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The Weekend Australian - Magazine - - LIFE -

The idea of putting ex­treme per­for­mance into a tall-bod­ied car used to be ab­surd. That was be­fore the ad­vent of so­phis­ti­cated dy­namic soft­ware. The Ger­mans showed it could be done and the pre­vi­ously un­think­able is now the norm.

Long be­fore Ferrari joins the party, two other Ital­ian thor­ough­breds will add SUVs to their line-ups. Ar­riv­ing in the first quar­ter is Alfa Romeo’s Stelvio, which the brand claims will be the most dy­namic SUV in the mid-size seg­ment. It fea­tures a light­weight body with the mass dis­trib­uted evenly front-rear, all-wheel drive via a car­bon-fi­bre drive­shaft and eight-speed au­to­matic gear­box. En­try-level Stelvios fea­ture a 149kW 2.0-litre turbo-petrol unit with a new gen­er­a­tion 154kW 2.2-litre diesel the next rung up. The flag­ship model Quadri­foglio, pow­ered by a 375kW turbo 2.9-litre V6, re­cently set a lap record at Nür­bur­gring for SUVs.

Lam­borgh­ini has made an SUV be­fore. The LM002 started life as a mil­i­tary project from the late 1980s and the even­tual road car – with a 5.2-litre V12, 200km/h top speed and the abil­ity to climb walls – looked like it was ready to in­vade a small na­tion. Just 300 were built. Lam­borgh­ini will make a lot more Urus, which will be un­veiled in Italy on De­cem­ber 4. The Urus has been de­scribed as the first Super Sports Util­ity Ve­hi­cle, or SSUV. Un­der the bon­net is ex­pected to be the brand’s first tur­bocharged en­gine, a 4.0-litre V8, ca­pa­ble of a sub-4 se­cond sprint to 100km/h. Plug-in hy­brid driv­e­lines will fol­low.

As­ton Martin is another low-vol­ume maker ex­pect­ing an SUV to su­per­charge sales. Work be­gan this year on a se­cond UK man­u­fac­tur­ing site, in Wales, to build the DBX start­ing in 2019, with ca­pac­ity to make 7000 a year. Re­vealed as a con­cept two years ago at Geneva, As­ton signed off on the de­sign a few months ago af­ter chang­ing to a four-door con­fig­u­ra­tion with a higher roof line. Un­der­neath is a mod­i­fied ver­sion of the bonded alu­minium struc­ture that sits un­der As­ton’s new gen­er­a­tion sportscars, which de­buted with the DB11. The DBX will share that car’s en­gines, which com­prise a tur­bocharged 5.2-litre V12 of As­ton’s own de­sign plus a turbo 4.0-litre V8 from Mercedes-AMG. It’s also ex­pected to of­fer a hy­brid petrol driv­e­line and a pure elec­tric ver­sion.

Thor­ough­breds: from top, Lam­borgh­ini Urus, As­ton Martin DBX Con­cept, Alfa Romeo Stelvio

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