For decades, it seemed that car manufacturers thought strength and sophistication were mutually exclusive. They just couldn’t fathom how to make toughness and luxury sit pretty on the same four wheels. But then the high-end SUV came barrelling onto the scene; equal parts power and opulence.
Range Rover, of course, had a monopoly on the industry for many years; practically inventing the sector. But, as more manufacturers realised the sheer demand for tough, comfortable cars, the number of these sumptuous SUVs began to grow exponentially.
In fact, while reports show that 53 models populated this market in 2017, the same studies expect the number to almost double by 2023, to 93 models. So, in a sector saturated with different takes on the same lavish, powerful idea, the question is: which luxury SUV is right for you?
The one for the individualist: Bentley Bentayga V8
You can always count on Bentley to pull out all the stops. And the Bentayga, the British brand’s five-year-old ultra-luxury crossover, is stop-pulling at its 4-litre, V8, twin-turbo-charged best. At least, it was when we took the diesel model for a spin in the Italian Alps a couple of years ago.
But now, as a facelift sneaks in under the radar this year — with animated LEDs and a new wheel design — the Bentayga has off-roaded back to the pinnacle of the luxury SUV market. The new 2020 facelift has seen new seat frames added for extra comfort, a head-up display to relay even more information to the driver, and a larger new rear spoiler — to remind you that this thing can move.
Price: From £141,830
Engine: V8, 3996cc, twin-turbo, petrol
Power: 542bhp at 6000rpm
0-62mph: 4.4 seconds
Top speed: 171mph
The one for the traditionalist: Rolls-Royce Cullinan
Upon seeing some of the world’s most storied four-wheeled brands rolling out their first ever SUVs, one of the main concerns from motoring enthusiasts was that Rolls-Royce was ‘selling out’ — both spiritually and mechanically — by introducing an SUV back in 2018. Thankfully, Rolls-Royce’s off-roader, the indomitable Cullinan, silenced the naysayers.
As Gentleman’s Journal found out when we took the Cullinan to the wilderness of Wyoming upon its launch, this is a car that prompted Rolls-Royce to undertake an entire overhaul of their signature engineering and ‘magic carpet’ ride quality. And it works. The spirit of the heritage carmaker remains, but — this time — it’s practical…
Price: From £250,000
Engine: 6.75-litre twin turbocharged V12
0-62mph: 5.2 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
The one for the technologically-minded: Range Rover Autobiography
Another luxury SUV; another iconic British car manufacturer. But it’s not the muscle and power that stands Land Rover’s offering, the Range Rover Autobiography, away from its stablemates, but rather the car’s brain. Refined and reimagined to keep this one step ahead of the Velar or Evoque, this top-of-the-range Rover has a selection of gadgets and tech so thoroughly thought-through that it can virtually drive itself.
But not yet, sadly. Yet, from automatic four-zone climate control and massage front seats, to pixel LED headlights and a 360° surround camera, this is the SUV of the future. Don’t be swayed by the plush interior and bevy of buttons, though — it’ll still take any terrain you can throw at it.
Price: From £102,940
Engine: 3.0 Litre Diesel MHEV
0-62mph: 7.1 seconds
Top speed: 130mph
The one for the eco-conscious: Jaguar F-Pace HSE Plug-in Hybrid
Perhaps the ultimate performance SUV, Jaguar’s hat-in-the-ring is the F-Pace. We’ve always been quietly impressed by the pared-down, reasonably quiet design cues of this humble monster, but the combination of thrilling performance, exceptional luxury and cutting-edge technology really is an education in the premium SUV.
But now, there’s even more to shout about. With the latest F-Pace, a plug-in hybrid powertrain is capable of an all-electric range of up to 33 miles — and Jaguar’s latest Pivi Pro dual-sim infotainment makes you feel like you’re stepping into the cabin of a starship.
Price: From £56,040
Engine: Plug-in four-cylinder hybrid 404PS
0-62mph: 5.0 seconds
Top speed: 149mph
The one for the power brigade: Maserati Levante Trofeo V8
Don’t get us wrong, every car on this list can pack a punch. They’d have to, to drag such huge, opulent beasts across the off-road terrains throw at them. But this fastest Maserati SUV holds a powerful place in our hearts. That is to say, it’s chock full of raw power — a mighty 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V8 that’s assembled by another little Italian carmaker, called Ferrari.
And it’s not just the engine that impresses. The Levante Trofeo has also been meticulously tuned for superior comfort, long-distance driving and grand-touring. It is elegantly-designed, upholstered in full-grain Pieno Fiore leather and features a 17-speaker Bowers & Wilkins Ultra Premium Audio System — to ensure it roars as loudly on the inside as it does on the out.
Price: From £122,710
Engine: 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V8
0-62mph: 4.1 seconds
Top speed: 187mph
The one for the statement-maker: Lamborghini Urus
It’s simple really; luxury SUVs are nothing like normal SUVs, and the Lamborghini Urus is nothing like a luxury SUV. It’s a whole new breed, yet another subsection in an already niche market. If you were to just glance at this supercar-on-stilts, you might not even think it a true SUV. And yet it is — all four-wheel-drive, 6,800 rpm, 2,200 kilograms of it.
The Italian carmaker have cited ‘emotion’ as the main driver behind the development of this car. So, if you’re looking to make a statement, surely it’s the right choice for you? With all the thrill and head-turning abilities of a smaller Lamborghini, this extremely-proportioned car could be the craziest four-wheels currently on worldwide roads.
Price: From £167,000
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8
0-62mph: 3.6 seconds
Top speed: 190mph
The one for the head-turners, the Aston Martin DBX
We’re yet to drive the Aston Martin DBX, but it deserves a spot on this list for looks alone. Fitting into the same ‘Golden Ratio’ as other Astons — and smiling out with the same grille that made its debut on the DB2 in 1949 — the DBX may have a slightly clunky name, but it’s scoring high in the design stakes.
What’s more, the whole thing was built on a reengineered base like the Cullinan above — this one crafted from bonded aluminium. Pair that with active all-wheel drive, variable torque distribution and height adjustable air suspension and you’re onto an all-British marriage of brawn and beauty.
Price: From £158,000
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8
0-62mph: 4.3 seconds
Top speed: 181mph
The one for affordable luxury: Porsche Macan S
Somehow, Porsche managed to keep the same DNA running through every car it makes. And, while that may be a good thing if you like this initial look, it could also put you off the entire range in one fell swoop. For those of you who fall into the former camp, however, the Macan S is most certainly the luxury SUV for you.
It’s not the biggest, most expensive Porsche SUV — that honour goes to the Cayenne. It’s not even the biggest, most expensive Macan — the GTS and Turbo models sit above it. But, when most models on this list top £100,000, this signature styled German SUV is the ideal choice if you’re looking for affordable luxury.
Price: From £49,300
Engine: 3.0-litre, twin-turbo V6
0-62mph: 5.1 seconds
Top speed: 157mph
The one for the practically-minded: Volvo XC90 Recharge
Finally, we come to Volvo. And trust the Swedes to make things simple. Volvo’s flagship luxury SUV is a hybrid with an impressive 31 miles of pure electric range, but enough style and swagger to get by. It’s that rarest of beasts; an über-powerful, über-practical option with an eco-minded slant.
And the luxury comes with a different spin, too. Rather than Bentley or Rolls-Royce’s sumptuous interiors, Volvo has rolled into the sector with chic Scandinavian simplicity — all linear walnut inlays and charcoal upholstery. This, then, is your ideal luxury SUV if you want comfort and practicality. And, after all, what more would you want from a luxury SUV?
Price: From £66,825
Engine: 2.0 litre turbocharged petrol with plug-in hybrid
0-62mph: 5.8 seconds
Top speed: 112mph
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