When we think about premium sport utility vehicles, we picture a stylish but spacious high-rider that is perfect for hauling the family around town and looking good in the process. SUVs from Lexus, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Infiniti, and Volvo all fit this special profile. But judging a book by its cover is never a good idea, and just because a car has gorgeous curb appeal it doesn’t mean that it excels on the road.
More accurately, though, you should never underestimate the off-roading chops of a crossover based on how it is styled. Even the most prestigious automakers have a few offerings that know how to get down and dirty with the most rugged and affordable rivals on the market. In the USA, this is almost a survival skill, since so many shoppers value size and capability over sheer luxury, so throwing the latter on top of everything else only helps to sweeten the deal.
The names you know
Popular American brands are renowned for their ruggedness, so it should be no surprise that Jeep and Ford have quite a few capable entrants on the list. From the former, the Wrangler, Grand Cherokee, and Compass all feel more at home in the great outdoors and around town. From the Blue Oval, the new Bronco is a particularly rebellious spirit that sets out to capture the hearts of outdoorsmen(or women) the world over.
But it would be folly to forget Land Rover. While we may not always gravitate to British styling or sensibilities, we cannot fault their ability to construct a real all-terrain vehicle. What is more impressive is that it still manages to look great, both inside and out. It may not be going too far out on a limb to speculate that these premium 4x4s may have inspired the idea that a luxury nameplate shouldn’t shy away from a little mud.
Now, we actually have a variety of overachievers from which to choose. Combining comfort, modern features, dependability, and off-roading capabilities, these are some of the best SUVs for those who want it all. Of course, for how much you’re getting in comparison to the standard fare, the one thing that won’t surprise you is the starting MSRP. So, without further ado, here are three luxury SUVs you might not expect to be genuine off-roaders.
#1 Mercedes-Benz G-Class
This large German bruiser is perhaps the least subtle about its capabilities. It borrows quite a bit of its design philosophy from more rugged competitors, with sharp lines and an overall blocky body. It could be argued that it looks like a prestigious Jeep. But once you step inside, that misconception is quickly dispelled.
The interior is dressed in the finest materials, although the features aren’t as high-tech as we’ve come to expect from more well-known nameplates. Still, it has loads of cargo room and more than enough power to handle any stubborn hills, thanks to the 416-horsepower twin-turbo V8. Naturally, fuel economy is abysmal, and this is only compounded by requiring premium gasoline.
#2 Lexus GX
Hailing from the luxury division of Toyota, the Lexus GX shares its heritage with several excellent off-roaders, including the 4Runner and Land Cruiser. Thanks to high ground clearance and a well-engineered all-wheel drivetrain, the GX can go where many rivals fear to. However, it doesn’t have the kind of power you’d expect from a rugged SUV of this size. Still, the V8 under the hood does supply enough oomph to tow an impressive 6,500 pounds.
Inside, it certainly looks great, with high-quality materials and loads of modern tech. However, the seats are not as comfortable as they could be, which, combined with a suspension that prefers rocky terrain, results in a slightly subpar ride quality.
Probably the most unexpected entrant on this list, the German crossover bears an unmistakable aesthetic ethos. It oozes sophistication from its sleek curves that speak volumes of its playfulness, but belie its more rugged characteristics. The available 434-hp twin-turbo V6 supplies it with more than enough kick to deliver a fun drive around town, with refined handling to match. However, when combined with its all-wheel drivetrain and respectable approach/departure angles, this also means it can tackle the most unforgiving terrain without ever feeling incapable of overcoming the challenge.
Inside, classic Porsche design philosophy is clear. Top-notch materials coat every surface, and a lot of thought went into the layout of the controls. There is plenty of space inside the cabin, but the trunk is a little smaller than you’d find in similarly priced rivals of equal size. This is a small price to pay, though, in exchange for an SUV that ticks every box with confidence.
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