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Classic luxury SUVs: Top 10

The world is excited about the incoming luxury SUV models at the Frankfurt motor shows, but where did the fascination start? Here are ten of the most interesting and importsnt classic luxury off roaders

Today there’s no shortage of luxury sports utility vehicles on the market, with the likes of Bentley and Jaguar getting ready to unveil luxurious off-roaders at the Frankfurt motor show next week. As a mode of comfortable and spacious transportation, it’s easy to see why cars like the Range Rover, Audi Q7 and Volkswagen Toureg are so popular.

Although the market for these cars has exploded in the last 10-15 years, especially with demand from Europe, the USA and China, it’s not a new idea. We take a look at 10 of the most interesting off-road vehicles, which have attempted to mix go-anywhere ability with refinement and luxury.

Lamborghini LM002

Although it started out as a military project called the Cheetah, the LM002 was the original super SUV. Built to appeal to the affluent middle-eastern market, this huge machine was powered by a Countach-derived V12 engine, or special order 7.2-litre marine engine.

When it went on sale in 1986, the LM002 was reasonably rapid on the road, but it’s real skill was driving at almost 100mph on sand, when fitted with its specially designed Pirelli tyres.

Range Rover Classic CSK

Out of all of the cars in this list, the Range Rover is arguably the most important. Although production started in 1970, it was always supposed to be a workhorse of a vehicle. As production went on however, Land Rover saw the increasing potential and demand for high spec Range Rovers with more luxurious interiors and lavish specification. The CSK was arguably the ultimate Classic Range Rover, offered in three-door form with deep black paint, external chrome and sumptuous wood and leather inside. This was a classy ride.

Dynamically it was also a massive improvement over regular Range Rovers thanks to 185bhp version of the 3.9-litre Rover V8, as well as stiffer sports dampers and new front and rear anti-roll bars.

Monteverdi Safari

This interesting creation from small-scale Swiss manufacturer Monterverdi is generally forgotten about, but it was closer in concept to the modern day luxury SUV than anything else at the time. Based on the American-built International Scout (another hugely important car), Monteverdi lavishly trimmed the interior, and commissioned a very smart (and Range Rover-esque) body from Italian coachbuilders Fissore. It was a clever car and hugely ahead of its time, but high prices and obscene running costs made it a toy for the super-rich.

Jeep Wagoneer

This was the car that truly transformed Jeep from the well-loved manufacturer of military vehicles into a serious player. Launched in It was Jeep’s first all-new design, and was a huge success thanks to the clean-styling, practical interior as well as the luxury of a big V8 engine and automatic transmission.

Rayton Fissore Magnum

Here’s another one you probably haven’t heard of, but there are some very interesting names behind this elegant Italian off roader. This luxury off-roader was styled by Tom Tjaarda, who is one of the all-time great car designers. It’s a fact that also explains the family resemblance with the Fiat Uno, with which it shares more than a fair few styling queues. Although it was based on a very heavy-duty Iveco truck chassis, the body was designed to be an elegant and clean as possible – distancing it from it’s more agricultural roots.

Mercedes G-Wagen

Although it started life as an extremely rugged and functional off-roader, the Mercedes G-Wagen has evolved into the classic icon it is today. The G-wagen was always an expensive machine, and as time went on the price and luxuries increased, with the eventual introduction of V8-powered AMG models costing well over £100,000.

Jeep Cherokee

Just like the Wagoneer, the Jeep’s Cherokee model represents a very important step in the evolution of the SUV – especially in the USA. Launched in 1984, the Jeep’s monocoque structure was revolutionary, while the model sought to offer reasonable economy and dynamics superior to the competition. Which wasn’t a difficult task. It was this clever new design, as well as the attractive aesthetics, that made the Cherokee a success in the US and around the globe.

Cadillac Escalade

In the USA, bigger is almost certainly better. The Cadillac Escalade is designed to do one thing, and that’s to appear large, imposing and premium. Based upon the smaller GMC Suburban. It might seem a little crude, but it hit the spot and all of a sudden driving an Escalade was cool. Especially when riding on a set of 22-inch chrome rims…


Now we’re entering into the modern era. The significance of the BMW X5 shouldn’t be underestimated, as this was the turning point for the modern SUV. The X5 ushered in a new generation of off-roaders are geared towards on-road performance. That’s not to say the X5 can’t churn its way through a muddy field though.

Porsche Cayenne

This was a ground-breaking car for Porsche, as it well and truly turned the company’s fortunes around. Purists might not like the fact that it waters down Porsche values, but it’s thanks to the Cayenne that Porsche can actually afford to develop Caymans and 911s in the 21st century. In Turbo form, the Cayenne is also quick enough to worry a most performance cars, and somehow Porsche’s chassis magicians made the 2.4-tonne off-roader handle like a big hot hatch.

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