Elle, April 2018 (PDF)

Forget every stereotype you’ve heard – the new high-riding passenger vehicles are getting a very luxe makeover.

Toorak tractors, soccer-mum mobiles, rock- hoppers... those big-bottomed SUVs get a bad rap, and yet Australia loves them. Last year, in a market traditionally dominated by hatchbacks and sedans, they managed to overtake the sales of traditional passenger vehicles, prompting motoring purists to roll their eyes and manufacturers to take note.

Really, it was only a matter of time. The rise has been steady and it’s opened up a dialogue of how far, in terms of
performance, technology, style, value and safety, the class has come. It’s hard not to notice the influx of tempting new
SUVs and crossover cars (or mini SUVs) packed with impressive safety features, dynamics and functionality – Peugeot’s 5008, Land Rover’s Velar, Jaguar’s E-Pace, Toyota’s C-HR and Hyundai’s Kona, to name some stand-outs. However, we’re yet to hit the top of the bell curve.

There’s another wave of game-changing SUVs afoot and they’re breaking the school-run mould and bringing the thrill of driving back. Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Ferrari: they’re brands associated with sexy, sumptuous, back-seat-free automobiles and certainly not considered as “family friendly”. They’re the makers of dreamy supercars, intimate moments you’d often only just be able to share with one other person (bar a couple of models as exceptions) with as little luggage as possible and definitely no space for your festival fit-out. As women, our relationship to our cars is personal; we do everything in them – so, what if, ask the brands, we started making our sexiest sports cars more social? Enter two new categories: supercars masquerading as SUVs and extreme high-luxury SUVs; they’re cake plus eating it, too.

You could say the latter started in 2016, with Bentley’s luxurious Bentayga, and was fully realised by Maserati with the beautiful Levante a year later. “The arrival of the SUV in the high-luxury and performance sector has transformed the top end of the market,” says Glen Sealey, chief operating officer of Maserati Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, noting that the Levante is a true Maserati, with no corners cut. “The challenge for car makers [now] is to not produce an SUV with a badge on the front as the only emblem of their involvement, but to [also] ensure the vehicle remains true to the values and abilities of its forebears.” This is the bar set rather high by the trident- stamped icon, a trailblazer (pun intended) for the SUV new world order.

Now, the noise around manufacturers who said they’d never do an SUV is rumbling. Ferrari has a top-secret model in development, late 2019 will see Aston Martin drop the “high-luxury SUV” DBX, and Rolls-Royce’s “high-sided vehicle”, the Cullinan, will also arrive to have a swing at Bentley’s crown. And at the forefront of the high-performance subsector for 2018 is Lamborghini, which just launched the “super sports utility vehicle” Urus. Fierce, powerful, fast – it’s everything you expect from the Italian bull, but with comfort (and plush back seats, TV and more).

Supercars can be loud, stiff, low, frustrating to park and tight with luggage – altogether an antisocial event. But the new SUVs are the cars we never even knew we needed, borrowing the design aesthetic, exclusivity and experience of owning a dream car, but adopting some everyday ease. They’re functional, fashionable and ready to take on every terrain, quite literally.