Invasive Procedure

The average price of a facelift in the UK lies somewhere around the £7k mark, and whilst that sort of sum might not be too much to pay for aging celebrities/rich housewives it remains a not insignificant figure for the rest of us. What’s more, the results of such a procedure are by no means a guaranteed success – tight skin, startled expressions and scarring are all tell-tale signs that somebody has been under the knife, and if you’re remotely in the public eye then be sure that there will be intense scrutiny on your appearance for months to come.

This is also very much the case in the motoring world and indeed I covered it way back in the early days of this blog; if you assume that the average lifespan of a vehicle model is 7 years old then it has now become the standard that around half way through this there will be a reasonably big overhaul  both inside and out. There are also usually a few other updates too, but this semi-major update is usually the one that attracts the most attention and can command a small bump in price when they are released. However after a few years on the used market, this small bump can often grow much larger due to greater desirability – ironically a £7k facelift price is not unusual amongst some premium vehicles on the market.

I’ve had this issue lurking in my mind for the duration of my car hunt and it’s coming to the forefront now as I start to get a little fussier with the cars I’ve been looking at, so as ever I feel the need to vent my feelings here to make me feel better, and also maybe give any readers a little more information if they’re looking at cars similar to the ones I am. The newness of some of these vehicles means that I can’t really consider the facelifted versions, but I’ll try and keep any mentions brief…this list is at least a little smaller than the last one don’t worry guys!

Audi Q7:

As you can see the external differences on the facelift Q7 are pretty minor, but those LED lights bring it right up to date

Earlier non-S Line Q7’s had grey plastic cladding…yuk

Yes somehow the Q7 has made it through to the ‘judge’s houses’ stage once again, but unfortunately whilst a facelifted version offers significant benefits over earlier models it remains out of reach. Improved MPG, reduced tax, updated MMI and of course Audi’s signature LED daytime running lights were introduced in 2010, and whilst this has not significantly dated earlier cars it does dent their appeal slightly.

Updated steering wheel and MMI differences look like the sole differences inside the Q7

Older cars actually had a nicer 3 spoke wheel and for their time were ahead of the class in terms of infotainment

BMW X3 (E83):

Black plastic bumpers and fussier headlamps make the early X3’s look a little dated

M Sport cars like this example almost look respectable, but those awkward headlights kind of ruin things for me

None of the original X3’s had a particularly good reputation, but the earliest cars with their harsh suspension, plastic bumpers and cheapo interior plastics seem particularly unappealing for all but the cheapest of buyers nowadays. In 2007 the X3 was updated with body coloured bumpers in new M Sport trim, slightly nicer plastics and updated engines with better fuel economy and emissions. I am still not overly keen on the X3 but the acceleration on offer from the 3.0sd/35d engines, so the facelift is what I’d be looking at.

The X3 has an annoying pop-up nav system and cheap trim, but a nice X5-esque steering wheel

The facelift must have focused on improved materials instead of design, yes this is ‘updated’ over the previous picture!

BMW X5 (E53):

The earliest X5s had rounded headlamps and sometimes came in odd colours like this maroon or a horrible turquoise.

The 2004’s more feline headlamps and flared grille were akin to contemporary 3 Series cars, I also love these 19″ wheels on Sport models (although again not keen on the colour)

The very earliest E53 model X5’s were introduced way back in 2001, so it’s no surprise that the earliest cars are looking a little dated – even compared to cars from late 2003 on. Updated headlamps included ‘halo’ lights and the front grille was enlarged to give a more aggressive look, but it’s the mechanicals which really received a boost; power was boosted from 183bhp to 218bhp and helped by the new ZF 6 speed automatic (in V8 and diesel models) it helped the 0-60 time drop by nearly 2 seconds. This means that earlier X5’s are looking pretty damn cheap nowadays, circa £6k will nab a reasonable 2003 pre facelift, whereas a tidy 2004 car with a similar mileage can be closer to £9k…however for me the facelift’s younger age and apperance gives it the advantage.

Admittedly very few X5s came with this initial layout with small screen and 4-spoke wheel, but that walnut trim did survive the car’s lifetime

See the walnut remains! But from around 2002 cars came with a nicer screen and with the facelift Sport cars gained this lovely steering wheel

BMW X5 (E70):

Earlier second-gen X5’s came with black cladding like this SE model, the 20″ wheels are from the worthwhile Dynamic package. M Sport models get different wheels and less black plastic but lie out of my budget

The 2010 facelift didn’t change too much apart from the lower grille, but did add those gorgeous 20″ alloys to the option sheet – I would even consider adding them aftermarket!

As with the Q7, the facelift for the second generation X5 occurred in 2010 and as such prices remain too far out of reach for me. That facelift introduced a much updated iDrive system, improved mpg, 8 speed gearbox and of course amazing wheels, but having said that the pre 2010 cars offer a pretty nice package anyway. Of more importance to me are the engine updates that occurred about 6 months into the E70’s life and mainly affect those on an 08 plate and newer; efficient-dynamic branded changes improved fuel economy by a small amount but importantly reduced emissions under the 225g/km cutoff, meaning road tax falls from £475 to £280 – a big factor for me!

A class leading interior in many ways, this was the first X5 with iDrive and had a cool glovebox

As you can see the facelift brought minimal changes, but the iDrive controller is slightly different and the UI much improved

Land Rover Range Rover Sport:

A black HSE model is pretty much a semi-realistic dream car for me, but the ones in my price range remain a little tatty

The 2010 facelift added snazzy lights, a less masculine grille and the option of those Vicoria-Cross themed wheels, but is far out of reach

It seems like 2010 was the year for facelifts in the luxury SUV market as the Range Rover Sport was yet another candidate for an update…although admittedly late 2009 is when the first cars were released. The junior Rangie’s facelift was actually pretty comprehensive and resulted in a much more suitable car with which to carry the nameplate; the exterior was toned down a little bit with a more varied colour palette, but of bigger interest is the vastly improved interior. Plusher materials, less buttons and thankfully no more monochrome audio screen mean that things seem a lot more premium inside. I am also attracted by the improved engine options, as although only offering small mpg and emission improvements the difference between the older 2.7 TDV6 and the 3.0 TDV6 are very noticeable…it even managed to replace the awesome 3.6 TDV8 too. All this doesn’t really matter though, because facelifted cars are close to £30k and even the nicer pre-facelift models can command £25k!

I doubt this interior was ever class-leading, but it at least gives a commanding view of the road and in HSE spec equipment levels are very high

In many ways I prefer the facelifted car’s interior to that of the new generation – driver focused yet still commanding

Land Rover Range Rover:

The very first years of the third generation Range Rover cut a very elegant and clean cut line, even in green

But the 2006 facelift brought the car into line with other Land Rover models with their cut out grille/headlamp design. The 2010 facelift is too far out of my price range for me to even find a picture

Undeniably the best SUV in the world in many ways, the third generation Range Rover was updated many times throughout it’s lifetime but it’s probably only a couple of models I’m interested in. The original car had arguably the cleanest lines but these were updated in 2005 with a more modern front grille and tailights. It was then that the petrol engines were switched from BMW to Jaguar based options, but the diesel remained underpowered and unchanged until the following year – but the 3.6 TDV8 was worth waiting for, as were the small but important interior changes. These 2006/7 models have a place in my dream garage but with the cheapest prices only dropping to £15k it seems unlikely I’d find a decent one without paying a little more. 2010 brought a more comprehensive update inside and out and in 2011 the awesome 4.4 TDV8 was added, but these are far far out of reach for little old me.

Alot of the tech was originally shared with the E53 X5 (note the navigation screen and controls), styling was great but some of the button placement was a little questionable

Ever so slightly updated (and with proper cupholders), the Range Rover’s interior was now one of the best in the world

Mercedes ML:

Sleek and classy looking, there is not much wrong with the ML’s appearance…maybe a little boring though

You can’t really see it here but those Sport wheels are beautiful. In addition headlamps are slightly reshaped as is the front airdam

Out of all of the cars here the ML arguably makes most sense; modern to look at and drive yet usually cheaper than other contemporary SUV’s it would appear to tick all my boxes, apart from the frustrating fact that seemingly most models miss out on one or more important items of kit (ie heated seats or navigation). The late 2008 facelift was a slight one but encompassed a slightly modified grille and gorgeous wheels on Sport models, plus inside there was an improved COMAND system (standard colour screen but not navigation), tweaked controls and a standard powered boot. The aesthetic improvements of these cars plus the better navigation makes them very appealing, but at the moment they lie only slightly out of my reach. Annoyingly though neither this facelift nor the slightly updated engines which followed the year after featured emissions improvements enough to lower tax.

Although a quantum leap over the first generation ML, the second’s interior is merely average when compared the Q7 and E70 X5

Facelifted cars get a different steering wheel, larger side mirrors and an updated COMAND system

VW Touareg:

The Golf-on-steroids look wasn’t offensive but just wasn’t very eye catching

In the USA the facelift was considered so extreme that for a few years it was called the ‘Touareg 2’ by VW USA, it looks a lot sharper that’s for sure.

Original Touaregs had the dubious honour of being the slightly better looking sister of the Porsche Cayenne, but the car eventually evolved into a reasonably attractive and popular alternative to premium SUV’s that was a lot more distinctive than the early ‘bloated Golf’ look. This facelift occurred in 2007 and involved more feline headlamps and the same chrome grille as seen on similarly aged Passats; inside not a whole lot changed but there was an updated navigation unit complete with piano black trim to attract fingerprints. I have previously dismissed the Touareg partly because of it’s frustrating engine options; the 2.5 5 cylinder TDI has always been painfully slow and the 5.0 V10 TDI too thirsty and expensive, but with the introduction of the impressive 3.0 V6 TDI it seemed that VW could have found a sweet spot in their range. However to begin with the V6 only offered 25mpg, not good when the larger Q7 manages much better figures, but in 2009 the V6 was updated again and certain Bluemotion versions manage to fall into the cheaper tax band…

Although I wasn’t overwhelmed when I sat in one, I have always admired the neatness and quality appearance of the Touareg’s cabin

Not much changed inside bar a nicer but smudge heavy navigation unit

Volvo XC90:

You can’t get much more middle class than this picture, but that’s what the XC90 is all about and arguably the earlier cars look a little less ‘new money’ with their plastic bumpers and smallish wheels

The current models get everything body-coloured and flashier wheels, they look good but a little like a housewife with a face full of orange makeup…a little

The XC90 has not changed much over it’s 12 year life span and in some ways this has been the secret to it’s success. Unchanged until 2006 it received body coloured bumpers and a much needed boost under the bonnet from 163bhp to 185bhp – the gearbox gained an extra cog too and there were some pretty nice new wheels and spec levels. In late 2009 the car got a different grille and a year later it gained an extra 15bhp and some LED running lights. If buying new there is no choice, but say I was tempted by a used model it makes more sense to grab a 2009-ish facelift car with new grille and bags of kit, but even these are reasonably pricey unless they are in base Active spec with leather seats etc.

The XC90’s interior has barely changed…

…besides a new steering wheel and a few extra bits of chrome trim

So there you have it, a picture heavy post with all the facts you could ever wish to know about the facelifts of a few vehicles…hardly startling stuff I guess but I hope that if anyone is in the same position as me in regards to buying these cars it might make things a little clearer (or not as the case may be!)

If anyone has any ideas/questions about my writing you’ve GOT to comment, I’m very happy to take requests and will do my upmost to fufil them. OR if any manufacturers/dealers want to give me the chance to drive any car then I would love that…pretty unlikely I know but I guess everyone has to start somewhere 🙂


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