Over the last decade, many upscale car manufacturers have expanded their lineups with lower-priced models to attract shoppers who want the image a luxury vehicle projects as much as the posh features they come equipped with.
But that doesn’t mean upscale brands are ignoring the demand for top-line prestige models. That’s especially true on the SUV side of the marketplace, where utilities have taken longer to gain traction than in more affordable price categories.
But now that many of those prestige automakers have figured out how to integrate SUVs into their lineups while respecting the brand pedigree their buyers expect, there’s a little something for everyone – as long as you’ve got money to spend.
2023 Bentley Bentayga – $238,700
Introduced in Canada in the late 2010s, the Bentayga remains Bentley’s only SUV model in a lineup that otherwise consists of more traditional sedans and coupes.
Because prestige automakers like their models’ names to evoke exotic images, the Bentayga is named after a dramatic rock formation in Canary Islands.
Not that this SUV has the off-road chops to get anywhere near its namesake geological formation – it’s related to the Lamborghini Urus (which you’ll read about shortly) and the Porsche Cayenne, and is meant more for on-road comfort than crawling along dirt tracks.
As a reflection of the auto industry’s trend toward electrification, the Bentayga’s base configuration comes with a plug-in hybrid powertrain that is the thriftiest of the range and promises about 30 km of all-electric driving on a full charge.
At the other end of the spectrum is the Bentayga Speed, whose 12-cylinder engine can scoot this bulky utility to 100 km/h in about 3.5 seconds.
New to the Bentayga lineup for 2023 is a long-wheelbase option that adds rear-seat space and four-wheel steering for better agility.
2024 Ferrari Purosangue – $500,000 (approx.)
The jury is out on whether the Purosangue is actually an SUV, but it’s certainly the closest thing to one that Ferrari has ever offered.
Purosangue is Italian for “thoroughbred,” a reference to Ferrari’s prancing-horse logo and possibly an attempt by the marketing department to head off accusations the company is straying from its sports car roots in order to boost profits.
In a bid to appease Ferrari loyalists, the Purosangue will derive its 725 hp from a V12 engine with no turbocharging or fancy hybrid trickery. All-wheel drive is standard along with an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission.
The Purosangue boasts near-perfect 50/50 (front/rear) weight distribution, thanks to the engine’s placement behind the front wheels. While that layout isn’t ideal for maximizing interior space, Ferrari promises useful cabin space for four adults and 473L of cargo capacity.
Ferrari sources the Purosangue’s active suspension system from Canadian engineering company Multimatic; it lowers the car at high speeds to improve handling and electronically limits body lean in aggressive cornering without the need for anti-roll bars.
Watch for the Ferrari Purosangue to be priced around $500,000 when it goes on sale in Canada later this year.
2023 Lamborghini Urus – $270,311
If there’s any precedent for a Ferrari SUV, it’s the Lamborghini Urus, which came to market in 2018 riding on a platform shared with Audi, Bentley, and Porsche, but wearing styling inspired by Lambo’s sports car models.
While Lamborghini is arguably best known for V12-powered cars like the Countach, Diablo, and Murcielago, the Urus gets a twin-turbo V8 that backs up its high-revving horsepower with 627 lb-ft of torque.
For 2023, the Urus gets a modest performance boost, adding 16 hp for a new total of 657 hp. There’s also a new Performante configuration that trades the Urus’s standard air suspension for lighter-weight steel springs that lower the ride height and raise the price by nearly $40,000. Either way, the Urus can hit triple-digit speeds in about three seconds, and carbon ceramic brakes promise impressive stopping power.
Under the Urus’s racy styling, Lambo says you’ll find a surprisingly practical 626L of cargo capacity and useful space for two adults with optional rear bucket seats, or three with the standard rear bench setup.
2023 Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 – $220,100
The most affordable vehicle on our list is the Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600, the fully dressed version of the brand’s GLS full-size SUV.
The Maybach GLS 600 builds on the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63, using a less-potent version of its twin-turbo 4.0L V8. While it’s still quick, the GLS 600’s focus is on interior luxury, rather than the AMG model’s all-out performance.
Mercedes says the Maybach GLS 600 is quieter inside thanks in part to a rigid partition between the passenger and cargo compartments. The company says the interior design was partially inspired by yachts, especially when finished in optional white leather with rose gold piping.
You’ll also enjoy real wood trim and – if you option in the Air Balance package – a perfume vaporizer that spritzes a specially formulated fragrance with notes of gentle leather and spicy tea.
The Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 ditches the regular GLS’s third-row seats and upgrades the second row with ventilation, adjustable leg supports and backrests, and more shoulder and legroom. Rear-seat occupants also get their own air conditioning system with separate temperature controls for the left and right chairs. And to make it easier to get in and out, the Maybach GLS’s air suspension lowers itself by 25 mm and electric running boards deploy whenever a door is opened.
2023 Rolls-Royce Cullinan – $411,250
Few brands do over-the-top luxury like Rolls-Royce, which named its first-ever SUV model after an ultra-valuable diamond that is part of the British monarchy’s collection of Crown jewels.
We’d argue the brand’s styling language doesn’t translate terribly well to an SUV shape, but the Cullinan’s cabin promises as much comfort and coddling as any Rolls-Royce model. When you choose the available two-place rear seat, the centre console houses a refrigerated drinks cabinet complete with champagne flutes and decanter.
The cargo area, which offers as much as 600L of space, is separated from the passenger compartment by a glass partition. According to Rolls-Royce, it was inspired by “the age when one never travelled with one’s luggage,” and helps keep cabin noise to a minimum.
One of the Cullinan’s coolest interior features is one you can only use when you’re not inside the car. The optional “viewing suite” is a pair of seats that folds out of the lower portion of the two-piece tailgate along with a little table, so you have somewhere to set down your champagne.
As a vehicle designed to tackle light off-road driving, the Cullinan comes with a height-adjustable air suspension, an off-road drive mode, and a night vision system that can detect both wildlife and pedestrians. Power comes from a 6.75L twin-turbo V12 borrowed from BMW and tuned specifically for the Cullinan to make as much as 591 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque.