The age of the super SUV: luxury brands get in on the 4x4 action
From Rolls-Royce to Lamborghini, everyone is jumping on the SUV bandwagon. Graham Courtney weighs up 2018's big hitters
- By Graham Courtney -
Another month, another new SUV. There’s no doubting that SUVs are the in-thing at the moment with car manufacturers. Almost every manufacturer now has one, except the likes of, well, Ferrari or Rolls-Royce.
But wait. Hang on. A Ferrari that lets you take rubbish to the tip is rumoured to be on the way, and a Rolls-Royce 4x4 has finally broken cover – the Cullinan – undergoing testing right now. Come on McLaren, Bugatti, Pagani, et al. Get yer act together.
In the meantime, we’ll have to struggle through with this selection of stonking machines that let you do the school run, go to the shops, take your mates to the match, or hurtle to the South of France at warp speed.
We save the most powerful until the end. You’re in for a surprise…
We knew it was on the way, but now we have a name and the photos. The new Rolls-Royce SUV (never thought we’d be saying that) is to be called Cullinan. Rolls-Royce doesn’t call it an SUV, though. It calls it a ‘high-bodied car that redefines luxury travel by making it effortless, everywhere.’ So there.
No doubt the SUV (spade = spade) will rival the very best in terms of off-road ability, but will still have the cosseting ride and opulence that we expect from any Roller.
There are no other clues as to what lies under the bonnet, but don’t forget, Rolls-Royce is part of BMW so there’s no shortage of top engine designers and AWD experience.
If you need any clues, go and look at the Phantom 8 which, like the Cullinan, features considerable use of aluminium. The engine will almost certainly be a V12.
And the name? Well, the Cullinan Diamond is the largest rough diamond ever found.
The Bentayga is a Marmite car; you either love the design or loathe it. The one thing you can’t deny, however, is that it’s a brilliant piece of engineering with an interior that oozes quality.
The recently launched 4.0-litre twin-turbo, 542bhp V8 version has loads of low-end power with plenty of surge from just 1,000 rpm, making it a delight to drive. Zero-60mph takes 4.4 seconds; top speed is 180mph – the same engine is in the Porsche Panamera Turbo (both firms are owned by Volkswagen).
Why a V8 petrol when there’s already a thumping W12? It’s all down to range. The extra economy of a V8 engine means you’ll get around 400 miles from a tank. Economy is improved by a neat trick which shuts off four of the eight cylinders when you’re not using all of the power. You’ll get around 25mpg – if you’re lucky. Prices start at the £136,000 mark.
Aston Martin DBX Concept
Aston Martin expects great things from its DBX SUV Crossover. It’s building a new factory at St Athan in Wales to assemble it. You can expect Aston’s traditional mix of V12 and V8 petrol engines, although there could well be a hybrid or all-electric model, too.
The first concept models showed a two-door, coupé style, but that has been ditched. The final DBX will be much more useful: a four-door, four-seater SUV. There is bound to be a certain amount of input from Mercedes, most notably in the form of its V8 powerplant and possibly some help with the chassis. It’s also no coincidence that Aston Martin has linked-up with the Red Bull F1 team. Expect some cutting-edge tech, too.
The DBX is being lined-up as a GT SUV.
So don’t expect it to be the quickest in 0-60mph times or have the fastest top speed out there. But do expect it to be one of, if not the, prettiest of the lot of them.
If you can hear a creaking down below, it’s the sound of Ferruccio Lamborghini turning in his grave. Who’d have thought it? The producer of the Aventador is now building a humble SUV. But wait, Lamborghini wants to tell you something in its blurb: “The Lamborghini Urus is the world’s first Super Sport Utility Vehicle, in which luxury, sportiness and performance meet comfort and versatility.”
So, this isn’t an SUV, it’s an SSUV. Blimey. A brutal 640bhp from a 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine tells you that the Urus is indeed a formidable performer. Zero-60mph is dispatched with disdain in 3.6 seconds.
The top speed? 190mph. If you need a five-seater continental express with plenty of space for luggage, the Urus will fit the bill. You won’t get much change from £135,000, though.
Maserati Levante S
If you’d rather not blend in among the other SUVs in the school car park, how about one that will stand out for all the right reasons?
The Levante is Maserati’s first stab at an SUV – and a handsome one at that. The new Levante S finally sees it fitted with a petrol engine. This instantly makes the Levante more refined and, quite frankly, helps us forget about Maserati using a frankly blasphemous diesel. entire sales. The V6 petrol engine, developed in association with Ferrari, is a peach. It hauls The Levante has been a huge success for Maserati and accounts for nearly two thirds of its the Levante to 60mph in a shade over five seconds and onwards to a top speed in excess of 160mph.
A spritely 424bhp is produced by the V6 3.0-litre engine and, thanks to the AWD system, the roadholding is magnificent. Close to £71,000 will get you the keys to the petrol Levante S. And it’s worth every penny of
the £14,000 premium over the diesel model.
Mercedes-Benz G Class
OK, it may have the aerodynamic profile of a brick, but this is a monster of an SUV. Few cars are as capable off road, or as recognizable on it. Aesthetically, the latest version is pretty much a carbon copy of its predecessor – only a true Mercedes aficionado will spot the differences in the exterior design.
But a lot of work has been done within to make it a far more contemporary proposition than its slightly agricultural forbearer.
The order books are opening this month, with first deliveries hitting UK shores in the summer. The first models we’ll receive will have a 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine. A stonking diesel will arrive in 2019.
Prices haven’t been confirmed, but they won’t start much lower than £100k. And if you want one that will out accelerate a 911, then hold out till the AMG version comes out.
Range Rover Sport SVR
There’s no doubting that if you like your Range Rover on the shouty side, then it has to be the latest version of the Sport SVR.
The figures are crazy for a car which weighs the same as a small house. Zero-60mph happens in just over four seconds. You’ll have 575bhp to play from courtesy of Land Rover’s supreme supercharged 5.0-litre V8. They even reckon that when all of the clever gadgetry kicks in, you can hit 60mph in just over ten seconds… in the snow.
There’s carbon fibre all over the place to keep the weight down, including a racy panel in the bonnet. It’s a brutal car that can drive like a pussycat. There’s no doubt that it’s one of the finest performance SUVs ever built.
We love it, but you’ll need deep pockets to buy it – around £99,690 – and run it.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio
Alfa is slowly but surely reinventing itself. Proof of this is the arrival of an Alfa Romeo SUV, the Stelvio. The Milano Edition is the most powerful version (so far) with a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine chucking out 276bhp. That power hits the road via an eight-speed automatic ’box giving you a 0-60mph time of 5.7 seconds and top speed of 143mph. It will knock you back £45,390.
If you fancy a Stelvio with a bit more oomph, then hang on until late summer and the Quadrifoglio model will arrive. Power comes from a 2.9 litre, 503bhp V6 petrol unit. It’s obviously a decent bit of kit because it recently clocked the quickest-ever time for an SUV around the Nürburgring.
The Stelvio isn’t as pretty as the Giulia saloon on which it’s largely based, but if you want an Alfa and an SUV, here’s your answer.
Tesla Model X
Tesla’s Model X is a full seven-seat SUV. It doesn’t look especially sporty, but if you opt for the P100D model with ‘Ludicrous Speed Upgrade’ you’ll end up with the fastest accelerating SUV in the world. Zero-60mph takes just 2.9 seconds; it’ll complete the 45-65mph sprint in 1.4 seconds; and the top speed is 155mph. You get all-wheel drive and, according to Tesla, a potential range of 351 miles. That will depend on how you drive it, of course. If, for example, you want to hurtle around B roads with loads of heavy acceleration, your range will fall dramatically.
It ain’t cheap, mind. A full-fat P100D version will cost £131,050. Running costs, of course, will be low. A full charge is reckoned to be in the region of £20.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
And finally, who’d have thought that the most powerful of any production SUV, would be a Jeep? How does a supercharged 6.2-litre V8 engine delivering 698bhp sound? Or how about 0-60 mph in 3.5 seconds, quarter mile in 11.6 seconds and a top speed of 180 mph? Or 60mph to standstill in 114 feet?
The Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is a serious muscle car and it’s due in the UK around about now. Prices are likely to be around £65,000 which is amazing value for money.
Don’t be fooled by the power and performance figures; this is actually a car which is remarkably civilised and comfortable. It’s fully loaded, too. If you want to have some serious fun, use the launch control. It lets you wind-up the supercharger for instant power. Release the foot brake and hold your breath.