Prior to the 1990s, sport-utility vehicles were essentially enclosed pickup trucks, and while a few were sold to large families, most were used for commercial or recreational purposes.
Today, following the advent and subsequent assimilation of car-based crossover models, there’s almost literally an SUV in every driveway in America, and the genre now out-sells passenger cars.
How widespread is the SUV’s domination of the contemporary car market? Last year, a trio of staunchly car-only brands embraced the inevitable and boarded the SUV bandwagon, with the Jaguar F-Pace, Maserati Levante and the ultra-exotic Bentley Bentayga that starts at around $230,000.
And other exotic-car companies are just about to get into the act, with the equally costly Rolls-Royce Cullinan, and Lamborghini Urus coming for 2019.
But back in 2002 when Porsche was readying the introduction of its midsize Cayenne, the idea of a plush and sporty — not to mention costly — sport-utility was something of a gamble. Not only was it the iconic sports carmaker’s first SUV, but its first four-door model of any kind and the brand’s stalwarts were on the verge of an uprising.
But enthusiasts and new customers alike soon warmed up to the Cayenne, and now SUVs (including the more recently released Macan) account for around 64 percent of all Porsche vehicle sales in the U.S.
And now two more exotic car companies have announced their plans to enter the upscale people-moving market, Aston Martin and Ferrari.
Best known in some circles as being cinematic secret agent James Bond’s car brand of choice, Aston Martin has stayed true to its mission of building refined and driver-oriented motorcars. However, to paraphrase the title of a 007 film, it’s never say never again, as the coachbuilder is planning to add an SUV to its portfolio.
Based on the sleekly cast DBX concept that debuted at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, insiders expect a choice of two powerful engines, a 5.2-liter twin-turbocharged V12 with around 500 horsepower and a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 with about 600 horses; a plug-in hybrid and full-electric powertrain are also said to be in the works for a future model year. Bond’s future family car is anticipated to launch sometime in 2019 and carry a sticker price between $195,000 and $263,000.
And from the “hell freezes over” department, the legendary sports car maker Ferrari recently confirmed it’s planning a super-sporty SUV of its own to go on sale by 2021.
Reports suggest it won’t be big and boxy, but rather will be a tall and comely five-door coupe-like hatchback. It’s reported to rely heavily on aluminum construction as a weight-saving measure, and will feature rear-opening so-called “suicide” back doors, which should allow for easy access to the second-row seats.
A twin-turbocharged V8 engine will no doubt deliver ample power, with all-wheel-drive coming standard. A gas-electric hybrid version is also said to be in the works.
That the as-yet unnamed crossover SUV will handle like a Ferrari — even one that’s built to accommodate one or more child seats affixed in the rear — is pretty much a given. If you have to ask, you probably won’t be able to afford it, however, with a sticker price likely to land in the mid-$300,000 range.