It is hard to classify a luxury SUV as either great or mind-blowingly awesome; especially when most of them do what they are supposed to, and then some. You also have to consider the problem with individual taste. Some people prefer their SUV to look like a military issued box, while others like a little sport to the lines and curve to the hips. None the less, if you would tear down every SUV, and look at them one at a time, paying particular attention to their fundamental design, power, practicality, usefulness, and fun factor—you would come away with seven of the best of the best.
I bet you didn’t see this one coming. Well, Porsche made it work, so why not a Bentley? This week we learned that the Volkswagen group has flashed the green light on their Bentley SUV project. It will be releasing sometime in 2016; and don’t go thinking that they’re just dipping their tootsies in to see how the water is. Bentley is diving off a 20-foot springboard that will land them about $1.2 billion in debt, just to get this beast out the door.
Yes, we did call it a beast. However, we have no statistics to back that up. All we have is Bentley’s word (which is good, as far as we’re concerned) that this thoroughbred Bentley will be “the most luxurious and most powerful SUV in the market.” Okay, so let’s think about that for a moment. We can actually deduce how awesome this mother of all SUV’s is going to be, just by looking at its top six competitors—beginning with the Mercedes Benz G-Class.
The Mercedes-Benz G-Class has a range of work horse engines, beginning with the standard 5.5-liter v8 worth 388 horsepower, on up to the supercharged version with 544 horsepower. Mercedes’ researchers have taken all the finest in high tech gadgets, aerodynamics, and fuel efficiency quotients… and tossed them right off their clip board. This is in favor of an old school military vehicle that is practically unstoppable, and for no less than $130,000-plus, it ought to be.
The G-class is not only unstoppable, based on its hefty chassis construction; It also features one of the quickest 0-60 times for a three-ton SUV. We’re talking 60 mph in 5-seconds, and the quarter mile in just 13.4 seconds. And this is no glorified, apartment-sized race car. It can tackle mountains, rocks, speed bumps, curbs, and would be quite at home traveling up the Bolivia Death Road. This is a serious SUV with enough luxury leftover after trudging through swamp and brush, to still be considered classy, rather than just a bully.
Like the Bentley, the Maserati Kubang is an upcoming SUV, It will be out sometime in late 2013. However, we have enough specs and speculations, to get an idea of how much of a ka-boom, the Kubang will bring. It will be built on the tried and true Jeep Cherokee platform. Differing from the Jeep, it will have a 500 horsepower 4.5-liter V8, matched up with a dual-clutch eight-speed automatic transmission. It will also cost $70,000, but your wish list will likely drive the final price up to around $90,000.
The biggest reason for Maserati getting into the SUV business, is they have discovered that the influential folks in places like China, Russia, and South America, have little need for a supercar. In fact, with the road conditions in these areas, you’d be lucky to get out of your driveway. The Kubang is Maserati’s answer to the dilemma of speed versis capability. We first caught a glimpse of it back in 2003. However, its styling has progressed over the years, under the direction of Maserati’s own Lorenzo Ramaciotti. What you see here before you, has been ten years in the making. To make a long story, short—we like it.
The Porsche Cayenne now comes in more flavors than lip gloss, featuring seven options, including the Cayenne V-6, Cayenne S, Cayenne S hybrid, Cayenne diesel, Cayenne GTS, and, last but not least, the Cayenne Turbo and Turbo S. The standard 3.6-liter V6 is not a bad way to go with its 300 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. Keep in mind, this comes at less that $50,000. Now, to be fair, most reviewers claim the Cayenne as a bit pricey. However, we’d argue that you’re getting what you pay for.
If you’ve got a fat wallet, the Cayenne can get a lot more fun. The GTS ($82,000) comes with all the turbo looks, but only a portion of the power at 450 hp. A hundred grand will step you up to the full twin turbo, featuring an 8-speed automatic, 500 hp, 516 lb-ft torque, 0-60 in 5-seconds, and a 160 mph top speed. Unlike the G-Class, the Porsche takes full advantage of today’s technology, offering ride-height-adjustable suspension and a torque-multiplying gear ratio. One complaint would be its lumbering 5,724 curb weight. However, if you plan on using it beyond the asphalt jungle; It’ll get you where you need to go.
The Range Rover is arguably one the best luxury SUV’s for 2013. However, this all depends on how you plan on using it. The Porsche is generally used by those who want the sports car feel, but in a package that can also carry their 1.5 kids, two dogs, cat, wife, and a weeks worth of groceries. The Range Rover is a true, all-terrain vehicle. While so many manufacturers are striving to be everything in this market. The only thing that the Rover seems to care about is its truck-like heritage, and this is a good thing.
The fourth-generation Rover has really grown from its modest beginnings. It is now bigger, and its cargo capacity has increased considerably, and this comes with absolutely no penalty to you. In fact, the fourth-generation is about 700 pounds lighter than its predecessor. This is thanks to a selection of aluminum body panels and structural components, which not only make it lighter, but stronger too. The new Rover can drive through a shallow lake, climb a low-grade canyon, and it won’t cost you much more than any of these other great SUV’s ($83,000 base price).
If you would compare the Audi Q7 to the Range Rover, a few things would stand out. The Q7 has a supercharged V-6 280 hp (vs. Rover’s V-8 375 hp). It has front double wishbone suspension (vs. Rover’s intelligent 4WD). It starts at $47,000 (vs. Rover’s $83,000 base price), and it has a curb weight of 5560 lbs (vs. Rover’s 5480 lbs). So, what do we really love so much about the Audi? Well, it’s an Audi. Despite its considerable heft, it actually behaves just like its smaller siblings on the highway, and it does so while maintaining its poise, class, and comfort. In fact, we might even go as far as to say that the Q7 has found the sweet spot between performance, ride comfort, and road noise.
The Q7′s supercharged V-6 is spirited, but it is not going to shove you back into your seat. Its best 0-60 launch ranges somewhere around 7.7-seconds, according to track tests. However, this is an SUV, and launching power should not be its ultimate goal. In addition, where the gas engine lacks in horsepower, the 3.0-liter diesel more than makes up with its massive 406 lb-ft of torque. The diesel may be one-second slower than the base engine. However, truth-be-told, you would never notice it. In summary, the Audi really is one of the most versatile and practical SUV’s on the market today, and she’s not too soar on the eyes, either.
Last, but certainly not least, is BMW’s X6 M. Don’t get us wrong. We like the turbocharged 3.0-liter base engine, which produces a reliable 300-horsepower, and an easy to remember 300 lb-ft of torque. We just like the 555-horsepower ‘M’ more. The price of M-membership is $93,000, compared to its base $55,000. However, this flavor comes in a 4.4-liter turbocharged V8 with 17.4 psi boost. Using the laws of physics, we’ve concluded that lighter weight (5324 lbs), plus excess of power, should equal one kick ass SUV, and we were right.
Here’s some instructions you may want to remember if you’re ever handed the keys to an X6 M. Step one: Press the “M” button on the steering wheel (this is stability control’s exit notice). Step two: Sort through the navigation menu, and select “power sport”. Step three: Place the left foot on the brake; the right foot on the accelerator, and ease the left foot off, while plummeting the right foot into the depths of hell. There will be a moment of calm; similar to being in the center of a tornado. However, once the turbos spool up, any Porsche Cayenne that happens to be in the vicinity will be quickly dispersed. This is because the X6 M can punch out 0-60 in around 4.5 seconds.
So, what’s the conclusion to these ramblings? Well, so far, the best SUV’s can out climb most jeeps, outrun most muscle cars, and are just as luxurious as a suite at the Marriott. It is this very fact that makes us very excited to welcome what Bentley calls the most luxurious and most powerful SUV in the market. Those are mighty big britches to fill—but we think they can pull it off.