For­get ev­ery stereo­type you’ve heard – the new high-rid­ing pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles are get­ting a very luxe makeover

ELLE (Australia) - - Contents -

No longer re­served for “soc­cer mums”, the SUV is get­ting a makeover courtesy of lux­ury car la­bels.

Toorak trac­tors, soc­cer-mum mo­biles, rock­hop­pers... those big-bot­tomed SUVS get a bad rap, and yet Australia loves them. Last year, in a mar­ket tra­di­tion­ally dom­i­nated by hatch­backs and sedans, they man­aged to over­take the sales of tra­di­tional pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles, prompt­ing mo­tor­ing purists to roll their eyes and man­u­fac­tur­ers to take note.

Re­ally, it was only a mat­ter of time. The rise has been steady and it’s opened up a dia­logue of how far, in terms of per­for­mance, tech­nol­ogy, style, value and safety, the class has come. It’s hard not to no­tice the in­flux of tempt­ing new SUVS and cross­over cars (or mini SUVS) packed with im­pres­sive safety fea­tures, dy­nam­ics and func­tion­al­ity – Peu­geot’s 5008, Land Rover’s Ve­lar, Jaguar’s E-pace, Toy­ota’s C-HR and Hyundai’s Kona, to name some stand-outs. How­ever, we’re yet to hit the top of the bell curve.

There’s another wave of game-chang­ing SUVS afoot and they’re break­ing the school-run mould and bring­ing the thrill of driv­ing back. Lam­borgh­ini, As­ton Martin, Fer­rari: they’re brands associated with sexy, sump­tu­ous, back-seat-free au­to­mo­biles and cer­tainly not con­sid­ered as “fam­ily friendly”. They’re the mak­ers of dreamy su­per­cars, in­ti­mate mo­ments you’d of­ten only just be able to share with one other per­son (bar a cou­ple of mod­els as ex­cep­tions) with as lit­tle lug­gage as pos­si­ble and def­i­nitely no space for your festival fit-out. As women, our re­la­tion­ship to our cars is per­sonal; we do ev­ery­thing in them – so, what if, ask the brands, we started mak­ing our sex­i­est sports cars more so­cial? En­ter two new cat­e­gories: su­per­cars mas­querad­ing as SUVS and ex­treme high-lux­ury SUVS; they’re cake plus eat­ing it, too.

You could say the lat­ter started in 2016, with Bent­ley’s lux­u­ri­ous Ben­tayga, and was fully re­alised by Maserati with the beau­ti­ful Le­vante a year later. “The ar­rival of the SUV in the high-lux­ury and per­for­mance sec­tor has trans­formed the top end of the mar­ket,” says Glen Sealey, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of Maserati Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, not­ing that the Le­vante is a true Maserati, with no cor­ners cut. “The chal­lenge for car mak­ers [now] is to not pro­duce an SUV with a badge on the front as the only em­blem of their in­volve­ment, but to [also] en­sure the ve­hi­cle re­mains true to the val­ues and abil­i­ties of its fore­bears.” This is the bar set rather high by the tri­dentstamped icon, a trail­blazer (pun in­tended) for the SUV new world or­der.

Now, the noise around man­u­fac­tur­ers who said they’d never do an SUV is rum­bling. Fer­rari has a top-se­cret model in de­vel­op­ment, late 2019 will see As­ton Martin drop the “high-lux­ury SUV” DBX, and Rolls-royce’s “high-sided ve­hi­cle”, the Cul­li­nan, will also ar­rive to have a swing at Bent­ley’s crown. And at the fore­front of the high-per­for­mance sub­sec­tor for 2018 is Lam­borgh­ini, which just launched the “su­per sports util­ity ve­hi­cle” Urus. Fierce, pow­er­ful, fast – it’s ev­ery­thing you ex­pect from the Ital­ian bull, but with com­fort (and plush back seats, TV and more).

Su­per­cars can be loud, stiff, low, frus­trat­ing to park and tight with lug­gage – al­to­gether an an­ti­so­cial event. But the new SUVS are the cars we never even knew we needed, bor­row­ing the de­sign aes­thetic, ex­clu­siv­ity and ex­pe­ri­ence of own­ing a dream car, but adopt­ing some ev­ery­day ease. They’re func­tional, fash­ion­able and ready to take on ev­ery ter­rain, quite lit­er­ally.


LAP OF LUX­URY: Maserati’s Le­vante takes SUVS to the next level

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