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.
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.