For years, almost any sport utility vehicle—or SUV—you could think about carried an air of off-road capability and ruggedness. People who drove SUVs were active and adventurous and needed a vehicle that could keep up. Now, though, SUVs are just your mom’s car. And now there’s a whole crop of luxury SUVs—like these from Porsche, Lamborghini, and Bentley—that threaten to take all the “U” out of SUV.
Or are they? The Top Gear America hosts intend to find out if the Porsche Cayenne Turbo SE Hybrid, Lamborghini Urus, and Bentley Bentayga Speed still offer any utility to back up their sporting luxury pretenses and whopping price tags.
What Even Is an SUV These Days?
Where did the SUV come from? One could argue Chevrolet invented the segment with the Suburban that first appeared in 1935 as one of the first all-metal-bodied station wagons riding atop GM’s contemporary commercial vehicle chassis. Now the longest-running badge in automotive history, the Suburban is one of the largest SUVs currently produced and is still very capable despite its own transformation into a do-it-all family vehicle.
The Suburban, as well as most SUVs, was for decades an enthusiast/utilitarian vehicle that required a bit of sacrifice to live with every day, sharing that trait (and precious little else) with sports cars. But the 1990s saw the beginning of a trend that closed gaps in performance, comfort, and more between SUVs, sports cars, sedans, and even trucks. Crossover SUVs—meaning those based on car platforms as opposed to body-on-frame truck chassis—became the dominant species, and today’s small CUVs have as much ground clearance as pickup trucks from the 1980s. The modern daily family hauler comes with all-wheel drive, a roof rack, and butch plastic bodywork that can take some abuse, and some of them can really handle and accelerate. So what does SUV even mean anymore?
$250,000 or $1,000: What Buys a More Capable off-Roader?
Answering such questions is at the very heart of Top Gear America, where Dax, Jethro, and Rob have tackled this very topic. Will these über-luxury SUV/supercar hybrids turn out to be bona fide SUVs? At the opposite end of the spectrum, but for the same money, SHERP’s the Ark 3400 will take you anywhere you want to go on the planet—including across water, as Jethro demonstrates. But does anyone really need such SUVs? Check out the episode via the MotorTrend app, see what the guys can do in a 1992 Ford Explorer worth a measly $1,000, and then ask again.
Photos by Discovery.
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