In a mountainous country of bumpy pavements punctuated with potholes, cars matter. Maybe that’s why over the years the Lebanese have grown increasingly fond of sturdy Sports Utility Vehicles. Today’s versions are not the same breed of heavy-duty off-roaders as their predecessors, and the SUV of the future may not be an SUV at all. In fact many vehicles are hard to classify as they bridge gaps and refuse to be pigeon-holed into categories, with carmakers often preferring the term “crossover” or denying labels altogether. But as these vehicles continue to evolve past their original purpose – to go off road – several innovative new super-luxury models are being introduced internationally and in Lebanon, adding layers of luxury, technology and capability to our daily drive. 2016 is proving to be the year of the upscale SUV, with more and more deluxe vehicles entering the market. While we already know and love the Porsche Cayenne and its younger sibling the Macan, the BMW X5 and X6, Mercedes-Benz’s range of Gs and GLs, Audi’s Q line, Cadillac’s crown jewel the Escalade and Japan’s Lexuses and Infinitis, there are new contenders cruising into the market.
Named after a strong Mediterranean wind, this beautifully-designed SUV marks a turning point in the Italian car maker’s more than 100-year-history. As striking on the inside as it is on the outside, the Levante is immediately recognizable as a Maserati, paying aesthetic tribute to previous models with its flowing silhouette, combined with newfound off-road durability. Stylish, passionate and comfortable, it’s the quintessential Italian.
Starting price tag: $112,000
To celebrate its 80th birthday Jaguar gave itself and everyone else a one-of-a-kind birthday gift: the F-Pace. The luxury brand known for its old-school elegance and refinement has launched its first ever SUV, and it’s every bit the Jaguar. Advertised as “the world’s most practical sports car”, it fuses traditional Jaguar craftsmanship applied to the real world, with safety features and innovative in-car entertainment for a powerful SUV with family usability.
Starting price tag: $90,000
The Bentayga preserves all the the timelessness of a Bentley in a bigger, better model that takes the brand into a new segment. With a remarkable W12 engine, exquisite attention to detail and the integration of new technology, the opulence of the car makes it a true Bentley experience. Said to be the first in its class, the fastest and most luxurious SUV ever built, the Bentayga was officially launched worldwide in October 2015, and arrives in Lebanon in May.
Starting price tag: $355,000
LAND ROVER EVOQUE CONVERTIBLE
While some luxury car makers are just entering the SUV segment, the iconic Land Rover is setting itself apart by adding a new, topless dimension for an unequaled drive. The first of its kind, Range Rover Evoque Convertible creates a new vehicle category, retaining the elegant Land Rover aesthetic and tough persona that drivers can enjoy with the roof down. Ideal for the long sunny Lebanese summers, the new model will be available locally by mid-summer.
Starting price tag: TBA
SUVS OF THE FUTURE
It won’t be out until at least next year but the long-awaited vehicle (rumored to be called Cullinan) will undoubtedly be impressive. Rolls Royce is avoiding calling it an SUV at all, instead saying it’s a high-bodied 4×4 based on its Phantom model. The price is expected to soar higher than any previous vehicle in the category, in typical Rolls style.
Not to be left behind in the super-SUV race, Italian sports car maker Lamborghini has created not only a concept SUV dubbed Urus, which is said to go into production in the coming years, but will also reportedly create a whole new category with what is said to be the world’s fastest off-roader.
Could James Bond soon be driving an SUV? 007’s current sports car maker Aston Martin debuted its first concept SUV, the DBX, at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, putting forth an impressive electric all-wheel-drive GT crossover prototype set to be produced by 2020.