Tesla Model X
Tesla reckons that its all-electric Model X is the safest, fastest and most capable sport utility vehicle in history. With all-wheel drive and battery options that can give you well over 300 miles of range, the Model X has ample seating for seven adults and all of their gear. And it can be almost ludicrously fast too. It's a pretty unique proposition.
Whatever Model X variant you choose, you'll get four-wheel drive, courtesy of a pair of electric motors, one powering the rear wheels and one for the front pair. In the 75D variant which offers a 259-mile driving range, this combination works with a 75kWh battery and generates 328bhp. In the 90D derivative, a 90kWh battery is used, there's a 303mile driving range and you get a combined output of 376bhp. Finally, in the top P100D flagship model, there's a 100kWh battery, a 336-mile driving range and a huge 691bhp output thanks to what Tesla calls a 'Ludicrous Speed Upgrade' that makes this variant capable of rest to 60mph in just 2.9s on the way to 155mph flat out.
On the move, you'll be impressed by the easy seamless way this Model X gains its speed, though the acceleration does tail off noticeably at higher speeds. The regenerative brakes take some getting used to: come off the throttle and it's as if you've pressed the brake. What this means is that most of the time, you won't need to use the brakes at all. 'Smart Air Suspension' is standard but many still seem to find the ride quality quite firm.
The Model X may not immediately strike you as a classically-styled SUV but it's certainly obvious from the start that this is a much more practical proposition than Tesla's original offering, the Model S. The Model X's design party piece lies with the gull-wing 'Falcon Wing' rear doors that make entering the vehicle something of a theatrical event. Tesla says they can open in a confined space too, thanks to a double-hinged design (there's a hinge on the roof and another above the window line) that allows the doors to raise up with as little as 11 inches of clearance outwards. There are also ultrasonic sensors that lie beneath the bodywork so you can't open the door into an immovable object.
The front doors open conventionally but are electrically powered, with the driver's door opening automatically when you unlock the car with the key fob. Step inside and a press of the brake pedal will see the doors close behind you. With both doors open, there's brilliant access into and out of the car, so, for example, strapping a childseat into the rear is far easier than it would be in a conventional SUV. The Model X comes as standard with two rows of seats. If you specify the optional third seating row, the middle row seats move forward at the push of a button to aid access into the third row. Adults will fit into the very back but will probably need the middle row slid forward a bit if they're to travel in any real comfort.
The Model X is a very desirable thing. It's also a very expensive thing. Still, if you were already going to spend upwards of £80,000 on a luxury SUV, it's certainly a more rational choice than something more conventional in this segment.
Caveats are few. Yes, battery charging does require a little more thought than just topping up a tank and if a car is shared between a married couple for instance, you'll both need to be on the ball with it. Other than that, there's very little not to like. The interior is adventurous, the packaging is efficient and if you're able to go for the 90D or P100D models, the acceleration is quite simply astonishing. Quite simply, the Model X sets a fresh standard for what cars of this kind can do.Click here to find out more about our Tesla Model X range
Land Rover Range Rover
So many cars claim to be unique but the Range Rover really is, continuing to set the standard in the super-luxury SUV sector. This improved MK4 model gets the option of petrol/electric Plug-in hybrid power and mild hybrid power for the very first time and all variants get a redesigned cabin with a more intuitive 'Touch Pro Duo' infotainment system. Otherwise, things are much as before, this aluminium-bodied luxury SUV good enough to properly combine the imperious qualities of a top luxury saloon with off piste abilities that would be limited only by the skills of its driver. A Rolls Royce in the rough, there's nothing quite like it.
Did we ever imagine we'd see a Range Rover with a four cylinder engine? Probably not but the sophisticated aluminium underpinnings of this fourth generation design have made that possible. The four cylinder powerplant in question is the 2.0-litre petrol/electric hybrid unit used in the Plug-in P400e version, but we'll get to that shortly because most customers are going to want something more conventional beneath the bonnet. The most popular unit is the 275hp SDV6 six cylinder diesel, an engine that develops a hefty 625Nm of torque, good enough to send you to sixty in 7.4s on the way to 130mph to the accompaniment of a growly but rather appealing engine note. If you want more, an equally familiar lump to regular buyers is the 4.4-litre SDV8 diesel which offers 339hp and 700Nm of torque, enough to dispatch the sixty sprint in 6.5s on the way to a top speed of 135mph.
The few who'd consider a conventional petrol-powered Range Rover are now offered a straight-six mild hybrid P400 variant with 400hp and mild hybrid technology. And, as before , there's the 5.0-litre supercharged V8, available either with 525bhp (in the 'P525' variants) - or 565bhp in top 'SVAutobiography Dynamic' 'P565' guise.
As for that Plug-in hybrid, well it's badged 'P400e PHEV' and develops 404hp; enough grunt to get you to 60mph in 6.4s en route to 137mph.
Off road, things are much as before; supremely capable in other words. There's a full time 'intelligent 4WD system' with a two-speed transfer 'box (that you can shift down into on the move at up to 37mph), plus the option of Land Rover's very clever All-Terrain Progress Control system. Here, the driver can input a desired speed without any pedal inputs. The ATPC set-up will then maintain that, reducing the driver's workload and keeping the car's composure over steep gradients, rough terrain and low-grip surfaces.
On to design. There are no exterior changes to this updated model but it remains an elegant thing, the classy panelwork draped around a lightweight all-aluminium monocoque body structure. Inside though, quite a lot has changed. As before, there's an optional long wheelbase bodystyle if you feel the interior of the standard short wheelbase model to be insufficiently spacious for your needs. Either way, the cabin now features wider, softer seats that at the back, free up an additional 186mm of legroom. Rear seat folk can also specify a massaging system and can make use of up to 17 media connection points. If you need even more rear space, then as before, there's also a LWB version of this car offering an extra 200mm in length, all of which goes for the benefit of rear seat folk.
Up front, the key interior change with his revised model lies with the addition of the brand's latest Touch Pro Duo infotainment system which features a pair of high-definition 10-inch touchscreens that form the centrepiece of the minimalist cabin. Otherwise, things are much as before. As ever, we particularly like the way that the car's air suspension system automatically drops to its lowest 'Access Height' when parked to make entry and exit easier.This car's substantial size isn't enough to permit the fitment of the couple of occasional rear boot-mounted seats you'll find in a Land Rover Discovery or (optionally) in a Range Rover Sport. Still, buyers of this top Range Rover model have never seemed to want them. Luggage room has always been a greater priority, so I should point out that there's 505-litres of it - which may be a little less than you were expecting. Perhaps that has something to do with the greater priority that Land Rover's designers have given to space for rear seat passengers.
An in summary? Well, from princes to politicians, from rock gods to rock climbers, from footballers to farmers, the Range Rover has always appealed to a more diverse group of customers than any other car. As you'd expect it would. This is, after all, far more than just the world's finest luxury SUV, instead unchallenged as four vehicles within one - an everyday luxury saloon, a weekend leisure vehicle, a high-performance long distance private jet and a working cross-country conveyance.
Drive it through a river, drive it to the opera: it's as happy either way, beautifully built, gorgeously finished and astonishingly quick. True, this car is never quite going to be all things to all people but it has perhaps moved as close to fulfilling that remit as any modern car is ever likely to get. Makes you proud to be British doesn't it.Click here to find out more about our Land Rover Range Rover range
Bentley has been clever to spot a gaping hole in the SUV market above the ubiquitous Range Rover and have developed this Bentayga model to fill it. Originally launched with a huge 600PS W12 petrol engine, it's also now available in diesel form, with a petrol V8, with Plug-in hybrid power or even in wild W12 Speed guise. Either way, it can go properly off-road and packs some impressive statistics.
It's fair to say that engines will dominate the driving experience of the Bentayga. Most will want the V8 diesel which generates 435PS, enough to make this the world's fastest diesel SUV, rest to 62mph dispatched in just 4.8s en route to 168mph. Plus there's an awesme 900Nm of torque, so almost nothing will stand in this car's way. The first alternative is a 542bhp 4.0-litre petrol V8. Or, if you prioritise efficiency, there's a turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol Plug-in hybrid model which has an all-electric driving range of 31 miles. Go for the W12 petrol option and you get a 6.0-litre 12 cylinder unit with 608PS and 900Nm of torque. Despite this variant's prodigious 2,422kg kerb weight, 62mph from rest takes just 4.1s - faster than a Porsche 911 Carrera. Flat out, you'll be doing 187mph, a figure way beyond any of its competitors. And you can go faster still by getting the W12 engine in uprated 635PS form in the flagship Bentayga Speed model, which makes 62mph from rest in just 3.9s on the way to 190mph.
On all Bentaygas, to make sure that this big brute doesn't embarrass itself around corners, there's a fast acting 48v electric anti-roll bar system. Unlike conventional fixed anti-roll bars, this allows the Bentayga to remain supple over bumpy roads whilst still resisting roll around the twisties. It also ensures the big Bentley has plenty of ability off the beaten track even if most owners will probably never try it out. There's even the ability to raise and lower the car on its standard air suspension, perfect to make hooking up a horsebox or speedboat that much easier.
On to design. At 5.14 meters long, it's bigger than even a long wheelbase Range Rover, although slightly lower to give a sportier feel.
Step inside and you can really tell why the Bentayga weighs so much despite the high tech chassis. Everywhere you look, there's acres of leather and wood covering every surface imaginable, while if something looks like metal, it will be.
Step inside and you can really tell why the Bentayga weighs so much despite the high tech chassis. Everywhere you look there's acres of leather and wood covering every surface imaginable, while if something looks like metal, it will be. The sweep of the dashboard is said to echo the wings of the Bentley badge and certainly looks very attractive - assuming you've chosen a tasteful colour scheme. Infotainment is taken care of by freshly designed 8" touchscreen system that promises a class-leading navigation system along with on-board Wi-Fi for mobile devices and a removable 10.2" Bentley Entertainment Tablet for rear seat passengers.
Bentley had but one goal when they decided to create the Bentayga; to create the best SUV in the world. You could argue that in setting the price as high as they did, the Anglo-German luxury brand had an easy time of it. After all, chuck enough cash at something and it's bound to come out good, right? In reality, there have been plenty of more expensive cars that have been anything but good. The Bentley is not one of those vehicles.
Sure, the W12 petrol version is more than a little extravagant, but there are plenty of markets where fuel is significantly cheaper than in the UK. On these shores, the diesel will be the mre popular choice. What you can't argue with is the sumptuousness of the interior, cutting edge chassis systems and astonishing levels of performance. As for the looks, it may be odd to see Bentley styling cues on an SUV but overall it works. Expect the Bentayga to be a big success.Click here to find out more about our Bentley Bentayga range