The small luxury SUV segment has seen lots of action in the previous year with the advent of many new SUVs like the Hyundai Santa Fe, Land Rover Freelander 2, BMW X1 and also the Volvo XC60. The Indian buyers are spoilt for choices based on this and for a very good reason. The best amongst the lot as regards the price quotient is obviously the BMW X1 however in this test, we have taken SUVs which are more than the Rs 35 lakhs mark since the ones below have been done to death on our website. The other factor is that all three of these would be featuring on our website for the very first time. Time up for a show down and getting to the gist of the story. Before that, a big thanks to all those PR people from Jaguar Land Rover, Volvo Motors India and Audi India for giving us the vehicles for testing. Also two of my colleagues namely Nitish and Aayan assisted me in testing the cars back to back. Unfortunately we didn’t get the BMW X3 in time for this test and hence couldn’t include it.
Land Rover Freelander 2:
The Land Rover Freelander 2 in India is one of those cars which has been the least talked about in the Indian car market scene. It is just because there are not too many around here. I bet that half the people in India wouldn’t even know if one existed at all. It has an imposing front grille with two horizontal slats embellished with chrome. The Land Rover badge is proudly spelt atop the bonnet. It has those boxy looks which may not appeal to one and all but then it still carries around a charm of its own. The head lamps are also of the broad types with the fog lamps situated just below it. The side profile is also boxy and the tail also lacks any flair.
Now, this is the newest kid on the block. The Volvo XC60 in India is the same model that is available worldwide and the company hasn’t skimped on any equipment for the Indian market. Those eagle eyed head lamps along with that small grille do make a statement for themselves. There is a aluminium skid plate which partly covers the air dam. A glaring omission is the absence of fog lamps. All these cars have 16 inch wheels atleast as a standard. One more thing is the presence of turn indicators the size of big sugar crystals in the rear view mirrors. The rear is the talking point of the Volvo Xc60 with its boomerang shaped tail lamps giving it a distinct character.
Very much a scaled down Audi Q7, the Audi Q5 in India lacks the flair that it once possessed. The best thing is that any one can recognize the vehicle as an Audi from a distance with its wide gaping goatee and the 4 interwined circles. It would still be difficult to guess if it’s a Audi Q7 or Audi Q5. The rear portion looks typically German and weren’t it for its raised platform, would look exactly like a Skoda Superb. Both the Volvo XC60 and the Audi Q5 feature sloping roof lines towards the rear whereas the Freelander makes do with a boxy look.
Round 1 is won squarely by the new kid on the block, the Volvo XC60 with the Audi Q5 close behind followed by the Freelander.
Land Rover Freelander 2:
Entering the cabin of the Land Rover Freelander 2 in India, one would feel that they have entered some old era car. The steering wheel is very American in its feel and look. Somewhat like the one found in the Ford Endeavor. It is big and chunky. The seats are set high and this makes for good all round visibility. The one thing that I noticed was that it takes a bit more of effort to get into the cabin of the Land Rover Freelander 2 and it may be because of its higher ground clearance than the others in its class. The interiors are spacious however I felt that there should have been more equipment on offer. There is no dedicated rear passenger AC vents. Space utilization also hasn’t been done very well. The build quality is somewhat less impressive than the competition here though.
The seats in the Volvo XC60 in India are the most comfy for any of the small luxury segment SUVs. They have the right amount of bolstering and it seems that Volvo Motors India should be better off making seats and carpets. The flowing waterfall console looks good however in terms of utility is nill. This is because storage spaces are provided behind it rather than in the front. The buttons on the dash feel small and it may take some time to master their use if you aren’t familiar with a Volvo. The Volvo has got a much better utilization of space than the others in this competition. The quality of materials used is also of a high quality. It may feel small from the outside however the Volvo XC60 is big from inside.
This is a familiar cabin to start with since I have spent quite some time with other Audi cars and the Audi Q5 in India’s cabin doesn’t feel much different. The cabin does reek of high quality materials and definitely feels well built out of the three cars in the test here. It gets a third generation MMI system and this along with the logical layout of the buttons makes it easy to operate the car’s techno warfare. The front seats are way too comfy however me been a taller driver, found that there was some lack of knee room than the other SUVs in test here. Coming to the rear seat leg room, the middle passenger would feel his knees closer to his chin due to the transmission tunnel intrusion.
Though all three are evenly matched, it is the Audi Q5’s cabin that I found the best in this category and one which is appealing as well. Familiarity breeds contempt, says who.
Handling and ride quality
Land Rover Freelander 2:
The Land Rover Freelander 2 in India has a soft suspension setup. It has got massive suspension travel. At low city speeds, the car absorbs all the bumps and takes potholes in its stride. It is only when things speed up does the SUV display some sort of fidgeting. It does’t seem consistent any longer. Mention must be made of its steering wheel, which though on the bigger side, provides enough of feedback to counter for the heavy feeling of this SUV. The handling isn’t that good due to its old frame structure and tall body. There is too much of body roll in this car and it doesn’t feel comfortable going around corners. Go in a sedate pace and the SUV wouldn’t disappoint you with its road manners. Frankly speaking, this SUV is more for off-roading than for city use. Its long travel suspension, the short overhangs and also the good ground clearance make it more adept in off road conditions.
The Volvo XC60 in India is blessed with a somewhat direct steering however it does feel too much wooden. There are three modes as regards the ride and handling package in this SUV. Those are the Comfort, Sport and Advanced modes. Go for the first mode and the SUV rewards you with a pliant ride quality however don’t expect the body movements of this SUV to be well contained in this mode. Opt for the Sport mode and the suspension tightens up a bit without losing much on the ride quality front. You can push around corners provided you get enough feel from the steering wheel. As for the third mode, it makes the steering a bit more responsive and the suspension is now in full hard mode.
This can be called the most fun to drive SUV in this triplet. This is because of the adaptable suspension components. Its steering is one of the most direct units in this comparison(how much I miss that steering wheel feel of a BMW). Nevertheless, this steering wheel provides much feedback and there is no slack as well. The Audi Q5 in India has been provided with the Quattro system which enables the car to maintain its balance in almost any type of surface. The Audi Q5 however rides on slightly hard suspension and this helps the car while cornering as body roll is well controlled. However the ride quality suffers a bit due to this. The damping proportion and stiff springs make for some harshness on sharp edges but then it isn’t back breaking either.
On this one, I would go with the Land Rover Freelander 2 since you buy a SUV for mud ploughing and out of all these cars in the test here, the Freelander is the best one and with a huge margin.
Engine, performance and fuel efficiency
Land Rover Freelander 2:
The Land Rover Freelander 2 in India is offered with only a single engine option and it is the 2.2 liter turbo diesel one with 156 Bhp of peak power(are you kidding me?) and about 390 Nm of torque at 2000 rpm. It is mated to a 6 speed auto transmission. The engine doesn’t feel as sprightly to drive and definitely feels underpowered. The torque coming in early does somehow help in pulling this 1775 kgs SUV around. There is lot of engine noise and what the engine likes to do is cruise. The 6 speed auto gear box is also slow to shift and discourages any hooligan behavior. At speeds of upto 100 kmph, the SUV displays a calm demeanor however go past it and the engine noise is audible and very much so. It however isn’t a slouch as the sprint from 0-100 kmph shows. It achieves this mark in only 11.7 seconds. The top speed that I achieved on this was 179 kmph. Safety is well adhered to in this car with all wheel disc brakes, ABS, ESP and 7 air bags. Fuel efficiency achieved was 8.7 kmpl in the city and 11.9 kmpl on the highway.
The Volvo XC60 in India comes with a single diesel engine. It is the inline 5 cylinder 2.4 liter common rail engine. It makes 205 Bhp of peak power at 4000 rpm and about 422 Nm of torque between 1500-3250 rpm. The engine is very muted in its operation and Volvo Motors India Limited have done a good work of damping it. This engine is very tractable and can pull from any gear, any speed. The 0-100 kmph figure mark is breached in only 9.8 seconds whereas the top speed attained is 192 kmph. At this speed, however the engine is quite vocal and loses its somewhat calm composure. The 6 speed auto transmission is a bit lazy to downshift but then it works unobtrusively. It does have manual override function and this makes driving chores easy and tailored to one’s needs. Safety is something which is always the talking point of any Volvo and the new XC60 takes it to dizzying heights. This car boasts of some of the very serious safety features and there would be two full pages dedicated to it if I were to elaborate. So spare me the agony and just to list a few, they are the City Safety System, Collision warning system, rear cameras, lane change warning and also Roll Stability control. Brake pedal feel is also good and it is also supported by many other electronic aids. Fuel efficiency is also good, actually the best in this lot with the city figure hovering around the 9 kmpl mark and highway figures going up to 12.2 kmpl.
The Audi Q5 in India is offered with two engine options. One is a 2.0 liter TFSI petrol motor whereas the other is the one we tested, the 3.0 liter diesel. This 2967 cc V6 common rail engine puts out 240 Bhp of peak power and 490 Nm of torque. It is aptly mated with a 7 speed auto transmission. This engine, needless to say, is a powerhouse and just blows away the competition. The SUV races from 0-100 kmph in only 7.57 seconds. It also has an impressive top end with the surge of speed ending at 225 kmph. The transmission would have been an absolute gem if only it had been a bit more eager to downshift fast. Braking is achieved via 4 wheel disc brakes along with ESP, traction control, ESC and ABS. Safety is well tended for with EBD, ESP and a full complement of 8 air bags. Due to the bigger motor, the Audi Q5 could only achieve 8.2 kmpl in the city whereas the highway figure was also not that impressive at 11.1 kmpl.
The winner of this round would go again to the Volvo XC60 for it been suited for a wide array of roles and the all important safety aspect.
Well, time to scratch our heads and tally up the points. In my opinion, all three are equally winners. Oh, I would have so loved to have the BMW X3 in this competition but darn BMW that they couldn’t supply us with a vehicle on time. But we at Indiandrives have to make a choice and so first out goes the Freelander. The reasons been that it isn’t as fuel efficient as the others, engine is very noisy and at more so, the price of the Land Rover Freelander 2 at Rs 44.36 lakhs, makes it one of the more pricier SUVs in this competition. Next goes the Audi Q5. Now, don’t get me wrong, This is a very capable SUV with a gem of an engine however its not so alluring looks coupled with its thirsty manners don’t quite cut the mustard anymore. The price of the Audi Q5 in India is Rs 45.56 lakhs and this means it is also at par with the Freelander as far as pricing goes. So, the winner is the new one, the Volvo XC60. It has got the right looks, good engine, feature laden list and also the “safest SUV” tag. The icing on the cake is the price of the Volvo XC60. It is been retailed at a price of Rs 39.50 lakhs. All the prices mentioned are ex-showroom, Delhi.