When it comes to buying a new car in Australia, research shows that SUVs are by far the most popular choice, with nearly 40% of opportune car buyers claiming they plan to spend their money on something with (usually) four-wheel drive, but at least something with an elevated driving position.
With this being Australia, the Japanese brands share much of the main bulk of sales, but foreign imports do their best to disrupt the oligopoly. But while the majority of SUV buyers, we imagine, will look for the best model out there, perhaps the most practical or the one that returns the best fuel economy, it doesn’t necessarily translate to them being cool.
And deep down, we know that in an ideal world, people want to be seen in their car. Who hasn’t looked in the review mirror to see if someone turns their head as we drive past? Just us?
It’s with this in mind that we’ve compiled a list of what we believe, nay, we know are the coolest SUVs to buy in Australia right now. And what you’ll soon notice, is that there’s only one Japanese model in the entire line up. We salute you, Europe.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio
Fuel Economy: 4.8-10.2 L/100km (Quadrifoglio)
Price: From AU$49,900 Drive Away
Gorgeous looks and driving experience like no other; it can only be an Alfa Romeo. While the famed Italian carmaker is known for its sedans and convertibles, it couldn’t resist the ever-expanding SUV market any longer when it launched the Stelvio in 2017. We’re glad Alfa did, though, as it’s simply stunning. The model most people will flock to is available in three variants: petrol, diesel and Ti, a petrol-powered model with more power than the standard edition, but the same fuel economy. Bonus!. It also comes with a sportier aesthetic including large and in charge 20-inch wheels.
If your pockets (and your other half allow), we suggest you point your attention to the Quadrifoglio edition. This absolute beast is fitted with a V6 BiTurbo engine, kicking out 375kW of power, giving it a 0-100km/h time of 3.8-seconds. For a people mover, that’s darn fast.
Fuel Economy: 6.4 L/100km
Price: From $25,990 Drive Away
From something fierce to something a little more reserved, but in no way less cool, is the Suzuki Jimny. The Jimny team says the Suzuki bosses told them to “make the coolest car you possibly can”, and boy did they deliver. The Jimny was first launched in 1970 with its intention to be a tough, durable 4×4 that was also lightweight. In 2018, the current version was relaunched with an entirely new design that not only takes inspiration from its predecessors but also takes some of the best bits of the Land Rover Defender and Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen – not a bad cocktail if you ask us.
It’s not hugely powerful, with a 75kW 1.5 L petrol engine under the hood, but when you’re traversing various terrain and putting the four-wheel-drive system to use, speed is your enemy and torque – which this engine has – is your friend. The Jimny also has all the mod-cons you could ever need, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and thoughtfully designed storage compartments for the intrepid modern traveller. Such is the demand for the Suzuki Jimny (quite rightly) it can be tricky to get hold of one, but we highly recommend you put yourself on the waiting list as soon as possible.
Fuel Economy: 5-7 L/100km
Price: From AU$48,239 Drive Away
That’s right, a Peugeot. The iconic French carmaker has been on a resurgence of late, giving its entire lineup a complete overhaul to give its cars wholly modern designs, clever technologies and well-thought interior designs to give it a much more appealing look. We think it’s fair to say Peugeot hasn’t always been looked upon favourably, but with its current lineup, we think that needs to change. If you still need convincing, then the 3008 SUV is the model that should sway you.
The 3008 certainly has a presence on the road, but it’s not a brash one that will intimidate other road users. We love the two-tone design Peugeot has given it, with the black roof forcing the eye to believe it’s more compact than it is. Looks aside, it’s what on the inside that sets the 3008 apart, as it’s simply teeming with technology. Dubbed Peugeot i-Cockpit, the 3008 benefits from an 8-inch touchscreen and a fully digital instrument panel, bringing features found on more expensive cars to the affordable sector. The Peugeot looks great, drives great and is simply a cool car to own. Hats off Peugeot.
Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
Fuel Economy: 7.5 L-10.3 L/100km
Price: From AU$77,315 Drive Away
The Wrangler has been a mainstay within Jeep’s roster of vehicles since 1986, although is an indirect descendant of the World War II Jeep, which was produced from the 1940s. If you’re someone who does a lot of off-road driving or likes to take their car somewhere dirty on the regular, there is no better SUV out there than the Wrangler. It might not have the same on-road prowess as some other rivals, but there’s no mistaking the Wrangler’s instantly recognisable silhouette that’s hard not to love.
The Rubicon edition is our pick, not only because it can be specced with a more economical diesel engine, but for the fact it can instantly be converted into a beach buggy with the removal of the hardtop panels. Oh, and it also gets the most capable off-road equipment across the Wrangler range, so will gobble up tricky terrain without breaking a sweat. We also love it for showing Jeep’s playful side, as it can be head in a couple of eye-catching colours (we’d take ‘Hella Yella’ any day of the week).
Fuel Economy: 2.2 (Hybrid)-8 L/100km
Price: From AU$64,990 Drive Away
The Volvo XC60 is an SUV you can rely on. Plus, it brings it with some Scandinavian charm that no other manufacturer on this list can replicate. It’s been Volvo’s best-selling car since it was launched in 2017 and it’s easy to see why: it offers all the benefits of a much larger off-roader, in a compact body that makes it entirely usable for everyday around-town driving. It’s good for the planet too, with all but one engine in the lineup gaining some form of electrical assistance.
The XC60 also comfortably boasts a suite of safety features that are practically unrivalled in the sector, although of course, don’t let that make you think you have permission to put your foot to the floor at all times. However, if you do get right-foot happy and you happen to own the T8 Polestar Engineered edition, you’ll be propelled to 100km/h in 5.2-seconds. Some may say it’s not as ‘masculine’ as its bigger XC90 brother, but for all-round performance, we think there’s nothing cooler.
Fuel Economy: 10.6 L/100km
Price: From AU$170,699
Love them or loathe them, BMW makes some of the absolute finest vehicles on the planet. The X3 has been a popular model from the German marque ever since its introduction in 2003 and it’s a model we could easily recommend. However, for the ultimate in BMW SUV cool points, it’s the M model that you’ll want sitting in your driveway. BMW’s M division is responsible for churning out some of the coolest, fastest and most desirable cars for decades, and the X3M only continues that trend.
It’s a much more fierce version than the regular edition, with a 375kW engine shooting you towards 100km/h in a smidgen over 4-seconds and with a plethora of M-specific driving equipment and technologies, will keep you firmly planted on terra firma and provide you with a smile-inducing driving experience while you’re there. It’s also an SUV that can not only be used to transport you and/or the family on a domestic getaway but one that can easily be parked out the front of some of the most luxurious hotels Australia has to offer.
Fuel Economy: 12.1 L/100km
Price: From AU$226,087
We know we’ve already used the word beast to describe the Alfa Stelvio, and while it certainly suits the Italian, it perfectly describes Audi’s latest superhot SUV. Available to pre-order now, the Audi RSQ8 puts genuine supercar performance into a body that can easily fit four grown adults plus luggage. Add into that equation the best-looking SUV Audi has put out (in our opinion) and you have yourself quite possibly the most desirable SUV release this year (and proof that 2020 does have something to look forward to).
Audi’s iconic Quattro all-wheel-drive system makes an appearance and is permanently active to make sure you stay in full control of the immense amount of power on offer. It’s well-known within the industry that Audi certainly knows how to put an interior together, and the RSQ8 is a full testament to that, with lashings of leather and Alcantara to cradle you as you go hurtling down the road. Technology is some of the very best in the sector too, with hardly any physical buttons in sight, instead, everything is controlled by way of touchscreen displays. You’ll struggle to remove yourself when you reach your destination.
Porsche Cayenne Coupé
Fuel Economy: 9.9 L/100km
Price: From $147,808 Drive Away
Porsche makes cool cars, we won’t hear any argument. The German manufacturer has stuck to a simplified design scheme for years (albeit with an occasionally confusing lineup of models within that) and it has made waves within the SUV sector ever since taking design inspiration from the 911 and jacking it up on larger alloy wheels. The Cayenne has long been a favourite SUV model for Porsche, but we think the Coupé is the one to go for. The sweeping lines of the rear add that extra touch needed to take it from a good car to a cool car.
It’s more affordable than some of the other superhot SUVs on this list, yet gives you the Porsche badge in return, which we think makes it practically priceless. Naturally, you get Porsche performance to boot, and while the entry-level Coupé won’t challenge some others in a drag race, it’s no slouch. Besides, where can you really use all that power anyway? The interior of the Cayenne Coupé is just a genuinely nice place to be – something we can attest you having driven the Turbo S E-Hybrid variant – and is every bit as premium as you’d expect. We reckon, given the choice of owning any SUV on this list, it would be a hard choice between this Porsche and the Suzuki Jimny.
Range Rover Evoque
Fuel Economy: 5.7-8.2 L/100km
Price: From AU$62,670 Drive Away
Obviously Range Rover had to feature in here somewhere. The British-based brand will likely be the first to be conjured up when asked to name an SUV manufacturer, owing to its esteemed history and continuously well-performing vehicles that are so often regarded as the best in their field. If intimidating other road users isn’t something you’re a fan of, then you’ll do well with the more compact Evoque. Don’t let the diminutive size fool you, however, as the Evoque is still more than capable of upholding Range Rover’s badge of honour by offering incredible off-road performance. Couple this with its easy-to-manoeuvre nature and the Evoque suddenly becomes one of the most versatile models on this list.
Within the Evoque family is a selection of engines and trim levels, with power output ranging from 111kW – 224kW. Being who we are, we’d naturally gravitate towards to the top-end R-Dynamic HSE P300, which will get you to 100km/h in around 6.6-seconds, but we just like to go fast. This model also adds in a high-end Meridian sound system and a selection of driver assistance systems. However, no matter which Evoque model you choose, you’ll benefit from flush door handles and a duo of touchscreens in the centre console – both of which have been carried over from the larger Range Rover Velar.
Fuel Economy: 13.1 L/100km
Price: From AU$277,298
The G-Wagen is not just one of the coolest SUVs out there but is without question one of the coolest vehicles full stop. Having been in production since 1979, it’s one of the longest-running SUV families and has always maintained a boxy frame throughout. It’s this that makes it somewhat unique on the road, although of course it could be argued that there are similarities with the Land Rover Defender. The G-Wagen today, however, is very much a luxury car that gifts you a certain status when out on the road. Rarely though, would a passerby look at you and think of some derogatory term to call you. No, instead, they’ll admit that the G-Wagen is a cool car.
With the G63 being the only model in the G-Class lineup (there are other G-branded SUVs available, but the G63 is the only one to fall under the G-Class nomenclature) it’s the only you can choose. That ain’t no bad thing though, as it’s also been lovingly tuned by the folks at AMG, taking it from a commander of the road into an all-out monster of a machine. Under the hood you’ll find a V8 twin-turbo unit kicking out 430kW of power, sending you to 100km/h in 4.5-seconds and inducing a grin wider than the Cheshire Cat’s in the process. And of course, being a Mercedes, no expense is spared on the interior. It’s a place of undisputed quality, and with a Burmester surround sound system pumping out the tunes, is essentially a Berlin night club on wheels.
Fuel Economy: 7.1-8.1 L/100km
Price: From $36,990
The Volkswagen Tiguan is easily one of the most underrated SUVs on the market right now. It’s incredibly easy on the eye for a start, and even though many won’t admit, looks do indeed count when making a purchasing decision. With looks out the way, the next thing we expect most people will look at is the price and yes, we have written the correct starting price just a few lines above; the Tiguan is firmly in affordable territory. We even specced out the top-end 162TSI model and were returned with a figure just over $60,000, which we think represents alarmingly good value.
There are four models to choose from: 110TSI Trendline; 110TSI Comfortline; 132TSI Comfortline and 162TSI Highline. Some may consider the lack of diesel-powered units a bit of a letdown, but the petrol engines on offer are economical, so you’ll get a decent amount of mileage from each full tank. VW’s 4MOTION all-wheel drive technology will keep you planted on the ground no matter the terrain thanks to a dial positioned next to the gear lever that lets you adjust settings for various terrain types. Although, we imagine most buyers will stick to the safety of tarmac for the most part, which is where the Tiguan can really come into its own. A comfortable, reliable and powerful SUV, what could be better?
This is of course 2020 (at the time of writing) and the world is becoming much more environmentally-aware and turning to electric power. Sh*t-hot V8 engines are fantastic, we’ll be the first to admit, but the reality is they’re not the best for the planet. Most car manufacturers are aware of this and so do offer electric power in some form or another (we feel we don’t need to mention the real champion of electric cars), and Jaguar’s all-electric entry into the market is the I-Pace.
It employs some futuristic design language, but we think Jaguar has hit the nail on the head and it’s very reflective of its electrical prowess. But you just want to know about the headline figures, don’t you? The I-Pace is powered by two electric motors, with one attached to each axle. The result is permanent four-wheel drive and 294kW of power and a 0-100km/h time of 4.8-seconds. There are three trim levels to choose from, although there’s not a lot to separate them, so you won’t feel hard done by if you ‘settle’ for the I-Pace S.
As an alternative to the obvious, we think the Jaguar is the underrated model well-worth your consideration.