OPINION. Why the performance SUV is a deeply flawed concept

Are manufacturers missing a trick with ‘performance SUVs’, given that the potentially more lucrative luxury SUV segment has barely been touched? Our man Bassam has a few thoughts on that subject.

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As the world rapidly hurtles towards the mid-way point of the year, 2016 is very quickly shaping up as the year of the SUV. It hasn’t always been that way though. Think back to 2002, the year the Porsche Cayenne arrived on the scene and changed the motoring landscape forever. You may recall that the then radical Cayenne was received with boos and hisses by the vast majority of the motoring media, not to mention the purists who were so deeply aghast at the sacrilege of Stuttgart building an SUV, of all things. Granted the first Cayenne was a seriously ugly car, but it was also the start of a very curious phenomenon, otherwise known as the performance SUV.

A decade and a half later, the Cayenne is by far Porsche’s biggest seller, and has not only been joined by little sister Macan, but other established players like the Range Rover Sport and BMW X6 that all compete for a slice of the ever-expanding pie. And that list continues to grow with new players like the new Jaguar F-PACE and Maserati Levante also coming to the party. This continued flurry of new sporty SUVs has seemingly distracted everyone from the fact that fundamentally the concept of the performance SUV is a deeply flawed one, and is in essence an attempt by the automotive industry to batter the laws of physics into submission.

Meanwhile, rather bizarrely the luxury SUV segment has been mostly ignored, despite the genre being so much more suited to the task at hand. A high centre of gravity, excessive weight and cavernous interiors are not the recipe for a sweet handling performance car, but they are a platform perfectly suited to the needs of the luxury segment. While the other manufacturers have slugged it out for supremacy in the performance SUV segment, the Range Rover Vogue has had the luxury market essentially to itself for all these years. Massively popular in this region, the Rangie has continued to go further upscale with every new model, to the point where it can now be included in the same luxury car conversation as the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7-Series, which you can read about HERE.

The Range Rover won’t have it all its own way for much longer though, as the recent arrival of the questionably named (and styled) Bentley Bentayga proves. While I loved the new Rolls Royce Dawn, I expect that Goodwood’s rumoured SUV will move the game to an even higher level of opulence in the future. Meanwhile on the performance front, Lamborghini’s upcoming Urus will likely become the very first Super SUV, and that could one day lead to the arrival of even more extreme iterations. Maybe Pagani or Koenigsegg might want to have a crack at making the first Hyper SUV. Love them or loath them, SUVs are constantly evolving and continually changing our perception of what’s possible. For better or worse, it looks like they’re here to stay.

Categories: Opinion

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