Here in the land of the luxury suv, life is different from everywhere else. No one worries about the price of gasoline or the cost of tires. And we’ll leave efficient aerodynamics to the designers of our private jets. This is a place where only the biggest and best is good enough. It’s a wonderful world, cosseted by fine leather and sleek wood trim, while the security of all-wheel drive provides continual reassurance.
Presented here are 10 top glimpses into SUV heaven.
1. 2016 BMW X5
We all know about BMW’s excellence on the road. Even something heavy and with a comparatively high center of gravity like the X5 can feel as if it’s shrinking around the driver to become more like a sport sedan than a hulking SUV. This SUV mixes driving talent with a luxurious cabin and abundant tech features.
Among those cool tech items is the head-up display that projects navigation instructions and other information onto the windshield within the driver’s line of sight. And there’s the now-usual array of blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, pedestrian detection with automatic braking, and a radar/camera intelligent cruise control.
Engine choices go from a turbocharged inline-six making 300 hp to a turbo diesel (developing a muscular 413 lb-ft of torque) or a 450-hp turbo V8. Maximum towing capacity is 6,000 pounds. Technically, the X5 seats seven, but the third row is strictly for kids. At least the second-row seats can split 40/20/40 for extra cargo/passenger flexibility.
2. 2016 Cadillac Escalade
All-new for 2015, the Escalade is America’s primo luxury SUV. It’s based on the Chevrolet Silverado pickup, but everything on top is designed and crafted to stand shoulder to shoulder with rivals from Europe. Safety technology abounds and there’s even a vibrating driver’s seat — to warn of hazards. The massaging front seats in range-topping Platinum trim, however, are for pleasure.
The basic model still comes with an enviable inventory of standard equipment. A 6.2-liter V8 delivers 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque to the rear or all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. On the practical side, the power-operated third row seating folds flat into the floor and towing capacity is up to 8,300 pounds. For even more space, there’s the longer Escalade ESV.
3. 2016 GMC Yukon Denali XL
GMC isn’t the first or probably even the fifth marque that springs to mind when thinking about luxury vehicles, but the latest Yukon Denali XL has been earning rave reviews for being more upscale than the previous Cadillac Escalade. The XL is also the largest Yukon, essentially a swisher version of the huge Chevrolet Suburban.
Denali trim means the same drivetrain as the current Escalade (6.2-liter V8/eight-speed auto). The cabin is awash with, well, virtually every pertinent automotive feature and gadget there is, and 20-inch alloy wheels are standard.
4. 2016 Infiniti QX80
The massive QX80 is not an SUV for shrinking violets. Its design does nothing to disguise its heft, but rather makes a virtue of it. Meanwhile, the cabin is as plush as the exterior is imposing and seats up to seven.
The newest top trim is Limited, featuring quilted leather seats, silver upholstery piping and leather-wrapped speaker grilles. Standard equipment throughout the whole range still includes backup collision intervention, 20-inch alloy wheels, power tailgate and satellite navigation.
There’s just one engine: a 5.6-liter V8 with 400 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque. This is linked to a seven-speed automatic transmission sending power to the rear wheels, or a permanent all-wheel drive system with a low ratio feature. Maximum towing capacity is 8,500 pounds.
5. 2016 Land Rover Range Rover
If the Range Rover didn’t invent the concept of the luxury SUV (the old Jeep Wagoneer arguably deserves that credit), it certainly took the idea to its current heady level. This combination of a spacious hand-crafted interior fit for royalty with peerless off-road talents (and pretty good on-road talents too) is a Range Rover hallmark.
This generation debuted for 2012, so it’s bristling with current tech features and Land Rover’s Terrain Response System that uses computer power to regulate throttle, braking and gearshift action for optimum traction over a variety of challenging surfaces. Under the hood is a choice of supercharged V6 or supercharged V8 engines, or a turbo diesel V6. The ultimate luxurious Range Rover is the new, stretched SVAutobiography for $250,000.
6. 2016 Lexus RX 350
A new generation debuts for 2016 and it looks like it will further enshrine the RX badge in the hearts of all SUV-loving Americans. The RX has been the best-selling vehicle of its type in the United States since its introduction in 1998. For good reason. It has a build quality to satisfy the most persnickety, a serenity to calm the most neurotic, and enough equipment to please a geek.
The 2016 RX goes on sale in fall 2015. The regular gasoline engine is a 300-hp 3.5-liter V6, while the hybrid RX 450h brings an electric motor into the mix for a total of 300 hp. Innovations for this new model include an adaptive suspension, and a full complement of contemporary safety features will also be available.
7. 2016 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class
The GL is based on the same platform as the S-Class flagship sedan. So we already know it has refinement built into its bones. It can seat up to seven — not just four adults and three little ones either. Motivation comes from a torquey-yet-frugal V6 diesel engine or, at the other end of the spectrum, a 5.5-liter turbocharged hand-built V8 in the 550-hp AMG version. There’s a 362-hp, 3.0-liter turbo V6 in between, along with a 4.7-liter turbo V8 good for 429 hp.
The crazy-fast AMG model might seem like overkill, but sometimes that’s the whole point of a luxury vehicle. Naturally, the GL is quite capable off-road, but those S-Class genes shine through as superb on-road manners. Look out for an ultra-luxurious Mercedes-Maybach variant some time in the not too distant future.
8. 2016 Porsche Cayenne
Right from the start, the Cayenne always handled surprisingly well, even given its Porsche roots. It’s now in its second generation and keeps getting better, especially after a major mid-cycle revision for 2015. New equipment includes ventilated rear seats, active grille shutters and surround-view parking cameras. Options are many and varied, and available on virtually every trim level.
Drivelines can skew eco-friendly with the new plug-in hybrid version (the S E-Hybrid) or go masterful with a turbocharged 4.8-liter V8 (the Turbo) flexing 520 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive is standard, although there are two distinct systems. The hybrid and diesel get a version with a locking center differential, the S and Turbo have an active system sporting two extra off-road settings.
9. 2016 Toyota Land Cruiser
There aren’t many vehicles with the kind of heritage the Land Cruiser enjoys. From those early Jeep-wannabe days to the current luxury liner of the desert, the Land Cruiser has forged a reputation for ultimate reliability in extreme situations. It might be hard to imagine dropping $80,000 or so on a Toyota, but if your life was on the line in the hostile Australian outback or Death Valley, you’d consider it money well spent.
The Lexus LX570 is incredibly similar, but doesn’t have the iconic name. This 5,700-pound, body-on-frame behemoth is propelled by 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque pulsing from a 5.7-liter V8 engine, returning 13 mpg city and 18 mpg highway. It accommodates eight, but the third-row seating flips up to the sides instead of folding into the floor. It comes in one trim level with virtually everything as standard, including heated seats for the first and second rows, plus leather upholstery in a generally Lexus-like quality interior. It can also tow up to 8,200 pounds.
10. 2016 Volvo XC90
The downside of luxury vehicles is that they can sometimes seem (gasp) vulgar. But that accusation could never be leveled at any Volvo ever. Especially not the new-for-2016, cucumber-cool XC90. Here is the understated luxury of smart design and ergonomic perfection.
This machine doesn’t even use a big engine. Instead, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder is turbocharged and supercharged to create 316 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. Because it’s a Volvo, it also has many safety systems like pedestrian and cyclist detection, plus convenient stuff like a hands-free power tailgate. The elegant cabin seats up to seven and even that third-row pair are typically comfortable Volvo chairs.