Think big with classy SUVs if you want to carry loads in grand style
Eelegant, modern and useful - today's large cars also come crammed with all the latest technology, writes Geraldine Herbert
Audi Q7: The second-generation seven-seater Audi Q7 is now more estate-like in styling, but it is elegant and modern. Inside the interior is constructed with the same thoughtful attention that is synonymous with Audi cabins. Reminiscent of the TT's interior it shares the same digital instrument cluster and simplicity of design.
It is also crammed with a dazzling array of technology that can be a little overwhelming and distracting at first. The current model, launched in 2015 was a substantial improvement on the previous one; it is now more spacious, lighter and significantly more fuel efficient than before. There is a choice of three engines, a 3-litre diesel with either 218bhp or 272bhp.
If money's no object, the 3-litre petrol is the most powerful and hushed but the 218bhp diesel is much healthier for your bank balance.
With three rows of seating and room for seven, the Q7 is a luxurious family hauler. The range-topping SQ7 TDi comes with a V-8 diesel engine, produces 435hp and a whopping 900Nm of torque with an eye-watering price tag of €120,250(OTR), plus there is also a diesel-powered plug-in-hybrid the Q7 e-tron from €84,475(OTR).
Prices Starting From: €72,850 (OTR)
Trims: SE, S Line, S Business
Engine: Petrol 3.0, 4.0 Diesel 3.0, E-tron 3.0 TDi
BMW X5: Since its launch it has always been a firm favourite with fashion-conscious, on-the-go moms and over time it has moved more towards the suburban market.
In the most recent makeover the macho bulging wheel arches and wide tyres that gave the previous model such a looming presence have given way to a more car-like stance that is not nearly as appealing. The X5 range starts with a 231bhp BMW X5 sDrive25d and is offered with a four wheel drive option.
Those looking for more power should opt for the 258bhp 3.0-litre six-cylinder xDrive30d which starts at €82,290(OTR) or an X Drive 40d from €86,740(OTR).
BMW also offer 5.0 litre petrol, the xDrive50i that bolts from standstill to 100 km/h in five seconds and is priced from €110,700 (OTR). Behind the wheel, the dashboard is beautifully uncluttered with a variety of materials and textures that exude quality. Room is good front and back and even middle-seat passengers won't feel like they have drawn the short straw. The BMW X5 is a compelling combination of economy, performance and dynamic handling. New to the range for 2016 is the X5 Plug in hybrid priced from €74,900(OTR).
Prices Starting From: €66,510 (OTR)
Trims: SE, M Sport, M
Engine: Petrol 4.0 Diesel 2.0. 3.0 Electric 3.0 Petrol
Hyundai Santa Fe: In the face of competition, Hyundai has refreshed its third-generation Santa Fe, bringing it more into line with the latest Hyundai SUV family look. Road presence is enhanced by new front and rear bumpers with redesigned fog and LED daytime running lights, framed with new silver trim.
There are also plenty of safety features to reassure drivers, passengers and even pedestrians. One engine is offered; a 2.2-litre diesel which produces 197bhp and 422 Nms torque. There is the option of two or four-wheel drive plus buyers can choose between manual or automatic transmissions.
On the road the Santa Fe feels well built and handles beautifully and inside the cabin feels more expensive than the price tag suggests. A genuine seven-seater, the Santa Fe is a great family 4x4 and it's easy to see why it has garnered so much favour with Irish buyers seeking a practical, economical and well equipped solution to family motoring.
Prices Starting From: €39,995
Trims: Comfort, Executive, Premium
Engine: Diesel 2.2
Kia Sorento: The seven-seat SUV is one of the most popular family car choices on the road and Kia's third-generation, seven-seat Sorento is their most refined to date. You don't have to spend all your spare time contemplating fordable rivers, scalable peaks and crossable tundras to want to look the part.
The new Sorento is a capable, comfortable and is supple enough to soak up bumps on without too much fuss.
The interior quality sets it apart from the previous version with soft-touch materials and an excellent quality feel throughout. One engine is offered; a 2.2-litre turbo diesel available in front or all wheel drive. If five seats are all you need then the entry level EX Sorento is the one to go for. The Kia Sorento is well-equipped, safe and comes with the option of seven seats plus Kia's seven-year warranty brings peace of mind.
Prices Starting From: €38,995
Trims: EX, Platinum
Engine: Diesel 2.2
Mercedes-Benz GLE: The GLE is the new name for the previous M-Class while the GLE Coupe is designed to compete with BMW's X6 the GLE is much the same as outgoing model. Visually the most striking changes include the new domed bonnet changed bumpers and the now more prominent inset star. Inside, a large media display integrated within the instrument panel and a centre-console with are the eye-catching elements.
Three petrol and three diesel engines power the GLE. Petrol models, all with 4-Matic, 7-speed automatic transmission, are a twin-turbo 3-litre, 333bhp, V6 GLE400 and a twin-turbo 4.7-litre, 435bhp,V8 GLE500.
There is also, a 3-litre, 333bhp, plug-in GLE500e hybrid electric model with fuel consumption of just 3.31-litres/100km or 85.6 mpg.
Diesel versions come with a 9-speed automatic transmission and include a four-cylinder, 2.1-litre, 204bhp GLE250d and a 3-litre, 258bhp GLE350d. Two versions of the range-topping AMG are on offer: the Mercedes-AMG 63 4MATIC and 63 S 4MATIC. As expected from Mercedes, generous safety features are standard, optional features include driving assistance, comfort and parking-assistance packages.
Prices Starting From: €59,382 (Includes 10pc reduction on current models)
Engine: Petrol 3.0, 4.7 Diesel 2.1, 3.0 Hybrid 3.0 petrol
Mitsubishi Outlander: The Outlander has received some significant styling tweaks for 2016 and the range now includes seven seat, five seat and plug in Hybrid versions.
There is an up-dated 2.2L Euro 6 diesel engine producing 5.3 l/100km (53.29 mpg) the 4WD 7 Seat Outlander returns 5.8 l/100km (48.70 mpg).
The Outlander PHEV (Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle) is a well worth considering with a 50km electric range, just 44g/km CO2 and it can potentially return 1.9L/100km or a staggering 148mpg depending on how it is driven. The batteries can be recharged using a normal household plug and takes about five hours to fully charge. A host of safety features including speed limiter, brake assist, hill start assist and seven airbags as standard plus the Outlander received the full 5 stars when tested by Euro NCAP.
The Outlander is practical, economical and affordable, the five seat version starts from €31,500 but the PHEV is considerably more expensive and is priced from €49,900.
The hybrid is a good choice for motorists with a short to medium commuting distance but for anything longer the diesel would be a better option.
Prices Starting From: €31,500
Trims: Intense, Instyle
Engine: Diesel 2.2, Hybrid 2.0 Petrol
Nissan X-Trail: Restyled in 2015, the more curvy body on the X-Trail now hints at crossover-style performance and handling. Echoing the styling cues of the Qashqai, the bumper tapers into the grille and the new LED lights gives a far more SUV like styling.
Inside, cabin space in the X-Trail is excellent and storage spaces abound. There are 14 models to choose from with options including seven or five seats to front-wheel or four-wheel drive. Roomy enough to seat five and occasionally seven, with decent kerb appeal and powered by a moderately gutsy diesel, there is a lot to like about Nissan's new X-Trail. It may not be the most exciting option in this very competitive market but if you are looking for a safe, practical and very reliable family car, the Nissan's X-Trail has a lot to offer.
Prices Starting From: €29,995
Trims: XE, SV, SVE
Engine: Diesel 1.6
Land Rover Range Rover Sport: With styling details borrowed from the Evoque and the regular Range Rover, the Sport has a chiselled exterior. Inside it is richly luxurious and the business-class aura extends to the rear where there is a huge amount of space and a host of gadgets to keep all entertained or distracted on long journeys.
Overall, it makes passengers feel a little more special inside than rivals. On the road the Sport is light and agile while off road it is mind-bogglingly good and is unmatched by any of the German competition.
The Range Rover Sport is the Swiss army knife of cars and is packed with an astounding range of driving aids, but in reality most of us will never appreciate its endless mud-plugging abilities. Better looking, more dynamic and more frugal, the Sport is so good it almost renders the full-size Range Rover redundant.
Prices Starting From: €84,365
Trims: S, SE, HSE, HSE Dynamic, Autobiography Dynamic, SVR
Engine: Diesel 2.0, 3.0
Volvo XC90: The launch of Volvo's XC90 in 2002 was a game-changer for the Swedish brand and transformed them from sensible and safe to an innovative premium brand. After almost 13 years, Volvo finally launched the eagerly awaited second generation XC90.
The exterior is unmistakeably Volvo with clean and purposeful styling and oversized grille. The larger bonnet and distinctive new rear lights are all design signatures that will be mirrored across the range. With an imposing road presence, the XC90 stretches almost five metres long.
There are two diesel engines available the D5, a 2-litre with 225bhp with AWD and a front wheel drive D4 with 190 bhp with a starting price of €64,950. A T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid joined the range this year and it is powered by a 2-litre petrol engine and an electric motor. With 49g/km of CO2 road tax is €170 but it's not cheap and prices start from €88,700.
It is comfortable, classy, yet extremely practical, and the seven-seat cabin is MPV-like in its versatility. Space in the front two rows is plentiful and unlike rivals, space in the third row is just as good. The XC90 is expensive but if you are lucky to have a generous budget it would be hard to recommend a better family car.
Prices Starting From: €64,950
Trims: Momentum, R-Design, Inscription
Engine: Diesel 2.0, Hybrid 2.0 Petrol