Premium vehicles have always been upheld as the traditional pedigree of the automotive world to which more mainstream cars can only aspire. However, the purity of these vehicles is not so much about sticking to tried and tried configurations but rather remaining true to the spirit of luxury. Embracing new technologies and styles and using them to push the boundaries of what is possible is just as important to the high-end market as it is to more mainstream models that try to improve their value offerings without increasing cost. Since price is not usually an obstacle to shoppers in the premium segment, automakers can be even bolder in their experimentation.
New body styles and propulsion technologies are among the primary driving factors in automotive evolution. Hybrid vehicles were the first stepping stone in this direction, and many cars still use mild-hybrid technology while plug-in hybrids remain popular if somewhat rarer. They are a great way to improve both performance and fuel economy, though most lean more in one way than the other.
Hybridization is particularly useful in larger and less economical cars like sports utility vehicles, and top luxury hybrid SUVs continue to sell well. The Lexus NX Hybrid is easily one of the best examples of a PHEV SUV done well. The engine is modest, with 240 horsepower as standard and 39 mpg with mixed driving conditions. All-electric driving is quite good, too, at 37 miles. It competes with similarly capable models like the Audi Q5 Hybrid and Volvo XC60 Hybrid.
Each of these vehicles does a great job of merging the old-school combustion engine with more modern electric motors, but the battery technology used is still a bit unrefined. And, since combining an engine and an extra battery pack takes up so much space, the cabin can be compromised in terms of rear-seat space or cargo capacity.
The cost of hybrid cars has gone down considerably, though, so getting a greener car that will save you money in the long run is much easier. However, many automakers are moving away from hybridization as more exciting and efficient technologies become available and more popular.
The EV Revolution
Electric cars are still quite new to the market, comparatively speaking. Some brands have been experimenting in this field for a while, and others have made it their sole focus, like Tesla. Naturally, this means some of the best electric luxury SUVs come from the automaker, such as the Model X and Model Y. They are not the only good examples, though, and they actually seem a bit outdated stylistically.
The Ford Mustang Mach-E is proof that even an old name can get a modern makeover. It’s the first Mustang to deviate from the sedan or coupe form, and it is also a step in a more premium direction for the American brand. Meanwhile, a fledgling automaker like Genesis, which has yet to cement its reputation in the market, doesn’t have to worry about precedent and can play around with bold new designs like that of the GV60.
Then there is Cadillac, a brand that has fallen into disrepute in recent years for cutting corners in material quality. The Escalade was a return to fame for the automaker, and the Lyriq follows in the same vein. It’s easily one of the top EV SUVs, with loads of style, plenty of space, and a long list of standard features that will often cost you more in a European car.
The New Frontier
Most people in the industry agree that electric powertrains are the future, but there is still some debate about what form these will take. Electric motors tied to a rechargeable battery are the most common since most developed counties have already established recharging networks. However, there is also hydrogen power cell technology.
There aren’t a lot of options in this classification, which is a bit disappointing considering how accomplished the Toyota Mirai is. It gets some amazing mileage figures and has even fewer emissions from start to finish. This is because much of our electricity is still produced through non-sustainable means. If premium automakers ever adopt this technology, they would be making some of the best luxury electric cars.
Hydrogen power is cleaner and more sustainable, but it’s trickier to implement than standard EV tech. Hopefully, if more automakers take a proper loot at it, then it may be the next stop on the way toward completely environmentally friendly transportation.