Ages ago I wrote a post detailing the excessive amounts that can be added to new cars to spec them up to the levels that most customers would expect. Well over £6k seems like the norm to add things such as heated seats and navigation and it would be idiotic to expect a decent return on that investment when it comes time to sell the car. However as somebody who spends an awful lot of time perusing classified ads looking for a second hand luxury car (that’s right folks, I still have not taken the plunge yet!) it’s interesting to see the differences in price and availability of cars with these options…although pretty annoying at times too!
Here is a break down of some of the most popular/desirable extras on the cars I have been looking at, and also a sort of update on my seemingly never-ending quest:
Leather Heated Seats:
Nearly every luxury car comes with leather seats, it’s like the law. Buyers spending over £40k on a car expect to be sitting on dead cows and to be fair I can’t blame them as leather is alot better than cheapy velour. Mercedes is the exception to this rule as their leather tends to be synthetic, but it still looks (and apparently smells) like the real thing. Heated seats are kind of a necessity with leather seats in winter so it should be no surprise that it is a popular option, although not standard I might add! In the cars I have been looking at leather is only missing on base spec XC90’s (which are only attractive because of their relative youth), but even then heated cloth seats can be found. I see quite a few ML/X5/Q7 which lack the option though, but as it is a must have for me personally I deliberately ignore those cars.
You would assume that these 2 options would go hand-in-hand considering that electric seats already have a heavy mechanism in, but alas it seems that alot of manufacturers decided to charge extra, and quite a lot of customers chose not to pay! Again it’s base spec XC90’s that miss out on power seats, but their plusher SE siblings have power and memory standard for the driver (and heat for that matter). All BMW X5’s bar base versions of the first generation model seem to come with both…it came as standard on Sport models between 00-06 and on all second gen 07-13 cars. Other German cars are more frustrating though; power seats are standard on both the ML and Q7 but memory is a rare option…extremely rare on the Q7 it seems, even on S Line cars. I believe even base Range Rover Sport’s have electric memory seats, but I would only be looking at HSE top spec models anyway.
Possibly one of the most contentious add-ons to second hand luxury cars is sat nav; modern portable sets are infinitely more accurate, up to date and easy to use compared to previous generation navigation systems, yet the lure of a large LCD screen inside the car can add hundreds if not thousands to even a second hand motor. I really want a car with nav because of this and also the traffic redirection aspect of these systems, but some of the cars on my list can also be found with an all-in-one infotainment system which adds even more desirability to a colour screen. The second generation X5 is one of these cars and iDrive is probably the best, but annoyingly some buyers failed to add navigation to the standard colour screen so it’s not as common as I’d hoped. Audi’s MMI is almost as good and is present on virtually all Q7’s, although a few have the base non-nav/colour version. Mercedes’ COMAND system has always lagged behind and perhaps that’s why it is less common on used models; a fair few ML’s seem to lack the colour screen/nav option and annoyingly they tend to be the (originally cheaper) ML280’s, which cost a lot less to insure! Compared to these ‘smart’ systems, the screens in the original X5 and Range Rover Sport do comparatively less yet they are more popular, well standard in HSE spec on the Range. Both are also better than the XC90’s which is so bad that I am not fussed – a good job as it’s quite rare.
None of these cars have a proper iPod connection because of their age (grr), although aftermarket systems are available for a few hundred pounds or so. Aux jacks can be found though, although annoyingly not on all of the cars; ML’s, new shape X5’s and post 2006 XC90’s all get aux jacks as standard but the other cars don’t. Whilst I can understand this on the original X5 it seems incredibly cheap of Audi not to have included the input until 2008 – cars which remain out of my budget by alot. In regards to Range Rover Sport’s I’m a little confused but I think they get one accessible to the rear seats…so I guess not all bad but a little frustrating
Although I don’t really make many phone calls full stop it would still be nice to easily connect my phone. All of these cars come with some sort of phone connectivity but in different ways. All X5’s come with Bluetooth regardless of model or spec, as do all Q7’s it seems. ML’s had it as an option and although most cars appear to have it included they get a huge metal thing inside the armrest. Again I’m not sure as to how Range Rover Sports roll but they have a phone button, and XC90’s have a sim card slot (or at least some do).
Totally unnecessary but a nice gimmick, only the Q7 and ML can be had with an electric tailgate…it’s quite rare but not impossible to find one with it, although I would be petrified of using it in a multistorey! The other cars come with a split tailgate which is something I used to crave but now worries me a little given the annoying mechanism on the original X5. The others have a more substantial type but whatever the case there is nothing I can do about it.
Xenons aren’t something I would pay through the nose for but they are something which would make a difference between 2 models. Maybe more popular on ‘Sport’ versions of any of these cars they are not something which is standard even on brand new cars.
Stupidly wheels are really important to me and would make me spend alot more on a car, it’s easily to surmise each car individually. With the Audi if I got a widely available S Line model it would come with great 20″ wheels, SE models are cheaper but also get the horrible 2-tone paint scheme. Original X5’s usually come with 19″ Sport wheels which is fine by me…SE models are rare and Exclusive Editions are expensive. Newer X5’s look great on large wheels but the 20″ers were a rare-ish option, 18″ was standard but the 19″ is a good compromise. ML’s come with small 17″ SE wheels or 19″ Sport ones; I need the Sport ones even if they are quite abit more. Facelifted XC90’s get decent 18″ wheels and the SE Sports have very handsome 19″ers, but the base spec ones I looked at had plain 17″ wheels. The Range Rover Sport HSE comes with 2 variants, the 20″ ones are nicer but usually come on pricier cars so I am sure I could cope with the 19″ ones.
A take it or leave it option really, a lot of these types of cars have tinted windows but worst case scenario I can live without them.
Sunroofs can be more of a pain than they’re worth; they always look amazing (especially panoramic ones) but they can leak or break. Q7’s and X5’s had the option of the larger type roof but the earlier X5’s in particular have a worrying reputation. The rest get smaller roofs (the XC90 gets 2!) but they aren’t something I would seek out.
Rear Climate Controls:
Not something that would benefit me personally but still a nice little perk in my opinion. Some of these cars come with proper separate climate controls and some even get heated seats! The XC90 gets neither and it’s vents are located on it’s B Pillars too. The Audi also has that bin addition to it’s centre vents and control system, but it’s pretty rare on cars in the UK and the rear heated seats are seemingly impossible to find. New shape X5’s have a similar arrangement/rarity but the older ones can be had with those nice seats. I recall that Range Sports get a decent rear system but the car where I am most likely to find posh controls is the ML, and whilst not that sophisticated it still looks a lot better than the shallow tray that exists if it isn’t there.
6th and 7th Seat:
Only the Q7 and XC90 get 7 seats as standard, with second gen X5’s having it as a potential option (although it’s rare in older models). Although I am weirdly drawn to the idea of having a 7 seater there is likely little chance I would use it.
Maybe not upgrades per se, but different engine options are something to consider when it comes to buying and insuring these cars. Sometimes the more powerful engines are out of my price range…the 4.2 V8 TDI in the Q7 is expensive and thirsty, the same goes for the 3.6 TDV8 found in some Range Rover Sport’s, but whilst the Audi’s standard engine is fine the Range’s 2.7 TDV6 is slow. All X5’s are going to have a 3 litre diesel engine under the bonnet but the second gen cars also had a ‘sd’ option (later 35d/40d) which gave more poke…needless to say they are too expensive for my budget. The ML also tried a 2 power/1 engine approach but with lower figures; the 320CDI is comparable to the X5’s 3.0d but the 280CDI is a little slower…but the lesser engine also has the benefit of being alot cheaper to insure! All Volvo’s get a 2.4 D5 engine with 185bhp…early ones only got 163bhp but I would avoid like the plague!
Clearly I have been overthinking what options I want on my next car but essentially as long as I have heated leather and navigation I would be willing to overlook anything else. My main problem has come back down to financial issues and how much longer I am willing to save up for. A newer BMW X5 or an Audi Q7 would be my ideal purchase but at around £15k they are abit pricier than I’d like. For less than half the price I could have an older original X5 with not too many more miles, yet the insurance for one is around £500 more than for some other options. A compromise would be the slower and quite boring Volvo XC90 or the expensive to tax Mercedes ML with it’s frustrating spec levels. I could be tempted by the Range Rover Sport if the reliability record were still not so worrying, whilst the Porsche Cayenne would have much more appeal if earlier models were available with a diesel…as appealing as prices and image are I’m not sure I could cope with 18mpg! At the moment it looks like I might be getting an X5 but we will see – I still need that test drive!