David MottonSee other Blog articles filed in ‘Tow cars’ written by David Motton
Two of the heavyweights of the tow car world are about to replaced: the Kia Sorento and the Volvo XC90.
It seems like only a few months have elapsed since the Sorento was last the subject of a major update, such is the pace of change in Korean car companies like Kia. The lifecycle for new models seems to be getting ever shorter. The XC90, on the other hand, has watched newer rivals come and go since 2002. During that time its most thorough refresh came back in 2007, but even that was more a facelift than a root-and-branch change.
The 2015 Volvo XC90 is an entirely new car. There's a family resemblance to the original, but the new XC90 promises even better safety standards, more interior space, improved cabin quality and new powertrains combining power and performance with low emissions.
Low weight is usually a key weapon in achieving rock-bottom emissions figures, but doesn't always go down so well with the likes of you and me. Fortunately for caravanners, the new XC90 hasn't slimmed down too much. Volvo quotes a kerbweight of 1940-2030kg (without driver) for the car with either the T6 petrol or D5 diesel engine with a legal towing limit of 2700kg. The current D5 has a kerbweight of 2129kg in D5 Auto form, so while the car may have trimmed the fat a bit the difference isn't dramatic.
No doubt that's partly because the new Volvo XC90 is a much larger car. It's now 495cm long (up from 481cm), which improves interior space. Not only will the seven-seater offer greater room, the cabin is much more modern looking than before: the old button-heavy dashboard is replaced by a new look dash with a huge touchscreen and just a few buttons.
It all looks very promising, although be warned: the new XC90 is more expensive than the car it replaces. You'll pay £45,785 for a D5 AWD in Momentum spec (order books open in October with the first customer deliveries expected in April 2015). There will also be a high-performance plug-in hybrid version with an even steeper price.
Today's entry-level car costs £37,115, and that's before you take account of the big discounts available. The What Car? Target Price (a realistic discounted figure which should be achievable with a bit of haggling) is £29,803. You could do a lot worse than snap up one of the last of the old model before it disappears from showrooms.
Is the same true of the outgoing Kia Sorento? The current car is roomy, reasonably heavy and tows well, but hasn't achieved quite the same following as the 2003-09 model. That's in part because today's Sorento is lighter and has a lower towing limit than the older model, but I think that's mostly down to the significant increase in price. It's not expensive by the standards of large 4x4s, but it's not the bargain the earlier car was.
There's a certain likeness between the current model and the 2015 Sorento, but to my eyes the new version is the better looking car. It's longer and lower than the existing car, and the deep grille and swept back headlights give it a strong, determined look. Squint a bit, and to my eyes it actually looks a little bit like the XC90.
There's an extra 80mm (just over three inches) between the two sets of wheels, which should benefit interior space. Boot space is also up. Fold the third row of seats into the floor and there's now 605 litres for bags instead of 515 litres.
Worldwide, the car is offered with a choice of petrol and diesel engines. In the UK, though, I'd be surprised if the range extended beyond the 2.2-litre diesel.
Kia's engineers promise that the new suspension set up, together with the car's longer wheelbase, will improve ride comfort. Extra soundproofing is just one of the measures Kia has employed to improve refinement, and the quality of finish in the cabin is also said to have improved.
We'll get a chance to find out if that's the case when we see the car in the metal at the Paris Motor Show next month. Hopefully we'll also have more technical details including weights for the new car.
UK sales will begin next spring. There's no firm word on pricing yet, but expect the range to start from around £27,000-£28,000.
Both the Volvo XC90 and the Kia Sorento could be contenders at next year's Tow Car Awards – and strong prospects if you're wondering what tow car to buy. I'm looking forward to driving them.