Volvo XC90 vs BMW X5 vs Land Rover Discovery

Can the Volvo XC90 hold its own against the BMW X5 and Land Rover Discovery? We find out which is the best sub-£50k seven-seat SUV...

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What Car? team
27 Sep 2015 06:00 | Last updated: 14 Jun 2018 00:03

What are they like inside?

All three offer that typical lofty driving position and penthouse view of the road that SUV buyers love. Getting comfortable is easiest in Volvo, though; it’s the only car here with electric front seats and the only one with adjustable lumbar support. That said some of our testers still found they developed lower back pain after a relatively short stint behind the wheel.

Volvo XC90 vs BMW X5 vs Land Rover Discovery

The X5 has the most comfortable and supportive seats, although our test car did benefit from £275 adjustable lumbar support, an option we’d strongly recommend. Meanwhile, the Land Rover’s spongy armchair-like pews are comfy for the first few miles, but don’t have much in the way of support around the shoulder and lumbar regions, and don’t hold you in position especially well through corners.

However, if outright cabin space is the priority, the Discovery will impress you most. Its second and third row of seats don’t slide or recline, but they don’t really need to because there’s genuinely enough head- and legroom for seven six-footers to travel in comfort. Access to the rearmost seats is also better than in both rivals.

That’s great if you’re continually lugging around seven people, but if you regularly need to swap between five- and seven-seat modes the Land Rover will quickly get on your nerves because erecting and folding away its two rearmost seats is a fiddly affair.

The process is more straightforward in the Volvo. It two rearmost seats are easier to flip up and fold away into the boot floor, and they’re more comfortable to sit in, too – even though there isn’t as much legroom. As a bonus, all three of the XC90’s middle row seats slide back and forth and recline independently of one another, allowing you to free up space on the third row when required and enjoy limo-like space for five people the rest of the time.

Volvo XC90 vs BMW X5 vs Land Rover Discovery

The BMW’s middle row of seats also slide and recline, and there’s actually slightly more legroom than in the Volvo along with just as much headroom. However, the X5’s sixth and seventh seats are best described as ‘occasional’. Kids will be comfortable enough, but there’s considerably less knee room than in either the Discovery or the XC90.

With all three row of seats in place, the XC90 has the most space left over for luggage; the Land Rover has the least. The Volvo's boot remains largest with the third row of seats folded away into the floor, although at this point the X5 has the smallest load area. That said, all three have plenty of space for a big family holiday, so the differences here are unlikely to influence your buying decision that much.

Infotainment

BMW X5

Gets BMW's superb Professional iDrive system as standard, which includes a 10.2in widescreen display, sat-nav, a DAB radio and even a 20GB hard drive to store your music on. Better still, you control the system using a wonderfully intuitive rotary dial between the front seats.

Land Rover Discovery

Touchscreen is frequently sluggish to respond to screen presses, and could do with a more user-friendly interface. Screen also has a nasty habit of reflecting sunlight, although the standard 11-speaker sound system has plenty of clout.

Volvo XC90

Big 9.0in touchscreen is bright and quick to respond to commands. The on-screen menus are mostly intuitive, too, and sound quality is excellent. As with all of these SUVs, sat-nav, a DAB radio and Bluetooth all come as standard. We certainly wouldn't bother shelling out for the Bowers & Wilkins upgrade.