The hottest new luxury cars in 2018? SUVs

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By John Moroney, Motoring Research

Ford recently announced that it will soon be discontinuing its passenger car lines except for the Mustang, citing customer preference for SUVs. This is a sharp reversal of the situation just ten years ago, when passenger cars held two-thirds market share.

However, luxury automakers have long been on top of the trend. Porsche unleashed the Cayenne on the world over fifteen years ago, and now offers the smaller Macan model as well. The Cadillac Escalade has long been the American standardbearer of opulence, though its place may usurped by its younger siblings. Bentley, Lamborghini, and Rolls-Royce have all recently unveiled their own SUV offerings, meaning the Age of the Sport Luxury Vehicle is now upon us.

These are the latest, the greatest, the wildest and most coveted SUVs out there today.

Cadillac XT5

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Starting MSRP: $41,590

The Escalade has long been the Cadillac of choice; big, brash, bold, the quintessential example of American style and power. Lately, though, Cadillac has its sights set squarely on its European competitors, offering levels of poise and refinement not usually associated with Detroit.

The XT5 offers the same powerful, 310-horsepower V6 under the hood that first appeared in the sporting ATS and CTS sedans. The engine features variable valve timing for more power and smoother delivery. The Active Fuel Management system deactivates two cylinders when not needed for greater fuel economy, and stop/start technology helps to protect the environment by reducing stoplight emissions.

The interior is taut and elegant, with long lines that draw the eye through the entire vehicle. The cabin is spacious, but it feels even airier than it is. There are details throughout that catch the viewer’s attention for a moment, like the gearshift, the stitching, and the seams, to name a few. Materials are top drawer, leather and suede and wood (oh my!). Touch surfaces are worthy of the name Cadillac. It’s a nice place to be.

Driver and passenger are treated to heated and ventilated seats in upper trim levels, and the second row features a 40/20/40 split that makes carrying large loads a breeze.

The entertainment system is modern, with all the latest bells and whistles, even in base trim. Eight-speaker Bose sound is standard, as is an eight-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Sirius XM, wireless charging, and Wi-Fi hotspotting. There are USB ports in the front and rear, as well as two power outlets.

Moving up the trim ladder quickly adds a panoramic moonroof, advanced safety features, 14-speaker sound, three-zone climate control, and a bird’s eye view camera system.

Jaguar F-Pace

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Starting MSRP: $43,060

Jaguar’s F-Pace all-wheel drive crossover picked up two World Car of the Year awards in 2017, both overall and for design. Not a bad first birthday present.

Just to top off its impressive pedigree, the F-Pace was penned by Ian Callum, known for the Aston Martin DB7, Jaguar F-Type, and many more of the world’s most memorable automobiles.

The English five-seat stunner is available here with four different engine choices. A turbocharged four-cylinder is offered with either 247 or 290 horsepower, depending on trim. A four-cylinder turbodiesel puts out 180 horsepower, an offering for luxury SUV owners concerned about fuel economy.

And of course, this being a Jag, there is a supercharged V6 with 380 horsepower on tap, capable of compelling the F-Pace S AWD ($60,770) to 60 mph in just 5.1 seconds, and to a top speed of 155 mph.

Handling is surprisingly crisp thanks to a stiff, lightweight aluminum architecture. The steering is precise and there’s little body roll.

The base model F-Pace 25t is well-equipped with premium sound from Meridian, a sliding panoramic roof, a power tailgate, and keyless start. Stepping up to the F-Pace Prestige ($50,120) adds heated leather seats, a heated steering wheel, front and rear parking aids, navigation, and ambient interior lighting.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio

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MSRP: $43,240

Alfa Romeo’s Stelvio combines handsome looks, nimble handling, and good power into one delightfully charismatic package.

Right out of the box, the Stelvio offers 280 horsepower from its 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder, all-wheel drive, and 50/50 weight distribution. The steering is precise and body roll controlled, making it a joy. Every trip to the grocery store will have drivers taking the long way home, probably by way of the nearest two-lane mountain pass.

The standard interior features black or red leather, wood trim, and pure Italian elegance. A 6.5-inch touchscreen is perfectly positioned in the center of the dash, and can be upgraded to an 8.8-inch unit with 3D nav for $1,550. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are an additional $100 each.

Stepping up the Ti model ($45,240) adds the larger screen (though the nav is optional), nicer trim details like aluminum sill plates and grey oak accents, and also unlocks a performance package with active suspension and a limited-slip differential.

Then there’s the Quadrifoglio ($81,390), the apex predator of the Stelvio savanna. An all-aluminum V6 uses direct injection and twin turbos to wrest 505 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque from 2.9 liters. The zero-60 sprint is reduced to 3.9 seconds and top speed is 177 mph. Adjustable performance suspension, Brembo brakes, and larger 20-inch wheels keep everything under control. Except for the driver, of course.

Welcome back, Alfa.

Porsche Macan

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Starting MSRP: $48,850

Many moons ago, when cavemen roamed the earth on dinosaurs, the mention of a Porsche SUV elicited angry cries of “Ug! Oog!” and “Grunt! Grook!” Now, the world almost unanimously thinks it’s a pretty neat idea, and that the Macan is the best of a good lot.

Stuttgart’s smallest spuvec (SPort Utility VEhiCle) is all-wheel drive seven-speed and comes in three basic flavors: Macan, Macan GTS, and Macan Turbo. The base Macan has 252 horsepower with a 340-horsepower S variant, the GTS does 360, and the Turbo models puts out 400.

Regardless of engine size, and even regardless of the handling improvements gained by climbing up the trim ladder, the Macan is ridiculously good fun to drive. It goes, turns, and stops in a way that elicits grins from drivers. The S, GTS, and Turbo deliver more technical performance and more speed, but all have soul by the bucketload.

The base Macan might be a bit spartan compared to competitors, but has leather, parking assist, 10-speaker sound, an iPod interface, and a power tailgate. Even at the entry level, the interior is supremely comfortable, sporting, and businesslike. There are options aplenty for tech and trim upgrades.

Moving up to the top-of-the-line Macan Turbo with Performance Package ($88,750) adds a lot of performance, but few amenities: in the Porscheverse, everything is an option. An alternate wheel choice can add thousands to the bottom line, and advanced safety features, heated seats, Apple CarPlay, and even a paint color other than black or white are extras.

Even with realistic expectations of pricing, there are few crossovers or SUVs that can compete with the Macan.

Mercedes-Benz GLC

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Starting MSRP: $41,045

The Mercedes-Benz GLC offers impeccable quality and seating for five at an attractive price, leaving plenty of budget for all the latest tech and amenities from the options list.

There are three basic models of Teutonic toter. The GLC 300 ($41,045) has a torquey inline-four turbo with 241 horsepower and rear or all-wheel drive. The GLC 300e ($50,985) is a plug-in hybrid that adds an electric motor to the mix for a total of 320 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque.

For an added dose of speedy goodness, there are the AMG versions. The GLC 43 ($57,245) has, in addition to sporting styling and handling improvements, a 362-horsepower twin-turbo V6 under the hood. Leaving sanity behind and stepping up to the GLC 63 ($70,895) yields 469 horsepower from a twin-turbo V8. No one will ever call your ride a soccer taxi again, and even if they did, you wouldn’t be able to hear it over your maniacal laughs.

Regardless of trim, there is plenty of room of everyone, even tall adults in the second row. Rear passengers enjoy a minivan-esque 37.3 inches of legroom and 56.5 inches of shoulder room.

Base models have a standard seven-inch, high-definition touchscreen display Bluetooth and HD Radio. The sound system pairs twin subwoofers to a hollow frame member to make the entire body shell resonate with bass. A smartphone integration package ($350) adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and Burmeister premium audio can be had for an additional $850.

Leather packages, advanced safety features, navigation, automatic parking, and air purification and scenting are also available at reasonable prices.

Volvo XC90

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Starting MSRP: $47,895

Volvo’s acclaimed three-row XC90 has the some of the sexiest powertrain options on sale today. The base T5 is a turbocharged 2.0-liter with 250 horsepower on tap, available as a front- or all-wheel drive. The T6 adds a supercharger to the turbo for a total of 316 horsepower, and sends the scoot to all four wheels. Then there’s the T8, which adds an electric motor to the T6 powertrain for 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of torque. We can’t wait to see what else Volvo throws at it.

There are four trim levels to go with the powertrain options: the base Momentum ($47,895), the sporty R-Design ($52,895), the elegant inscription ($60,445), and the “Ye gods! We’re rich!” Excellence ($105,895), a four-seat version clearly designed to be driven by someone other than the owner.

The Excellence offers a Scandinavian take on luxury that is worthy of the Targaryens, or whichever royal family rules Sweden now, but the interior of all models feature materials, ergonomics, and execution that are flawless. Even base models are equipped with a panoramic roof, four-zone climate control, separate air conditioning controls for the third row, Apple and Android phone integration, and navigation.

All XC90 also come with the latest in active safety: blind spot assist, oncoming lane mitigation, rear collision mitigation, and lane keeping assist. Also standard is a semi-autonomous drive system with adaptive cruise control that allows the XC90 to follow along in traffic, keeping it in its lane and at a safe following distance.

Audi Q8

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Starting MSRP: $75,000 (est.)

Audi’s flagship Q8 luxury SUV is expected to launch in late 2018, and it promises to be a technological marvel. The concept shown here was unveiled at this year’s North American International Auto Show (Detroit) in January and was said to represent about 95 percent of the production version.

The new concept ute rides on a 9.8-foot wheelbase and has an overall length of 16.5 feet. Passenger and cargo room will be ample, with baronial seating for four and a generous 22 cubic feet of cargo area in the trunk, more than enough for a weekend’s luggage.

A 12.3-inch touchscreen with a crisp resolution of 1920 x 720 displays nav in both 3D and top down modes. The driver’s display has the same feature, switching to a foreshortened, 3D display when the driver selects performance mode. All other monitors in the concept are touch displays, reducing the number of buttons and creating controls more intuitive to today’s user.

Power will come from a mild hybrid system with a total output of 469 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque sent to full-time, all-wheel drive. A 3.0-liter direct-injection gasoline engine is electrically turbocharged and paired with an electric motor between it and the transmission. The zero-sixty rush is promised to be in the five-second range, and the top speed over 155 mph.

It will be fascinating to see which 95 percent makes it to production later this year.

Lincoln Navigator

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Starting MSRP: $72,055

We love the Jackie O way the new Lincoln Navigator carries itself; not feminine, but rich, sporting, and elegant. The new model is 200 pounds lighter than its predecessor and powered by an efficient twin-turbo V6 making an incredible 450 horsepower.

Even in base Premiere trim, the Navigator is loaded. Heated front seats with powered 10-way adjustability, second row heated captain’s chairs, powered third row, three-zone climate control, 10-inch touchscreen, 14-speaker Revel premium, audio, Apple CarPlay, 110-volt power outlet, foot-activated power liftgate, standard Wi-Fi that can connect up to 10 devices at a time, and more.

It’s hard to imagine just what else could possibly be added to this amenities list, but Lincoln offers rear seat entertainment that wirelessly streams content from Android devices to twin 10-inch screens, 20-speaker audio because six more, streaming television for Sling users, memory function everything, and ambient lighting.

Still not impressed?

Step up to Black Label membership for travel benefits, dinners, concierge service, anytime car washes, once-a-year detailing, and special interior design themes reserved especially for Black Label members. There’s the Chalet theme with white leather and silverwood that evokes the Swiss Alps. Destination evokes luxury travel of yesteryear with red leather and mahogany. And, in what can only be a nod to Jackie, there’s Yacht Club with Blue Venetian leather and whitewashed teak, the national colors of Cape Cod.

Tesla Model X

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Starting MSRP: $79,500

The Tesla Model X is just plain cool, as we’re not even talking about the Falcon Wing doors or the insane speed. It’s everything else that surrounds it: the first autopilot, the first charging network, the Gigafactory to supply batteries, and of course the associated company SpaceX with its tail-landing rockets and sights on Mars.

Everything about America that we are all proud of is summed up in its weird doors. Innovation in an unimagined field. Technological and engineering prowess. Overcoming adversity. Be so far ahead of the game that it takes years for the laws to catch up. One person, Elon Musk, literally a space pioneer, as the embodiment of the company.

Why are the expensive and complicated doors there? Because this is America, damn it, and we want them. Why should an SUV with seating for seven do zero-60 mph in under three seconds? Because this is America, damn it, and we want that, too.

Stepping into the Model X is like stepping into the pristine, glowing sci-fi future that was promised to us in the movies fifty years ago, long before global warming or overpopulation. The floor is dead flat and every surface is clean. There’s the vast 17-inch acreage of the central touchscreen, the main interface that dominates attention. There are normal automotive controls, of course, but the overall feeling is that the car is mind controlled.

With the semi-autonomous driving features, perhaps it is. Not by the driver’s mind, but by generations of American traffic engineers who have made American roads so standardized, well-marked, and safe that even a lump of steel and plastic could navigate them.

Cue the eagles.

The Model X is the epitome of American luxury. It’s faster than almost any other vehicle on the road. It drives and parks itself. It’s wild to look at while still attempting to be understated. It’s one of the safest cars on the road. It’s engineering-forward and damn the environmental cost. Its owners have their own special network so they don’t have to mix with the hoi polloi, literally the automotive equivalent of the VIP section in a Vegas nightclub.

Even if the Model 3 never reaches full production and Tesla folds tomorrow, the Model X is one we can be proud of, America. It’s the Tucker and the Duesenberg rolled into one.

Bentley Bentayga

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Starting MSRP: $229,000

There are few cars in the world more exclusive than the Bentley Bentayga. Options include a $170,000 clock, a storage compartment with a fingerprint scanner for a lock, and a champagne chiller with its own ambient lighting. Almost every piece of a Bentayga can be ordered to suit personal taste: 17 standard and 100 optional paint colors, 15 interior colors, nine wood trims, various stitching choices, electronics, and far more.

If something more unique or extravagant is to the buyer’s liking, Bentley’s in-house coachbuilder Mulliner is up to the task. According to Bentley, “The only limit is your imagination.” Apparently, even the one percent need aspirations.

For all the splash, the Bentayga really is a proper SUV with proper offroad ability. The all-terrain specification opens up four additional traction settings: snow and grass, mud and trail, dirt and gravel, and sand. Underfloor protection ensures nothing mechanically essential is maimed.

Power currently comes in three flavors, with a hybrid option on the way. The standard engine—if anything can be called “standard” in a Bentley—is a 600-horsepower 12-cylinder capable of propelling the 7,165-pound behemoth to a shocking 187 mph. A new-twin turbo V8 pumps out 542 horsepower, returns just under 25 mpg, and will still push to Bentley to 180. There is also a diesel, because Europeans are obsessed with diesel and will not let it go, that will take the Bentayga to 168.

Rolls-Royce Cullinan

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Starting MSRP: $410,000 (est.)

A Rolls-Royce SUV must surely signal the end of days, yet the Cullinan “high-bodied vehicle” is indeed a reality. And should it really be a surprise? The English have a long history of mixing luxury with offroad ability, e.g. the Land Rover Range Rover that ferries the royal family around.

Promotional photos show the Cullinan axle-deep in mud, fording rivers, and barrelling over sand dunes. Combined with credible rumors that it’s engineers were determined to create a vehicle as capable as a Rolls-Royce is opulent, there is plenty of reason to believe the Cullinan will be the overlander of choice for oligarchs.

The regal ride is designed in-house and does not share a platform with the BMW X7, as rumoured. Extensive use of aluminum and carbon will keep the weight down.

Power is expected to be the familial twin-turbocharged 6.75-liter V12 found in the Phantom, producing 563 horsepower. The Cullinan will have an eight-speed transmission and, a first for Rolls, all-wheel drive.

Then there’s the party piece: the Cullinan will debut with a “viewing suite,” leather chairs and a cocktail table that fold out of the trunk.

The big reveal will be May 10. We are excited to see the new Roller without the camouflage (pictures).

Lamborghini Urus

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Starting MSRP: $200,000

There are few cars more sporting on planet Earth than a Lamborghini—any Lamborghini, including the tractors—so when Sant'Agata say they invented a super sports luxury SUV and created a new market segment, we have to acknowledge that’s really a thing now.

It’s spectacular to look at, angular and aggressive, utterly single-minded in its mission of speed. A 4.0-liter, 650-horsepower, twin-turbo V8 sits under the hood, launching the 4,850-lb beast to 62 mph (100 km/h) in just 3.6 seconds, 124 mph (200 km/h) in 12.8 seconds, and on to a top speed of 190 mph.

Power is sent to all four wheels through an eight-speed transmission, though the Urus has a rear-wheel torque bias for a more sporting demeanor. A Torsen limited-slip center differential ensures traction on any surface, however.

As befits a car that costs more than 400 pairs of Yeezys, the interior can be ordered to taste, and with seating for either four or five passengers. There’s aluminum and carbon for the sports minded, and leather and wood for a more opulent feel. In any guise, the overall design surrounds the driver like a cockpit, controls in easy reach.

Tech is brilliant. Three screens are separated by function: driving instrumentation, comfort, and infotainment, with a virtual keyboard with handwriting recognition. 3D surround sound is provided by Bang & Olufsen, 1,700 watts pouring through 21 speakers.

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Autos - U.S. Daily News: The hottest new luxury cars in 2018? SUVs
The hottest new luxury cars in 2018? SUVs
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