Ok, I am going to get it in the neck for this piece but I am feeling strangely brave. This article does not reflect the buying habits of all women, just 2, my wife and her best friend Sam.
Sam is Dan’s wife and you all know about him because he crops up a lot in my articles, but on this occasion it’s Sam who had me tearing my hair out in frustration. Sam wants a new car and Dan refused point blank to go with her “after the last time!???.
The warning bells were there, ringing loud enough to be heard from London to Edinburgh but her indoors begged me to help Sam as “I know all about cars!???. So I did, after all her rather long short list was quite a line up of premium SUVs or SAVs as they are now getting called (that’s Sports Activity Vehicle because the posh gang don’t want to think too much about the muddy side of life!).
I thought this was going to be easy, we would simply whittle down the list to her top 2 or 3 and then try them – but no, she ended up trying no less than 6! If you have been test driving cars recently, that is at least 2 hours a pop – 30 mins of test driving and 1.5 hours of smarmy creeping by sales men and women, trying to charm you out of your hard-earned cash with endless cappuccinos and individually wrapped biscuits. However, as 2 of the cars were new to me, I plucked up the courage and agreed to go.
Sam arrived at each place and the first thing she looks at is the boot! She doesn’t ask about top speed, fuel efficiency, torque or anything sensible, she wants to look at the boot and to know if she can get a fully automatic tow bar on the back for the kids’ bikes! I ask you! Ok they have 3 kids who all play endless muddy sports so I guess a big boot is important; and they do go bike riding at weekends with Oscar the dog, so I kind of get the tow bar thing but is that the place to start when you are looking at this list?
Then there is the inside. Sam is a bit spoilt if I’m honest so only wants the top spec of everything, but she doesn’t seem to care what the tech is, so long as it looks nice and feels like it was worth a poor bull giving its life up for and a reduction in the UK walnut tree population.
Finally, she’ll get in and give it a whirl for about 5 mins, umming and arring along the way before handing it over for me (which I view as payment for the torture to come) I ask all the sensible questions which she totally ignores the answers to. The salesmen all know that I’m just a friend and not the husband so completely ignore me in any case, giving staccato answers to all my wise and detailed probing.
Dan made her test drive a Qashqai but it was way too small for her in terms of kids and boot space she claimed (personally I don’t think she liked it as it had the wrong logo on the front and back but that might be a bit uncharitable – it was certainly smaller than the other 5).
Also on the initial list was the Volvo XC60 which she rejected on the grounds that 2 of the grandparents who pick children up from school had one and although she did try it, she decided that she “wasn’t old enough??? for one of them.
After she’s added all the bells and whistles onto the cars, they were all within a hairs breadth of each other in terms of price at around a chunky £45k. So how did she pick her favourite? By how it felt before you even turned it on, and what the neighbours might think!
While creating the short list I demanded that she include the minor detail of how it felt to drive, which she did – grudgingly. Here is her final 4 and what she/we thought of them.
Lexus NX 13/15
The Lexus NX came out last year and is billed as a Luxury Compact SUV. It certainly lives up to is top notch billing. It is the most dynamic looking of the 5 with very cutting edge design features and their now famous Origami styling.
Best interior by far – all the cool kit you could possibly want and it looks really modern.
A good size boot. The only down side to this car, and we are nit picking here, is that the boot is very high up. Sam docked it a mark simply because she thought she’d almost have to lift her dog into it when it got old.
If you like the way hybrids drive, they are very quiet and smooth feeling, then its excellent, nippy and responsive.
Mercedes Benz GLC 12/15
This car has only been out for about 5 minutes so I was eager to get behind the wheel and give it a go. It did not disappoint.
A stunning interior which felt more like it belonged in a first class airline seat. You could not fault this at all and Sam loved it although she did say if felt more “masculine??? than the NX but she still loved it.
For a car of this size, the boot was smaller than the others, or at least felt that way with the seats up. Merc seem to care more about the comfort and leg room of the rear passengers than they do about how much space to give the dog to flop in. On the plus side it is the perfect height to sit on while taking your muddy boots on and off – it also has the coolest electric tow bar – take a look at this clip:
I thought this car was the best driving car of the lot, but Sam didn’t like the sports wheel and claimed that she had little feet so the peddles felt a bit stiff to her, although she did acknowledge that it had the best pick up and handled well.
Jaguar F-Pace 11/15
This is the first Jag SUV and they have thrown the kitchen sink at it. It looks wonderful and the neighbours will definitely go green with envy at the badge on the grill but what was it like?
The interior is definitely luxurious, although Sam was not a fan of the two tone leather on the top spec, but it was also out of her price range which was handy. Even at the mid spec, this car looked and felt sensational to sit in. One thing I loved was that there were USB connectors in the back for the kids’ iPads so they can charge them on long journeys.
While being billed to rival the NX/or BMW x3 this car is BIG. It is nearer the Q7 or X5 in size than a compact SUV so while there is oceans of boot space, the overall width of the car was a small issue for Sam, she was worried about parking it.
This car was very disappointing to drive. I was expecting it to feel like a Jaguar but it didn’t, it felt like the poshest mobile arm chair on the road. There was no sensation of torque and while it certainly went like a bomb, it was really very boring to drive. Top Gear were a lot kinder about this car than I was, but then again they did drive the V6 which has a lot more grunt.
BMW X3 11/15
The X3 has been around for ever – ok, about 10 years, so there must be some reason why people love it so much.
It was good, but dull. Compared to the previous 3 it just didn’t have the wow factor that the others had. I think the BMW designers have sat on their laurels a bit here and focused all their fantastic wizardry on the i8 and i3.
The boot is good, and big enough for the sticky sports kit and even stinker dog.
Don’t get me wrong here, the X3 is a great car, it is just that it is a bit boring to drive. After you have been in it for 10 mins you forget that you are driving a fabulous vehicle as you simply settle in and whiz around the city streets or duel carriageways.
So after a few fun mins behind the wheel and many a tedious hour in car show rooms and gallons of frothy coffee trying to find the perfect SUV I think I know what she will choose although it won’t surprise me one jot if I rock up to Dan’s next week and see a stunning soft top dream without a tow bar in sight!