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As previously discussed here at Dandelion Chandelier, there’s a fascinating central tension inherent in luxury: it’s simultaneously ethereal and deeply-rooted; humble and haughty; high and low; dandelion and chandelier. Right now, Low is having a moment. And so we see the rise of the once-humble utilitarian sports vehicle to the luxury stratosphere: the Super SUV.

SUV’s began their life as military vehicles. During World War II the US army sought out automobile manufacturers to develop a prototype vehicle that was was tough, durable and capable of carrying soldiers over rough terrain.  After reaching out to nearly 130 companies, only 2 responded. One of the companies was Willys Overland whose 4 wheel drive prototype the ‘Jeep’ was eventually chosen to supply the military and the SUV was born.

Not long after, the Land Rover and the Toyota Land Cruiser were also developed but it wasn’t until the 1990’s that the SUV gained popularity as a consumer vehicle.  

Like their military predecessors, the original consumer SUVs were not stylish, sophisticated or sporty, they were however capable of loading lots of groceries and transporting your kids to and from soccer practice. They were marketed as a safe, practical and affordable vehicles for families.

Fast forward to 2018 and lot has changed.  The SUV has graduated from all purpose family vehicle to a luxury must have with all the trimmings you could want and all the power of a sports car.  That’s because high end car brands known for racing performance have been getting into the genre, even creating a whole new niche within the SUV space known as the Super Sports Utility Vehicle (SSUV for short).

Fast, expensive, outrageously styled, SSUVs are a cut above the regular SUVs and include the like of Rolls Royce, Lamborghini, Aston Martin and Maserati all of which are big on quality, capacity and style. They feature cutting edge gear that makes your time behind the wheel safer, comfortable and more enjoyable too including everything from park assist to top of the line speaker systems.  

This new generation blends outsize practicality with astonishing performance. Even more impressive is that while they can still carry the family and a your dog (or several for that matter), they can break the 0-60 mph barrier in less than four seconds.

As we mentioned earlier SUVs have been around since the 1940’s.  So why now are they reaching maximum popularity in the luxury car space?  

Perhaps it has something to do with our changing lives and shifting priorities. Experiences and adventures are now more sought-after than ever and SUVs are a great way to get us to that place where those events happen.  And why not, when it’s an option, do it with style, panache and a sporty flair? SSUV’s also boast a “livability” that traditional SUV models in the past have lacked.  New models allow drivers to enjoy driving a quick vehicle that handles well, and is fun, but also flexible for your everyday needs such as carrying the shopping bags from all of our favorite stores.

Thinking about getting one?  There are a lot of new ultra-luxurious options hitting the market this year and next, so we’ve profiled some of the latest releases as well as some of the most eagerly anticipated if you can wait until 2019 or 2020.  So buckle up and let’s get ready to roll.

1. Aston Martin DBX concept. Announced at the Geneva Motor Show in 2015, the Aston Martin DBX is expected to the hit the roads in 2020.  The production model is currently under development and its design was signed off late last summer.  The DBX, rumoured to be officially named Varekai, is expected to be a four door (though two doors were originally announced), four seater SUV crossover that will cost the equivalent of anywhere from $195,000 to $260,000.  There have also been rumours of electric engines being used, though it could very likely be gas.  Only a couple of years though until we find out for sure what this highly anticipated car will have.

Aston Martin DBX concept

2. Rolls-Royce Cullinan. Named for the largest diamond ever found, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan will debut at the end of this year.  This long awaited gem, like all other Rolls-Royces, is powered by a V12 engine, but is the first Rolls ever to offer four wheel drive.  It is also be the first Rolls-Royce ever to be able to drive through up to 2 feet of water. As expected of Rolls-Royce, the Cullinan takes passenger comfort to extremes with drinks cabinet that holds Rolls-Royce whiskey glasses and a decanter, champagne flutes and a small refrigerator for keeping your champagne cold.  There will also be an optional glass partition to separate the occupants’ seats from the cargo compartment. That way, those inside are protected from possible harsh weather while luggage (or a case of champagne) is loaded into the back. The vehicle also promises that the Cullinan will deliver the brand’s famed “magic carpet” ride quality even in harsh terrain, thanks to the all-wheel-drive SUV’s self-leveling air suspension. When driving off-road it can instantly push down on any wheel that computers sense is losing traction.  Now that’s impressive! Equally impressive is the base cost of $325,000 and an average cost, including options, around $400,000.

Rolls Royce Cullinan

3. Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio. Alfa Romeo re-entered the U.S market in a stunning way – with its high performance compact premium SUV, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio.  The newest member of the Quadrifoglio “Quick One” family, features what Alfa describes as Italian design passion and motorsports performance DNA, which makes sense given the brand’s Formula One heritage.  The new Stelvio Quadrifoglio is reported by Alfa to be the fastest production SUV in its class with an aluminum 2.9-liter V-6 twin-turbocharged gasoline engine developed with engineering input from Ferrari.   It delivers 505 horsepower, can accelerate from 0-60 mph in just 3.6 seconds and has a top speed of 176 mph, all while boasting impressive fuel economy with electronically controlled cylinder deactivation of an estimated 31.4 mpg.  Fast and fuel saving? Sign us up.  Base models start at $81,590.

Alfa Romeo

4. Porsche Cayenne Turbo S. The Porsche Cayenne has been on the luxury SUV market for nearly 15 years, but it is their latest model of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S that is making waves by delivering an astonishing performance along with surprising ability off-road.  Porsche cars are known for delivering a certain kind of magic when it comes to handling and performance, and the Cayenne offers this magic up in a package that is equally handsome and spacious on the inside. The latest model has the roominess to handle lots of cargo and its cabin features top flight materials and meticulous design. Base models come with a 570 horsepower V8 engine that can reach 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, which believe it or not, is an improvement from the already impressive previous models.  With both brawn and beauty, the Turbo S pricing begins at $161,600.

Porshe Cayenne

5. Maserati Levante Trofeo. The 2019 Maserati Levante Trofeo is a performance oriented SUV that Maserati claims is one most powerful engines ever outfitted in a Maserati.  Its engine is a 3.8-liter, twin turbocharged V8 capable of 590 horsepower that can hit 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and keep going past 187 mph.  Expected to complete production this summer and hit the market shortly thereafter, it also features some new additions like the “Corsa” driving mode with launch control functionality.  Corsa mode improves engine response while opening exhaust valves for more even more of that trademark Maserati growl. It also makes the gears shift faster and lowers the air suspension ride height. The Levante Trofeo starts around $72,000

Maserati Levante Trofeo V8

6. Bentley Bentayga. Bentley’s first foray into the SUV space, the Bentley Bentayga, churns out more than 600 horsepower from its available W12 engine and hits a top speed of nearly 190 miles per hour. That makes it the fastest SUV of all time, which is an extremely impressive feat considering that it’s weighed down with all the amenities of a Bentley Continental GT.  With features like handcrafted leather, wood and metal trim, 22 way adjustable seats with heating, ventilation, and massage functions and a customizable 1,950-watt, 18-speaker Naim sound system, the Bentayga is the foremost in super luxury sports utility. If that’s not enough, Bentley has also announced plans to create an launch an even bigger Bentley SUV in the not too distant future.  Starting at $229,100.

Bentley Bentayga

7.  Lamborghini Urus. With 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 the Lamborghini Urus is every bit as fast and sexy as the company’s Huracan and Aventador supercars.  Able to hit top speeds of 189 mph with 641 horsepowers, the Urus is a fierce looking driving machine with the performance to back it up.  Lamborghini claims a 0–60 time of under 3.5 seconds, with 124 mph arriving in 12.8 seconds. Inside the Urus is equally impressive with styling appeal of Prada rather than punk rock with features like mélange leather and Alcantara, soft-sheen aluminum and carbon fiber.  Lamborghini didn’t scrimp on interior space either, the Urus has room for four full size adults and their luggage.  Pricing from $150,000 to $210,000.

Lamborghini Urus

8. Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. As we’ve discussed, nearly all of the traditional luxury car makers have all made high performance SUVs, but one surprising addition to this group is the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk.  The surprising dark horse to the group (or should we say dark hawk?)  has a 707 horsepower engine, practically the same engine found in the Dodge Challenger and Charger Hellcat muscle car models.  With the help of “launch mode” it can reach 60 mph in 3.5 seconds The Trackhawk is clearly a high performance vehicle in terms of acceleration, speed handling and braking but what is impressive is that on the inside, you can easily fit five passengers in addition to carrying your groceries or luggage.  Jeep’s Trackhawk is a big departure from its original SUV in the 1940s, but it sure is a fun one. Pricing from $86,000 – $90,000.

2018 Jeep® Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

There you have it: the future of the SUV is so bright, you gotta wear shades. Cool.

Pamela Thomas-Graham

Pamela Thomas-Graham is the Founder & CEO of Dandelion Chandelier. She serves on the boards of several tech companies, and was previously a senior executive in finance, media and fashion, and a partner at McKinsey & Co.