Right so finally a little bit of movement in regards to my car situation, although it hasn’t actually a moving test drive as such. After much deliberating and searching for cars which fit the bill both price, spec and distance-wise, I located a car that I liked not far from where I work. So I decided to be brave and took the plunge by having a nose around the cars in the showroom; sitting in the driver’s seat, exploring the cubbies, taking a look at rear seats and opening the boot. Obviously spending a few minutes in these machines cannot give me a realistic idea of what they would be like to live with, but first impressions do count. Although there was not an XC90 for me to sample I did get the chance to sit in a few other dream machines which I’ve had my eye on…
BMW X5: The X5 was the car which I originally intended to go and see. A 2004 model with 90k on the clock caught my eye online, it’s distance a key selling point despite it’s price and age being abit more than I’d wanted. Like some of the other cars in the showroom the X5 was still in a state where it needed a few jobs doing to it, something the salesman openly admitted. A few stone chips and a bit of dirt are nothing to worry me, but the heavily scuffed grab handles and ripped handbrake surround were bad signs and sort of dented my enthusiasm for that particular example, and to a degree X5’s in general. The rest of the interior was ok…dials were nice and clear, the navigation screen was a lot wider and more modern than I’d imagined (though I didn’t turn it on) and the rear seats seemed quite spacious too. Speaking of seats, this X5 lacked heated ones, and my disappointment made me realize that I will definitely want them in whatever car I get. Another mild disappointment was the boot of the car; anything looks larger than my car’s but the split-tailgate system I had been so looking forward to seemed overly complicated and likely to get on my nerves. The electronic mechanism was abit slow and not as simple as I’d imagined-and BMW itself updated the E70 X5 with an XC90-like lever to lower the rear part of the boot. I won’t say that I’ve ruled the X5 out because it is still a great car, but being underwhelmed plus the launch of the new model has left it looking abit dated to my eyes.
Audi Q7: Although I have not been able to consider the Q7 because of it’s high prices, I could not miss out on the chance to give it a ago inside. However as with the X5 I was left feeling a tad disappointed…strange especially seeing as though interiors is what Audi does best. My issue raised it head the second I opened the door to sit in the car-it just seems to shrink inside! The Q7’s doors are extremely tall and stretch down to the bottom of the sill, but the interior of the vehicle itself is mounted quite abit higher, leaving massive door sills and an odd reverse-tardis feel to it. I felt the same when it came to the boot as the floor seemed to be mounted very high, I appreciate that there were seats hidden beneath but from what I understand they are pretty pokey. However the rest of the interior was pretty positive; the MMI system looked sharp and felt the most modern system (probably because it is!), and the dials and quality are great. The middle-row was actually huge too, and seemed to be the only aspect of the car which seemed in tune with it’s external size. I’m not sure that my observations would be enough to stop me buying a Q7 if that was what I really wanted, but that’s not really something I have to worry about anyway.
VW Touareg: I did not spend too much time inside the Touareg for a couple of reasons. Firstly was that the big Vee-Dub is not a car I am properly considering. Sure it’s quite imposing (especially in Altitude Spec as this one was), but it is thirsty and lacks some premium touches. Secondly the salesman began to ramble and simultaneously ignore the fact I was there to look at the cars, so shortly after I left. Therefore I merely chose to open the heavy door and take a peek inside. The Touareg’s interior has actually always been my favourite aspect of the car and I was not disappointed by the solid Germanic appearance. I was quite shocked to see that even given this car’s premium trim level it was missing electric seats though…I would have liked to check the back seats and boot but I made a sharpish exit shortly after.
Land Rover Discovery 3: Pretty soon I am going to get around to doing a review of Land Rover’s most practical model, but for the moment this little ditsy will have to do. So where shall I start? Oh yeah it’s huge! So big in fact that I am not even sure that it would fit into the parking garage at my nan’s flats. Opening the ton-weight doors I was filled with anticipation but sliding into the drivers seat of the Disco I was met with hard plastics and more hard plastics, in a military-esque design which doesn’t befit the car’s image or price. When I used to read reviews of the Discovery 3 I always felt that reviewers were a little harsh to describe the interior as a weak point, but it does put quite a dampener on affairs, and I imagine that with a lower spec variant (such as the cars within my price range) the feeling would be worsened considerably. Still big size means big practicality and I much preferred the tailgate on the Discovery to that of the X5 (or indeed the Range Rover). Interior issues were cured with the updated Discovery 4, and strangely I have no issues with that car’s physical size…maybe because there is one parked on next door’s front or maybe because I have not been too close to theirs. Regardless it remains a car I won’t be considering.
Range Rover: An unexpected bonus of my visit was that I got to sit in not one but two full-sized Range Rovers, a feat that I have long dreamt of…and I guess my dreams emerged pretty much unscathed after messing around inside the King of the Road. It’s a big step up into the cabin of a Rangie and you are greeted with a quality dashboard and a military-esque arrangement…albeit with much higher quality materials than it’s Discovery sibling. I suspect that the green lighting might seem a little naff, but this was the daytime so I couldn’t really see it. Access to the rear was abit tight and I finally realised how the rear wheelarch intrudes into the opening, but it is not unmanageable and none of these cars could really be called small. In the boot the tailgate mechanism is verrrry similar to that of the X5 (not surprising considering BMW developed both at the same time), the space in there is a little bigger though and I guess the fact it is a Range Rover made me disregard most of the negative vibes I felt…the spoiler mounted rear wiper is cool too! One of the RR’s I sat in was a 4.2 supercharged variant from 2007, which in a previous life had belonged to John Terry and his brood. Although he was not the previous owner it was still a cool fact to tell my work mate, even if the interior of the car in question was missing a few bits and bobs. A Range Rover remains a pipe dream for now, but I know that when I get one I’ll be very happy.
Mercedes ML: Last but by no means least we have Mercedes’ classy ML. Well actually that’s not strictly true, as it was the first model I sat in on my visit. The car in question was very close to the type of car I’d be looking at, although it lacked the all-important navigation and came with the less powerful 280 version of the 3L diesel. I didn’t actually spend too much time inside the Merc, but I came away with a strong positive feeling-much better than any of the other cars I sat in (bar the RR). A classy dial layout with a modern information centre is complimented by wood and leather in spades-I especially liked the grab handles on the centre console. The model I sat in lacked the navigation system, but the times I have sat in an R Class have given me a decent experience of the layout and user experience of the previous generation COMAND system (by no means class leading but a step above what the X5 offers). Rear leg space was strangely lacking, but this is probably more down to the fact that the front seats were fully pushed back as opposed to anything else. I had been worried previously about the gearbox, indicator/cruise stalk layout and parking brake. I actually have managed to have a sneaky drive of an R320 (Ruby) which is pretty much the same car…and it actually seems like something I could get used to. Obviously I will have to take another look at different examples of the ML and X5 (as well as the XC90), but at the moment the ML has launched itself to the front of my choices…even if it is a good £3k more expensive
Hopefully I’ll get a chance to test drive a few cars quite soon, as this might end up changing my opinion yet again! But I have until early August until I can even think about getting a new car