Luxury carmakers breaking SUV barriers

SUVs claim a record market share at 36.4% last year, up by 2.5% when compared to 2017

by RAHIMI YUNUS/ pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

THE fast growth of the SUV market globally is too tempting to be ignored, with sports and luxury carmakers — which normally make saloon cars — now wanting a piece of the fortune.

In the local mass market, SUVs have proven to be a success for domestic carmakers Proton Holdings Bhd and Perusahaan Otomobil Kedua Sdn Bhd (Perodua).

In the first half of 2019 (1H19), Proton sold 15,194 units of its X70, while Perodua delivered 15,089 units of the Aruz.

According to JATO Dynamics Ltd, a London-based automotive business intelligence global supplier, 29.77 million units of SUVs were sold last year, a 6.8% volume growth or almost 1.9 million units more than in 2017.

SUVs claimed a record market share at 36.4%, up by 2.5% when compared to 2017.

China led SUV sales in 2018 at 10.35 million units, followed by the US (7.75 million) and Europe (5.42 million).

Automobili Lamborghini SpA, Bentley Motors Ltd and Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd have dabbled into the SUV territory, and of course, without compromising their ethos, design language and performance.

Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd and Ferrari NV are also jumping on the bandwagon, with their first SUV models expected to be launched soon or within the next two to three years.

Aston Martin is expected to launch its first SUV — the DBX — by year-end, with 4,000 units of targeted annual sales.

Ferrari is working on an SUV under the code name “Purosangue”, which is expected to arrive in 2022.

However, not all carmakers are interested to get into the SUV market.

For instance, McLaren Group Ltd had indicated the Surrey, England-based automaker is shutting its doors to SUVs.

The company is concerned that SUVs would dilute the brand and the ultimate driving experience it pursues.

The SUV market is expected to continue growing, albeit at a slower pace.

The Malaysian Reserve looks at some of the notable performance, luxury SUV models that set a new benchmark in four-wheel-drive car making.

Lamborghini Urus

The luxury supercar maker introduced the Urus, which was dubbed the world’s first super SUV, at its headquarters in Sant’Agata Bolognese, Italy, on Dec 4, 2017.

The Urus, another term for aurochs or large fighting bulls, adopts Lamborghini’s DNA in the Aventador S.

Despite critics saying Urus would “cheapen” the brand image, Lamborghini remains undeterred and ready to benefit from the rising global interest in SUVs.

Powered by a V8 twin-turbo engine, the first in a Lamborghini, the Urus — touted as the world’s first super SUV — is capable of going from 0-100kph in 3.6 seconds.

The Italian marque delivered 2,693 units of the Urus in 1H19, helping to double up its sales in the first six months.

The Urus outnumbered the Huracan and Aventador, becoming the company’s best-selling model.

JH Italia Sdn Bhd, of Lamborghini Kuala Lumpur (KL), forecast to sell about 20 units of the Urus every year.

Bentley Bentayga V8

The award-winning Bentley model is powered by its new-generation fourlitre V8 engine which can deliver 550hp and 770Nm.

Launched in late 2017, the Bentayga V8 accelerates from zero to 100kph in 4.5 seconds, zero to 160kph in 9.8 seconds and boasts a top speed of 290kph. Such power comes with the largest and most powerful braking system ever fitted to a Bentley, and the largest front brake system available on any production car.

For the first time, optional carbon-ceramic brakes are offered for the Bentayga.

The SUV is also equipped with the world’s first electric active roll control technology that utilises a 48V system.

Bentley, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, sold 10,000 cars in 2018.

CEO Adrian Hallmark said the Bentayga has accounted for 50% of the brand’s total sales, helping the company to weather the so-called “worst year” in the Crewe, England-based carmaker’s history.

Rolls-Royce Cullinan

The BMW AG-owned British luxury carmaker has taken a little bit of time to introduce the SUV model with the debut of the Cullinan in May 2018.

Rolls-Royce launched its first ever SUV, the Cullinan, in an attempt to attract well-heeled millennials, as well as family-oriented customers to the higher-end bracket.

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars KL director Anas Zawawi Khalid said the Cullinan is the only SUV that he feels can be considered as super luxury, befitting for ultra-high-net-worth individuals and royals as a functional and family-oriented SUV.

The Cullinan is equipped with a 6.75litre, V12 twin-turbo engine, powering the car from a standstill to 100kph in 5.1 seconds and with a top speed of 250kph.

The power train produces a maximum torque of 850Nm at 1,600rpm and releases 341g of carbon dioxide per km.