Best AWD SUVs in 2015
Australia’s best cars 2015: AWD SUVs under $50,000
Winner: Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium
The previous Outback was buried mid-pack in last year’s awards. But a new model rises to the top thanks to a range of improvements, including fuel consumption, and significant price reductions. Judges also rewarded Outback’s lengthy features list with an equal best-in-class standard equipment score.
Subaru has paid attention to safety with Outback, achieving the highest ANCAP score of any Subaru to date. The latest version of Subaru’s EyeSight driver assistance technology is fitted to Outback, making driver interaction with the vehicle easier.
Outback’s infotainment system has been upgraded. The user-friendly touch-screen includes Pandora connectivity, sat-nav and voice recognition for several functions.
Outback shines in Design and Function. This means good seating, user-friendly ergonomics and the highly practical nature required in an SUV. It’s also a high achiever when it comes to fit and finish. Cabin and cargo space have increased, and access to the load area is via a powered tailgate. Plus there’s a full-size spare wheel.
The 2.5L boxer engine delivers solid though not class-leading performance, but it’s matched to a CVT that is one of the best on offer.
Australia’s best cars 2015: AWD SUVs $50,000 - $65,000
Winner: Kia Sorento Platinum
A win for a bigger, more refined Kia Sorento is a just reward for a manufacturer that takes careful heed of what the market wants. For one thing, there’s been noticeable improvement in Sorento’s road and engine noise, with soundproofing added to the transmission tunnel and thicker soundproofing inside the dashboard. The other winning area for Sorento is running and repair costs.
The Platinum variant is $4500 more than previously, but you’re getting a lot more car. It’s longer and wider, and its refinement and premium build and finish add to the luxury feel. The interior is well-appointed, with seven seats as standard. Legroom in the rearmost seats is excellent where there are even ventilation controls.
The Platinum’s 2.2L diesel now punches out 147kW and 441Nm – slightly more than the previous model.
Sorento also gets more safety kit, including a rear-view camera, curtain airbags all the way to the third row, hill start assist and brake assist. Extra safety systems on the Platinum include lane-departure warning, active cruise control, blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert. But autonomous emergency braking isn’t available.
Australia’s best cars 2015: AWD SUVs $65,000 - $125,000
Winner: Volvo XC90 Inscription D5
The market was left waiting 12 years for this new XC90 but it’s been worth it. And it’s in the cabin where it shines. Judges praised its beautiful interior design, ergonomics and seating comfort, and it sprinted ahead in Design and Function. Nice touches are the rimless mirror, the durable cover over the centre storage area and the diamond-shaped impressions on the toggle switches.
Unlike many seven-seat SUVs, where third-row seats are more of an afterthought, Volvo has focused on making sure every occupant enjoys the ride. Each seating row is slightly higher than the one in front, meaning better vision for all occupants and it also helps reduce motion sickness. And the audio is crystal-clear in all rows.
XC90 debuts two world-first safety features: City Safety with Intersection Collision Mitigation, which can stop you turning into the path of an oncoming car, and Run Off Road Protection, which prepares the car if you leave the road. The Inscription also has cross-traffic alert, rear-collision warning and a curtain airbag for all three rows.
XC90 was never going to topple Range Rover Sport for drivability or off-road prowess but nor could any other contender.