The Volvo XC60 won our recent mid-size luxury SUV shootout – and it’s back to defend it’s crown against the soon-to-be launched BMW X3. Heavy is the head and all that…
In the mid-size luxury SUV segment, there are, by and large, two types of customers – those looking to buy the newest set of wheels on the market, and those who want a fun-to-drive vehicle with benefits and flexibility of an SUV.
Now, you would know that the XC60 was recently declared the winner of our mid-size luxury SUV test. But this time around it takes on a very different rival in BMW’s all-new X3. Now, I use the term ‘very different’ here for a reason. You see, SUVs like the Audi Q5, Lexus NX and Volvo XC60 are designed to be new-age luxury vehicles with plenty of technology, toys and a plush cabin to seduce their occupants. But the BMW is different in the sense that it caters largely to the second type of buyer – the enthusiast.
Even though the X3 is a completely new vehicle, it’s interior is more evolutionary than radical. The layout is typical BMW, although quality levels have improved considerably. Of course, it comes with the usual barrage of equipment, such as a leather clad interior, sunroof, climate control, satellite navigation, cruise control, et al. In comparison to the Volvo though – and there’s no kind way to put this – the X3 simply doesn’t stand a chance! While the Volvo gets a truly luxurious interior with perforated leather, heating and cooled seats that massage you, a heated steering wheel, driftwood inlays on the dash, and those metal grilles that clothe Bowers & Wilkins speakers, the BMW gets a rather basic setup with just electrically adjustable front seats – you don’t even get lumbar adjustment. The rear seats only highlight the differences even further, as the BMW gets seats that are quite hard and flat – not to mention the fact that it’s less spacious than the Volvo. Then there’s the matter of safety features – the Volvo comes with a raft of them, including City Safety, Cross Traffic Alert, head-up display with navigation assistance and eight airbags, which leaves the X3 lagging behind.
Part of the reason why the XC60 is better equipped in India is that it’s sold here exclusively in the top-end Inscription trim. And while the X3 hasn’t been launched in India yet, the car on test is likely to be one of the top-end versions. So round one to the Volvo then…
Quick on the draw
Both cars come with 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged diesel engines. However, the XC60’s unit is more powerful, with 231bhp and 480Nm on tap. The X3’s 2.0-litre diesel, meanwhile, is rated at 187bhp and 400Nm. But these are merely on-paper figures, because, once you get behind the wheel of the BMW, there’s no denying the fact that it responds far better when you mash the long pedal. The 2.0-litre is far more refined and eager to rev than the outgoing model, and the eight-speed transmission remains a delight. Start working the paddle shifters – the X3 finally gets a pair – and it’s quick enough to show the XC60 a clean pair of heels in real world driving conditions.
The XC60 takes longer to respond to sudden throttle inputs. And even when you’re using the paddle shifters, the XC60’s eight-speed autobox takes a bit longer than the X3’s to send power to the wheels. But once the power kicks in, the Volvo shows its true speed. Its superior power and torque outputs ensure that it simply surges past the X3 on a straight road. The XC60 D5 has a quicker 0 to 100 time and a higher top speed too (8.0 seconds and 213km/h for the X3 and 7.2 seconds and 220km/h for the XC60).
But better straight-line performance is only one side of the story, for the BMW feels far more connected and responsive overall. The steering inspires a lot more confidence and is a lot sharper, as a result of which the BMW feels like a driver’s car at heart. Show the X3 a twisty mountain road, and the Volvo will struggle to keep up with the less powerful German. The Volvo is a much more relaxed driving experience, which is really what the Volvo does best.
Let’s just say that the BMW is definitely the more rewarding car to drive. And while it’s debatable whether people seeking driving pleasure should buy an SUV, the idea doesn’t seem that strange in India – given our water-logged streets, pothole riddled roads and speed breakers inspired by the peaks of the Himalayas.
So, should enthusiasts buy the X3?
Well, unless you’re the sort of dedicated enthusiast who doesn’t care about anything else but driving dynamics, you’re not likely to opt for the X3. The reason is simple – you buy a car of this nature for the whole package and not just for one aspect. In the event that you’re focussed only on the driving experience, the BMW sets a new standard in its segment. But if it’s an overall package that you’re after, the XC60 is simply the more complete machine – so its crown, it seems, is safe for the moment. Long live the King!
- BMW X3 20d
- Volvo XC60 D5 Inscription
Engine: 1,995cc / In-line 4-cylinders / DOHC / 16 Valves / Turbocharged
Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic / All-Wheel Drive
Power: 187bhp @ 4,000rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 1,750-2,500rpm
X-factor:Proper driver’s car.
• Quick steering
• Great driving dynamics
• Refined motor & responsive gearbox
• Doesn’t feel special inside
• Uncomfortable rear seats
Engine: 1,969cc / In-line 4-Cylinders / DOHC / 16 Valves / Twin-Turbocharged
Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic / All-Wheel Drive
Power: 231bhp @ 4,000 rpm
Torque: 480Nm @ 1,750-2,250rpm
Price: Rs.55.90 lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
X-factor: Fully loaded in Inscription trim, with heated and ventilated massaging seats, a Bowers & Wilkins system and drift wood inlays, this is a proper luxury car.
• Quick in a straight line
• Impeccable quality
• Great design
• Touch screen is distracting
• Not exactly sporty!