Top 10 best luxury SUVs 2021
Want a high-riding car with swathes of luxury and cutting-edge technology? These are the top 10 best luxury SUVs on sale right now.
The original Range Rover is commonly thought of as the first luxury SUV, as it was one of the first 4x4s to combine off-road ability with a plush interior. Before that, 4x4s tended to favour a more utilitarian spec, with basic cabins that were designed to cope with the worst you could throw at them.
Fast-forward to today and the SUV is the most fashionable body style, whether your budget is £20,000 or £200,000. High-riding cars are now much more in favour with luxury buyers than saloons, although the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7 Series are still popular choices for those wealthy enough to employ a chauffeur.
That’s why there are so many luxury SUVs now on sale - depending on the exact definition, we could have filled this list twice. As well as models from established SUV manufacturers, many new ones have joined the fray; a few years ago you’d have never expected SUVs like the Lamborghini Urus, Rolls-Royce Cullinan and Aston Martin DBX. Even Ferrari is due to launch a taller crossover model.
These SUVs offer the very best in cutting-edge automotive technology. They’ve got the newest powertrains, the latest connectivity and state-of-the-art driving assistance. All treat their occupants like royalty and cocoon them from the outside world. Most of these SUVs have room for seven, too, so you can bring all your family or staff along with you.
Buyers loved the previous Discovery so the new one needed to carry the baton and bring the name bang up to date. The latest model still has a tremendous towing capacity and the ability to overcome all but the harshest terrain, and has an elegant interior with plenty of space for seven adults; few seven-seaters can boast that. A liberal use of aluminium in the car’s construction means it’s a staggering 450kg lighter than the Disco 4, benefitting acceleration, comfort, fuel efficiency and component durability. The interior is just as plush and equipment-laden as you’d expect, and it’s practical too - in keeping with the rest of the car.
The Volvo XC90 is the firm’s flagship SUV and combines serious practicality with handsome styling. Its ‘Thor’s Hammer’ headlights are particularly eye-catching, giving the XC90 plenty of presence. Like the Discovery, it’ll accommodate seven adults and they’ll be comfortable even on longer journeys. The interior is dominated by the portrait Sensus touchscreen, which you use to control many of the car’s features, so it’s a good job it looks smart and is easy to use. There are premium materials throughout the cabin and a wide range of safety features as Volvo looks to ensure no-one ever dies in a collision in one of its vehicles. The diesel engines are more economical than you might expect, given the car’s bulk, and all engines are smooth. There’s also a fast T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid model that’s also efficient, provided you keep the batteries topped up.
Standing at over 5.2m long and almost two metres tall, the Mercedes GLS is one of the behemoths of the road. It weighs 2.5 tonnes but its 326bhp V6 diesel engine means it still manages 0-62mph in 6.3 seconds and a top speed nearing 150mph. As you’d expect, it’s no sports car, instead offering a relaxed, stable and imperious driving experience. You can think of a GLS as the S-Class of SUVs for its sublime interior, but with room for six of your friends or family. There’s no shortage of space in either of the two rear rows and, with all seven seats in place, you’ve still got access to a 470-litre boot - that’s 144 litres more than the BMW X7 with all seats up. Mercedes says passengers up to 6’4’’ will fit in the rearmost seats; usually they’re reserved for children. Almost nothing is off-limits on the configurator - you can have all the equipment you’d ever wish for.
There are several choices if you’d like your luxury SUV to be electric but our favourite is the Jaguar I-Pace. Electric cars are whisper-quiet, making for a serene driving experience, and recharging isn’t anywhere near as costly as refilling with petrol or diesel - especially seeing as many of the conventionally powered luxury SUVs have large fuel tanks and an equally large appetite for fuel. You won’t need to recharge too often, either, as the I-Pace has a claimed range of 298 miles, which is more than most of its rivals. The biggest rivals of the I-Pace include the Mercedes EQC and Audi e-tron but the Jaguar is our pick because it’s the best to drive of the three. Not only is it fast but it feels nimble through corners. Its low roofline might help with that and it doesn’t cut into boot space too much as there are more than 650 litres to fill. There’s another small luggage area under the bonnet where the engine would normally be.
In creating the latest Audi Q7, the company made the car less bulky to look at and to drive but kept its interior luxurious and hi-tech. As a result, it still has plenty of road presence but is more agile than before and just as comfortable. A wide selection of petrol, diesel and hybrid engines are on offer; all are powerful and give the Q7 a decent turn of pace. The fastest, the SQ7, takes under five seconds to go from 0-62mph, while the plug-in hybrids manage over 25 miles of electric-only driving. A smooth ride is virtually guaranteed thanks to the car’s standard air suspension. We feel that there are few more attractive interiors, and the triple-screen setup borrowed from the Q8 adds to the theatre of Audi’s seven-seater. Most of the technology can be controlled from the steering wheel and, while it’s a little confusing at first, it soon becomes second nature.
For sheer opulence and class, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is in a different league to nearly all the other SUVs on this list. It’s named after the largest and most flawless diamond ever found, which gives some indication of the quality and attention to detail of Rolls’ first ‘high-sided’ vehicle. The Cullinan makes the Bentley Bentayga look affordable; Rolls-Royce’s SUV starts at over £100,000 more and most buyers will go on to customise the car to their exact desires - Rolls-Royce offers over 44,000 shades of paint, for example. The Cullinan is bristling with the latest technology, which is typified by the front-facing cameras and sat nav. These work together to provide data to adjust the suspension for bumps and indicate when the optimum time to change gear is. The Cullinan is also Rolls’ most practical model ever, although you can fill the large boot with purpose-built ‘recreation modules’ to perfectly fit in all the gear for a variety of hobbies. We’d say the Cullinan’s closest rival isn’t another car but a luxury superyacht.
The Range Rover is a true motoring icon - it’s probably the first car that comes to mind when people think of an SUV. It’s come a long way from its workmanlike origins; it’s now the go-to luxury 4x4 for the rich and famous. Its do-it-all capability is just part of the reason it’s so well-regarded; it can tow any caravan, horsebox or trailer with ease, and the Range Rover is still one of the most talented off-roaders, despite the fact that most are destined to spend their lives in exclusive city suburbs. The Range Rover offers something for buyers who favour fuel economy with the P400e hybrid, while the 557bhp 5.0-litre V8 in the SVAutobiography Dynamic will be the first port of call for those that want their full-size 4x4 to be faster than a sports car. It comes with the very best Land Rover technology inside, including the Touch Pro Duo infotainment system and a whole suite of electrical off-road assistance. The high seating position and panoramic view of the road appeals, too.
Whatever your thoughts on the BMW X7’s divisive styling, there’s no doubting its sheer presence. Like the Mercedes GLS, the X7 is BMW’s seven-seat SUV flagship, pushing the envelope of automotive technology, and is a high-riding alternative to the company’s 7 Series limousine. Three rows of seats are fitted as standard and, like its rivals, the middle three-seat bench can be swapped for two individual seats that make it feel more like a private jet than a bulky SUV. There’s no plug-in hybrid model yet but the most economical model can manage a reasonable 33mpg and the fastest - the M50d diesel - matches the V8 Range Rover’s 0-62mph time of 5.4 seconds. The interior is beautifully finished and laden with exciting technology, and our minor criticism that it’s quite similar to cheaper models in the range can be levelled at its Mercedes, Land Rover and Volvo rivals too. Overall, we think the whole package isn’t quite as strong as a Range Rover or GLS, so your choice might be based on whether you like its super-size nostrils and slightly slab-sided looks.
The Bentley Bentayga may have been usurped as the most opulent SUV when the Rolls-Royce Cullinan came out, but it’s still one of the most luxurious ways to travel on four wheels. Open the doors and you’ll be greeted with the best materials Bentley could lay its hands on, with perfect leather upholstery, natural wooden inlays and soft wool. It’s a technological tour-de-force but you might be surprised how much is borrowed from the Audi Q7. Still, that means everything is tried-and-tested and should work faultlessly. With near-endless personalisation options, every Bentayga can be unique and you can spend plenty of time (and thousands of pounds) on creating your ideal specification. The top model, the Speed, is the fastest SUV currently available - even faster than the Lamborghini Urus - hitting 0-62mph in just 3.9 seconds on the way to a top speed of 190mph.
It was controversial when it was first launched but now the Porsche Cayenne is one of the brand’s best-selling models and has enabled Porsche to continue developing its sports cars. Of course, it can’t match the sublime driving experience of the Cayman and 911 but, considering its size and weight, it’s very impressive. Few SUVs are so rewarding to drive; the Cayenne’s perhaps the best luxury SUV for keen drivers. Diesel models are no longer available but there are two plug-in hybrid models that can manage a few miles of electric range on a full charge. The latest Cayenne has similar styling to the cheaper Porsche Macan SUV and it actually looks smaller and sportier than before - and there’s a new Cayenne Coupe if you want a sportier look. Inside, most parts are shared with the Panamera and 911 but that’s not a bad thing. The Cayenne does offer plenty of space for five; there’s no option of seven seats, so you’ll be looking at one of the other cars on this list if you need three rows of seats.