The Petrolhead Corner

DBX, RS Q8, Urus… The Law of Hyper-SUVs (and a Personal Take on Them…)

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calendar | ic_dehaze_black_24px By Brice Goulard | ic_query_builder_black_24px 6 min read |

Sports SUVs… What a surprising combination of words. A few years ago, you would have thought that these two words were antagonists, a contradiction in terms. Before marketing teams of luxury car brands even invented the concept of SUVs, no one would have ever thought of an off-roader capable of putting its wheels on a racetrack. But recent launches show that the market for such cars is booming… Aston Martin, Maserati, Lamborghini and soon Ferrari (*£^=@#!!!, pardon my French) are all entering this market. Good or not…? That’s up to you. Recently introduced models seem to have found their clientele. On my side, I know what I think about them.

Aston Martin to launch the DBX

It is now official! After months of teasers, Aston Martin, a brand that defines sports-elegance, has just unveiled the DBX, its first-ever SUV (and in Beijing, China… just so you know who’s the target). This car is a massive novelty for the 106-year manufacturer, a true first for the brand. Numbers are impressive: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 (the same as the DB11 and Vantage), 542bhp, 0 to 60mph in 4.3 seconds and a top speed of 181mph… yes, just shy of 300kph in a 4,949-pound machine…

Design-wise, the DBX adapts the brand’s stylistic codes – front grill and duck-tail rear-end mainly – to a classically proportioned, large-size SUV. Certainly not badly shaped, it still lacks some of the finesse and elegance of a DB11 or the restrained aggressivity of a DBS Superleggera. The interior, on the other hand, is superbly crafted and designed, especially in this tan-coloured leather version in the official pictures.

The Aston Martin DBX, just like other hyper-SUVs, comes with the necessary high-tech features, such as an active central differential and an electronic rear limited-slip differential, or an adaptive triple volume air suspension system combined with a 48v electric anti-roll control system – all of that, you’ve understood, to fight weight and gain in agility.

More details on the Aston Martin DBX at petrolicious.com.

New 591bhp Audi RS Q8 just revealed

While BMW and its motorsport department have gained popularity with RWD coupes, Audi’s RS division has been, from its very beginning, focusing on 4WD models – remember the 1993 RS2, an estate car co-developed with Porsche? So seeing an RS version of the brand’s high-end SUV, the Q8, isn’t a surprise and (almost) makes sense.

The new RS Q8 is quite something… It feels almost more aggressive than the brand’s mid-engine supercar – the R8 – especially in this debatable choice of neon-green (grey and black also available). Still, Audi’s version of the Urus – reality is that both share the same base and engine – is packed with impressive features and specifications. 591bph from a twin-turbocharged, 4.0-litre V8 engine, a 0-to-62mph in 3.8 seconds (that would have been Supercar level 10 years ago) and a top speed of 189mph. Once again, and just like the DBX, this is quite impressive from a 2.3-ton block of German steel. Audi is even claiming to have completed a 7m 42s lap of the Nurburgring Nordschleife.

This car, like its counterparts, has all the possible technologies to (try to) fight the law of physics… And at the same time, it is fitted with 22-inch wheels or even optional 23-inch, which weigh 45kg each with a tyre fitted – and that is unsprung mass, travelling at nearly 190mph… Madness or technical achievement, I’ll leave the verdict up to you.

More details on the new Audi RS Q8, at www.evo.co.uk.

Testing the Lamborghini Urus, off-road and on track

When your name is Lamborghini and you enter the SUVs market by claiming to have “the sportiest SUV ever created”, you should expect reviewers to be critical… and to put these big 22-inch wheels both off-road and on-road – or on-track, to be precise.

This is what Top Gear has done… Are the technical tricks such as the electronic rear limited-slip differential, adaptive suspensions or 4-wheel steering enough to bring agility to this 2.2-ton (dry-weight, that is) behemoth? Apparently, this sort of works and the Urus appears to be quite impressive on track… But I’ll let you watch the video review and discover the conclusion of the reviewer.

Video thanks to topgear.com.

A personal take on hyper-SUVs

First of all, I’m sorry if I offend anyone who loves these cars… This is my own, very personal take on the concept and I fully understand if you disagree with me. But as you’ve seen, I’m not really enthusiastic about these hyper-sport SUVs. They are certainly great machines to drive, with impressive performance and comfort, but to me, they don’t make a lot of sense. They try to combine two entirely opposite things: comfort and off-road capacities on one side, performance and sports-car feelings on the other.

Remember what Colin Chapman, founder of Lotus cars, once said: “light is right” (even though Lotus, according to Clarkson, stands for “lots of trouble usually serious“.) Weight is the enemy of handling and performance. Whatever the tricks developed by car manufacturers, the laws of physics can’t be beaten and a high centre of gravity will, inevitably, have a bad effect on how the car handles in corners, on the inertia, on the responsiveness of the steering… And the worse thing is that these heavyweight machines imply larger brakes, larger suspensions, larger tires, larger chassis, which all add to the weight of the car, which is then counteracted by even more power… a vicious circle.

An artistic rendering of the Purosangue, Ferrari’s upcoming SUV… In short, my own concept of a nightmare! (image by Autocar)

I don’t really understand these high-sports-SUVs, mainly because they will be mostly driven in city centres and on highways, where you obviously want comfort and/or agility. So apart from the status factor, and the pleasure of having some power under your right foot in a straight line, these massive cars, with their massive engines, will never be sports cars. If you want a sports car, get a 911 or an M4. If you want an SUV with enough power and comfort, get a Land Rover.

Today, producing cars with over 500bph is easy. Increase the pressure of the turbochargers and voilà… But creating a car that is connected, balanced and that handles in a sporty way – and not by the means of adaptive toys – is a far more complex science. And in these days of CO2 emissions control and reduction of fuel consumption, I really don’t see the point of these fast-SUVs shaped like bricks. For the price of a DBX (around EUR 200,000 without options), I suggest you get a V8 Vantage or a 911 for when you don’t need to drive but just want to drive, and add to that a Land Rover or an X5 for the boring rides… Well, that’s just my two cents.

12 responses

  1. There is and only has ever been one of these cars. It is The Range Rover. And it is NOT an SUV. That term is an abomination invented by people who think “luxury is making something bigger”. We are all polluted by the very idea.

  2. This is becoming more about cars than watches. Someone is indulging themselves too much!

  3. There are two factors which have really been harmful not only to cars, but to modern civilization in general. 1) Green hysteria embraced by phoney politicians 2) Rise of thought police controlled China as a major market. Both have caused great harm to the world economically, politically, environmentally, aesthetically, intellectually, privacy-wise, and on individuality.

    HOWEVER, much, much worse for the car than this SUV’s (in their defence they are SPORT Utility Vehicles) is the rise of electric car delusion. These high speed soulless appliances are useless at dropping carbon emissions if that is the goal. The only place that is true is in 100% hydro electric British Columbia, Canada where I live. Everywhere else is a lie. They are expensive, boring cons.

    Yesterday I saw a matinee of Ford v Ferrari and I am fired up on the greatness, romance, and humanity of gasoline powered works of art. I saw so many Teslas as I drove home in my old school original series 911, imagining I was Ken Miles looking for the “perfect lap” — and I was sad for these empty fools as I ripped by them and shifted at redline.

  4. Brice, you are 100% right. Perfectly irrational logic of those high end brands : More weight offset by yet more power in order to match the performance of truly sports cars is a vicious circle process. Except for the big profits resulting from those vehicles, which otherwise make no sense at all.
    As the French speaking Swiss say “SUV” stands for véhicule “Sans Utilité Véritable”. And the bigger the SUV gets the truer it is.
    Appreciated saucerkings’ comment as well. Thank you.

  5. I think because of the brands involved and styling we are meant to think Sport as in motorsport but they are just a luxury van, perhaps the Sport is golf because you have room to carry several sets of clubs. They are perfect for modern living, squeezing into tight parking spots and doing huge amounts of supermarket shopping. So cheap to buy and run , so ecologically friendly, why would anyone want a small hatchback?

  6. Agree with saucerkings comments.
    I tell a everyone I know that even if all the cars in the world were electric we still need oil. Why? Because oil makes the roads, paint for the cars, car tires (and in Canada we have two sets one for winter which is 6 months here), seat fabric, cushioning, the PVC containers for the batteries, the neoprene wiper blades, the PVC for all the electric components, and it goes on and on and on.
    What would that moronic Swedish teenager have to say about these SUV’s??

  7. I decided not to comment on saucerkings idiocy but peter j just crossed a line.
    Would the management please delete both comments?

  8. Dear Author, I could not agree more!! Finally, someone openly said it (even though on a horology website;-). My thinking is actually harsher. You mention the technicalities, so I won’t mention them. The worst is the reason these are being made—fashion, earnings. These stand against the purpose of these brands. SUV Ferrari, Jaguar, Bentley, Rolls Royce, Lamborghini, Maserati, Porsche, even Alfa Romeo. Even BMW and Audi. Even the “fake”, little Range Rovers… They will never be off-roaders, they cease to be sports cars. Also, using Clarkson’s words (even thou I generally despise the guy:): they are not making cars they want, they are making cars the market tells them to. Sure, that is business, about making money. But do these brands really need these silly cars to balance the books??

    Just another guy: YES!! If you want a UV you get a massively prestigious, top of the range Range Rover, get it upgraded by Overfinch of you need that sort of thing, and you have the best car ever. Proper utility vehicle. Very luxurious and powerful. I’m sure people who buy Ferraris and Rolls Royce a can afford two cars in their garage…

  9. To conclude my own thoughts: get the best SV, whichever it is for you, Huracan, Huayra, GT3, F8, and the best UV, the Range Rover. SUVs are like Tesco offer, 2 in 1, neither really works. SUVs are for people who can’t afforde to focused toys, and need to have a bit of everything, a compromise. People like me.

  10. Auto deportivo SUV que más?
    Casa rodante?
    Paracaídas para frenar?
    Alas para volar?
    Que más hace falta para conformar a un millonario y todo eso para circular por la ciudad cuando en mi ciudad veo esos vehículos pienso que desperdicio

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