SUVs dominate the car industry, quickly replacing sedans as driver favorites because of their incredible versatility, functional designs, high-tech features, and improved visibility. Luxury SUVs add to these characteristics, delivering next-level opulence that transforms the stereotypical model into a chariot fit for royalty. As a result, family-friendly SUVs are no longer practical land yachts but sophisticated road warriors.
Sophistication often comes at a premium, especially in the luxury SUV segment. However, there’s a way around paying top dollar for luxury and it’s been right in front of us the entire time. Used SUVs for sale are plentiful across the country, but we often think of models like the Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, Toyota 4Runner, and Honda Pilot. Realistically, the selection is far greater than these traditional models and includes regal options like the Acura MDX, Audi Q5, BMW X5, Cadillac XT5, Lexus NX, and the Porsche Cayenne. But the real question isn’t where you’ll find these used luxury SUVs. Instead, what makes them luxurious? What differentiates them as extraordinary?
The Acura MDX: A Three-Row Powerhouse
Acura is Honda’s luxury brand, meaning you’ll find plenty of Honda-like practicality in the Acura MDX. However, those practical features ooze with luxury and ensure the MDX lives up to its potential as Acura’s luxurious three-row SUV. We see this firsthand in newer models like the fourth-generation MDX that debuted in 2022. The model introduces the all-new Acura Precision Cockpit, which features over 24 inches of digital displays that house the SUV’s connectivity, safety, and performance features. With this modern cockpit, Acura makes technology luxurious and reaffirms the MDX’s reputation as a modern powerhouse.
Fortunately, you don’t have to splurge on a 2022 MDX to reap these luxurious benefits. Models like the 2017 MDX Hybrid are exceptional because Acrua delivers a spacious and luxurious three-row SUV that doesn’t guzzle fuel like a camel at a lone watering hole in the desert. The MDX Hybrid is a rarity because its hybrid powertrain produces 321 hp and 289 lb-ft of torque, making it the most potent SUV in Acura history during its 2017 debut. With three electric motors providing instantaneous torque, the MDX Hybrid doesn’t handle like a traditional three-row land yacht. Instead, it’s more engaging and responsive, and it’s also incredibly efficient, with an average fuel economy of 26 MPG in the city and 27 MPG on the highway.
The BMW X5: A Mid-Size Marvel
While the X5 is classified as a midsize luxury crossover, BMW would rather you call it a “Sports Activity Vehicle.” The distinction is important and explains BMW’s interpretation of luxury. For the automaker, luxury isn’t solely about a premium cabin or exquisite details but is also defined by a vehicle’s on-road manners. With the X5, BMW knocks it out of the park, transforming the crossover into a midsize marvel worthy of praise.
Luxury SUVs are renowned for their handling, but BMW offers something unique with the X5 because it performs more like a sports car. The 2020 X5 M50i is one of the most sought-after models because its 4.4L eight-cylinder engine with dual twin-scroll turbocharger produces 523 hp between 5,500 and 6,000 RPM and 553 lb-ft of torque between 1,800 and 4,600 RPM. This gives the X5 M50i a launch from 0 to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds and a top speed beyond its governed 130 mph.
Newer models like the 2021 X5 xDrive45e PHEV are impressive and usher drivers into an electrified future. As a plug-in hybrid, the SUV introduced an all-new 3.0L inline six-cylinder turbocharged hybrid powertrain capable of producing 389 hp and 443 lb-ft of instant torque. This gives the X5 PHEV the capability of launching from 0 to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds. Fortunately, even when you’re not testing the X5’s launch time, you can enjoy the SUV’s incredible performance courtesy of its Dynamic Damper Control System that constantly sharpens its handling and its double-wishbone front and five-link rear suspension that heighten its agility and traction in every condition.
The Cadillac XT5: Compact Luxury Redefined
Compact SUVs like the XT5 showcase why Cadillac is synonymous with luxury in America. First introduced in 2017, the XT5 is one of the newer models in the luxury class and has maintained its tenure as Cadillac’s best-selling model worldwide over the last six years. Its appeal is twofold. First, the XT5 has different personas that reflect distinct driver preferences, from style to performance. Second, it delivers an unparalleled driving experience complemented by cutting-edge technology worthy of a luxury SUV.
These characteristics define the essence of models like the 2020 XT5, which marks the crossover’s first refresh since its 2017 debut. The XT5’s personas run the spectrum, from the well-equipped Luxury and Premium Luxury to the more aggressive Sport and add-ons like the Platinum package that add every tech-savvy feature imaginable. This technology reflects Cadillac’s position as an industry pioneer, including everything from night vision and Enhanced Automatic Parking Assist with Braking to surround vision.
While the XT5’s tech features are impressive, the showstopper is under the hood. The XT5’s 2.0L turbocharged engine is the standard powerplant for the Luxury and Premium Luxury models, churning out 237 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. It’s impressive but not the most engaging experience you can find. That title goes to the XT5 Sport with its 3.6L V6 engine, which churns out 310 hp and 271 lb-ft of torque. This potency is incredible since Cadillac outfits the XT5 Sport with dual-clutch Sport Control AWD with Yaw Control, a faster steering ratio, and a Continuous Damping Control adaptive suspension. These features make the XT5 Sport the crossroads of luxury and performance.
The Porsche Cayenne: Luxury Off the Pavement
Any list of luxury SUVs would be incomplete without the inclusion of powerhouses like the Porsche Cayenne. Porsche’s exceptional reputation in the automotive industry requires little need for introduction. Instead, models like the Cayenne embody everything the automotive giant stands for and gets right.
In production since 2003, the Cayenne is a luxury crossover with the heart of a road warrior. Porsche proved as much in 2017 when it tasked the Cayenne S Diesel with towing a 265-ton Air France Airbus A380. The Cayenne accomplished the feat without breaking a sweat, setting a Guinness World Record for the heaviest aircraft towed by a production car. While you likely won’t be towing any aircraft with the Cayenne, you can certainly expect a powerhouse on four wheels.
The third-generation Cayenne is an all-around road warrior that distinguishes itself by its sophisticated on-road manners and penchant for adventure off the pavement. Yes, you can answer the call of the wild in a Porsche, courtesy of the Cayenne’s exceptional eight-speed Tiptronic S gearbox that offers sportier performance in lower gears to match the demands of technical terrain. This sportier handling is even more enjoyable on paved roads, where the Cayenne’s turbocharged V6 or V8 powerplant delivers anywhere from 340 to 550 hp and promises a top speed of 152 mph.
Luxury in the Eye of the Beholder
What does luxury mean to you? For many, luxury in the automotive industry is premium features and comforts, like leather seats and advanced technologies. It’s an exceptionally smooth ride and a quiet cabin. And while that’s certainly the case on models like the Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5, Acura MDX, and Cadillac XT5, luxury can also mean something else.
Luxury also encompasses performance. Acura, BMW, Cadillac, and Porsche acknowledge this as much by not simply trimming their SUVs in the best materials but by ensuring their models offer an exceptional and engaging experience behind the wheel. It’s an important distinction that proves luxury is immersive, at least when you’re in the driver’s seat of one of these premium SUVs.