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by James Ward

Bang for your buck. Bounce for your ounce.

It’s an equation as old as time, where value for money is compared, peer against peer. And while the money part is self-explanatory, what defines value?

Context changes everything, but for our example today, the value is power. Pure, measurable, power.

Call it what you will: horsepower, PS, joules per second or just good old fashioned base-10 kilowatts. A car’s power output is a key unit of measurement for many buyers. And, quite reasonably, to get more power you need to spend more money – but is there a sweet spot?

In our recent review of the 2017 Volkswagen Tiguan 162 TSI Highline, CarAdvice reader ‘Sir Vinny The Brave‘ asked:

“So, which are the hot SUVs out there that James speaketh off?”

First of all, Sir Vinny, we appreciate you staying in character.

Medium-sized SUVs, like the Tiguan, are finding solid sales growth in 2017, with the segment up 9.4 per cent year-on-year.

Here, we’ve taken a look at all vehicles in the segment and found the most affordable way into each of the 89 engines on offer.

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Power outputs range from just 96kW in the 1.6-litre turbo diesel Nissan X-Trail, to the 294kW twin-turbo V6 of the Porsche Macan Turbo.

This, in a category which has prices starting at $24,990 for the Suzuki Grand Vitara to $130,300 for that same Turbo Macan.

 

What is interesting, is that while the relationship between power and price does trend in the same upward direction, there are distinctive bands where higher-priced vehicles with lower output engines signify a step to different power levels.

The Ranger Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport, each fitted with the 110kW 2.0-litre Ingenium turbo diesel cap out the first wave at $56,355 (for the Land Rover). This drops back down almost $29,000 to the 114kW Honda CR-V 2.0-litre petrol for $27,490.

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Despite an outlier in the 147kW Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV at $50,490, and then from the 125kW Jeep Cherokee ($49,000) and Mercedes-Benz GLC220d ($65,990), the second ‘wave’ continues, ironically, to the higher power 132kW Ingenium diesel in the Evoque, Discovery Sport and band-topping Jaguar F-Pace at $75,860.

From here on, things follow a largely linear path to the Macan, topping both price and power. But where do those aspects best combine?

Porsche Macan Turbo pics16

Calculating a rough ‘dollars per kW’ market scale, we see prices ranging from $202.19, all the way to $574.70.

 

At the tip of the bang-for-buck spear is the 178kW 2.0-litre petrol Ford Escape, followed closely, for just an extra $2.65 per kW, by the ageing 2.4-litre naturally aspirated Suzuki Grand Vitara.

Third place goes to the big 200kW 3.2-litre V6 in the Jeep Cherokee, showing that there’s now ‘not much’ replacement-for-displacement in the value-for-power stakes.

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The Volkswagen Tiguan that started this conversation sits above the average of $342.54 per kW, at $299.32 per. For interest, the $61,990 Volvo XC60 T5, with 180kW, is pretty much bang in the middle of the road.

Premium brands round-out the other end of the scale, with comparatively low output turbo-diesels showing their shortcomings in this analysis – the 125kW 2.1-litre Mercedes-Benz GLC220d and 2.0-litre BMW X4 20d and Jaguar F-Pace 20d (140kW and 132 kW respectively) all sitting above $500 per kW. The Jag at a whopping $574.70.

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But this, of course, doesn’t tell the full story as we haven’t factored in tare weights, torque output or even driveline and transmission options.

It does provide an interesting insight to the lay of the land if the amount of work performed over time at the crank is key to your buying decision, though.


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