Luxury carmakers are ready to enter the coveted SUV market. Following the success of the Porsche Cayenne, other luxury brands will introduce new models starting next year.
By Joe Hurley
The year was 2003 when the sports car manufacturer Porsche broke with tradition to deliver its very successful Cayenne, the first non-sports model in the brand's history. Some time before, in the 1990s, German automakers had broken barriers when Mercedes Benz, Audi and BMW decided to distance themselves from their sporting tradition and launch their SUVs for the general public. In those days, no one could imagine that someday a brand like Porsche could betray the image and tradition of its legendary cars like the 911.
Ten years later, the Cayenne´s commercial success has shown that Porsche was right and now— as it was to be expected— the competing brands have followed suit displaying the same passion for SUVs: companies like Lamborghini, Jaguar, Bentley, Maserati and even Rolls-Royce are planning to launch models that will follow the successful trail of the Porsche Cayenne.
The one closer to that goal is Lamborghini, which has already scheduled the release of what will be its first off-road vehicle (2017) after the failed experiment known as the Rambo Lambo. The Urus prototype is a stunning SUV with sharp lines in contrast with the curves of the Cayenne. So far, the project includes a V10 600 hp engine that will be responsible for moving tires measuring no less than...24 inches!
Not 24, but 23 inches measure the tires on Jaguar's C-X17 SUV, which made its debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show last September, but it has little to envy its Italian rival. No specific date has been set for the launch of this concept SUV with coupe lines. For now, it will share the same engine as the convertible V6 F-Type, but is expected to have several mechanical options available when it goes on sale. Although it sounds too optimistic, Jaguar says its starting price would not exceed $60,000, which, if confirmed, would be a good argument in its battle with a much more expensive Cayenne (in Europe the price will be no less than 70,000 euros, about $90,000).
Bentley EXP 9F.
Another luxury SUV we can almost 'touch' is the Bentley EXP 9F. Although production has already been confirmed, Bentley's marketing deadlines are still unknown. The luxury British brand, which belongs to the Volkswagen Group, says the vehicle will be key to its goal of doubling sales by 2018. Little more is known about this model, but there is speculation that its price could fluctuate around $270,000.
Even less is known about the ultra-luxury SUV from Rolls-Royce, but its CEO, Torsten Muller-Otvos, has declared that the company is already working on the upcoming expansion of this range, which includes the development of an SUV to be sold for approximately $300,000. And he's right in his approach when he says that, unlike the other competitors, the Rolls-Royce brand is not so much associated with sport as it is with luxury and comfort.
Finally, we should also mention Maserati´s SUV: the Levant. It will feature the brand’s new twin-turbo engine, the 3.0-liter V6 (400 hp) and the 3.8-liter V8 of 530 hp. A turbo diesel version will be available in Europe. However, it seems that the Levant will try to infiltrate the lower segment more than the others, following a strategy marked by Fiat, which indicates that Maserati should distance itself from its 'sister' Ferrari with more affordable models as it has already done with the brand new Ghibli sedan in the E division.
Ferrari, of course, remains the only major luxury sports brand that prefers to safeguard its image and tradition rather than yield to market pressure, a trend marked by the increasing demand in large countries, but most importantly, in emerging markets, where a growing mass of wealthy drivers is looking for large luxury cars able to move through rough terrains.
Those responsible for the Cayenne saw that opportunity before anyone else and today many people are trying to steal a piece of the cake. But Porsche, in any case, has been able to react and, once again, is ahead of the competition taking a step 'backwards' with the imminent launch of the new Macan, a compact and more economical SUV that aims to capture a greater number of clients and continue Porsche's trendsetting role as the segment leader. ■
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