Fleet News

Contract hire survey: luxury diesel SUVs

THEY may be designed to go off-road, but the majority of these luxury diesel sports utility vehicles won’t stray too far off the Tarmac. Our panel investigates which is the best bet for fleets.

Luxury off-road models thrive on badge appeal

The sight of this page is likely to cause severe palpitations down at Greenpeace HQ. Last week the green campaigners called on fleets to ban SUVs from choice lists on the grounds that they guzzle gas.

And while the cars here aren’t exactly environmentally-friendly, they are at least all diesels, which means they beat petrol models in fuel economy and emissions. But what they really are is style statements, and none more so than BMW’s X5. With its mid-life refresh, it’s still got what it takes.

Land Rover has been busy in this sector, with the Range Rover Sport, which looks like a scaled-down Range Rover but with a more sporty feel, and the Discovery 3. This car is a giant in all senses, with peerless off-road ability and improved road manners.

It can also seat seven, much like Volvo’s XC90, which has won new friends with its on-road comfort.

Volkswagen’s Touareg is the firm’s first attempt at a 4x4, and what a good one it is. And the new 3.0-litre diesel answers criticisms of the old 2.5 TDI version. Another new addition is Nissan’s Pathfinder. It’s a good drive and comes loaded with standard equipment, but how will it compete against the premium brands?

BMW X5 3.0d SE auto

P11D price £37,008
2005 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%) £2,850/£5,181
2005 VED bill £165
Rental Rates
Lombard £603.23
Lex Vehicle Leasing £602.00
Custom Fleet £581.30
ALD £554.97
Alphabet £572.94

Land Rover Discovery 3 2.7 Td V6 auto

P11D price £33,495
2005 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%) £2,579/£4,689
2005 VED bill £165
Rental Rates
Lombard £657.88
Lex Vehicle Leasing £585.00
Custom Fleet £595.99
ALD £523.81
Alphabet £576.02

Nissan Pathfinder 2.5 dCi T-Spec auto

P11D price £31,960
2005 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%) £2,461/£4,474
2005 VED bill £165
Rental Rates
Lombard £615.33
Lex Vehicle Leasing £603.00
Custom Fleet £592.05
ALD £589.40
Alphabet £590.48

Range Rover Sport 2.7 TDV6 auto

P11D price £35,000
2005 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%) £2,695/£4,900
2005 VED bill £165
Rental Rates
Lombard £661.33
Lex Vehicle Leasing £637.00
Custom Fleet £595.90
ALD £615.31
Alphabet £579.73

Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 V6 TDI auto

P11D price £34,360
2005 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%) £2,646/£4,810
2005 VED bill £165
Rental Rates
Lombard £640.62
Lex Vehicle Leasing £620.00
Custom Fleet £587.24
ALD £615.65
Alphabet £581.36

Volvo XC90 2.4 D5 SE Geartronic

P11D price £33,860
2005 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%) £2,533/£4,605
2005 VED bill £165
Rental Rates
Lombard £667.69
Lex Vehicle Leasing £620.00
Custom Fleet £606.42
ALD £627.75
Alphabet £615.57

Richard Schooling
Commercial director, Alphabet (GB)

Along with MPVs, SUVs are the strongest-selling segment in many European markets. As a result, seven-seat models such as the Discovery, Pathfinder and XC90 could be at an advantage.

But there can be no doubting the BMW X5’s position as the benchmark here. With its superb engine, handling and build quality, the X5 is also an unbeatable proposition on fleet thanks to cast-iron residual values and very competitive SMR costs.

For luxury and capability, the Range Rover Sport is second – assuming Land Rover has sorted out past reliability and running cost issues.

The XC90 has established Volvo’s 4x4 credentials, although it is pricey here, while Volkswagen’s Touareg continues the brand’s move upmarket. The Nissan has plenty of kit but lacks presence in this brand-conscious sector. Rentals may come down when resale values become clearer.

Paul Connor
Pricing risk manager, Lombard

This sector is very competitive. There has been an influx of new models and even more are on the way, including the Audi Q7, Mercedes-Benz M-class and the excellent Lexus RX400h petrol-electric hybrid, all bringing exciting technology and radical design features to the market.

We’ve seen a rapid growth in demand for 4x4s regardless of recent negative press around the sector. Given how many fleet drivers will actually go off road in these cars, on-road finesse is likely to score more highly than off-road capability.

From a fleet manager’s point of view the BMW X5, although well into its lifecycle, is still a good bet but watch out for residual value movements.

For drivers, the benefit-in-kind value needs careful consideration. Those less brand-conscious should consider the Nissan Pathfinder, which offers good fuel economy, low servicing costs. It’s a great all rounder.

Rob Rossiter
Vehicle remarketing manager, ALD Automotive

This market is now full of quality vehicles, offering high spec levels and a much- improved driving experience.

The Range Rover Sport 2.7 TDV6 is an exciting addition and is very much aimed at competing with BMW. The model promises to be a success story in the making. However, while the Land Rover Discovery 2.7 Td V6 is cheaper than the Range Rover, it lacks appeal when pitched against the very best and I’m not too sure about the boxy design.

The BMW X5 certainly sets the benchmark. It is a good all-round performer, but I would like to see leather and the optional communications pack fitted for disposal time.

Volvo stole a march when the XC90 was launched, with low start-up costs and high levels of spec. While it is not as cheap these days it has aged well.

The Volkswagen Touareg is another dependable German. It offers excellent torque coupled to a decent auto box, but is not one of the prettiest here.

The Nissan Pathfinder is big brother to the X-trail, but I’m not convinced by the nondescript styling and it struggles to appeal against the more premium cars here.

Nick Auld
Trade services manager, Custom Fleet

IMAGE and comfort are key factors in the purchasing decision and, although all the models featured have fairly dreadful CO2 figures, taxation and cost are not likely to deter the buyer.

The BMW X5 is our leading light in this company. It has very strong residuals and is likely to be put to serious business use and not just for the much-lampooned school run.

Just behind, we place the offerings from Land Rover: the Range Rover Sport and Discovery, both excellent vehicles.

The Range Rover Sport is plush, almost regal, with an excellent diesel engine. The Discovery is light years ahead of its predecessor in terms of looks, styling and cost.

Volkswagen’s Touareg is more likely to be found on a motorway than a field, and although Volkswagen has no pedigree in this sector, it performs well.

The Pathfinder continues a Nissan trend to develop niche vehicles, and is a bold move against such established players.

The Volvo XC90 runs into similar problems and while the marque may have an established history for big, comfortable estates it is solid ground in this company.

Steve Jones
Pricing manager, Lex Vehicle Leasing

UNTIL BMW and Mercedes-Benz launch the X5 and M-class, this sector was bland and functional. Now every car firm is either building, or working on, a luxury SUV.

If you’re looking for luxury, then look no further than the Range Rover Sport, with all the looks of its big brother but much cheaper.

BMW’s X5, now pretty wobbly on its pedestal, still commands enormous used values. Great performance and road-holding make for a great driving experience, but expect a new model soon.

Volvo added a new dimension to the sector when it launched the seven-seater XC90. The Land Rover Discovery 3 now offers seven seats, too. Choosing between them? The Land Rover offers amazing off-road capability, while the Volvo offers higher specification and sharper looks.

Nissan’s Pathfinder, although capable and functional, is outclassed here – and this is reflected in its lower list price.

Volkswagen’s excellent Touareg can be a victim of badge snobbery, but it seems to be gaining favour with drivers who want to be different.

How the panel voted

1. BMW X5

IT has been around for quite a few years now, but the BMW remains the benchmark for this sector thanks to its strong image, build quality and impressive road manners. It’s also the cheapest on rentals.

2. Range Rover Sport

THE all-new Range Rover makes a strong challenge in this sector, but it can’t quite match the excellent BMW X5. The panel were impressed by its luxurious cabin and strong diesel engine.

3. Volvo XC90

AN impressive first attempt at a luxury SUV, but the XC90’s high front-end price counts against it. But it does offer the highest fuel economy and lowest CO2 emissions of this group.

4. Land Rover Discovery

ANOTHER new launch from the Land Rover stable – and a quantum leap forward over its predecessor. Doubts remain among the panel over the boxy look and reliability issues.

5. Volkswagen Touareg

THE new 3.0-litre diesel engine makes the Touareg much better to drive on the road, but a low residual value forecast and the highest CO2 emissions see the Volkswagen voted down to fifth.

6. Nissan Pathfinder

IN such an image-conscious market, the Pathfinder can’t compete with BMW et al. It comes loaded with kit, but you pay less per month for the BMW or Land Rover.

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