We love categorization, don’t we? We must always define exactly who or what something or someone is before we can be satisfied. Whether by gender, race, political persuasion, religion, society has always done great things when we reduce to base characteristics and put everyone into their neat little boxes.
Cars are like this too. We have definitions for compact, subcompact, full-size, and midsize cars – but the definitions are always in flux. Crossovers and SUVs are their own Linnaean nightmare – and don’t get me started on how to define luxury. It used to be 10 steers worth of leather and enough road isolation to allow for delicate medical procedures in the backseat, but times have changed. The 2022 Genesis GV70 is a different look at tall car luxury.
Bentley Motors’ initial attempt at an SUV did wonders for its volume. While its status as an automaker catering exclusively to the rich keeps annual production totals exceptionally low, the Bentayga now accounts for almost half of its total output. After the model’s introduction in 2016, the Bentley’s annual deliveries shot up 33 percent in Europe.
That wasn’t a coincidence.
Ever since Porsche’s massive success with the Cayenne (introduced in 2002, if you can believe it), super-premium marques have been hunting for a way to make expensive crossovers work equally well for them. If you’re seeking supportive evidence, look no further than the Lamborghini Urus, Rolls-Royce Cullinan, Aston Martin DBX, or Ferrari Purosangue. Bentley’s Bentayga also qualifies, though the company has a slight lead over the field, giving it the opportunity continue capitalizing on the segment by introducing another model — just like Porsche did with the Macan.
The race to fill every nook and niche within the crossover market is on. No gap between existing models is too small, as consumer demand for tall wagons seems insatiable. A crossover for every purse, right?
Cadillac has often been seen as trailing broad trends over the decades, and fittingly the lux brand from GM has been sedan-heavy of late. Still, the midsize XT5 has been selling well, so shrinking it a bit to fit more wallets makes sense. Thus, this 2019 Cadillac XT4 has appeared. Will it, like the marketers claimed years and years ago, become the standard of the world?
Around these digital pages, Buick gets a bad rap. Some have negative connotations of Buick as an old person’s car (disclaimer, my paternal grandfather was a Buick man) or hold grudges simply because the brand was continued while Oldsmobile and Pontiac were killed off during the Great Recession (disclaimer, my father was an Oldsmobile man), seems few have good things to say about the division from Flint.
Disclaimer: I hate the theme music from Buick’s TV commercials.
Let’s make a deal, then. Let’s try and ignore the badges on this 2019 Buick Envision for a few minutes. Let’s evaluate this entry-level luxury crossover against the competition, rather than against whatever demons lurk within our collective subconscious.
The luxury crossover realm is a weird one. The market has been built on the age-old plan of taking a more basic model and adding profitable flash. The problem lies when the base model is good enough for most buyers.
Indeed, starting out with the best-selling non-truck in America means building something distinctive atop the platform is a challenge. Distinctive most certainly describes this Lexus NX 300h, in more ways than one. But beneath the surface lies a solid performer.
Twenty years ago, Lexus created a new segment: the luxury crossover. That 1998 RX 300 was a revelation — buyers with means who wanted something with a higher seating position were previously relegated to traditional, truck-based SUVs. Those old-school machines generally had poor on-road behavior due to their trucky roots.
Not the RX. In eight short years, Lexus had ascended from nothing to the pinnacle of plush. The division eyed customers buying high-trim Ford Explorers and never exploring, and from this the RX was born. Two decades on, the RX still leads the segment it created.
With the Lexus RX 350L — the “L” means long, I assume — that class-dominating RX should be able to coddle a driver and up to six passengers in quiet, leather-wrapped style. Will this three-row, extended-line extension stretch the customer base?
The luxury segment has a softball-sized bug up its butt right now. Sport utility vehicles and crossovers have proven to be exceptionally lucrative as consumer interest in sedans tapers off. Weirdly, building variants that are more like cars has also become increasingly popular — especially in the luxury segment.
BMW launched the X6 as the sporting alternative to the X5 way back in 2008. Rival luxury brands quickly took notice. Mercedes-Benz now has the GLE and GLC Coupe while Audi recently showcased the Q8 as a non-car alternative to the Q7.
It’s a strange group. Purchasing one means sacrificing a lot of the practicality of an SUV or crossover to get something with dynamics and styling approaching that of a sedan. It also means you didn’t think to just buy a sedan or station wagon. Are these automobiles bridging a necessary gap in the market or are they a passing fad for those of us with questionable taste in cars and more money than sense?
The answer really doesn’t matter, as they’re currently selling well enough to rationalize their existence — and there’s another contender is about to be added to the mix. Starting in 2019, Porsche will append a “Cayenne Coupé” to its automotive portfolio.
With its new UX crossover in tow, Lexus now has a utility vehicle competing in every segment. However, it wants to make sure its getting the right customers behind the wheel. If the gargantuan GL is intended for large families with a fair amount of pocket change and an abundance of parking space, the UX is certainly aimed at childless urbanites who want something upscale but haven’t yet amassed the same level of wealth.
Lexus is aiming low for the subcompact luxury crossover’s base price, hoping to tap into the youth market. That’s important because the average owner for a Lexus-badged vehicle is around 60-years old. However, a cheap and youth-oriented vehicle for Lexus doesn’t mean the same thing as it does for Toyota and the MSRP is going to reflect that — despite UX’s downmarket push.
Land Rover has confirmed Velar as the name of Range Rover’s new luxury crossover, positioned to rival Porsche’s Macan.
While Velar sounds hand-picked to hang in the air and mimic the vowel placement of the Macan, Land Rover has used it before. According to the company, the name is derived from the original Range Rover prototypes from 1969, dubbed Velar as a way to disguise or veil them. Although why any vehicle before the Defender would need a secret working title is rather baffling when the company called almost every product it made before 1983 either “Range Rover” or “Land Rover” — sometimes tacking on a generational identifier, like “Series III.”
Still, any tieback you can make to your heritage is a win when it comes to marketing. Velar also fits Range Rover’s premium image and borderline sensual naming strategy that started with the Evoque. These are names that would work just as well being whispered by a model in a perfume advertisement; they just so happen to also be the names of two British sport utility vehicles.
When the original Cadillac SRX appeared for the 2004 model year, it rode atop a rear-wheel-drive unibody platform, offered three rows of seats, and asked a question rarely asked today: “V8 with that?”
Six years later, General Motors saw fit to yank the SRX out of that class and plunge it into the murderously competitive front-wheel drive, two-row luxury crossover field, shoving it in direct competition with the segment’s dominant sales king, the Lexus RX. Hand-wringing ensued, yet that iteration of the SRX sold nearly 100,000 copies globally in 2015. Not bad for a five-year-old model on the outs.
For 2017, Cadillac — drunk on the New York City skyline and “image spaces” in SoHo — introduced its CT6 sedan before turning its attention to updating its best seller.
Will Cadillac’s new utility, now christened XT5 and built in Saturn’s old Spring Hill digs in Tennessee, follow the brand’s relentless path to Audi-ization?
The Lexus RX isn’t a sales success; it’s a sales phenomenon. It’s a magical cash generating unicorn that can seemingly do no wrong. The RX outsells every other luxury vehicle in America. Despite sales being down 6.5 percent in 2015, the RX crossover nearly outsold the entire Lincoln brand. When the numbers were tallied, Lincoln brand as a whole beat the single Lexus model by just 617 units.
Why do I bring up the Lexus RX so early in a review ostensibly about a Lincoln crossover? Two reasons. We might as well talk about the elephant in the room and I genuinely don’t understand why the RX outsells the MKX by nearly 5:1. As I discovered during a week with the latest incarnation of Lincoln’s MKX, the Lincoln is quite simply a better Lexus than the RX.
In July 2015, for just the second time since arriving in America 15 months ago, the Porsche Macan outsold its bigger brother Cayenne.
Also in July 2015, for the first time since arriving in America 15 months ago, the Porsche Macan was the best-selling Porsche in America.
But is Porsche just using the Macan to appeal to Cayenne buyers who want something smaller or less expensive, thereby cannibalizing Cayenne volume in the United States?
BMW USA reported their first X4 sales in July 2014, 262 in all.
Former and even current BMW fans are apt to be disgusted by the notion of a less practical, more costly X3, particularly if those fans are in the large group of onlookers who also believe the X4 is the less stylish option, as well.
Yet while the X6 hasn’t become a high-volume product for BMW, it hasn’t had a negative impact on its X5 donor vehicle. Likewise, it’s unlikely that the X4 will eat into the X3’s volume, at least not to the extent that lost X3 sales won’t be made up by the additional X4s.
Of the 26,409 BMWs sold in the United States in July 2014, 23% were X models (not including xDrive variants of BMW passenger cars.)