By Ulysses Ang
SPORT utility vehicles or SUVs have gone a long way. From vehicles known for their utility and practicality, they’ve become symbols of success. True enough, pickup-based SUVs, like the Toyota Fortuner, Mitsubishi Montero Sport, Ford Everest, Nissan Terra, and Chevrolet Trailblazer, have become the top choice of vehicle, displacing midsize executive sedans in the process.
But what if you want to stand out from the sea of Fortuners and Monteros? What if you’re ready to plunk down several thousand grand more in your down payments and monthly amortizations? What else is out there?
In the Philippines, there are 20 or so SUVs in the 2 million to 4 million-peso price range — and all of them have something unique to offer. Here is part one of the list in alphabetical order:
Audi Q2 & Q3
Tagged as “untaggable,” the Audi Q2 is a premium urban crossover that fuses Audi’s progressive design with great driving dynamics and high-levels of functionality. It’s the smallest of Audi’s Q family, yet it keeps all of the brand’s hallmark design from the Singleframe Grille to the LED headlights. Inside, the simple cabin layout ensures excellent outward visibility. Dynamically, the Q2 is more sporty hatchback than SUV borrowing elements like the S3 sport sedan’s steering. While it gets Audi’s smallest engine — a 1.0-liter 3-cylinder engine, 100 km/h still arrives in about 10 seconds and top speed is at an impressive 193 km/h.
Compared to the youth-oriented positioning of its baby brother, the Audi Q3 goes for a more premium market. Boasting coupe-like lines and the characteristic wrap-around tailgate, the design is more expressive but never shouty. Meanwhile, the interior strikes a balance between sportiness and comfort with a clean, ergonomic cabin and practical luggage space. With a 150 hp 1.4-liter engine, the Q3 is never short on power: the century mark arrives in less than nine seconds and top speed reaches past 200 km/h. More than just power, its chassis is fine-tuned thanks to lower wishbones and a subframe made of forged and cast aluminum, respectively.
BMW broke the mold when they created the Sport Activity Vehicle or SAV segment with the X line in 1999. By doing this, they created SUVs which were not just capable off road, but are really good on it as well. The X1 may be the smallest among them, but it remains every inch a member of the BMW X line. Design-wise, it looks like a traditional BMW, but it’s underpinned by a platform that emphasizes space and practicality. Not only does the X1 have commendable grunt from its 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine (190 hp and 400 Nm of torque), but its near 50/50 weight distribution and xDrive all-wheel drive make for one fun-to-drive SUV (or SAV if you prefer the BMW term).
THE most popular midsized SUV in the US, the Explorer also enjoys having one of the youngest buyer demographics: men aged 35 to 44 years old. Understanding this, Ford has to keep the Explorer’s design and tech suite up a high level. Largely unchanged since 2016, the 2019 model does have some cosmetic tweaks such as the new front bumper and grille insert. At the back, the sportscar-like 365-hp Sport is easily identifiable with its quad-tip exhaust pipes. Inside, it receives an updated dashboard with a stitched leather insert and the award-winning SYNC 3 infotainment system. There are two drivetrains available, the front-wheel drive Limited with 280 hp and the aforementioned all-wheel drive Sport.
THE brand may sound unfamiliar, but Guangzhou Automobile Motor Corp. or GAC Motor is known as China’s safest car brand with its entire lineup certified with a perfect 5-star safety rating by the China New Car Assessment Program or C-NCAP. The GS8 serves as the flagship SUV. It prides itself with its “Light and Shadow Sculpting 2.0” design language, mixing a boxy silhouette with finely executed detailing.
Inside, this three-row, 7-seat SUV has a spacious and comfortable interior. The GS8 is powered by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes a healthy 200 hp and 320 Nm of torque. More importantly, it has four-wheel independent suspension and six driving modes for excellent drivability no matter the terrain.
Hyundai Santa Fe
HYUNDAI is serious about moving upmarket and their intention is shown off by the latest Santa Fe SUV. Featuring a bold, award-winning design, the Santa Fe is expressive with its split-level Composite Light design and trademark cascading grille. Inside, it’s filled with premium materials with nifty touches like the floating center screen, diamond-quilted leather seats, a premium infotainment system, and a built-in Qi wireless charger.
The largest Santa Fe ever, the latest one also emphasizes space and dimensionality across all three rows of seats. Coming with Hyundai’s venerable 2.2-liter diesel engine mated to an 8-speed automatic, it’s never short on power.
ENHANCED and digitized, the Wrangler remains the undisputed symbol of American freedom and the most capable SUV right off the showroom. The heritage-inspired design remains and like previous Wranglers, can be converted to an open-air adventure machine. The body-on-frame platform is traditional, but the use of aluminum body panels, added safety equipment, and the first-ever turbocharged gasoline engine mated to an 8-speed automatic makes for a truly modern experience.
The interior remains water resistant and the floor is washable, but nifty touches like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and smart keyless entry come standard in a car interior that’s made to withstand condensation for up to 24 hours.
EXTENDING Kia’s appeal to the upscale market, the Kia Sorento features a strong exterior style characterized by its signature Tiger Nose grille and bolder on-road presence. This feel is carried over to the aeronautically inspired cockpit, too. The Sorento may share its basic drivetrain with the Santa Fe — a 2.2-liter diesel engine with 200 hp, but unlike its Hyundai counterpart, the Kia is the only one to offer the security of all-wheel drive.
Lexus UX & NX
DUBBED the “gateway to Lexus ownership,” the UX is the Japanese premium brand’s first-ever subcompact crossover. Blending fresh and contemporary style with luxury and dynamism, the UX is imaginative, different, and youthful. With 13 exterior and eight interior color combinations to choose from, the UX is highly reflective of today’s culture of wanting to stand out and be different.
Powered by a new-generation 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine with 168 hp, it’s underpinned by Lexus’s new platform, which exhibits high structural integrity and low center of gravity making for a fun-to-drive experience.
Moving up a notch is the NX, Lexus’ entry into the highly competitive premium compact SUV market. Marrying a bold, dramatic design with a platform “engineered with the help of racers,” the NX is a performance-oriented crossover. The spindle grille and L-finesse design dominate the exterior, while inside it feels like stepping inside into the cockpit of a sportscar.
Yet, it’s a smartly packaged vehicle that offers plenty of room and cargo. With Lexus’ first power-folding rear seats, the NX can swallow golf clubs with ease. The best part is that the NX is available in two flavors: the first is a conventional gasoline-engine setup and the second is a fuel-efficient hybrid.