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3 Mar 2020

Large cars from BMW, Tesla and Volvo on test: how much should you spend?

SUVs and other large cars vary wildly in price, from the affordable Citroen C5 Aircross to the princely Mercedes-Benz GLE. We scrutinise what's worth your money

With some big-brand large cars starting from less than £25,000, a spacious car doesn't have to cost the earth. But given premium large cars can cost double this or more, does it pay to go upmarket? The latest verdicts from our test lab reveal whether paying more is likely to get you a better car.

Volvo's XC60 mid-size SUV aims to challenge premium-positioned brands such as Audi and BMW. With prices starting from £34,939, it should be within the reach of many buyers in the market for a large car. Or, if your budget won't stretch that far, you could consider Citroen's flagship, the C5 Aircross. This could save you around £10,000 on the Volvo's price tag.

Alternatively, those looking for a little more luxury in an SUV might be tempted by the Mercedes-Benz GLE large SUV, from £57,015.

But how much do you really need spend to get the best-performing car? Our lab tests and expert drivers look at what you really get for your money, and whether paying a premium gets you anything more than a desirable badge.

Discover the top cars for 2020 - get the final word on the best cars on the market with our tests.

Volvo XC60, £34,939

Volvo hasn't traditionally had the premium status of German brands such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW, but it's hard to deny the upmarket features here.

Under the XC60's modern but reserved styling is a practical and spacious interior, and even the entry-level model comes with 18-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, an 8-inch touchscreen media display and a whole suite of safety technology.

There are plenty extras, with no less than seven trim levels to choose from. These include 'Pro' versions, which come fitted with some desirable tech, including a heads-up display, heated seats and steering wheel, active headlights and some even air suspension.

Could this be the wise balance between cost and features? Find out how it scores in our Volvo XC60 review.

Citroen C5 Aircross, £24,435

Avoiding luxury brands can net you attractive-looking prices.

Despite being Citroen's flagship model, the Citroen C5 Aircross is priced from £10,000 less than the Volvo XC60, and all models come packed with features as standard, including hydraulic cushion suspension, rear parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers, safety tech, dual-zone climate control and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.

The styling will divide opinion, but looks particularly striking in bright colours. As is typical with the Citroen brand, there's an emphasis here on comfort and practicality rather than the 'sporty' drives to which many premium-brands such as BMW aspire.

So could this be a thrifty way to get the most for your money? Our experts see whether you really miss out on anything in our Citroen C5 Aircross review.

Mercedes-Benz GLE, £57,015

Mercedes-Benz has a claim to the title of the first German luxury SUV. The high-rise Mercedes-Benz GLE has heritage that dates back to the M-class of the 1990s. Now, of course, the market is flooded with rivals such as the Audi Q7 and BMW X5, not to mention many cheaper alternatives.

So how does the GLE fare against its competition? It's undeniably luxurious, with an opulent interior, and has some towing and off-road ability. And if you need to fit a lot of bums on seats, there's the option of boosting capacity to seven by having a third row of seats built into the boot floor.

Diesels make up much of the engine range, although there's a pair of 3.0-litre petrol engines available too. Nine-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive come as standard.

As you'd expect at this price, there's lots of tech as standard, including 20-inch alloy wheels, LED headlamps, park assist with rear-view camera and a wireless charging pad.

However, disappointingly for a car at this price, you'll need to pay more for the AMG Line Executive trim to get Apple CarPlay/Android Auto - a steep ask when the much cheaper Citroen C5 Aircross has these features as standard.

So is this a large SUV worth splurging out on, or is this car exclusively for status-symbol buyers? Our experts have the answer in the full Mercedes-Benz GLE review.

Tesla Model 3, £40,895

With its Model 3, Tesla has apparently set out to make electric cars affordable to mainstream buyers, offering a lower price point than the Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X. The Model 3's claimed 254-mile range per charge should avoid anxiety being an issue for all but the longest journeys.

Entry-level models get a glass roof, heated side mirrors, a Bluetooth media system, heated front seats and a centre display and console with four USB sockets. It also comes with a four-year/50,000-mile warranty, plus an eight-year/100,000-120,000-mile warranty (depending on model) on the drive system and battery.

With concerns about air pollution and climate change continuing to escalate, is now the time to go electric? See our verdict in the full Tesla Model 3 review.

Volkswagen Passat Estate, £21,874

It may be one of the less glamorous large cars we've tested this month, but it's also one of the cheapest if you're looking for plenty of space on a budget. It's certainly been a success story for Volkswagen - launched in 2015 and updated in 2019, the Passat Estate is now in its eighth generation.

Practicality is king here, with a gigantic boot, spacious interior and decent tech despite its affordable price. All models come with a touchscreen media system, LED headlights (as of 2019), alloy wheels, a host of safety tech and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.

So do you really need to spend more, or is this a capable contender that delivers affordable value? Find out how it scored in our Volkswagen Passat Estate review.

BMW M8 Competition Convertible, £130,435

There's luxury, and then there's luxury. So is BMW's new offering truly a driver's dream or is it just a toy for those with more money than sense? Our professionals couldn't wait to find out.

BMW's fastest-ever road car, the BMW M8 Competition Convertible is the even more premium, high-performance edition of their new flagship BMW 8 Series.

Its power and acceleration rival purpose-built sports cars, yet it maintains practical features such as a folding roof and opulent, tech-laden interior. We also found the car more accessible to drive than many high-octane sports cars.

It's available as both a coupe and convertible and shares the 4.4-litre V8 petrol engine from the 8 Series, now optimised to deliver an extra 95hp for a monstrous 625hp in total.

In the UK, the M8's only available with the high-spec Competition trim which, as standard, comes with many perks. These include adaptive cruise control, a Harman/Kardon sound system, sports exhaust, a heads-up display, rear-view camera and park assist, M sport seats and even an 'air-collar' that blows hot air on the back of your neck so you can enjoy roof-down driving in the winter.

So is it worth going all-out on your next car? Our experts cut through the hype to reveal the truth in our first look BMW M8 Competition Convertible review.