Luxury SUVs have become a staple of premium car makers' line-ups, with at least one from every major player, and each accounting for a healthy chunk of its manufacturer's global profits.
These are cars in great demand, and rightly highly desired for their combination of versatility, comfort, refinement and performance both on- and off the road. Genuine 4x4 ability is common amongst them, as is the upmost in luxury, space and refinement. And amongst the many factors motivating buyers, stylish design and brand allure are becoming increasingly important. So who makes the best of 'em?
An increasing number of 'Range Rover'-branded derivatives have turned what used to be one car into a family of Land Rover models, but the Range Rover Sport might be the most important car in that new family as well as the most broadly talented and capable. It's one of the most versatile upmarket SUVs on the market, and lives up to the word 'luxury' like few others.
It's not quite as large or as spacious as its bigger sibling and isn't the lightest car of its kind, but the Range Rover Sport more than makes up for it with its remarkable breadth of talent. That one car can offer such a complete catalogue of abilities is remarkable, and among them is outstanding offroad ability, and real on-road handling dynamism and driver appeal for car of this size. First-rate cabin richness, refinement and luxury ambience also come as standard, with Land Rover’s latest dual-screen infotainment system having been fitted to the car as part of a mid-life facelift.
The car's roster of qualities is certainly one for which Land Rover charges a tidy premium, even over prices typical of this rarefied class; although Land Rover softens the blow for some with the Range Rover Sport's mid-range P400e plug-in hybrid powertrain which should bring down costs of ownership significantly for fleet drivers. Land Rover's latest six-cylinder Ingenium petrol- and diesel engines have swollen the car's powertrain armoury more widely of late, and there are now 'D250', 'D300' and 'D350' mild-hybrid diesel options in addition to the three previously-existing petrol- or petrol-electric choices.
The kerbweight necessary to provide the Range Rover Sport's offroad ability does dull its performance and fuel-efficiency compared with rivals, while rolling refinement can be adversely affected if you choose the biggest of Land Rover’s optional alloy wheels; but there's still plenty of outright pace, richness and audible theatre on offer in the supercharged V8 models.
Even so, to drive one of these cars is to quickly realise that some prices are worth paying. The Range Rover Sport really does it all, and may well be all the luxury SUV you'll ever want or need.
The pace of development of the luxury electric car is something to behold right now. Five years ago, an all-electric option would barely have threatened to get to the top of this list; but today the inherent qualities of electrified propulsion are really being brought to bear by the very best luxury EVs on the market, and there can be no doubt that the Audi E-tron Quattro is one of them.