Four Score

Four luxury SUVs that have really stolen the limelight in 2018

Lamborghini Urus Lamborghini Urus

Lamborghini Urus

In 1986, Lamborghini, being Lamborghini, came up with the bizarre idea to plonk a V12 supercar engine—the Countach in this case—into a gargantuan SUV, the likes of which had never been seen on the roads before. The LM002, when it debuted, was by far the most brutish (5,200cc, 455bhp), fastest (capable of 200kph), and heaviest (weighing over three tonnes) SUV the world had ever seen. It also cost $120K (approximately a quarter of a million dollars by today’s standards).

The Urus—Lamborghini’s second stab at an SUV— has little in common with the LM002, besides the Lamborghini badge that is; and by unavoidable inference, the chutzpah to create something quite extraordinary. The Urus claims to be the world’s first Super SUV—a Lamborghini in terms of its design, driving dynamics and emotions, but reportedly with the versatility of an SUV that can be used across a range of environments. In terms of technology, the Urus combines the best of both—Lamborghini Huracan Performante and Aventador-specific features that are linked by ‘TAMBURO’, a specific controller strategically placed in the centre tunnel. ‘TAMBURO’ is the heart of the command centre of the car and integrates ‘ANIMA’ of the Huracan and ‘EGO’ of the Aventador, and allows the driver to intuitively manage the seven driving modes in the Urus.

The ANIMA controller on the left not only allows the driver to select from Lamborghini’s traditional driving modes—STRADA, SPORT, CORSA—but additionally offers all-new off-road modes—SABBIA, TERRA and NEVE. The right level activates the EGO mode, which allows the driver to configure and select custom settings for traction, suspension and steering.

For the Urus, Lamborghini has developed a twin-turbo engine for the first time in its history. This engine delivers 641bhp of power at 6,000RPM, which propels this leviathan to a top speed of 305kmph and accelerates from 0-100 in just 3.6 seconds. That would make the Urus the fastest SUV in the world. Exactly what you’d expect from a Lambo.

Lamborghini Urus

Engine 4-litre twin-turbo V8

Power 641 bhp

Torque 850Nm

Price Rs 3 crore (ex-showroom)

Audi Q5 Audi Q5

Audi Q5

With the new Q5—it’s bestselling mid-sized SUV—Audi has played an unprecedented move, that no one foresaw. Typically, newer models of its SUVs, the new Q7 a case in point, follow a linear evolution in terms of incorporation of more tech, more elements of luxury, more innovations, and so forth. The Q5, through all its iterations over the years, has never been about reductionism. Until this model, that is. In retrospect, it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise; much like shedding baggage to evolve, this new Q5 is not as much about newness as it is about balance. Not as much about brute strength as about calculated power; not as much about ostentatiousness as it is about genuine comfort.

Auto hacks have always picked a bone with Audi’s trademark weighty steering that favours a slightly detached-from-the-road feel. But the German marque has stuck to its guns and maintained that it’s precisely that sense of insulation from the road that Audi owners prefer. The new Q5 buttresses that point of view better than any of its contemporaries—this car is solely focused on refinement and that extends to people on the road and those within the cabin. The sound insulation means you could hear a pin drop inside the cabin. The engine noise is so muted that it necessitates, regrettably, a liberal dose of honking just to intimate unsuspecting vehicles of its fast approaching presence. The adaptive damping suspension enthusiastically applies opposing forces to negate even the most severe bumps on the road, aided by the new larger 60-profile tyres. The engine is earnest, but not manic, and in conjunction with that insular steering, makes short work of long hauls.

True to this evolved persona, the Q5 does exceedingly well, drawing its power from the tried-and- tested two-litre heart unlike its predecessors that came with more powerful engine options. This Q5 seeks to strike a balance between adequate power and frugality, all the while keeping emissions down.

Audi has always been just a little bit prejudiced towards the younger set—and that age-group’s penchant for sporty, fun cars. With the new Q5, it has made a refined car that should appeal to grown-ups, too.

Audi Q5

Engine 1968cc (diesel); inline four; turbocharged

Power 190bhp

Torque 400 Nm

Price Rs 53.25—Rs 57.60 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)

Volvo XC 60 Volvo XC 60

Volvo XC 60

The XC60 is the perfect illustration of Volvo’s design philosophy—from functional and staid to utterly gorgeous. Run an online image search for the 2008 XC60—the original version of the premium mid-sized SUV and then have a look at its latest model pictured here. Yep—same car. Moth to a butterfly you say?

So while the pre-2015 variants of the XC60—much like all Volvos of yore—always elicited well-intended (or sneakily condescending) compliments about ‘build quality’, ‘safety standards’ and ‘family-car values’, no one really bought the SUV because it was ‘such a head-turner.’ The XC60 was what the reformed casanova in the romcom bought after trading in his two-seater Porsche as a lead-in to the happily-ever-after. That trademark substance-over-style slant isn’t likely to be up for discussion at Volvo though—the XC60, as a veteran American auto hack recently remarked, “…is the closest thing to wrapping airbags around your children.”

In addition to the long list of standard safety features that include a 360-degree camera and semi-automatic parking, the XC60 comes with a new variation of the lane-keeping assist—‘oncoming-lane mitigation’, which sets off alarms if it detects oncoming traffic and helps steer the car back. The ‘blind-spot assist system’ helps get you back to safety if you don’t spot oncoming traffic and pull out for an overtake. All very futuristic driverless tech; and exactly what you would expect from a new Volvo.

The surprises lie in form and luxury. Like a shrunken version of the stylish XC90—which makes it look chunky, and larger than it is, the XC60 is very much a head-turner. Reckon it could lie anywhere between great-looking to plain gorgeous depending on who’s looking. Stunning in the eyes of this beholder.

With less heft to pull around, the D5 engine that powers its bigger sibling feels much friskier in the XC60. It’s no performance-oriented, fire-spitting V6, but the 235 horses under the hood are many more than you’ll ever need to summon. Unless you decide, for some inscrutable reason, to take a car like this out on track.

No sir, this is a refined car; riding on an air suspension, the cabin is a quiet space to be in, until you decide to play the audiophile-quality Bowers and Wilkins stereo that pipes in from 15-speakers. The temperature-controlled seats draped in perforated brown Nappa leather can even massage tired backs…all very pish-posh, very decadent, very quick, stylish even.

Volvo XC60

Engine 2-litre diesel inline-four

Power 233 bhp

Torque 480Nm

Price Rs 57.90 lakh (ex-showroom)

Range Rover Velar Range Rover Velar

Range Rover Velar

After the F-Pace—arguably the nicest-looking Range Rover in recent times—that shifted focus from the legendary off-roading capabilities of RR to urban-oriented virtues, comes the Velar—an SUV so utterly stunning and futuristic-looking that it could easily pass as a concept vehicle at an auto show.

Cross-country motoring aficionados are likely to groan about the Velar’s unapologetic shift of focus to driving on asphalt, but most owners—the majority of who will never put their RRs through inclement terrain—are unlikely to complain. To be fair, pitched between the Evoque and the Range Rover Sport, the Velar is a reasonably capable off-roader that stands head and shoulders above other SUVs in its segment. It’s just not as gobsmackingly formidable as the Range Rover Sport.

The Velar shares more than just its looks with its prettier cousins—it’s built on the same aluminium monocoque shell as the F-Pace, and like the Jaguars, is primarily a rear-drive car capable of sending power to the front wheels should a situation arise to warrant that.

But, this is such a gorgeous car that its abilities—on or off the road, seem secondary. That unwavering focus continues on the inside with an all-pervasive feel of decadent luxury, which even surpasses the RR Sport. Its dimensions hit the sweet spot, too—sitting somewhere between the Q5 and the larger RR Sport—slimmed down, like a neat nip-and-tuck that gives it a tighter silhouette.

The engine—a two-litre diesel—that flogs a respectable 237 horses, doesn’t make it lightning quick, but should have enough gusto to drive the two-tonne Velar. It is heavy, and while that will affect its ability to get off the blocks, it also imparts that solid, built-like-a-tank feel that most associate with RR.

For the minuscule few who care, the Velar doesn’t have the decoupling anti-roll bars that you’d get on the RR Sport, and the low-ratio four-wheel drive is missing, but unless you’re out to ford rivers every weekend, there’s really very little reason to pick the Velar’s bigger cousin. The Velar doesn’t look indestructible, but it’s the slickest Range Rover yet.

Range Rover Velar

Engine 2-litre diesel

Power 177 bhp

Torque 430Nm

Price Rs 78.83 lakh (ex-showroom)

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