Sport-utility vehicles have grown from their original role as heavy-duty people haulers and tow rigs into a segment with models that can offer comfortable luxury accommodations and attractive styling to go with their more practical attributes. European automakers have become particularly adept at the this marriage of luxury and utility, producing some of the finest and best-designed SUVs on the market. In particular, these European sport-utility vehicles are capable of providing considerable performance to go with their well appointed interiors and advanced high tech features.
Let’s take a look at 10 luxury SUVs from across the Atlantic that bring some European flavor to American showrooms.
The 2011 Land Rover Range Rover is a unique entry onto this list of European luxury SUVs, a full-size vehicle that is equally at home blazing new trails across rocky hillsides or being valet parked in front of a five star restaurant. The five passenger Land Rover Range Rover offers considerable off-road poise thanks to the availability of features such as the Terrain Response system, which offers complete driver control over the vehicle’s suspension, drivetrain response and traction control (with settings for several different surfaces), as well as hill-holding and hill descent control features. Three zones of automatic climate control, heated and cooled leather seats and a high end entertainment system can also be found within the SUV’s confines.
All versions of the 2011 Land Rover Range Rover feature full-time four-wheel drive. The vehicle’s base motor is a 5.0-liter V-8 that is good for 375 horsepower and 375 lb-ft of torque, while the Supercharged model adds a blower to the equation to squeeze 510 ponies and 461 lb-ft of torque from the same engine. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard with both mills, and the Range Rover is rated to tow up to 7,700 lbs.02. 2011 Audi Q7
The 2011 Audi Q7 is the largest vehicle in the German brand’s lineup. The full-size Audi Q7 SUV can accommodate as many as seven passengers across three rows in its elegantly appointed interior, which offers such standard niceties as heated power leather seats, a reclining second row of seating and a power liftgate. Moving up through the Q7’s different trim levels and options packages allows buyers to add items such as HID headlights, a panoramic sunroof, a surround sound system, four zones of automatic climate control, an adaptive air suspension and adaptive cruise control.
Audi’s technological focus carries over into the engine bay, where the entry-level edition of the 2011 Audi Q7 sports a supercharged V-6 engine that is good for 272 horsepower. This 3.0-liter unit also pumps out 295 lb-ft of torque and is matched with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Two drivetrain upgrades are available: a tuned version of the supercharged V-6 that generates 333 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque, and a 3.0-liter, turbodiesel V-6 that is good for a startling 225 horsepower and 405 lb-ft of torque. Transmission choices remain the same for each of these motors, and quattro all-wheel drive is included free of charge with each Q7 model.03. 2011 BMW X3
The BMW X3 is all-new for 2011, and the compact SUV grows in almost every dimension to achieve close-to-mid-size proportions. As big now as its older BMW X5 brother was when it first hit the market in the late 90s, the BMW X3 offers generous interior space for up to five passengers. The SUV can also be had with equipment such as HID headlights, 18-inch wheels, a sunroof, heated leather seats, a heated steering wheel and a voice-controlled navigation system.
Two different drivetrains are available with the 2011 BMW X3. The first is a 3.0-liter, inline six-cylinder unit that provides 240 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, while the second slaps a turbocharger onto the same motor in order to increase production to 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. All versions of the nimble BMW X3 come with an advanced eight-speed automatic transmission (featuring manual shift control) as well as all-wheel drive.04. 2011 Mercedes-Benz G-Class
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is a throwback to a time when European full-size SUVs proudly displayed their roots as military-grade people movers. The five passenger Mercedes-Benz G-Class offers an upright, square design that leaves no doubt as to its utilitarian origins, but its bold styling conceals an opulently luxurious passenger compartment that is decked out with heated and ventilated leather seats up front, heated leather seats for the rear row of seating, a sunroof, a navigation system and a surround sound audio system.
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz G-Class starts out with V-8 power in the form of a 5.5-liter motor that generates 382 horsepower and 391 lb-ft of torque. Matched with a seven-speed automatic transmission, the eight-cylinder motor sends its output to all four wheels via a full-time four-wheel drive system. Drivers with a need for more speed can opt for the G55 AMG edition of the SUV, which includes a supercharged 5.4-liter V-8 that puts out 500 horses and 516 lb-ft of twist. All-wheel drive remains standard, but the G55 gains a five-speed automatic in place of the standard G-Class SUV’s seven-speed unit.05. 2011 Porsche Cayenne
The 2011 Porsche Cayenne is that rarest of SUVs, a large crossover which can not only seat as many as five passengers in total comfort but which also offers sports sedan-level handling and braking. Featuring a tuned chassis that makes excellent use of available features such as active body control and air suspension, the Porsche Cayenne can also be ordered with four zones of automatic climate control, a panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control, and a Bose surround sound system.
Helping the 2011 Porsche Cayenne achieve impressive acceleration times are a trio of engine choices, starting out with a 3.6-liter V-6 that is good for 300 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. Rare amongst luxury SUVs is this motor’s standard six-speed manual transmission, with the option of an eight-speed automatic gearbox. The Cayenne S benefits from a 400 horsepower, 4.8-liter V-8 that also provides 369 lb-ft of torque, while the Cayenne Turbo lives up to its name by turbocharging the 4.8-liter engine to the tune of 500 horsepower and 516 b-ft of torque. Each of the V-8 Cayenne models comes exclusively with an eight-speed automatic transmission, and all editions of the SUV feature all-wheel drive. A hybrid Cayenne is additionally available for eco-conscious SUV buyers.06. 2011 BMW X5
The 2011 BMW X5 has been updated for the current model year, and it remains one of the most popular sporty crossovers available on the luxury market. Available seven passenger seating provides the BMW X5 with a roomy interior, and a styling refresh updates the SUV’s look both inside and out. HID headlights, leather sport seats, a stiff, performance-oriented suspension system and four zones of automatic climate control are just a few of the high end features that can be found with the X5.
The 2011 BMW X5 is initially offered with a 3.0-liter, inline six-cylinder engine that generates 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque, thanks to the use of a turbocharger. A 4.4-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8 can also be ordered with the X5, and the larger motor is capable of producing 400 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque. Both of these engines come with all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission. A turbodiesel version of the X5 is also available, and it offers up 265 ponies and 425 lb-ft of torque from its 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder design.07. 2011 Land Rover Range Rover Sport
The 2011 Land Rover Range Rover Sport continues the theme of luxury sport-utility vehicles that pull double duty as high performance land rockets. The Land Rover Range Rover Sport can coddle as many as five passengers while roaring down the highway – or two-lane country road – at triple digit speeds, with all occupants comfortably ensconced in the leather-wrapped, wood-trimmed cabin of the SUV. Helping to keep the Range Rover Sport locked to the pavement are a full time four-wheel drive system and an available Dynamic Response suspension, complemented by the option of enormous Brembo brakes.
The 2011 Land Rover Range Rover Sport comes standard with a 375 horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8 engine that is also good for 375 lb-ft of torque. More grunt is available from a supercharged edition of this engine that has been massaged to produce 510 horsepower and 461 lb-ft of torque. Each motor is managed by a six-speed automatic transmission that features manual shift control.08. 2011 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is a big and burly luxury SUV that steps up to the plate when it comes to towing and hauling. With a 7,500 lb trailer rating, 83 cubic feet of interior cargo space and three rows of seating (which can accommodate up to seven passengers), the Mercedes-Benz holds up the utility end of the bargain quite well. It also maintains the brand’s high standard of premium equipment, coming with items such as a sunroof, air suspension, heated front seats and Bluetooth integration free of charge. A number of options packages also open up access to features such as HID headlights, massaging seats and a navigation system.
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is available with a pair of V-8 engine options, as well as a turbodiesel V-6. The entry-level eight-cylinder displaces 4.7-liters and knocks out 335 horsepower and 339 lb-ft of torque, while the larger 5.5-liter unit is good for 382 horsepower and 391 lb-ft of torque. Choosing the 3.0-liter diesel model makes 210 horse and 400 lb-ft of twist available. All GL-Class SUVs come with a seven-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.09. 2011 Audi Q5
The 2011 Audi Q5 is a compact high end crossover known for its fun-to-drive handling and its elite interior design and execution that has become famous across the Audi lineup. The Audi Q5 can hold as many as five passengers, and standard equipment found with the SUV includes leather seats with power adjustment, three zones of climate control and the Audi MMI vehicle interface. The Q5 can also be decked out with options such as HID headlights, heated seats, a navigation system, a panoramic sunroof and adaptive cruise control.
The 2011 Audi Q5 lets buyers choose between a four-cylinder and a V-6 engine. The 2.0-liter, turbocharged four puts 211 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque up on the board, while the 3.2-liter V-6 generates 270 horsepower and 243 lb-ft of torque. Quattro all-wheel drive is included with both motors, and while the turbo unit makes use of an eight-speed automatic, the V-6 is restricted to a six-speed autobox.10. 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class
The 2011 Mercedes Benz GLK-Class comes in a single base trim level that is meant to be customized through the selection of various options packages. The compact Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class offers standard features such as dual automatic climate control, 19-inch wheels and a sleekly styled interior. Available are items like rain-sensing windshield wipers, a navigation system, the AMG Sport package (HID headlights, more aggressive design elements), a panoramic sunroof and a surround sound system.
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class comes in both rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive flavors, and each layout is matched with the same 3.5-liter V-6 engine that is good for 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed automatic transmission is the only available transmission with the compact luxury SUV.