Rugged SUVs increasingly becoming opulent off-roaders

New Volvo XC40 - exterior

The Volvo XC40 features sturdy SUV performance combined with luxury appointments. 


Given how optioned and high-end crossovers and SUVs have become in recent years, perhaps it’s time to coin a new name that reflects the true nature of these stylish motorcars: Large luxury vehicles.

Although they’ve been around since the 1930s, SUV’s didn’t gain broad popularity until the 1990s thanks to models like the Ford Explorer and Jeep Cherokee. Crossovers came along in the early 21st century, billed as a brand new vehicle that blended features of the sedan and SUV — but in reality, just a postmodern version of the venerable station wagon.
Both styles were initially aimed at middle-class families with kids, dogs or outdoor hobbies, until they caught the eye of automakers, who figured there was a ready-made market for luxury crossovers and SUVs that boasted many of the same bells and whistles as their upscale sedans and sports cars. The latest models — many of them unveiled at the recent LA Auto Show — combine on-the-go opulence with modern fuel economy.

At a whopping $207,900, the 2018 Range Rover SV-Autobiography is the most expensive Range Rover ever. The price tag includes a refrigerated compartment that can hold four 20-ounce bottles and two glasses, a center console that runs the full length of the rear cabin, two 10-inch integrated rear entertainment screens, and 4G Wi-Fi connectivity.

The long wheelbase version features rear seats with 22 options (including hot stone massage and heated calf rests) — squarely aimed at owners who are being chauffeured.


This baby can fly too. Powered by a 557 horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission, the SVAutobiography can race from 0 to 60 in a mere 5.2 seconds. A unique grille, chrome inserts and 22-inch wheels make it stand apart from other Range Rover models.

Appealing to eco-friendly drivers with disposable income, Infiniti is emphasizing the improved fuel economy of the 2019 QX50 compact luxury crossover. The vehicle’s brand new 268 horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine — mated to a continuously variable transmission — combines the power of a gasoline turbo engine with the fuel economy and torque of a diesel.

Infiniti expects the engine to deliver a 35% improvement in miles per gallon in front-wheel-drive versions (27 mpg combined) and 30% improvement in the all-wheel-drive models (26 mpg combined) over previous iterations of the QX50.

Wider, taller and roomier than older versions, the QX50 offers options like ProPilot Assist, which uses cameras and radar to “lock” the car in the middle of a highway lane and keep it away from other vehicles.


Expected in Southland showrooms next year, the 2019 Lexus LX 570 will give buyers a choice between three rows of seating for eight people (which the company has been offering in its SUVs for 20 years) or two rows with seating for five and additional cargo room in the back. Lexus says they are adding this option because of strong customer demand.

Without the third row of seats, the LX 570 offers an additional 5.8 cubic feet of carrying space as well as a standard roof rack with rails. The MSRP is around $5000 less than the three-seat version, a boon for smaller families. Among the standard features on both versions are leather trim, power tailgate, moonroof, four-zone automatic climate control and 20-inch wheels.

Volvo markets the 2019 XC40 an entry-level compact crossover for younger buyers. Featuring the same technology as the large XC60 and XC90, the vehicle includes front or all-wheel-drive versions, as well as a choice of gasoline, hybrid and pure electric models for prices as low as $33,200.

For 2019, Lincoln has rebranded its popular entry-level MKX crossover as the Nautilus. After the significant facelift, the vehicle features new exterior styling and wheel selection, as well as Ultra Comfort seats that can be adjusted up to 22 ways for personalized comfort. It’s also packed with the latest motoring tech — active park assist, blind spot information system with cross traffic alert and lane-keeping alert, and pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection. Among other features are Wi-Fi and USB ports, as well as Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system with both Apple and Android compatibility.

Whether you call it the G-Class or the Geländewagen (“cross country vehicle”), the top-shelf SUV from Mercedes-Benz manages to outclass much of the competition even three decades after its original launch. The most powerful version — the AMG G 65 — costs a cool $222,000.
What do you get for all those bucks? A handcrafted AMG 6.0L V-12 biturbo engine that churns out 621 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque with a 7,000 pound towing capacity. And incredible speed for a vehicle of this size: 0 to 60 in 5.2 seconds.

More amazing crossovers and SUVs are just around the corner. Volkswagen’s ID Buzz Concept summons memories of the good old Type 2 Microbus that was once an icon of the Southern California beach scene. Definitely retro — but cool and modern at the same time — the fully electric, fully connected microbus is designed to get the party going with flexible seating arrangements for eight, touchscreen center console with practically no knobs or buttons, a steering wheel that recedes into the dashboard for autonomous driving modes plus a full skylight roof. Volkswagen is planning a 2022 launch.

Toyota used the LA Auto Show as a platform to show off its Future Toyota Adventure Concept (FT-AC). The all-terrain, crossover SUV — envisioned as vehicle for diehard outdoor enthusiasts — has all kinds of nifty features, from detachable fog lights that can be used for camping or embarking on a nighttime mountain bike run to detachable infrared cameras on the side mirrors. LED lights mounted on the roof rack do double duty lighting up the trail ahead and acting as a flash for the cameras.

Wrap-around skid plates protect the FT-AC from rocks and ruts, while the advanced all-wheel-drive system can be adjusted to changes in terrain. The retractable integrated bike rack comes with geo-location capabilities to ensure that no matter how far you wander, you never get lost.


– Joe Yogerst, Custom Publishing Writer