Currently reading: Top 10 best luxury SUVs 2024
Spacious, versatile and dripping in upmarket appeal, luxury SUVs have all the bases covered. Here are 10 of the best.

It’s perhaps a sign of our embattled and topsy turvy times that despite a cost of living crisis, pressing climate concerns and a war in Europe, sales of Luxury SUV continue to boom. In fairness, you can’t exactly blame manufacturers for trying to meet demand, because these large and lavishly appointed machines all come with a healthy slice of profit baked in - and after years of pandemic-enforced sales restrictions most firms want to make heavily-fatted hay while the sun shines.

Moreover, think what you will of these four-wheeled displays of conspicuous consumption, there’s no doubting their versatility or the depth of engineering on display (or even hidden away). Melding the cosseting comfort of an executive saloon with refined and mature road manners, many of these machines can also squeeze in seven occupants and still have space to spare. Then there’s the fact that many can head further off the beaten track than you’d ever thought possible = although whether you want to pitch diamond cut 21-inch rims and special order matte finish paintwork against mud, rocks and hawthorn hedges is another matter.

And despite their bluff appearance and gas-guzzling reputation, many of our contenders in this list feature plug-in hybrid powertrains that could save a fair chunk in fuel costs as well as deliver some healthy Benefit-in-Kind savings for company car users. Now almost every premium player (and upmarket wannabe) has one of these models on their books, but to make things easier we’ve picked out ten of the best for you.

1. Range Rover Sport

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Many brands have tried to muscle in on this increasingly crowded corner of the market, but none has yet managed to depose the king of luxury SUVs: the Range Rover. In this case it’s the one-rung-from-top Sport, which objectively speaking is a fractionally more complete and compelling purchase than its fractionally larger and much pricier big brother.

Now in its third generation, the Range Rover Sport does a fine job of pitching for the title of ‘every car you’ll ever need’. A material richness that befits its luxury billing is expected, as is the imperious off-road ability and loping on-road comfort. The space and seven-seat versatility is also a carry over from its extremely successful predecessor. Less expected in the surprising dynamism that makes the Sport feel far more fleet-footed than its vast exterior dimensions would suggest. This is achieved in no small part by the optional anti-roll air suspension and four-wheel steering option, the later giving a real boost in agility.

It's built on the same MLA-Flex platform as the full fat Rangie, which means it offers a complete catalogue of abilities, and while it’s not quite as large or as spacious as its bigger sibling, the Range Rover Sport more than makes up for it with its remarkable breadth of talent. Then there’s the first-rate cabin richness, refinement and luxury ambience, while Land Rover's latest 13.1-inch Pivi Pro infotainment finally gives the brand the onboard tech to rival the best.

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The car's roster of qualities is certainly one for which Land Rover charges a tidy premium, even over prices typical of this rarefied class; although Land Rover softens the blow for some with the Range Rover Sport's P460e and P550e plug-in hybrid powertrain that pack a claimed 76 miles of EV range, which for fleet users means a Benefit in Kind rating of just 5%. Land Rover's latest six-cylinder Ingenium petrol- and diesel engines also feature, with the D300 and D350 mild-hybrid diesel options serving a compelling blend of parsimony, pace and peace. For those less fussed about fuel consumption there's BMW-sourced 4.4-litre V8 that packs a 523bhp punch in its standard guise or a hammer-blow 626bhp in the new SV flagship.

The kerbweight necessary to provide the Range Rover Sport's offroad ability doesn't dilute its on-road prowess either, especially when kitted out with the optional Stormer Handling pack that comprises four-wheel steering, active anti-roll bars and trick torque vectoring diffs. This is still a big car, but it can be hustled hard.

Even so, to drive one of these cars is to quickly realise that some prices are worth paying. The Range Rover Sport really does it all, and may well be all the luxury SUV you'll ever want or need.

Save money with new Range Rover Sport deals from What Car?

2. Audi Q8 e-tron Quattro

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The pace of development of the luxury electric car is something to behold right now. Five or so years ago, an all-electric option would barely have threatened to get to the top of this list; but today the inherent qualities of electrified propulsion are really being brought to bear by the very best luxury EVs on the market, and there can be no doubt that the Audi E-tron Quattro is one of them.

Launched in 2018, the e-tron was treated to a mid-life refresh (and name change, becoming the Q8 E-tron) at the very end of 2022. Subtle sharper looks are the most obvious change on the inside, while the battery capacity has been upped to 89kWh in the entry level 50 model and 106kWh for the 55 and sportier SQ8 variants. The rapid charging limit has also been raised to 170kW, although this still trails those rivals with 800V hardware that can be replenished at up to 350kW

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In all other respects it's the same as the old car, which means you get plenty of luxury, perceived quality, comfort and refinement. As before, it offers the interior passenger space of a Q7 and the quiet, responsive, urgent performance. But it's the car's ride isolation and general noise suppression that impress most; factors which make it, in some ways, more comparable with a Rolls-Royce Phantom on the move than a typical big 4x4.

Real-world range is something a drawback; Audi claims 330 miles for the car in 55-badged derivative form, but it works out at more like 230- to 250 miles in mixed real-world use - which isn't much for an EV of this price, and isn't likely to be enough to make a great many owners and drivers entirely comfortable on longer journeys. Audi also offers a shorter-range, less powered version, the Q8 E-tron 50, for which is claimed a usable range of up to 281 miles; the slightly sleeker-looking Q8 E-tron Sportback; and the range-topping SQ8 E-tron, which stops only just short of 500 horsepower and offers clever asymmetrical torque-vectoring to boot.

If not for that limited range, and a slight lack of SUV-typical offroad ability and utility value, it would have been hard to deny this car top spot in this chart.

Save money with new Audi E-tron Quattro deals from What Car?

3. Land Rover Discovery

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The second podium for Land Rover in the luxury SUV segment is delivered by a car whose character differs starkly from that of the car above, but may be all the more appealing to you for its relative lack of machismo: the fifth-generation Land Rover Discovery. That said, don’t mistake it's more workaday remit with any reduction in luxury vibes - any owner of a five-year old Range Rover stepping into a Disco would feel like they've been upgraded.

It's a car of controversial but rugged styling, with off-road ability that few in the class could beat, and with a brief to provide functional, understated, comfortable luxury and versatility on the road - and that succeeds at that task with likable ease. Seven usable seats are inside, and when you're driving you'll have a great time because this is as comfortable a cruiser as many traditional, saloon-shaped luxury cars.

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With such size and weight, though, comes considerable thirst, so the Discovery is not a cheap car to run, partly because the engine range isn't as fulsome as that of the Range Rover Sport, including as it does four- and six-cylinder diesel options and a four-cylinder petrol but no plug-in hybrids (adding the petrol-electric motor would have necessitated the removal of the third row seats, somewhat undermining the car’s utility schtick). 

The Discovery isn't fast nor particularly dynamic in its handling. In our view, however, a big 4x4 needn't be, or do, much more than this in order to earn its place in your esteem and your affections - and the Discovery certainly does the latter. In fact, if you don’t need the status enhancement that’s inferred by the Range Rover tag, then the Disco is arguably the most complete product in the brand’s line-up.  

Save money with new Land Rover Discovery deals from What Car?

4. Porsche Cayenne

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The car that saved Porsche entered its third model generation in 2018 and, in doing so, eased out its VW Group platform buddy, the Audi Q7, for a place at the sharp end of this class ranking.

The latest Cayenne isn't quite the driver's car we've all come to know, and that many of us came to begrudgingly respect after taking so powerfully against what the car seemed to represent in its first iteration back in 2002. Because Porsche is still Porsche; it still makes the very best sports cars in the world, thanks in no small part to a business that's now built on the commercial bedrock of luxury SUVs.

The Cayenne in its current form is plainly a car that's content to leave the sports car impressions to its little sibling the Macan, and instead to play the high-quality, luxury SUV with greater focus than any of its forebears have. It still delivers driver appeal that's distinguishing, if not quite outstanding.

The Cayenne's interior is one of breath-taking quality, its ride refinement gives away almost nothing to the most comfortable in the class, and its performance is as strong as ever, backed by a range of engines that may no longer include a diesel, but that does include an impressive pair of plug-in hybrids, a turbo V6 and a turbo V8 petrol. 

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There's now even the more rakish Cayenne Coupe, should the (already pretty decidedly unboxy) regular Cayenne somehow not seem desirable or special enough. Then there's the wild GT, which infuses the big SUV with some genuine 911 GT3 driver appeal and holds bragging rights as the fastest SUV around the Nurburgring.

Save money with new Porsche Cayenne deals from What Car?

5. BMW X5

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The fourth-generation of Munich''s full-sized has been treated to a mid-life refresh, but such were the abilities of the old car it’s arguable that no such nip-and-tuck were needed. In fairness, BMW has kept the updates simple, with revised looks front and rear, more tech on the inside and some mildly enhanced engines that, of course, combine greater performance with enhanced efficiency.

Even so, twenty years on from the original version that played a big part of in redefining this part of the luxury car market, the recipe remains the same. Essentially, BMW hit on a powerfully appealing concept: that of the sporting SUV with as much space, versatility and 4x4 capability as many needed – but not enough to dull its dynamic edge.

The latest car is smaller and lower than many of its rivals, with a more saloon-like recumbent driving position. However it gives little away in luxury ambience, with a rich and expensively finished cabin that’s been improved by the addition of the brand’s now traditional curved screen for the instrument cluster and infotainment. There’s a sizeable boot too. And the option of seven seats.

But it's the X5's driving experience that's still most likely to bond you with the car, particular if a large 4x4 is the car you need but not the one you necessarily want. Pacy steering, good body control, well-balanced grip levels and fairly crisp and incisive handling response make this handle as much like a family estate car as an SUV, while strong, smooth and refined engines provide all the performance you're likely to want.

Other SUVs offer more material richness still, as well as more space, comfort and 4x4 capability; and that's to say nothing of the X5's styling which, thanks to that oversized kidney grille, has attracted some high-profile criticism. Still, for keen drivers, the X5 will always deserve close consideration; and, thanks to the impressive '50e' plug-in hybrid version, for tax-savvy fleet drivers likewise.

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Save money with new BMW X5 deals from What Car?

6. Audi Q7

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The Q7 is a desirable, polished SUV with a real aura of accomplishment. Huge inside, with high-quality materials and a very high level of refinement and mechanical isolation, it may be the embodiment of everything you want in a modern upmarket family car – particularly if you consider cars like this the modern manifestation of luxury in automotive form.

The downsides? In typical Audi fashion, the Q7 feels quite remote to drive, handles in grippy and effective but uninvolving fashion, and is a little short on the charisma that other cars in this class have in abundance. Then again, there's always the related, 592bhp Audi RS Q8, which addresses that character shortage pretty directly. However, the Q7 is at its best when oiling along in a smooth and unflustered manner, its standard air springs soothing progress and its excellent refinement keeping long haul headaches at bay. As a result, it's best suited to the muscular V6 diesel options, particularly the 286bhp 50 TDI - although company car users will prefer the tax savings offered by the plug-in 55 TFSIe.

Overall, the Q7 is potent and efficient, while an important facelift in 2019 upgraded the interior with the infotainment kit you'll find in other big Audis. With pricing that's quite competitive and on-road performance free of many of the usual SUV compromises, it's little wonder that the big Audi remains so popular.

Save money with new Audi Q7 deals from What Car

7. Mercedes-Benz GLE

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Mercedes-Benz has redoubled its commitment to the luxury SUV market by investing in a new vehicle platform, and by making the first model to use it – the fourth-generation GLE (predecessors of which used to be known as the ML-Class) – a bit of a technological pioneer.

Having grown in size considerably compared with the old GLE, the new one has a more rigid mixed-metal body structure, too. It offers considerably more space for second- and third-row passengers (the seven-seat option isn't available with the plug-in hybrid) than its predecessor, and what Mercedes bills as a markedly more upmarket luxury ambience in all seats. The car uses Mercedes' latest MBUX infotainment system and dual widescreen instrument and Comand controls displays, but also gets a giant-sized head-up display with improved display functionality.

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Engine options include a trio of four- and six-cylinder turbo diesels with up to 325bhp, as well as a 3.0-litre turbocharged petrol which, in the GLE 450, makes 362bhp and 369lb ft in the current range-topping option. For suspension, meanwhile, you can choose between steel coil suspension and a 48-volt active air suspension system that uses stereo cameras to read the road surface ahead and prepares the suspension for what it's about to encounter in advance.

The GLE 450 impresses with its refinement, performance and ride comfort, but the four-pot GLE 300d is notably shorter on mechanical isolation and ride sophistication. In the middle is the GLE 400d with its straight-six diesel that almost matches the big petrol for pace and refinement yet is barely any less efficient in the real world than the smaller 300d. Then there's the GLE 350 de diesel plug-in hybrid that promises to be a popular high-end fleet option thanks to an impressive electric-only range of over 60 miles, which drops it into the 8% BiK bracket for company car users.

If comfort, refinement, luxury and practicality are your priorities, then the GLE is worth a look.

Save money with new Mercedes GLE deals from What Car?

8. Volvo XC90

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Volvo's renaissance following Ford ownership started with the XC90 - a genuine seven-seater with comfort and handling on its side, a decent range of engines including a T8 401bhp plug-in hybrid, as well as an abundance of style.

It's another car that sits directly in the middle of the luxury SUV price spectrum. The interior features a mix of luxury touches and not-so-luxury plastics in places, while less-than-perfect engine refinement and infotainment usability niggles ensure the XC90 stops just short of greatness. Nonetheless Volvo made worthwhile improvements to the car's engine range when it replaced the D5 diesel with a new mild-hybrid B5 option in 2019. Better still, a couple of years later the plug-in T8 was treated to a larger 18.8 kWh drive battery, upping its claimed EV range to 44 miles while simultaneously dropping its BiK banding from 12 to 8%.

But a spot in the heart of a hotly contested, marquee class like this won't disappoint a company still in the early days of its latest ownership epoch. Volvo is a company on the up, and the current XC90 was the first product to so convincingly prove how serious the brand was about its move upmarket. Even now nearly a decade after it launched, the big Swede still has the style, space and swagger to cut it in this exalted company.

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Save money with new Volvo XC90 deals from What Car?

9. Range Rover Velar

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The Range Rover Velar is Land Rover's most road-biased SUV yet, with looks taken straight from those of the concept car of the same name, an interior that puts most others to shame with its richness in both materials and technology, and a model platform adapted from one primarily developed for its group partner brand Jaguar (that’ll be be the F-Pace).

On the road it's every bit as good to drive as it is to simply admire, with ride, refinement, performance and handling precision every bit as good as any car in the class - provided you don't skimp on cylinder count when you specify your car. Four-cylinder engines are much poorer than the sixes, while the plug-in lacks the pace, refinement and EV range of the newer Range Rover and Range Rover Sport - business users will be facing a 12% BiK rate, rather than the 8% of the fuller fat Rangies.

Practicality and off road ability aren't quite up to the standards of Land Rover's other cars in this class either, but the latter is boosted considerably if you option height-adjustable air suspension. Even so, the Velar will venture much further into the rough stuff than most non Land Rover-branded rivals, assuming you’re willing to risk the muddy slings and arrows of damage that can come with a spot of green laning. 

Prices start fairly low but it's worth stretching to the better engines in the range, albeit perhaps not Range Rover's upper-echelon trim levels, to get the best car. At its worst, the Velar can be a fairly ordinary car to drive: but at its best, it's quite something. That said, the arrival of all-new versions of the Range Rover and Sport leave the Velar facing something of an existential crisis given that both these machines have superior powertrains and now give nothing away in handling elan.

Save money with new Range Rover Velar deals from What Car?

10. Genesis GV80

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It's a bit reductive to say so, but if you fancy a Bentley Bentayga for a fraction of the price then the Genesis GV80 is as close as it gets. From its bold, bluff-fronted looks through to its richly luxurious interior and similarly be-winged badge, the Korean upstart does a good job at being a facsimile at a fraction of the cost.

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Okay, so the comparisons only stand up loosely, but there is a lot to like in the GV80, which was the first model from Hyundai's premium brand to arrive on European shores. The Genesis is certainly imposing, while inside its roomy and has a fit and finish that makes established players at this end of the market sit up and take notice. Soft quilted leather covers the seats, while everything you see and touch feels a cut above. It's also crammed with state-of-the-art tech and has all the TFT displays and touchscreen infotainment you could want. Then there's the way the car is sold and spannered, with a concierge service that aims to make life as painless as possible.

So what's the catch? Well, while the GV80 looks and feels the part, it just struggles to deliver dynamically. It handles accurately enough, while the 3.0-litre diesel is a smooth and strong performer, but the four-cylinder petrol is strained when extended, the major controls are lifeless and the low speed ride is too lumpy to be truly luxurious. And the lack of any electrified option is curious for such a new face to the sector - although the brand’s fast adoption of EV technology elsewhere in the range suggests you won’t have to wait long for a battery-backed GV80.

However, if you're keen to avoid the usual suspects, then the GV80's style and surprising sense of occasion make it a worthwhile addition to your SUV shopping list.

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James Disdale

James Disdale
Title: Special correspondent

James is a special correspondent for Autocar, which means he turns his hand to pretty much anything, including delivering first drive verdicts, gathering together group tests, formulating features and keeping topped-up with the latest news and reviews. He also co-hosts the odd podcast and occasional video with Autocar’s esteemed Editor-at-large, Matt Prior.

For more than a decade and a half James has been writing about cars, in which time he has driven pretty much everything from humble hatchbacks to the highest of high performance machines. Having started his automotive career on, ahem, another weekly automotive magazine, he rose through the ranks and spent many years running that title’s road test desk. This was followed by a stint doing the same job for monthly title, evo, before starting a freelance career in 2019. The less said about his wilderness, post-university years selling mobile phones and insurance, the better.

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TStag 19 March 2021

I do like the Range Rovers. The cars have the best looking interiors, are best offroad and look good, though reliabilty still needs to improve.

I'll take a reliability hit to bypass all the boring Japanese cars in this class and some mingers like the Audi Q7. For me the only rival to Land Rover is Porsche and in fairness to both brands they both offer something different to one another that appeals.

Autocar and other magazines should show reliabity of older models when reviewing older models, but also other factors such as Depreciation (go to the bottom of the class BMW) and customer satisfaction. For me Depreciation is more of an issue in buying a car than reliability, so no more new BMW's from now on.

Spandan Adhikari 10 September 2020


Come on!

What a joke. You're taking BMW, Audi, Range Rover but you forgot the Maserati Levante Trofeo. It's got so much hp, almost 580 hp and does 0-60 in just 4.9 secs!

WinstonAlexanderson 16 July 2020

JLR steals the show

Absolute quality cars JLR is producing now days.I cannot wait for the new jaguar XJ myself, but the land rover defender is an a master piece.This is by far the most exciting brand going into 2020.