This winter hasn’t been so bad weather-wise. But cast your mind back to the winter of 2010/2011. Do you remember it? It was one of the worst winters on record for ice and snow. And driving our cars in those conditions were a nightmare. Anybody that lived next to a slope of any kind knew that taking their car out on the road would be a nightmare. It was in moments like those when I first realised the utility of SUVs and 4x4s.
They’re not just about guzzling fuel, they were actually a practical buy given how bad the weather was. Nobody wants to be stuck having to find alternative ways of getting around when temperatures are dipping below freezing.
So it comes as no surprise that 4x4s and SUVs are now the most popular type of car in Europe. They offer a safety and utility that can’t be found on lesser breeds of car. Plus, many cars now have such sophisticated drive trains that the fuel economy issue is well and truly a thing of the past. Here are 4 of the top SUVs and 4x4s to watch out for in 2016.
This is the car that everybody seems to be talking about. And for good reason. The Dacia Duster is a seriously attractive proposition. You’re essentially getting the premium utility of an SUV for a tiny, tiny price. If you can’t afford one of the more expensive models, like the Range Rover Sport, don’t worry. The Duster comes with all the essential features we expect from our SUV, in a tight, no-nonsense package. And nearly-new versions from places like Autoworld are extremely budget-friendly.
The Duster looks a little bit like the Nissan Qashqai. In fact, the bodywork was designed by Nissan, so the Duster is, in a sense, a cut-price Qashqai. Inside the savings show a little. There’s black plastic from top to bottom, the wheels are steel, not alloy, and the standard model does not come with a radio. But the practicality of the car makes up for all this.
It might have the price-tag of a supermini, but the Duster packs as much space as a leading SUV. There’s legroom galore and plenty of space for luggage. There is a 475-litre boot, which is much bigger than the Ford Focus at 363 litres. Making sure the children are strapped in and have plenty of space in the back won’t be an issue.
Range Rover Sport:
Have you ever looked at the Evoque and thought, “that’s too small,” but looked at the full-size Range Rover and thought, “that’s too big?” Then, what you need is the Sport. The Sport is essentially a full-size Range Rover than simply borrows the best features of the other models in the range. And being a Range Rover, the results are nothing less than spectacular.
The thing that really stands out on the Range Rover is the performance and drive train. The second generation of the Sport has moved things on significantly. The full aluminium architecture makes the vehicle very stiff and robust. And the new suspension design makes the vehicle a class leader among 4x4s for handling.
What’s more, every model comes with Land Rover’s Adaptive Dynamics. This means that the vehicle modifies the suspension and electronics in the car depending on road conditions.
The interior of the car is luxurious. Throughout are swathes of Oxford-leather, and that’s just in the basic model. On premium models, you can opt for every more luxurious leather and trim. The central console is well placed too, and some of the features are more reminiscent of jewellery than of car controls.
Audi has really improved the fuel economy of their latest Q7. The latest model weighs in at some 325 kg lighter than the original model, debuted at the Frankfurt motor show in 2005.
It was originally marketed to go up again the likes of the Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover. But the Q7 now stands as one of Audi’s executive car offerings too. It’s fast, and it’s fun and super-practical.
The old model used a powerful 355bhp, 4.2-litre V8 diesel engine. The new car, to improve fuel-economy, features a downsized 3.0-litre V6 TDI. Despite this, the performance of the engine is remarkable. It can launch the Q7 from o-62 mph in under 6.5 seconds. Quite impressive, when you consider than the new Q7 still weighs in at around two tonnes.
What Volvo have done with the XC90 is nothing short of remarkable. Here is a manufacturer with all but the slimmest experience in making SUVs and has managed to create something able to compete with the big boys. The XC90 looks ultra-premium, and to all intents and purposes, is.
The exterior of the car features a stunning chrome trimmed grille, a first from Volvo, as well as LED daytime running headlights.
On the inside, the cabin has been redesigned on the latest model. There’s a lot less clutter getting in the way of the driving experience. In fact, the car looks and feels a lot like the Audi Q7, but with a few Nordic touches to remind you of its heritage. Of course, no Volvo would be complete without an outstanding safety package, and again Volvo has delivered.
The XC90 actually boasts a world-first safety technology. It’s called the run-off safety package. It helps keep passengers safe if the car runs off the side of the road and falls into a ditch. The seats actually adjust and respond to direction impacts on the car.
It’s all part of Volvo’s astonishing objective to ensure that nobody driving their cars is seriously injured or killed by 2020. When they first announced the project in 2010 it seemed like madness. But recent tests on the XC90 with the new safety technology, ploughing into a ditch, make the claims seem credible. In testing, the vehicle bounced into the ditch and flipped over with tremendous force. But remarkably, the crash test dummies emerged relatively unscathed.