Holiday Shopping Wish List: 3 Performance SUVs You Need For 2018


Holiday Shopping Wish List: 3 Performance SUVs You Need For 2018

2018 is bound to be another record-breaking year for SUVs. We take you for a spin in three that are set to make your heart race and your soul yearn for winding country roads.

Published on 30 November 2017

Performance sport utility vehicles SUVs are offering drivers real-world practicality with the type of sports car performance you wouldn’t have dreamt of only a decade ago. Room for the family, decent fuel economy, and all the capacity in the boot for shopping, golf clubs, and luggage. We drove three vehicles in the luxury segment in Singapore that we think are some of the best available today.

Each SUV offers something a little bit different that makes it stand out from the others. With two Germans and one Italian in the line-up, we knew we were in for a treat. Impressed would be an understatement! Strap your seat belts in as we take you for a ride in some of the most engaging SUVs on the market today. You’ll be ready to write your wish list to Santa by the time you’re finished reading.

Porsche Macan Turbo With Performance Package

First up was the Porsche Macan Turbo with the optional Performance Package. This was actually the first time I’d driven a Macan of any form, so starting with the fastest variant put a smile on my face, to say the least. In fact to say anything other than buckle up this thing is fast would be blasphemy. It’s a sleeper that’ll pretty much smoke anything at the lights. And forget about the fact it’s more than 1.6 metres tall or that it only has a V6 engine, this baby packs some serious punch with 440 horsepower planting all four wheels deep into the earth below you. That’s 40 more horsepower than a standard turbo and enough to propel the 1,925-kg SUV to 100 km/h in in 4.4 seconds. Add the sports chrono package and you’re dipping down to 4.2 seconds. Like with most Porsches, expect that time to be faster. From where I was sitting it felt closer to four.

About the seating position: although you’re situated higher than your standard 911, amazingly you still have that same level of confidence as if you’re in a sports car. The way the instrument panel is driver-focused with the standard Porsche rpm gauge directly in your line of sight, the centre console up high to create a cockpit-like feeling, while not cocooning you, and a small leather sports steering wheel with paddle-shifters linking to the 7-speed PDK dual clutch transmission to give you precise control at your fingertips.

Selecting different modes to drive in, the Turbo is smooth and comfortable when left in auto mode although as with most turbo-charged vehicles there is still a hint of turbo lag. Shift into sport or sport plus mode and that all but goes away, leaving you with accurate throttle response, up until the point you need to slow down for a bend, and in typical Porsche fashion, no matter how large or heavy the vehicle, you’re forced back into your seat as if the world suddenly stopped turning. Shreiks actually come from the passenger seat when all four brake callipers engaged.

The cornering is on another level as well. The sports suspension and Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) fitted on the car I was driving minimised body roll and kept all occupants planted firmly in their seat and all tyres on the ground. An optional air suspension is also available which allows you to adjust the ride height between three levels. Although personally, I feel the PASM is good enough for most people’s daily driving.

Stepping back outside the vehicle, it is unmistakably a Porsche. And a good looking one at that. However, it would be nice if on future models the top of the range variant stood out more from the rest. It is hard to differentiate between the Turbo and the Turbo with the Performance Package, which is great for someone with the “lesser” version, but for the owner at the top, it doesn’t quite feel as special in the aesthetics department as it probably should.

The Macan Turbo with Performance Package sets the bar high in this segment. It’s fast like you would believe and offers the type of quality and driving experience we’ve come to love from the Stuttgart marque. You wouldn’t go wrong with any Macan, but the top of the range model is a great place to start!

Audi SQ5

The new SQ5 features Volkswagen Group’s latest MLB Evo platform and is all new for 2018. Featuring a 3.0-litre twin-scroll turbocharged V6 engine, replacing the previous supercharged model, it features the exact same 354 horsepower, however, it’s now accessible lower down the rev range. Torque has also been increased from 470Nm to 500Nm, and is also made available substantially lower down. You can feel it as well, with an effortless surge of torque pushing you to 100 km/h in 5.4 seconds through the 8-speed Tiptronic transmission and Quattro all-wheel drive.

On the outside of the SQ5, you really need to be an Audi expert to spot the difference between the previous generation and the new one. It’s very much a tale of evolution from the design team on this one. A few changes have been made to areas such as the grill, bumpers, and wing mirrors, as well as the roof spoiler and diffuser. Inside the Virtual Cockpit is now available, which in my opinion offers the best TFT display in any car today – if that’s what you’re into. There’s also little features that let you know you’re in an “S” model, such as the S display on the virtual cockpit and the red light trim around the starter button. Not to mention S logos around the cabin. It’s enough to let you know you’re in something special without being over the top.

The quality is second to none in this price range and is what we’ve come to expect from the four-ringed manufacturer. Fine Nappa leather washes the cabin, engulfing you in sumptuous luxury, doors close with that infamous solid thud, reminding you this car is German, and state-of-the-art technology is absolutely everywhere. Up front, the driver and passenger have an airy and open cabin, with a commanding view of the road. The back, while spacious, can be a little tight for 3 full-grown adults. However for two adults and maybe a child in the centre, the shoulder room shouldn’t be an issue. The rear seats can also be slid forward and back or folded down to increase the boot capacity.

So I know you’re wondering what it’s like to drive. Well, for all intents and purposes, the SQ5 drives like a performance SUV should. It’s firm when you need it to be, soft when you want to cruise, and although more than capable of handling some dirt, you wouldn’t want to mess up those gorgeous 20-inch wheels.

A button on the steering wheel allows you to change the settings of the transmission and suspension damping, which really makes a difference to the way it drives. I preferred dynamic mode with the transmission in sports mode. Throttle response was improved and turbo lag minimised, although if you need to accelerate quickly, the transmission sometimes struggles to keep up while the turbo boost builds, culminating in a slight delay between what you want the vehicle to do, the noise it makes, and then the actual action. Coming to a stop is effortless and cornering is precise without the hint of being nose heavy.

The SQ5 not only looks great but has the performance to match its sharp lines. It’s comfortable, sporty, and has more tech then you’d know what to do with. Audi has really outdone themselves this time.

Maserati Levante

The Italian marque has finally launched an SUV to compete in this growing segment. As a Maserati, it’s naturally sporting by nature and evokes all the emotions you’d expect from the iconic trident on the bonnet. And although most people will recognise Maserati as a sports car brand, four doors and Maserati go hand-in-hand. The original Quattroporte dates back to the 1960s and is still around today. While the four-door version of the Ghibli joined the ranks of Maserati saloons back in 2013.

The Levante comes in both petrol and diesel engines. I drove the 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol model producing 345 charging horses built by its relative, Ferrari. All that power is delivered through a silky-smooth 8-speed automatic transmission. Named after a warm wind that blows across the Mediterranean, the SUV is swift, to say the least.

Approaching the Levante, it is unmistakably a Maserati, albeit a jacked up one on steroids. The curves are suave and inspiring, whilst making a rather large car, far more compact and sporting to the eye. Climbing in you’re reminded that you’re in something special, with leather covering everything in typical Italian luxury car fashion. There is even an option to have fashion house Zegna kit out the works, including the possibility of silk trimmed seat. Talk about customisation options!

Crank up the engine and you get the typical loud “look at me” music from the v8 GranTurismo albeit from a smaller engine. It’s intoxicating and makes your blood rush and your heart beat at an unprecedented rate. Floor the accelerator and you’ll hit 100 km/h in just 5.1 seconds – that’ seriously quick for a car weighing more than two tonnes.

Head into a bend and the hydraulic steering gives the type of feedback through the wheel, many cars have been missing of late. Hook that up to a limited slip differential and torque vectoring system, and hitting apexes is a delight. You really feel one with the car and the 50:50 weight distribution helps with this. The standard all-wheel drive and five mode air suspension mean that this Maserati can also keep up off road with the best of them.

SUVs aren’t just about on-road and off-road performance, they’re also about space and the Levante is seriously “packing.” There’s plenty of rear head and legroom and the boot has a whopping 580 litres, which is pretty much enough space for everything, including the family dog.

The Levante is a great SUV by any measure. Anyone looking to add a bit of Italian style to their garage should consider this Maserati. It offers something different from the rest and has a personality like no other SUV on the market today.

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