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Rugged Luxury
Fiat Chrysler, Mercedes Benz and Audi are redefining the luxury SUV space

Vikram Gour

High-end SUVs have always had an aura of power and an active lifestyle. These immensely capable machines are the result of years of innovation, for today we have a range of SUVs that deliver both in terms of luxury as well as capability. Their genes stem from a more basic vehicle that was destined to go anywhere. The need to mix that with a host of modern-day comforts has resulted in some of the finest luxury 4x4 vehicles that money can buy.

Fiat Chrysler's Jeep made its entry in the Indian market last year and has great plans for the future, including the soon-to-be launched Jeep Compass. The company incidentally has two very distinct product lines — the rugged looking Wrangler and the more plush Grand Cherokee. The automaker's vehicles have always maintained the perfect marriage of off-roading ability while keeping the occupants pampered in a luxurious cabin. Of course it is the Grand Cherokee that really shines on this front with its muscular design, sleek character lines and plush leather interiors. A massive 3.0 litre V6 diesel engine, Jeep’s legendary Selec-Terrain and Quadra Trac II 4x4 technology coupled with multiple drive modes allow the Cherokee to be driven across rather harsh terrain.

Kevin Flynn, president and managing director, FCA India on what makes the range such a sought-after product, “In India there is a huge knowledge of Jeep because of the original Willys Jeep. What we’ve done is taken the same functionality to another level. The DNA remains intact, however, people are expecting far more from their automotive experience than before. We have to meet those demands, from the leather we choose, to the way the vehicle is finished. Even with our latest product, namely the Jeep Compass, which is being made in India, we are delivering a global SUV without any compromise on quality and capability.” To take things up a notch higher, Jeep also offers the Grand Cherokee SRT which retains all the appeal of the Grand Cherokee and adds a layer of performance with a 6.4 litre HEMI engine delivering 470 PS of power! 

Taking the SUV game to a sporty level is Mercedes-Benz. Prior to 1997 when the German auto manufacturer decided to enter the luxury SUV market with the M-Class, its portfolio comprised mainly of their sedan range and the G-Wagen. The latter was conceived as a utility vehicle that found great demand from armed forces globally, however its appeal and literally bullet proof reliability also charmed the civilians. Soon the G-Wagen was being rolled out in numerous trims. It managed to withstand the test of time even when the luxury SUV market boomed across the globe and Mercedes-Benz added more products to its portfolio.

Today its design still follows the original that rolled out close to four decades ago. But times do change and the G-Wagen took on a new agenda when car maker eventually delivered an AMG version. Elaborating on the journey of the G-Wagen, Roland Folger, MD and CEO, Mercedes-Benz India, states, “The G-Class has the essential attributes of a Mercedes-Benz vehicle: dynamism, comfort, safety and status. Besides being used by many militaries across the world, its cult status also makes it the vehicle of choice for world leaders and Hollywood celebrities alike — a perfect Beverley Hills car. The G 63 AMG remains one of the most popular AMGs sold in India. Even after 38 years of technological evolution, every G is still crafted by hand in Graz, Austria.”

Audi has also turned its attention to the SUV space with a plethora of offerings. Its products are built on the backbone of its legendary Quattro all-wheel drive technology matched seamlessly with the class and exquisite quality in terms of finish. The flagship vehicle in this range is undoubtedly the Q7. Big and plush, the Q7 boasts of Audi’s subtle yet sporty design flair that gives it an imposing presence on the road. The interiors are crafted from fine materials that include cricket leather, wood inserts, top notch plastics and brushed aluminium. Add to that a lot of fancy technology at your fingertips such as Audi’s famous MMI system along with a large touchscreen infotainment system. The luxury SUV also comes fitted with a fully digital instrument cluster and a touchpad to access numerous functions and vehicle data.

Should you feel the need to explore that part of the world where the road ends, the Q7 can handle those harsh driving conditions as well ensuring you have a safe yet fun experience. It delivers exceptionally well on the performance front, thanks to the 3.0 litre TDI engine that churns out 250 PS of power. Commenting on the success of the Q7, Rahil Ansari, head, Audi India, says, "The customer is looking for the best looking car with the best value, best features and space to suit their requirements. This is what makes our Audi Q range of vehicles very successful. Spurred by the demand for SUVs, we are locally producing all our Q range models (Audi Q3, Audi Q5 and Audi Q7).”

With their luxurious cabins, cutting-edge technology, and all-terrain drive capability, these luxury SUVs are great vehicles to take the family out to the country club in or spend a weekend trying to discover a new part of the world. No matter what your agenda is, the one constant is that their versatility will remain timeless.

The writer is an editor with MotorScribes and tweets at @VikramGour

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