These four luxury SUVs blend city style with soft-road appeal

By Paul Gover, August 15 2018

For the daily drive and the weekend getaway it's hard to beat the appeal of a stylish yet practical SUV.

More and more owners are switching to upmarket soft-roaders, which is why prestige brands are now injecting punch, personality and panache into the latest generation of family-friendly five-seaters – models which are surprising rewarding to own and drive – around the $70,000 sweet spot.

Audi Q5

One of the most car-like of the SUVs, designed to be relaxing in all conditions and with the bedrock benefit of Audi’s signature Quattro all-wheel drive when you head to the beach or snow.

It’s roomy enough for four but not remotely hulky, with a variety of petrol and diesel engine choices right up to the slingshot-quick SQ5 turbo if you want to splash around $100,000.

The Q5 scores with technology and safety, including Audi’s brilliant Virtual Cockpit that transforms traditional instruments into an interactive visual display, and plenty of upgrade choices.

Best for: relaxing driving at all times, from the peak-hour grind to cruising to a long weekend away.

X-Factor: Audi does the best business class cabins in the car world and the Q5 is no exception.

Price: from $65,900

BMW X3

When BMW dived into the SUV swamp it created an instant winner with its signature X5 and now its baby brother is just as popular.

The third-generation X3 is almost the same size as the original X5, which translates to plenty of space for everyone – and everything they bring with them.

It feels tough, dependable and ready for anything, yet still with the classy materials and finishing you expect from a BMW in the prestige class.

Driving enjoyment is a given, despite low-profile tyres that hurt the ride, and the basic rear-wheel drive model is a sweet deal despite all the extra engine and equipment choices as you move up the line.

If you prefer a sharper look, cast a glance at BMW's coupe-like X4 SUV (below) - just as it morphed the X5 to create the X6 - for fashionistas.

Best for: does what it says on the badge and confidently ticks all the SUV boxes.

X-Factor: BMW has big bragging rights after pioneering the upmarket SUV.

Price: from $66,529

Jaguar F-Pace

There was a time when Jaguar left the SUV side of the family business to Range Rover, but not any more.

Now it’s getting seriously into prestige SUVs, tapping its driver-friendly sports DNA and the design skills of creative boss Ian Callum to create a growing range that even includes the fully-electric I-Pace arriving soon from $119,000.

The F-Pace is all about city chic with country fun runs, and is not remotely intended for big-and-bold bush beating.

It’s one of the sportiest SUVs and that’s not a back-handed compliment, as the rear-drive package makes it sports car quick in the right hands on the right roads.

Families have not been forgotten, as the cabin is roomy and very well equipped, but ticking too many boxes for optional equipment can quickly blow the budget.

Best for: keen drivers who know the ‘leaper’ badge means something special.

X-Factor: the first Jaguar SUV is a looker as well as a goer.

Price: from $73,252

Volvo XC60

Gone are the days when big boxy bodies were Volvo's signature look. The CX-branded SUV line-up - three models, with the XC60 in the centre - proves that Swedish design can make a practical car into a very elegant and stylish one with the right approach and materials.

While still decidedly angular, that means maximum cabin space and huge carrying capacity.

The XC60 is also quiet, comfortable and relaxing to drive and, because Volvo is synonymous with safety, the protection package is one of the very best in the SUV world.

Best for: surprising friends who think Volvo is only for a fuddy-duddy or the bowls brigade.

X-Factor: the XC60 is the reigning World Car of the Year.

Price: from $64,990

Paul Gover
Paul Gover

Paul Gover

As Motoring Editor for Executive Traveller, Paul Gover spends less time at his Gold Coast home than he does on the road (literally) test-driving the best of the four-wheel world.

JimmyP

JimmyP

08 Aug 2018

Total posts 1

The Audi Q5 is made in Mexico and the BMW X3/5 are made in the USA.

If I’m paying good money for a prestige German vehicle, I want it made in Germany.

Oherwaise you’re just another sheep getting fleeced🐑

moecat

moecat

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Feb 2015

Total posts 83

What is wrong with a German engineered car built in the USA? Also with a German built engine....

Martin Haynes

Martin Haynes

13 Sep 2016

Total posts 27

Owner of a BMW X3 here, can attest this is a superb car, just as I expected it would be. Great finish, very spacious of course, it's my first SUV and I would have trouble going back to a 'normal' wagon after this!

antkleve

antkleve

American Airlines - AAdvantage

15 Feb 2013

Total posts 40

Another 2018 X3 owner here. It's hard to fault.

Mightyreds

Mightyreds

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Feb 2015

Total posts 256

Missing the best mid size SUV in my humble opinion. The Mercedes Benz GLC250. We recently analysed most of the above for my wife’s new car, and it is a great car to drive.

tommygun

tommygun

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

16 Oct 2017

Total posts 79

I recently had an Audi Q5 on rental from Hertz. Great to drive, very comfortable, good size for city use, smooth cruising on the freeway. But some tech annoyances e.g. satnav difficult to use and (twice) gave wrong directions, difficult to pair Android phone to car system.

Notso Swift

Notso Swift

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Oct 2016

Total posts 100

BMW doesn't even accept Android!

aggie57

aggie57

QF

04 Apr 2014

Total posts 148

Same here, we’ve had Q5’s from Hertz twice now. Really nice and very comfortable. Next trip in September we’ve booked a Q2 which looks good too.

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