Car Choice: Here's how to head for the Highlands in style

Julien Jarmoszko is 28 and has a wish list for his next car. Firstly, he needs something to cope with hiking expeditions to the Highlands in winter. It must also seat four comfortably, have decent boot space, and have a quality finish inside. Julien does a modest 5,000 miles a year, but wants cruise control, good safety features, and would love a V6 engine or something with a bit of character. He has £20,000 to spend and resale value is not an issue.

A car for the head

It seems that Julien is going to need a four-wheel drive with German build quality, especially inside. In that case there are a few options – and they are not BMWs. The X5 is a very nice vehicle, and every bit as good to drive as BMW's exemplary road cars. However, the best interiors for some time have been made by Audi. The Q5 is nice, but not yet within budget. A better model would be the Allroad. Although Julien is happy with petrol power he does have quite a few options. The Allroad (pictured) is an estate car with a four-wheel drive system making it cling to the road, rather than being a true off-roader. That is not what Julien needs though – just the ability to cope with a bit of mud and water in the Highlands and the long-haul motorway journey there and back. The Allroad would be perfect for that. Inside there is loads of space for four bodies and their luggage. What Julien will love, though, is the build quality as the cabin is beautifully finished. What he has to decide, though, is whether he wants all-out speed with a 4.2 V8, or the excellent and versatile 3.0 V6 TDi. His £20,000 will buy a 2008 example.

A car for the heart

Although Julien may not need a full- on 4x4, some four-wheel drive ability will be useful, but not in the usual extra large package. The Volkswagen Toureg offers everything Julien would need, including an impressively solid interior – but it is on the huge side, and tuned much more for the off-road experience. Whereas a dedicated 4x4 ought to have a Land Rover badge on it for lighter use, I think that the Volkswagen Tiguan – a German compact soft roader, which drives just like a car – is worth investigating. Not a cheap vehicle to buy new, Julien could save himself the first year's depreciation by going for a nine-month-old model. Before we get to prices, let's explain what the Tiguan is like. Well, it is a bit like a 4x4 Golf, so it drives perfectly normally but has a useful amount of flexibility, and is certainly much more refined than many dual-purpose vehicles. Ideal for four bodies, plus the rear seat slides to increase the amount of boot space, which is certainly adequate. For £20,000, we came across a 2009 Escape model, tuned to off-road use with modified bodywork and with 5,000 miles on the clock. Otherwise a 2009 SE with a 2.0 TDi engine would be perfect and a durable companion for Julien on his adventures.

Looking to buy?

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF or email James Ruppert at, giving your age, address and phone number, details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested, and your budget.

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