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BMW X5, Volvo XC90, VW Touareg: large diesel SUVs in comparison

Hans-Dieter Seufert
BMW X5, Volvo XC90, VW Touareg
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You really can't blame the Volvo product planners for excessive hectic. They retired the original version of the Volvo XC90, which had been built since 2002, in 2014, only to present the successor barely a year later. How much the automotive world has changed since the beginning of the millennium can be seen from a look at the new engine range: Despite the larger dimensions and weight of over two tons, the Volvo XC90 has to be content with four cylinders and two liters of displacement. The five-, six- or even eight-cylinder units of the predecessor are history - even in the USA, where everything below a V8 was considered a paperweight until recently. Green is obviously the new premium.

Whether BMW and VW customers see it similarly? In any case, the competition shies away from so much downsizing: For the BMW X5, in addition to a large volume, the tested 25d with a 218 hp four-cylinder is available, while the VW Touareg itself uses a V6 TDI throttled to 204 hp as the base diesel.

Luxury and four-cylinder go well together in the case of the Volvo XC90. With 225 hp and 470 Nm of torque, the D5 looks anything but weak and puts in a lot of effort right from the start. A small turbo with variable geometry ensures life in the lower speed range, while at the top an additional supercharger connected in series brings the second wind. Correspondingly motivated, the direct injection balances the full-size SUV to 100 km /h in 8.6 seconds and has sufficient reserves even beyond the recommended motorway speed.

Volvo XC90: agile, but firm

The eight-speed automatic transmission contributes to the positive picture, delivering gear by gear in order to keep the speed level low on the motorway. That's a good thing, because when you turn it off, the otherwise effectively insulated diesel nails its way through the ear canals. The comfort impression is also reduced by the tight coordination of the optional air suspension in combination with the 20-inch wheels mounted on the test vehicle. They look impressive, but above all, short bumps and transverse joints are barely filtered through to the steering wheel - even in the 'Comfort' damper position.

With its speed-dependent power assistance and direct transmission, the steering ensures intensive road contact. In view of its lush body, the Volvo XC90 wagsCurves surprisingly skillful and precise, without scaring off with too much body roll. In the “Sport” position, its ESP even allows slight rear swings in order to defuse them late, but all the more decisively.

Incidentally, in order to switch between comfort and sport, a roller in the center console must first be pressed and can then be rotated, which is one of the easiest exercises compared to the other hand movements. Volvo 2.0 doesn't just mean the unit displacement, but also the operating concept. In addition to multimedia, air conditioning, assistance and vehicle functions are controlled via a 9.2-inch touchpad. There are hardly any fixed buttons that can be felt blindly without distraction. Even to deactivate the start-stop system, swipe, search and hit the touch field. However, the menus with their small, partly in English and partly in German labeled fields do not always seem logical, and important online functions such as live traffic jam alarms are missing at the start of series production. However, the system can be updated, which is why XC90 buyers from the very beginning can look forward to new functions in the next few months.

BMW X5 Matured to a cruiser

Infotainment fans get their money's worth in the BMW X5 right from the start - provided they have ordered the Connected Drive navigation package (3,400 euros), which gets traffic and weather data from the Internet and with it Detailed knowledge shines, for example about the nearest mailbox and its emptying dates. If Connected Drive does have to work, a flesh-and-blood concierge can help by reserving hotel rooms and sending the address to the navigation system.

However, BMW X5 drivers never used to sit at the hotel bar. The basic diesel with 218 hp ensures performance in the category “calm, but completely sufficient”, which hardly differs from that of the Volvo XC90. After all, the four-cylinder is more effectively insulated, which is why the economy drive can be heard little of itself even at higher speeds. Incidentally, from August the two-liter engine will produce 231 hp and weigh 50 Nm more on the crankshaft than before. The surcharge is limited at 250 euros.

However, BMW will not change anything about the two-part tailgate. Heavy cargo can be placed on the lower half and then pushed into the trunk - or you can use it as a camping bench on excursions into the countryside. Just as practical: the large compartment under the luggage compartment floor, which is lifted up by a gas pressure lift, or the three-part rear bench that can be folded down with one movement without leaving a step behind.

Comfortable seats, lots of space and endless shelves also show that the BMW X5 has matured from an athlete to a relaxed touring car. Its comfort chassis with adaptive dampers easily digest both short and long shocks. Since its steering aroundthe central position is not as pointed as that of the Volvo XC90, the BMW refrains from hyperactive hooking, but if necessary it can turn in with a similarly jagged twist and hurry through curves neutrally and safely.

VW Touareg with great comfort

And the VW Touareg? Compared to its younger competitors, the VW, which has been built since 2010, represents the old school: Large analogue instruments without a giant screen or head-up display are likely to be perceived as pleasantly decelerating by many. After all, since the facelift last year, his navigation system has mastered the important online traffic reports, convinces with clear menu structures and very good voice control. The other operation is also not a mystery.

In addition, the Touareg interior impresses with a solidity that the XC90 and X5 cannot achieve. Soft, accurately deburred surfaces look just as high-quality as the fluffy carpets in the trunk or loving aluminum frames around precisely clicking control elements. Although it is the shortest of the trio at 4.80 meters, it spoils passengers in row two with the most ample legroom and the most comfortable back seat, which can be moved 16 centimeters - depending on whether more trunk or legroom is required.

Regardless of the load, the VW Touareg impressed with the best suspension comfort in the test. Its optional air suspension responds sensitively to transverse joints without getting out of step on long waves. It is easy to cope with the fact that the Touareg turns a little more heavily, wants to be forced through curves with more force and builds up a higher body roll. However, the TDI with 204 PS exudes little sporting flair. Although the jagged eight-speed automatic helps him to the best of his ability with the right gear ratio, the V6 is more difficult to push than the four-cylinder. For this he pays back with a sovereign six-cylinder sound. And an additional consumption of 1.6 l /100 km.

Which, however, is not the reason for his last place. On the second-placed Volvo XC90, the VW Touareg loses twelve points for safety equipment. The Volvo XC90 has guardian angels as standard, which the competition does not even offer for a surcharge - such as the intersection assistant, which automatically brakes when crossing traffic. The industry is currently making the greatest progress in electronics, so it is unlikely that the Volvo XC90 will roll off the assembly line for another twelve years. Just as unlikely by the way as with the infotainment king and overall winner BMW X5.

Volvo On Call: The smartwatch knows where the XC90 is, and the cell phone even knows the exact tire pressure

We already presented the Sensus navigation system for the new Volvo XC90 in the last issue. In the meantime, Volvo has made the advance version of the latest on-call app available to us, with which many vehicle functions are no longer just viaCell phone, but soon also be controlled by smartwatch. To be able to use the remote control, XC90 buyers have to order the data modem with an external antenna (850 euros extra charge), which calls for help in the event of an accident and is useful as a WLAN hotspot. Since it has its own SIM card, it can be contacted by external devices. The actual on-call app (available for Apple, Android and Windows Phone) is free of charge and is linked to the vehicle after downloading. Which in our case worked straight away with the iPhone 6.

After the installation, the app appears on the home screens of the mobile phone and Apple Watch. Although not all functions were activated yet, we were able to unlock and lock or localize our test XC90. Those who no longer know where they have parked can use the smart watch to navigate to their car or trigger the horn and indicators to make their car stand out from the crowd in larger parking lots. The range of functions on the mobile phone is even greater, here you can view fill levels or service information. A similar app (BMW Remote) is also available for the BMW X5, while VW so far only connects the two electric cars e-Up and e-Golf with the mobile phone.

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