In 2018, SUVs took over everything
It’s been coming for a long time but, in 2018, SUVs finally took over every remaining niche in the automotive world. No matter what kind of car you might have been considering — big, small, crazy performance or super-efficient — there is now an SUV for that.
To mark the takeover as complete, both Lamborghini and Rolls-Royce, brands that stand starkly on opposite poles of the ultra-luxury vehicle world, each began making their respective SUVs.
A Lamborghini SUV seemed an absurdity, yet the Italian automaker, renowned for never compromising on intestine-twisting performance, succeeded in making the apparent oxymoron work. The Lamborghini Urus is a genuine super-SUV. It’s fast, flashy, loud and it corners like a sports car. It’s ferociously fun, but reasonably practical.
Rolls-Royce has a very different calling than Lamborghini. Rolls-Royces have immensely powerful engines — they’re also just immense, period — but not in the interest of outright speed. Instead, Rolls-Royces have big V12 engines so they never feel or sound strained. even when you’re hitting 60 miles an hour in five seconds in a 5,600 pound sedan.
The Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV has that same 6.8-liter V12 and a similarly plush and comfortable interior. It’s taller, though, and it has all-wheel-drive and an off-road setting that makes it stand a bit taller, yet. It also proved to be surprisingly capable of crawling up the side of a mountain in Wyoming. It isn’t perfect but it is impressive and by far the most opulent SUV you can buy.
This was also the year that the fully electric Jaguar I-Pace hit the market. Frankly, it barely qualifies as an SUV at all as it has only a little more height off the ground than a typical car. The benefit of this is that the I-Pace is loads of fun to drive thanks, in part, to the low center of gravity imparted by its battery pack. In fact, it’s one of the most — if not the most — enjoyable electric vehicles around.
At the other end of the cleanliness spectrum, there is the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. With 707 combustion-derived horsepower from its supercharged 6.2-liter V8, the roaring Trackhawk is outrageously fun in its own way. It’s no Urus, but it will more than do. Besides being terrifically fast and loud, it actually corners quite nicely. The Trackhawk is far from a guilt-free pleasure but frequent and expensive visits to the fuel pump will provide ample opportunity for penance.
Although luxury usually implies size, some of the most head-turning luxury SUVs these days are actually quite tiny. For example the Volvo XC40 and Jaguar E-Pace successfully carry their respective brand’s styling into a smaller realm. Neither is terribly exciting to drive, but both are fun and jaunty around town and cute as anything.
Some automakers are working the seams with vehicles that aren’t quite SUVs but might be. For instance, the Buick Regal TourX, introduced in the US this past year, is a very handsome raised wagon that could handle a little off-roading and, more importantly, can carry lots of stuff. It’s proof, if any were needed, that you don’t always have to have an SUV.