Large SUV test: new Volvo XC90 v used Land Rover Discovery
Be fashion-conscious with a big, posh SUV… but which is the best buy – new or used?
We don’t have to tell you just how appealing the thought of a large, luxurious SUV is. You see them everywhere, meaning the pangs of envy might be felt so often, you just have to join them. An increasingly-seen machine is the latest Volvo XC90, which is so effortlessly cool and Swedish, it hurts.
The latest Land Rover Discovery is also appealing. Trouble is, it costs rather more than the Volvo – unless, that is, you choose to buy secondhand. Make do with a year-old model and you could have it on your driveway for the same price, after haggling, as the Volvo. We decided to find out which is best: new Volvo or used Land Rover?
Read more: Top 10: used SUVs under £25k
Inside, they’re both fantastic. The Volvo is all about offering deep-down quality, with a modern finish and slick operation. The Land Rover may not be as robust, but it has much more impact, with lots of chrome and really nice pieces of individual design.
Neither has an outstanding infotainment system. The XC90’s system is overburdened: the central screen is big, but it’s tricky to operate. The Discovery’s system seems more straightforward, but it’s also fiddly in operation, something not helped by laggy responses. The Land Rover is, however, far better equipped than the Volvo: HSE spec brings air suspension, panoramic roof, five heated seats and keyless entry, all options on the Volvo Momentum.
They are roomy and commanding cars in the front, and offer a different balance of space in the rear. The Discovery has a bit less room in the middle row, but more space for the third row – and a smaller boot when all seats are in use. It’s a trade-off, and you can decide which works best for you. At least folding the seats is easy in both of them: and when they’re all folded flat? The Discovery is most van-like.
The Volvo may only have a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel engine, but it still outpaces the 3.0-litre V6 Discovery away from the line. It does show its more basic nature in terms of engine refinement though, lacking the smoothness of the Discovery. Surprisingly, there’s more road noise as well.
The benefit of the Volvo’s downsizing comes in terms of fuel economy. It averages 47.1mpg instead of 39.2mpg, which will save you £250 over 10,000 miles of driving. You might still save if you buy a Discovery registered before April 2017 though: it won’t be subject to the new flat-rate tax fee, so will cost £290 a year instead of £450.
It’s worth noting that air suspension is optional on the Volvo. We wouldn’t bother, as it doesn’t improve the ride all that much – and the Discovery, which has air suspension as standard, will always be the comfier car. On the other hand, the Volvo handles better, with less lean and sway… but the Land Rover soon reasserts its advantage when it comes to off-roading.
Neither car has a particularly good reliability record: Land Rover, as a brand, is appalling, while the XC90 is atrocious as well. The Discovery will cost you a little more than the Volvo to buy, even secondhand, but we’d pay the extra to buy one with the Land Rover Approved Used scheme – largely because of the excellent two-year warranty.
It’s a close-run thing, despite us comparing a new SUV with a used one. In everyday use, the Volvo will be the more enjoyable car to drive, with the added appeal of that new car smell. But the Discovery is better on longer runs, and it’s much more practical, particularly if you go towing. Add in the extra equipment, plus the fact it will depreciate less, and it’s our pick here – so long, that is, you get a good warranty…