Battle of the luxe SUVs: BMW X3 v Volvo XC60 road tests

BMW X3 30

$86,300, 19 points



VALUE 3.5 stars

The money buys a 10-inch touchscreen, satnav, head-up display, digital instrument cluster, leather upholstery, 20-inch alloys and LED headlamps. Condition-based servicing roughly equates to 12 months/15,000km and $1495 upfront covers basic servicing for the first five years/80,000km. Wireless Android Auto/Apple CarPlay is a $620 option.

The BMW’s head-up display is clear in most lighting.
The BMW’s head-up display is clear in most lighting.

DESIGN 3.5 stars

The BMW is marginally longer than the Volvo and the run-flat rubber means there is no spare wheel, giving it a 45L edge in cargo capacity at 550L. The head-up display is clear in most lighting conditions - providing you're not wearing polarising sunglasses - and dials and controls click and twirl with the refinement you'd expect in a vehicle at this price. The X3's 2000kg towing limit yields to the XC60's 2400kg.

ENGINE 4 stars

The 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo is good for 185kW/350Nm, delivered to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic that is notable for not being noticed. Claimed fuel consumption of 7.6L/100km translates to about 10L in a 70:30 mix of urban and freeway driving. That's still impressive in a 1715kg vehicle.

SAFETY 4 stars

Semi-autonomous driving and automatic emergency braking are the headline features of the X3. ANCAP rates it a five-star car but notes that chest protection for rear passengers is marginal in the frontal crash test, the driver's chest likewise subject to more force in the pole test.

DRIVING 4 stars

The X3 sits flat when cornering.
The X3 sits flat when cornering.

The X3 is a decent drive by SUV standards. It sits flat when cornering and the response from the engine when accelerating to overtake is more immediate than in the Volvo. The steering has more heft and feel and changing the adaptive dampers' settings has a more pronounced impact on how the car handles bumps.


$79,400, 20 points


VALUE 4 stars

That is the T5 Inscription's price in WA, the dearest state to buy a Volvo. It packs the same tech and standard features as the BMW, presented in an uncluttered and smartly executed interior. Servicing is 12 months/15,000km and shelling out $2225 at purchase covers the first three visits to the dealer.

The Volvo XC60 has an uncluttered and smartly done interior.
The Volvo XC60 has an uncluttered and smartly done interior.

DESIGN 4 stars

Uncluttered exterior styling continues inside; very few buttons occupy the fascia. The tablet-oriented touchscreen takes little time to get used to - handy, because it controls most features in the car. The head-up display matches the BMW for legibility in all light conditions. The transmission tunnel sits high in the rear floor, relegating the centre seat to occasional use only.

ENGINE 4 stars

Volvo uses the same size engine as the BMW and it is also matched with an eight-speed auto and all-wheel drive. The XC60's extra mass - it weighs in at 1857kg - makes it about half a second slower than the X3 in the 0-100km/h sprint without ever feeling underpowered. Claimed thirst of 7.8L/100km wound out to 11.8L on the same loop.

SAFETY 4.5 stars

ANCAP rates the Volvo as a five-star car and it edges the BMW in all four assessments: driver and child protection, pedestrian safety and assistance software. It also packs an airbag for the driver's knee that isn't on the X3. Standard are semi-autonomous driving, automatic emergency braking, lane departure and blind-spot monitoring.

DRIVING 3.5 stars

The XC60 has light steering but drives well around town.
The XC60 has light steering but drives well around town.

Light steering takes some of the feel out of driving. Most people won't give a toss because it works well around town, where the XC60 will do most of its work. The suspension can get flustered on corrugated roads and the body rolls in the corners more than the X3. Ignore the paddle-shifters: the auto does its best work when left to its own devices.


The Volvo Inscription has an advantage here, with style and sophistication to rival any luxury SUV - then it undercuts the competition on price.