When it comes to moving families in style and comfort, there really is no better option than a luxurious sports utility vehicle. The name may seem a bit misleading since these are by no means the rough and tumble off-roaders that once bore the SUV tag. Nowadays, crossovers and SUVs form a huge part of the market share, and many have been designed specifically for urban lifestyles, bringing into question their sportiness and their utility.
Not many modern SUVs would dare venture off the asphalt, except for those that have been specifically designed to, like a Jeep Wrangler or Land Rover Range Rover. Instead, the segment is characterized by firm yet compliant suspensions, superior back seat and cargo capacity, and readily available all-wheel drive to deal with slippery or snow-covered roads. This is especially true of the premium models. Across the varying classifications within this popular subsegment, these are some of the more noteworthy options:
1. Mercedes-AMG GLE
One of the leading names in premium automobiles is Mercedes-Benz, and when you throw the letters AMG on top of it, you know you’re getting the absolute best the company has to offer. A turbocharged inline-six develops 429 horsepower and decent performance characteristics and a 5.2-second 0-60 mph sprint time. Handling is good, too, but this isn’t what Mercedes is really known for.
The real magic happens inside the cabin, where premium-grade materials and excellent construction result in a cabin that people love to spend time in. Comfort is guaranteed by the plethora of people-centric features like power-adjustable heated seats, multi-zone automatic climate control, and built-in power-operated sunroof. The infotainment system is pretty good, too, and while the base driver-assistance suite could be better, ticking a few options easily makes up for it.
The price tag is almost as appealing as the exterior styling considering the other top midsize luxury SUVs it competes against. However, the subpar fuel economy figures mean that the money you save won’t go very far.
2. Cadillac Lyriq
Still in the midsize category, the Lyric is a brand-new all-electric SUV that shows Caddilac still has what it takes to compete in the premium segment. Of course, it can be argued that the Escalade already proved this point, but the Lyriq does more with less. It isn’t an overly bold and chunky SUV, as sleeker lines fit its electric nature better. Since there aren’t all that many luxury EV SUV models on sale right now, competition is limited. That doesn’t mean the Caddy can’t stand out on its own virtues, though.
Available with one or two motors, it can produce up to 500 hp and deliver a surprisingly engaging driving experience. Its total driving range is pretty good, too, at 312 miles to a full charge. But ride comfort is where the real focus is. Silent running and solid construction, combined with a finely tuned suspension, help it eat up the miles quietly and confidently, while steering remains light and responsive.
In terms of technology, the Lyriq has all the essentials and even a few features that European brands save for the options list. Along with a spacious and, more importantly, practical cabin, this makes the inside of the SUV a very safe and pleasant place to spend time. Unlike the larger Escalade, though, the Lyriq can’t even pretend to be off-road capable, and cross-country trips will take a lot longer with frequent stops to recharge.
3. Lexus NX Hybrid
If you aren’t quite ready to make the change to an all-electric SUV, then a luxury hybrid SUV might be more your speed. There are quite a few options to choose from, but the NX stands out as one of the most balanced models. Not only is it more affordable than an Audi Q5 or Volvo XC60, but its Toyota heritage helps to make it a highly dependable and value-packed choice.
The gas engine is supplemented by an electric motor that can power the SUV for 37 miles while still improving performance ever so slightly. Unfortunately, the CVT holds it back from being a particularly fun drive, and the suspension could be better tuned to handle bumpier roads. Nevertheless, the Lexus still has a lot going for it beyond improved fuel economy.
The interior looks and feels good, though not quite as opulent as a Merc or BMW, and the standard list of features is very extensive. Toyota knows that buyers expect a lot more for their money than they might accept from the European brands, and it has made sure to pack the Lexus NX full of goodies to draw attention away from the flashier competition. The infotainment is a particular highlight, with loads of functionality and a user-friendly interface.