mpg (Official average)

CO2 emissions 179g/km

Specifications: Audi Q5 2.0 TDI 170 SE S Tronic

Engine size 2.0-litre diesel

List price when new Β£33,115

Price today Β£15,000

Power 168bhp

Torque 258lb ft

0-60mph 10.9sec

Top speed 119mph

Fuel economy 40.4mpg (Official average)

CO2 emissions 184g/km

Specifications: Land Rover Freelander 2.2 SD4 190 XS auto

Engine size 2.2-litre diesel

List price when new Β£31,765

Price today Β£11,995

Power 188bhp

Torque 310lb ft

0-60mph 8.9sec

Top speed 117mph

Fuel economy 40.4mpg (Official average)

CO2 emissions 185g/km

Price today is based on a 2011 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

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