Mega-bling: super-luxury SUVs for 2019

Luxury SUVs have reached new heights in power and style for 2019.

Decades of engineering advances have made the erstwhile truck-based carryall the vehicle of choice for the rich and famous. Engines once designed for workaday economy are now the locus of performance, with outputs among the most powerful on the planet.

Speed and handling are off the charts, too. Several manufacturers are so confident in the handling of their people-movers that they have brought them to the famed Nurburgring for development and testing, and wound up besting all but the world’s most exclusive sports cars.

At the very top end of the segment, bespoke personalization is the latest luxury must-have. When money is no object, imagination is the only limit to automotive expression.

These are the top luxury SUVs for 2019.

Lincoln Navigator Back Label

Starting MSRP: $96,395

The biggest, baddest, and boldest Lincoln of all time is elegant, restrained, and downright classy. And not Texas classy, either; New York classy.

In top Black Label trim, the Navigator is as much private club as it is personal transportation. Concierge service begins even before the sale, with some dealers able to bring the vehicle to the prospective buyer for a private showing and test drive. Once purchased, Black Label vehicles get complimentary anytime car washes and annual detailing. All recommended service is, of course, covered, with pickup and delivery within a 50-mile radius.

This coveted class of SUV comes in one of three exclusive interior design. “Yacht Club” has a whitewashed teak and navy blue scheme. “Chalet” is white leather and silverwood. “Destination” pairs red leather and mahogany for a feeling of vintage adventure.

Though the design is evocative of yesteryear, the tech is thoroughly modern. A 12-inch touchscreen commands the dash, with Bluetooth, hotspotting, and navigation. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are routed through a 20-speaker Revel audio system. The second row gets its own entertainment system with dual 10-inch screens.

Even without the luxury trappings, the Navigator is still a refined vehicle. Power comes from a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 that delivers a silky 450 horsepower and 510 lb-feet of torque. All four wheels are independently sprung, with adaptive suspension for a smooth ride with little body roll.

Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

Starting MSRP: $86,650

Jeep is on a massive roll lately. The latest Wrangler is an engineering marvel and critical triumph. The newly-unveiled Gladiator pickup is the smash hit of the season, and it won’t even go on sale until Q2 2019.

The storied Ohio brand makes even more hype with the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. Boasting a cyborgesque 707 horsepower and 645 lb-ft of torque, America’s favorite family wagon explodes to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds. The quarter mile is dispatched in 11.6 seconds. In a Jeep. Top speed is 180 mph. Again, in a Jeep.

There are five drive modes available, and with power like that, it’s not surprising that one of them is labelled “track.”  With a flick of a switch, paddle shifters are enabled and shift times reduced 68 percent versus standard, down to a fugacious 160 milliseconds. Steering is sharpened and four-wheel drive is set for a 30/70 torque split for maximum performance. The suspension hunkers down in anticipation of smooth, dry surfaces, and stability control prepares for warp speed.

The not-insubstantial price tag includes more than just brute force, however. The Trackhawk also includes a fair amount of luxury. Driver and passengers are coddled in leather and suede seats, with stitched leather trim throughout the cabin. The latest 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system is made even more audible by active noise cancellation. Should all that quiest get to you, opt for the available high-performance, 825-watt Harman Kardon premium audio system with 19-speakers and two subwoofers.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio

Starting MSRP: $79,995

Nurburgring records are made to be broken, but as of this writing, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio holds the title of fastest SUV around the famed track. At 7:51.7, Alfa’s ferocious family flivver parties with the likes of Aston Martin and Lamborghini.

The all-aluminum V6 uses direct injection and twin turbos to exploit 505 horsepower from just 2.9 liters. 443 lb-ft of torque is sent to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission and a torque vectoring differential. The driver-selectable RACE mode is made even better by all-aluminum column-mounted paddle shifters.

With all that power under control, the five-passenger, 4,360-pound SUV will sprint from zero-60 mph in a mere 3.9 seconds and on up to a top speed of 177.

Aiding and abetting the spectacular lap time is near-perfect 50/50 weight distribution, adjustable performance suspension, and active dampings. The Quadrifoglio rides 0.2-inch lower than the standard Stelvio and on unique 20-inch wheels. Braking is handled by Brembo, with the option of fade-resistant carbon ceramic discs.

Porsche Cayenne Turbo

Starting MSRP: $124,600

The Porsche Cayenne Turbo is new for 2019 and replaces the Cayenne Turbo S. It’s 0.1 second quicker to 60 mph that the outgoing model—just 3.9 seconds, or an even faster 3.7 with optional equipment installed—and has a higher top speed of 177 mph. On the track, of course.

Central twin turbos sit inside of the V of the eight cylinder engine. The shortened pathway delivers faster engine response, as well as compact packaging that allows the engine to be mounted lower for improved handling. The four-liter unit makes a whopping 541 horsepower and 567 lb-ft of torque, an increase of 21 hp and 14 lb-ft over the previous model.

Power is laid down through staggered wheel sizes to improve acceleration and handling. Intelligent torque vectoring improves cornering, aided by optional rear-wheel steering. The 48-volt electrical system powers dynamic chassis control for roll stabilization.

The latest Cayenne features Porche’s Advanced Cockpit design. The binnacle has a center analog tach flanked by two seven-inch screens for additional driver displays and information. A wide-format 12.3-inch central touchscreen can be used to display and control all vehicle functions, like the 710-watt Bose surround sound audio system.

BMW X6 M

Starting MSRP: $104,100

BMW invented the ginourmous 4×4 coupe segment way back in 2008, then turned the dial up to 11 with the release of the 2010 X6 M.

Now in its second generation, BMW’s super-ute is powered by a 4.4L twin-turbo V8 with 567 horsepower and 533 lb-ft of torque. Even with over 5,000 pounds to motivate, all that grunt will rocket the Bavarian ballista 0-60 in 4.0 seconds. All-wheel drive is standard.

Handling is on par with acceleration and would put some sports cars to shame. Suspension is tuned up front with upper wishbones honed for optimized camber progression and steering pivot axis, allowing physics to plant the vehicle harder than ever in corners. Bearings with increased rigidity improve directional stability, and allow the anti-squat/anti-dive rear geometry better performance.

Compared to a normal X6, ride is lowered 10 mm. Though nominally a firmer setup, dynamic damper control allows the driver to select just how much firmness is wanted through Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ settings. The system works in tandem with self levelling rear air suspension and active roll stabilization to reduce body roll, pitch and yaw.

The coupe shape does little to hide the heft of the X6 and much to reduce usable cargo area. The vehicle is a joy to drive, however, and we love the added performance BMW’s wanted M badge adds.

Tesla Model X P100D

Starting MSRP: $140,000

Tesla Motors has done what all denizens of the 20th Century once thought impossible: made electric vehicles cool. So cool, in fact, that folks would rather discuss acceleration numbers and the brand’s “one percent” pricing instead of the Model X’s beneficial climate impact.

And while we’re on the subject of acceleration numbers, Tesla’s falcon-winged SUV (because gullwings are SO 20th Century) will hit 60 mph in just 2.9 seconds when all jocked up in P100D form, absolutely insane for a vehicle porking in at over 5,500 pounds. The dual-motor electric powertrain delivers brutal maximum torque immediately upon hitting the go pedal, and all four wheels deliver the gargantuan force to the pavement.

The 100 kW battery stack is good for 289 miles, albeit six less than the 295 found in the plain ol’ P100 model. However, the P100, while lightning fast compared to normal SUVs, takes a while 4.7 seconds to hit 60 mph in the sprint. We’ll happily fork over the extra $41,000 to avoid that embarrassingly glacial pace, thank you very much.

While the price may seem at odds with a vehicle that at least nominally fits in the Green category, Telsa owners have an exclusive charging network, ensuring that they can avoid conversations on the subject with those concerned about such matters.

Mercedes-AMG GLS 63

MSRP: $126,150

Mercedes calls its GLS the “S-Class among SUVs,” and we wholeheartedly agree. Sliding into the rarified air of the interior (filters prevent particulates down to 0.0002-inch from entering the cabin), the finest Nappa leather is microperforated to keep backsides at an optimum temperature. Woods and leathers are selected from the most exclusive providers on the planet. In AMG trim, carbon fiber or black lacquer trim can be selected, each visually deep enough to drown a cat. For an extra $5,400, a Bang & Olufsen audio system tuned specifically for this model will drown out any noise the cat might make on its way out.

Wait. Did we say AMG? Oh, yes.

Powering this most elegant of Pickelhaubisch people-movers is a 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 handmade by Mercedes performance arm AMG, sporting 577 horsepower and 561 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to all four wheels through a seven-speed transmission enhanced by the same tuning house. Sprinting to 60 off the line takes just 4.3 seconds and is one of the most joyously Wagnerian sounds in all of autodom.

AMG has gone out of their way to make sure that this is more than a straight-line barnstormer, with suspension tuned for spirited handling. Active damping responds and adapts to road conditions, keeping the wheels planted for optimum traction. Active body control varies the stiffness of the stabilizer bars, ensuring a flat ride.

Range Rover SV Coupe

Starting MSRP: $295,000

The special edition Range Rover SV Coupe is so gorgeous, we wish all SUVs had only two doors. Limited to just 999 examples worldwide, the model will be hand-assembled at the SVO (Special Vehicle Operations) Technical Center in Warwickshire, England.

The model debuted in Geneva and is currently the fastest full-size Range Rover ever built. Zero-60 is accomplished in a mere 5.0 seconds, and top speed is a ridiculous 165 mph. Motive power is provided by a creamy 557-horsepower supercharged V8 with 516 lb-ft on tap. Should towing be required, capacity is a respectable 7,700 pounds.

Even with exclusivity, world-class craftsmanship, and gobs of power, the SV Coupe still needs a party piece, and finds it in limitless levels of personalization. Eight basic paint colors can be had in three distinct finishes, for example, unless the buyer would like to select from one of 16 premium colors in any of five finishes. Duo-tone paint? Four options are available.

One of four single tone and four duotone interiors can be ordered, contrasting light to dark and front to rear. The manufacturer suggests going completely bonkers and ordering light-coloured upholstery in the front and darker for the rear. “That’s the opposite of what we’d generally do with a chauffeur-driven car: the Range Rover built for the Queen, for example,” explains SC designer Gerry McGovern. “But the SV Coupe is a driver’s car.”

With so many options available, it’s likely that each example of the 999 SC Coupes to be produced will be completely unique.

Mercedes-AMG G 63

Starting MSRP: $147,500

Fans of the iconic G-Wagon are overjoyed at its all-new incarnation for 2019, and best of an extremely extreme lot is the AMG G 63.

The hand-crafted 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 under the hood makes 577 horsepower and 627 lb-ft of torque, enough to rocket the Teutonic bruiser to 60 in just  4.5 seconds. The AMG nine-speed performance transmission has five drive modes for pavement-burning performance. Top speed is 137 mph, or 149 mph with the optional Driver’s Package.

To be true G-Wagon, though, it has to go offroad, and the new G 63 is ready for anything. There are three additional drive modes for dirt, rocks, and sand, and three locking differentials to match. Low range gearing keeps things moving, and independent front suspension mounted directly to a ladder-type frame improves handling. Torsional rigidity is enhanced with a strong brace connecting the strut towers, preventing things from getting twisty.

All of these goodies work in unison to give the G 63 the climbing ability of a homesick angel: a full 100 percent grade. Fording depth is now 27 inches, and protective foil cladding inside the doors keeps the water out. Approach angle is now 31 degrees with 10.5 inches of clearance up front; breakover angle is 26 degrees with 9.5 inches of clearance; and departure is 30 degrees.

The new Mercedes-AMG G 63 will go on sale in the U.S. starting early 2019.

Lamborghini Urus

Starting MSRP: $200,000

Lamborghini Urus stats read like something even Dan Savage might have problems condoning: 650 horsepower, 627 lb-ft of torque, zero-60 mph in under 3.6 seconds, 124 mph in 12.8, and a top speed of 190 mph. This is the fastest SUV on Earth. So fast, in fact, that Lamborghini wants to take it racing.

Though nominally all-wheel drive, the Urus has a rear-wheel torque bias, giving it a sporty and pleasingly responsive feel from behind the wheel. As our editor Richard Aucock put it, the Urus “swiftly changes direction upon steering input rather than hesitating and keeling over.” Though weighing over two tons, this super SUV is decidedly eager and nimble.

The eight-speed transmission uses six different driving modes to be as sporty or elegant as the driver demands, aided by active roll stabilization and adaptive air suspension.

Seating can be specified for four or five passengers, with trim choices ranging from thoroughly modern aluminum and carbon combinations to more traditional leather and wood.

The tech is thoroughly modern, however. There are three screens for three tasks: instrumentation, comfort controls, and infotainment. Handwriting recognition can pull up the driver’s favorite tracks, and 1,700 watts of Bang & Olufsen audio pours the selection through

Tech is brilliant. Three screens are separated by function: driving instrumentation, comfort, and infotainment, with a virtual keyboard with handwriting recognition. 3D surround sound  comes via 21 speakers.

Bentley Bentayga

Starting MSRP: $165,000 (est.)

From the first sighting of the controversial Bentley EXP-9F concept vehicle to the first drive review of the production SUV, the Bentayga has redefined the way the world looks at luxury.

While entry-level models start under a mere $170,000, fully personalized Mulliner editions are a bit pricier. Just how much? As Bentley says, “The only limit is your imagination.” The flagship model has two-tone paintwork and unique 22-inch wheels to distinguish it from its more pedestrian brethren. The inside is completely handcrafted, with hand-stitched hides, hand-rubbed wood, and hand-programmed 15-color ambient LED lighting. The 20-speaker Naim audio system is powered by 1,950 watts, literally 50 more than the Stones had at Altamont. Literally.

The options list reads like a Russian oligarch’s Christmas list: a champagne chiller, fingerprint recognition for locks, solid gold timepieces that cost more than the entire vehicle, and bespoke china, crockery, crystal glassware, and cutlery. As our own editors said, “If it’s not the best new car interior in the world right now, it’s pretty damn close.”

Keeping in step with the Bentayga Mulliner’s unrivalled outrageousness is the engine, a 6.0-liter W12 that storms out 600 horsepower and 663 lb-ft of torque, enough to compel Bentley’s flagship to 60 in just four seconds and on up to a top speed of 187 mph.

The W12 Bentayga is so fast, in fact, that one one was taken to Pikes Peak, where the British beast took over two minutes off the previous SUV class record. Bentley offered ten examples of a special Pikes Peak Edition to celebrate.

Rolls-Royce Cullinan

Starting MSRP: $410,000 (est.)

Named after the largest diamond ever pulled out of the ground and aimed only at the world’s wealthiest denizens, the only words to describe the Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV are the ones provided by the factory: “super-luxury.”

Under the hood is a gargantuan 6.75-liter V12 twin-turbo, good for 570 horsepower. 627 lb-ft of torque is available from a low 1,600 rpm and power is delivered—in a first for Rolls—to all four wheels. The zero-62 mph/100 kph sprint is accomplished in just 4.2 seconds; top speed is an electronically-governed 155 mph.

Should the Cullinan actually be used for hauling duty, the floor of the cargo area can be raised to allow long items through without catching on the second row riser. Rolls suggests that even a Rothko painting will slide right in

Brute force is perhaps the opposite of what the Cullinan is about, however. Though an SUV, complete with a tailgate and split-folding seats (a first for Rolls), vehicles that exist in this rarified air are often meant to be driven from the back seat, and the Cullinan is no exception. The second row, which can be specified with either three or two seats, is raised higher than the front so passengers have an unobstructed view. The seats are positioned slightly behind the rear window for a sense of privacy.

Ironically, the Cullinan was launched on our shores in the Equality State. Jackson Hole, Wyoming, was chosen because it is in the richest county in America, “home to some of the world’s most affluent people and well-known celebrities,” according to Rolls. Teton Country may also be home to the greatest wealth inequality in America, but at least now the residents will have something to chauffeur it.

*crickets*