Used test: Volvo XC60 v VW Passat Alltrack v Audi Q5

Used test: Volvo XC60 v VW Passat Alltrack v Audi Q5
Used test: Volvo XC60 v VW Passat Alltrack v Audi Q5

Can an off-road estate car compete with a genuine SUV?

There was a time when the large estate car was aspirational stuff for families. Not any more: the SUV has pretty much taken over, with buyers swooning over their high-up driving positions, roomy interiors and, inevitably, the cut-above, adventure-style image.

Audi Q5 2.0 TDI 143 SE

List price when new: £30,380
Price today: £19,500
Engine size: 2.0-litre diesel
Power: 141bhp
Torque: 236lb ft
0-60mph: 11.2sec
Top speed: 116mph
Fuel economy: 45.6mpg (Official average)
CO2 emissions: 162g/km

What about a family estate that’s given a bit of an off-road makeover though – can it still compete? How do the three measure up on the secondhand market? We decided to find out, by comparing the popular Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60 SUVs with the high-rise Volkswagen Passat Alltrack, compete with four-wheel drive and plastic body cladding. It’s cheaper to buy and to run than the others, but is it as desirable?

In terms of handling, the Passat is naturally more car-like than the others. It leans less in corners and is wieldier in town. Sadly, it’s also noisier than the others, and its ride is unsettled on the motorway. The Q5’s ride isn’t great either, struggling with British B-roads, and its engine makes a nasty rasping noise that isn’t particularly premium. Add in steering that weighs up unpleasantly as speeds rise, and you’ve a dynamic disappointment.

Volkswagen Passat Alltrack 2.0 TDI 140

List price when new: £28,480
Price today: £15,000
Engine size: 2.0-litre diesel
Power: 138bhp
Torque: 236lb ft
0-60mph: 11.7sec
Top speed: 118mph
Fuel economy: 49.6mpg (Official average)
CO2 emissions: 149g/km

Contrast this to the Volvo, which is effortless to drive, quiet at speed and smooth riding over most surfaces. It’s a thoroughly relaxing car, one that you’d choose over the others for a long journey like a shot. Its only real black marks are a large turning circle and thick window pillars, both of which make it tricky in town.

Inside, the car-like driving position of the Passat impresses, as does its overall space levels. The two SUVs are good here too, but the VW is easier to step into – and also has the biggest boot. Pity its dashboard plastics aren’t a match for the Audi and Volvo though, particularly the XC60, which is a lovely car to spend time in. The Q5 is fine, but is more cramped and its dashboard is fiddlier.

One area in which the Passat Alltrack has a clear lead is prices. It’s both the cheapest and the most well equipped, although the Volvo has more safety kit and isn’t that much more expensive than the Volkswagen. The Audi is considerably pricier: many were upgraded with expensive options when new though, meaning there may be a few spec surprises in the classifieds.

Volvo XC60 2.4 D4 163 SE

List price when new: £31,795
Price today: £16,000
Engine: 2.4-litre diesel
Power: 161bhp
Torque: 310lb ft
0-60mph: 10.3sec
Top speed: 122mph
Fuel economy: 49.6mpg (Official average)
CO2 emissions: 149g/km

It’s swings and roundabouts for running costs. The Audi and VW are cheaper to service, but the Volvo is the most reliable – the Q5 is particularly woeful for dependability. Audi’s claimed fuel economy is the worst as well; surprisingly, the Volvo matches the more car-like Passat with 49.6mpg combined.

Overall, for all its stylish looks and undeniable appeal, the Q5 disappoints. It’s expansive, noisy, a bit cramped inside and has a terrible reliability record. It’s an SUV beaten by an SUV estate car: the Passat Alltrack isn’t only far cheaper, it’s also more practical and more car-like to drive.

Neither can topple the Volvo XC60, though. The Swede is reliable, classy, smooth to drive and is proving to be very reliable. Even the fact it costs a bit more to maintain than the others doesn’t stop us awarding it top spot here. Large families, this should be the used holdall you aspire to in 2017.

Price today is based on a 2013 model with average mileage and full service history

Video review: Porsche Cayenne Turbo

Could this latest Cayenne be the ultimate high-performance SUV?Would you pay £100,000 for an SUV? Bentley’s Bentayga has proved

Review: Kia Stonic

According to the numbers people, the B SUV segment is booming at the moment and is set to get even bigger. By 2020 it is expected to double

Review: Lotus Exige Cup 430

Surely an Exige can’t cost nearly £100,000? When it’s as good as this it canLotus has, in the recent past, been a little

Living with the BMW M135i

How will a used rear-wheel hot hatch measure up?The plan was to take a used hot hatch and see what we could do with it. Could we improve a