Top 5 Compact Luxury SUVs
Recently, I wrote an article about what I felt were the best budget SUVs available in the market today and had some decent feedback on it.
This article will review some luxury SUVs, which one could say are in the next layer of affordability (ie one notch above the budget SUV segment or, the midsize or compact luxury 4x4 class).
Small luxury SUVs usually come equipped with some decent driving-assist technologies and on-board gizmos which are usually not found on their budget SUV counterparts, are manufactured by premium marques, look sleek and slender and come with decent engines with usually turbo-chargers fitted in them (especially on their performance diesel variants).
Luxury compact SUVs usually price between the $60,000 - $120,000 AUD mark (or $40,000 - $80,000 in USA) and are usually midway between the budget SUVs and full size luxury SUVs (for example the BMW X5 and X6, Range Rover Sport and Vogue and Porsche Cayenne)
Lastly, if a 4x4 is not your thing, you can also buy these extremely good looking hot hatches within this segment.
So let's see what's what....
The German luxury car-maker practically defined the compact luxury SUV segment when around 5 years ago, it launched the Q5 as a little brother to its already successful but vast Q7.
Since then, the Q5 has more or less become an unexpected benchmark by which all SUVs in the luxury compact SUV class have been judged - especially since Mercedes doesn't really build a car in this segment and BMW's X3 is barely any competition both in terms of looks and performance (although I will be writing about the X3 later on).
The Q5 is currently available in 4 engine-setups, two petrol variants (2 liter and 3 liter, both mated to a straight-6 cylinder setup) - both delivering in excess of 160 kw of power (with the 3 liter straight 6 offering 200 kw of power and a 0-100 kph accelaration of 5.9 seconds) while the Turbo-charged disel engines available either as a 2 liter or a 3 liter setup. In fact, the TDI diesel variants don't really display much different power outputs than their petrol counterparts and Audi has actually begun capitalizing their marketing strategy around their diesel engines (including boasting that a diesel powered R10 racer recently won LeMans)
In 2012-13, Audi decided to launch a performance version of the Q5, the first time they did it for their SUVs and the first time their 'Quattro' division decided to use a diesel engine for the job (unlike the rest of Audi's S and RS-badged cars which are mated to high performance and high-revving 4+ liter V8s).
The SQ5 is available with a turbo charged 3 liter V6 engine and is naturally the most expensive variant in the Q5 lineup, costing in excess of $110,000.00 on the road down here in Australia.
The SQ5 offers blazing acceration - with a 0 to 100 kph sprint achieved in 5 seconds flat and comes readiliy available with Audi's permanent All Wheel Drive (which is available in their RS4, RS5 and RS6). Other features on the SQ5 include a more aggressive stance and styling (including a blend of carbon-fiber and aluminium) apart from flared 20 inch wheels. All in all, this car has certainly established that a diesel can deliver as much grunt as a supercharged petrol engine.
Audi SQ5's stellar review by Cars Guide Australia
No other car-maker has more options than Volvo when it comes to the compact luxury SUV segment - and the funnier part of it being that I doubt the cars themselves don't understand which car-segment do they actually belong to.
For years, we've seen the V70 estate, the new V40, the XC70, the XC90 (which is affectionately called Volvo's 'schoolbus') and the XC60, which fits perfectly (size and performance-wise) within the likes of the BMW X3 and Audi Q5 - with the R-Designed XC60 being backed by Volvo's in-house tuning division, Polestar, which aims at being a strong rival against BMW's M Division, Mercedes' AMG and Audi's Quattro.
The XC60 essentially filled the largely unfilled gap within its range between the small SUV (ie the likes of the BMW X1 and Audi Q3) and the fullsize luxury SUV (ie the BMW X5, the Mercedes ML Class and Volvo's own XC90).
The XC60 is also available in more engine-variants than any other compact luxury SUV in its class - offering 3 diesel variants and 3 petrol variants (one of each being assigned to the particular model of the car - the XC60 offering 3 in total, the Kinetic, Luxury and the powerful R-Design).
Volvo initially marketed the XC60 a couple of years ago as a car which you could never ever crash (thanks to its radar-based sensors) and tests showed that they were actually right (the technology itself being tried and tested by Mercedes on their S-Class sedan). Today, costing in excess of $55,000.00 (But a lot more once you equip it with Volvo's unique options lists which include a state of the art cruise control, sat-nav and lane-management system to begin with), you have the option of buying a low-powered 2 liter diesel/petrol engine, or go right up to the All Wheel Drive turbo-charged 3 liter petrol or a 5 cylinder diesel engine (with the petrol engines coming either with 4 or 6 cylinders) - The R-Design offering a Polestar tuned turbo-charged setup.
The car's met with rave reviews from automotive journalists from across the world - largely due to the fact that the Swedish car maker's more or less dropped its 'old age boxy metal image) in exchange for a very chic and elegant stance across its range.
Volvo XC60 review by CarBuyer UK
When BMW first launched the X3 as a rival to Audi's Q5 roughly 4-5 years ago, Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear UK said that the car was a practical misnomer considering it couldn't do anything off-road and it was ugly enough to make small children feel sick.
Nevertheless, over the years, BMW have drastically changed the looks of their cars ever since they moved on to the 'F-series' production line (which began with their 7 series) and has now transpired into the X-series of their SUVs and crossovers.
The X3 is currently available with 3 engine setups and like Audi's Q5, they've elected to launch the most powerful engine on this car as a 3 liter straight-6 diesel engine. While being competent, the car is sadly no match for the fiery SQ5 as BMW still seems obsessed with their 'Efficient Dynamics' program where they're decreasing engine size and output and focusing more on fuel-consumption and weight - For example, the X3 3 liter diesel's output is under 190 KW but it actively employs what BMW call, brake force regeneration which uses excess kinetic energy produced by the car's braking to charge up the car's battery (a concept which was first utilized within hybrid cars).
The X3's other variants include the lesser powered 4 cylinder petrol and diesel engines and the car can be beefed up with either the comfort-focused 'X-line' package or the sport focused 'M-package (My own 325Ci being equipped with the same). The M-Pack essentially adds forged 19 inch alloys, a body-kit, a stiffer suspension and carbon-fiber inlays.
BMW claims that the car's come a long way since being ridiculed in its early days and I tend to agree by affirming its improved off-road capabilities - but is it a worthy opponent to a Range Rover Evoque or Audi Q5? I don't think so.
BMW X3 review by Top Gear UK
(Land Rover) Range Rover Evoque
When anybody thinks about a Range Rover or a Land Rover, the first thing going through anyone's mind is rugged off-road capability, luxury and an imposing grunt and stature on the road. So when word was out that Victoria Beckham was designing Land Rover's latest SUV to fit the the compact luxury SUV market, everybody (including myself) was fairly taken aback, not knowing what to expect as this segment was uncharted territory for Land Rover themselves.
When the Range Rover Evoque was released in 2011-12, the automotive world heralded it as possibly the prettiest compact luxury SUV despite the 'feminine touch' on its design and the car was an instant hit, giving the established marques in this segment including Audi and Volvo's striking XC60 quite a decent run for their money.
With technology directly based and sourced on Land Rover's tough yet compact Freelander 4x4 and the on-board interface as modern as that found on the Range Rover Sport and Vogue, the Evoque is able to offer drivers sublime levels of comfort and all road traction for half the price and fuel-consumption - with the base 2wd 2 liter diesel variant available to buy for under $70,000 AUD! (which is basic BMW 3 series money).
The Evoque is also the only car in its class which offers both automatic and manual transmission and the option of 2wd or 4wd with absolutely no difference in engine output - all variants come mated to a 2 liter setup with different levels of tuning (depending on the car's variant, with the tough looking 'Dynamic Si4 offering 2 litre petrol engine with paddle-shifts)
All in all, the Evoque is a brilliant car and thanks to its availability as a 4 door and also a 2 door coupe!, it satisfies the urges of both the performance car racer and the adventurer.
Range Rover Evoque review by Top Gear UK
The newest member of this club of compact luxury SUVs, Porsche announced the Macan in early 2013 when they decided they needed to build an SUV which offered the thrills of a Cayenne for those who couldn't afford one or wanted something smaller and more economical especially if they lived in crowded urban centers.
The Macan is (to my knowledge), the first Porsche production car which has introduced BMW's 'Estroil Blue'-like color on their SUV and certain spy shots have revealed the car to look absolutely stunning in that color.
As goes with Porsche, they've more or less stuck to basics as far as looks go, with the Macan actually seeming like a 'Mini-me' version of the Cayenne.and upon the 'made in Leipzig' model's release, there'll be two petrol engines and one diesel available to choose from - the diesel engine being more or less in direct competition with Audi's SQ5's as it has exactly the same output, while the range-topping petrol version being a throaty 3.6 liter V6 which sprints the car from 0 to 100 kph in 4.8 seconds and delivering 294 kw of power to all 4 wheels.
The Macan will also offer buyers Porsche's high-tech options including a Bose Surround Sound System, Chrono Pack, PDK and many others and is certainly expected to land a punch in the world dominated by Audi and Range Rover's Evoque. While pricing has not yet been confirmed, the Macan Turbo is expected to retail between $90,000 - $120,000 AUD (similar to the Audi SQ5 or the Evoque-Dynamic Si4) during the 2014 production year.
Porsche Macan World Debut!
So there it is - my review of what I believe are probably 2013's best compact luxury SUVs. In my opinion, I think the Range Rover Evoque and the up and coming Porsche Macan are my favorites but if its sheer reliability and lower maintenance costs you're looking for and don't care for road-presence, then the Audi SQ5 has to be the top of the shack.
I'm aware that I might have left out 2 or 3 models in this segment (ie the Lexus RX400 or Volvo's V70), I thought they didn't quite fit the dimensions that quite befit the compact luxury SUV segment - Nevertheless, I'll be writing more and more about cars and hopefully I'll include these models too.
As I mentioned earlier, you can also buy some sporty hot hatches in this segment and for a similar amount of money - you can review them here..
Thanks for reading!