The Best Luxury SUVs 2023
Like it or not, SUVs are the biggest-selling car genre, and manufacturers are just pumping out more and more models each year. Whether it’s the higher seating position or the overall safer feeling driving such big cars gives off, the SUV craze hasn’t really slowed at all.
There are many benefits to the SUV; the superior load space, roomier cabins, and the ability to carry more passengers. The luxury market made sure they didn’t miss out on this, with the Porsche Cayenne the first and most notable luxury SUV that wasn’t a Range Rover.
Spoilers, there will be more than one Land Rover product here, there’s a reason you see so many on the road, they’re the best at what they do. Pretty much 50/60% of the population who own a luxury car, will also have a Land Rover/Range Rover.
Land Rover Defender – From £51,365
The old Defender is an icon, its design is beloved, if very dated, but it became the sort of car people were willing to compromise on to own. It was never a luxury car, with most being cold, loud and uncomfortable.
The new Defender however has completely thrown all that out of the window. Stepping up after such an iconic design would always be challenging, but Land Rover knocked it out of the park here. The rugged feel is still here, but everything has been updated to be comfortable, easy to use, and quiet most importantly.
You can still get commercial versions that will come with two/three seats, a bunch of loading room and everything you need for a hard-working vehicle. But a growing percentage of the people buying defenders previously were people who didn’t need them for the hard work, so Land Rover has made sure to cater to both crowds with the non-commercial versions coming stacked in luxury, this is as close as you’ll get to a Range Rover without the badging.
Range Rover + Range Rover Sport – From £99,375 + £80,325
We’ve grouped both together here because they both offer such a similar package. The Range Rover is another icon, originally built as “A Car For All Reasons”, the original was a huge hit as it lived up to its moniker, a car that could tow 3.5 tons, fit a full family with plenty of luggage in comfort, and drive in pretty much every condition.
The newer models absolutely still hit these, but with the range splitting into two – the Range Rover and the Range Rover Sport. The Range Rover focuses much more on the luxury side, with a price tag of near enough £200,000 if you spec a top-of-the-range model. With features like massage seats, a full 20+ speaker multimedia centre, in-car wifi and much more to make your journey the most comfortable possible the Range Rover is out on its own in terms of luxury SUVs.
The Range Rover Sport on the other hand has been aimed a little more towards a younger market, with a more aggressive look and more sporty options and models including the SVR. The Sport is the model you’ll see more of day-to-day, stereotypically on the school run, never really getting to stretch its legs and show off what it can actually do.
Even with its slightly lower price tag, the Sport still comes equipped with ample luxury refinements, not to the same level as the regular Range Rover of course, and in a more compact form factor, but unless you’re comparing them side by side the Sport is still an extremely good example of a luxury SUV, with both being some of the best luxury SUVs on the market.
BMW X5 M Competition – From £121,290
The newest iteration is a firm favourite with our team, the styling of the X5 M Competition is aggressive, brutal and yet still beautiful – that big grille is still a divisive choice though. Built as a rival to the Range Rover SVR, the new generation SVR is even rumoured to be getting the same engine.
The X5 M pulls a lot from the M division back catalogue, and in no way is that a bad thing, BMW M know how to style a sporty model. The M seats are comfortable and hug you just the right amount to keep you firmly planted when pushing into a corner. The i-Drive system is easy to use and filled with information – especially useful for performance stats. Most importantly that engine pumps out 616bhp, with 553lb-ft of torque pumping to the wheels at just 1800rpm, more power than you’ll ever need, and with a 0 – 62mph in 3.8 seconds there’s not much that will beat you, especially in the SUV form factor.
If you’re wanting something different from the norm, the X5 M could be for you. The speed and the sound are huge selling points here, with an unmistakable V8 feel and grumble. Realistically this comes down to looks and sound, especially as the new SVR will have the same engine. Both are around the same size, with similar load figures, but with the prices of new Range Rovers being so high the BMW might be a more favoured choice for those looking to get their car for MSRP and get their car within a year (those Range Rover build times are still a bit silly unless you’re willing to pay a premium).
BMW iX – From £69,905
Now, this is a bit of an iffy one, the iX isn’t really marketed as an SUV – although What Car? did give it the award for ‘Best SUV for long distances’ so it kind of is? From the outside the iX does have a bit of an MPV sort of look, it’s not the tallest SUV, not that that’s a bad thing, it looks sleek and the front end offers a new take on that divisive front grille. BMW say the newly styled kidney grille “functions as an intelligent surface and houses camera technology, radar functions, state-of-the-art sensor technology and heating elements” a clever way to hide all that ugly stuff, whilst avoiding that weird, faceless EV look that comes when you take away a grille.
The interior is where the iX really separates itself from other BMWs though, the ‘Living space on wheels’ as they call it, offers a much more open plan feel, with most of the controls centralised onto the main screen in the centre of the dash – very much like Tesla.
The only real buttons are on the centre console and the steering wheel. This does provide a clean and sleek feeling to the car but also pushes towards the feeling that EVs are becoming a bit more of an environment to drive in, rather than a car to be driven. To counter that though, the xDrive50 model does offer 523bhp, which means 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds, so it’s no slouch and will keep up with plenty of sports cars never mind SUVs.
Mercedes EQS SUV – From £129,170
If you haven’t seen the EQS saloon by now, you need to, Mercedes have packed so much into their new electric saloon that it’s almost comparable with the S-Class in terms of quality. The new full-screen dashboard, or the ‘Hyperscreen’ as Mercedes have named it, is something to behold, and a feature you cannot get in another car – apart from its bigger brother the EQS SUV.
The SUV is essentially a beefier version of the regular EQS, adding in more interior space and the option for 7 seats, along with the much bigger boot, higher seating position and much bigger body. For those looking for the SUV experience, with an electric powertrain, the EQS offers so much just beware of that price tag.
Tech-wise, the EQS is stacked, and the Hyperscreen essentially features 3 individual screens paired together across the dashboard. One for the driver display – paired with an augmented reality head-up display, a huge central one that holds all the car’s functions (no real buttons here), and a third specifically for the passenger, allowing them to watch streaming services while you’re on the move. It adds a bit more of a cohesive feel to the big screens that are becoming such a huge part of cars now, rather than something that looks like a small tv just plonked in the centre.
Mercedes-AMG G63 – From £174,425
Winner of AutoTrader’s Best Luxury Car award for 2021, the G-Class has the pedigree to go with that heritage. Basically, everything we said about the old defender applies here, except Mercedes has kept as much of the original exterior design of the G63 as possible, modernising and improving, whilst adding in one of the best luxury interiors you will find.
The iconic G-Wagon has been around in one form or another since the 70s, built originally as a bit of a Swiss army knife car, the Geländewagen or ‘go-anywhere car’ was first used by the armed forces. Mercedes have since produced versions for the police, fire department, doctors, and even ‘popemobiles’ for the Pope’s travels, waving his way through the streets of Europe. This versatility made sure it was a car that the public would love, a car that does just about anything and goes anywhere just like the name suggests.
The AMG version of the G-Class offers all that heritage, with a twin-turbo V8, and a wealth of luxury refinements you’d expect from an AMG model. That V8, the same one used for the AMG GT, produces 585bhp and propels the 2.5-tonne G63 from 0-62 in 4.5 seconds. The sound of the G63 is just as mesmerising as its power figures too, producing a similarly sweet grumbly V8 note to the AMG GT or even the Aston Martin Vantage (again, same engine).
The G63 does have a bit of a reputation in Britain, with a huge majority of professional footballers driving or owning one at some point – but don’t see this as a bad thing. If footballers, who have some of the most ridiculous wages around, are buying the G63 over a Cullinan or a Urus, it must be for a good reason. And as it’s an AutoTrader award winner, it looks like the public and professionals agree on this one.
Porsche Macan + Cayenne – From £50,800 + £63,700
The Cayenne was the first real ‘super SUV’ to hit the road back in the early 2000s, paving the way for the likes of Aston Martin, Lamborghini, Rolls-Royce and all the other luxury brands to follow. The Cayenne was the innovator, and its little sibling the Macan pretty much did the same for the small SUV market.
There’s a big difference between the Macan + Cayenne and their competitors though and it’s the pricing, take the Macan for instance. The Macan starts at £50,800, cheaper than pretty much everything else in the small luxury SUV bracket it owns. If you pick the top-spec GTS, which starts at £68,000 you can spec to almost £100,000, which is still better value than most in its bracket for what you get.
The thing here is that both the Macan and Cayenne have been around for so long now that it’s hard to knock them off their perch. Everyone else has had to come out with some other unique selling point to try to push people towards their brand over the Germans. Most have gone down the full luxury route, trying to match Range Rover, which Porsche can’t really match, but haven’t ever tried to. Both models still keep their sporty feel, so you know you’re in a Porsche, but unless you’re willing to fork out for a Urus, you’re unlikely to be able to get that sort of feeling anywhere else.
Lamborghini Urus S – From around £190,000
You can be forgiven for not knowing the Urus S was even a thing, the launch of the updated Urus was kind of overshadowed by that of the Performante. We haven’t included said ‘Perf’ because it’s built to do what it says on the label – perform, and it’s hard to see that new suspension setup being a comfortable one.
The Urus S is using the same powertrain as the Performante but retains the previous Urus’s adaptive air suspension system for a more comfort-focused setup. The Urus S also pulls the new front and rear bumpers from the Performante for an updated look, adding to that some new wheels available from 21 to 23 inches.
The power increase from that Performante engine separates the Urus S from its main rival, the Cayenne Turbo GT, with a 656bhp V8, only 16hp more than the Cayenne, but a venomous figure no doubt with peak torque figures hitting 627lb-ft. The figures aren’t to be scoffed at, and with how good the Urus was already, you just know this will be a beast on the road.
You can pretty much guarantee all of that power is going to be wasted on most of the people buying the new Urus S though. The majority of Urus can be spotted sitting pretty in the affluent towns and cities of Britain, hitting the dizzying heights of 70mph at best.
Bentley Bentayga – From £155,665
Now we’re getting into real luxury. Since the Continental GTs launch back in the 00s, Bentley have improved hugely in their search for being one of, if not the most luxurious brand on the road. The Rolls-Royce Cullinan is realistically the only SUV that can beat the Bentayga, but you’re also looking at basically double the starting price, and an extremely divisive look, so there’s a big difference between the two.
You can’t feel the VW-ness in the Bentayga like you could in the early VW-made Bentleys, everything is refined to such a level that there’s just nothing that compares in this price bracket. The Bentayga is based on the same platform as the Cayenne – just like the Urus – so sizing can be limited, but Bentley has made the most of it. Whenever you step out of the Bentayga you feel refreshed, everything has been designed to be the least offensive, most comfortable experience.
If the Range Rover is the bar here, then the Bentayga is way over that bar if you’re looking for bespoke and luxury. If you try the Bentley and Land Rover configurators side by side, the customisation options Bentley gives you just knock Land Rover out of the park. The options really are ridiculous, adding extra after extra, there’s nothing notable that Land Rover offers you can’t add to the Bentley. You can spec something completely unique – the only comparables for customisation are Rolls-Royce and the Q Division at Aston Martin.
Aston Martin DBX707 – From £190,000
Speaking of Aston Martin, ‘The World’s Most Powerful Luxury SUV’ (a title that won’t/didn’t last long) the DBX 707 is a much better competitor to the Urus than what the regular DBX offered on launch. That power figure that the car is named after is a BIG one, and on launch was absolutely the most powerful luxury SUV on the market. With the Ferrari Purosangue on its way though, that title has pretty much gone so what else does the 707 offer?
Well, at first glance it definitely looks better than the regular DBX on the outside, with that huge grille drawing you in immediately. Some more sporty styling and that big rear splitter mean the 707 is absolutely in Urus territory now, but the main problem here is that interior. Apart from a mode selector dial in the centre console, nothing has really changed from the DBX. The old Mercedes tech is still there, along with a huge screen in the centre console that isn’t a touch screen somehow…
There’s no doubting the quality of the materials, and the fact that you know you could count the people that have worked on the interior, on one hand, adds that quality feel. The seats are comfortable and supportive, and the fact that this is a brand new platform, built by Aston Martin from the ground up, means that there is ample space inside – more than the Urus and Cayenne it’s competing with. Add to that the customisation options from the Q division and you can create an extremely unique car if that’s what you’re after.
Aston Martin has a niche, but with so many competitors offering better tech and interiors it’s becoming a hard sell. For a company that has been out of business so many times, they are in a safe spot right now, with one of the biggest brands in the world Mercedes taking interest and buying a bigger stake. That means Mercedes should be lending more of their tech to the British Marquee, which is exciting for the future. At the moment though, if you’re willing to make a compromise for something a little different the DBX 707 is that option.
Rolls-Royce Cullinan – From £280,000
Rolls-Royce has always been the peak of luxury, the craftsmanship and quality are completely unrivalled, and the Cullinan is no different. It may divide opinion cosmetically, with the black cab comparisons still lingering from way back in 2018, but there is absolutely no doubt the coachwork, materials and build are the peak of motoring.
After seeing them in a range of bespoke specifications, colours certainly do work well with the Cullinan rather than the Rolls-Royce staples of black and grey. The fact you can essentially customise almost every aspect of a new Rolls-Royce means you can create a car that is completely unique to you. You’re not here to see the infinite spec options though, you want to know how good the Cullinan is as an SUV, and the short answer is excellent. The off-road driving modes (yep, a Rolls-Royce off-road) work extremely well, pulling tech in from BMW to ensure if you ever do have to take your £300k+ car off the tarmac, it can handle it with aplomb.
The interior is as you’d expect from Rolls-Royce, beautifully upholstered leather, with sumptuously comfortable seating, drop-down screens in the back, and options for a champagne fridge and crystal flutes among many other comforts. There’s even a boatload of space in the boot, with options for additional add-ons like event seating, or even a full cocktail and nibbles suite so you can have your driver/butler prepare drinks and canapes while you’re enjoying the polo.
If ultimate luxury is what you’re after, a Cullinan is just about the peak, especially in the SUV sector. With prices ranging from £260,000-£450,000, there are plenty of options to choose from with a range of levels of spec.
Audi RSQ8 – From £109,085
The RSQ8 comes in pretty strong, doesn’t it? 591bhp is a big, big number, and is only around 60bhp behind its more expensive and sportier cousin the Lamborghini Urus, the numbers are so impressive in fact that the Audi set a lap record at the Nürburgring with a prototype in 2019.
The Audi is based on the same platform as the Urus, even down to using the same engine – with a less powerful tune of course – but it also has other relatives in the VW Group. The Audi Q7, VW Touareg, Bentley Bentayga and Porsche Cayenne are all distant family, so there is a limit on how much can be changed between them.
The aesthetics retain Audi’s distinctive style inside and out, sporting a very aggressive grille, big wheels, and plenty of sporty styling choices, the RSQ8 is very different to its more humble Q8 twin. The interior is a beautiful blend of modern feeling and high-quality materials, but everything does feel very similar to other models from the German brand, there are no wild styling or colour combinations here.
The RSQ8 might not be as wild as its Italian counterpart, but it’s also nearly half the price and flies much more under the radar. This will be a fantastic ‘do everything’ car, you could go subtle with black or grey paint and cruise around knowing you’re faster than pretty much everything else around you, or pick the loud new green Audi launched it in and make it obvious you’re driving a nearly 600bhp SUV.
Tesla Model X – From £73,135
The Tesla Model X is a weird fit for the SUV bracket, it doesn’t do off-roading and isn’t as big as some of the other cars on this list but that doesn’t mean it can’t compete. Tesla’s figures are always impressive, but if you choose the Model X Plaid you’re looking at an SUV with over 1000bhp, a 0-60 of 2.5 seconds, a quarter mile time of 9.9 seconds and a range of 333 miles. Unheard of in regular SUVs, they just can’t get close because of that electric powertrain. Obviously, fuel-powered cars can hit higher top speeds, but realistically the 0-60 is the big figure that matters in the day-to-day and 2.5 seconds is ridiculous.
Being electric, there’s much more storage space due to the lack of an engine, so there’s space in the ‘frunk’ as well as the boot, and plenty of it! If you opt for a 6 or 7 seat version the back two seats fold flat so you don’t lose any of that space when you need it.
The interior is one filled with space and technology, by now you’ll have seen that Teslas come equipped with a huge screen that combines all of your car’s controls and settings with the entertainment centre. The Model X follows the trend, with a new, more minimalist interior, adding an additional central screen for the passengers in the rear, along with a steering ‘yoke’ rather than a traditional wheel for the full futuristic feeling.
The minimalist look is something we spoke about with the BMW iX, with electric cars becoming more of a mode of transport than a driving experience you can truly enjoy. In Tesla’s case, the automated driving modes negate the need for a driver-focused cabin which is fair enough, but you can’t help but worry, with the 2030 combustion engine ban getting closer, that other manufacturers are going to follow suit and there won’t be any seriously enjoyable new cars on the market.
Ferrari Purosangue – From around £300,000
Ferrari is the pinnacle of motoring, there’s no doubting that. It’s one of the most recognisable brands on the planet and to be honest, they’re a bit late to the SUV party. The Purosangue, as hard as it is to pronounce, is bound to be a winner when it finally hits the road, adding to the very small number of SUVs with a V12 engine.
The title of ‘The World’s Most Powerful Luxury SUV’ will be on the move this year with the DBX getting knocked off its perch by the Ferraris V12, producing 715bhp, a whole 8bhp more… You can expect the power delivery to be very different to the DBX’s though, with the Aston running a twin-turbo V8 setup, and the Ferrari a naturally aspirated, 6.5L V12, so you know for a fact it will just keep pulling and pulling all the way through the power band.
If you take a look inside the Purosangue you’ll notice something very weird, there’s no big screen in the middle – unlike every other car on the market right now – a welcome change. Instead, both the driver and the passenger get individual screens, with a small central set of heating and car controls accessed by touch buttons that sits in the dash and along the centre console. That centre console helps maintain the cockpit feel you should have in a Ferrari, even into the back with the two rear seats.
With a starting price of around £300,000, the Purosangue is not a low-cost choice, if you put some decent options on the car you can easily hit £350-£400k very quickly. BUT, it is a Ferrari, and Ferrari offers such a unique experience with every car that justifying that price tag is never really an issue for a Ferrari fan. Add to that the Italian supercars, especially in red, have fantastic residuals – mainly due to rarity and the fact that you have to qualify to buy a new model, so used car prices are driven by demand.
Our Honourable Mentions
Volvo XC90, Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Maserati Levante, Polestar 3, Jaguar I-Pace, Lotus Eletre, Lexus RZ
There are plenty of other options we haven’t included in our list, the Polestar 3 is the pick of the ones to miss out though, with the first cars ready to hit the streets this year. That Swedish style is obvious throughout, and Polestar knows how to design a beautifully thought-out and comfortable car. The Polestar 2 has been a success for the company and with more models on the way their first SUV is looking to be a good one!