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New in 2019: Premium SUVs grow even stronger

Premium brands to respond to rapid SUV growth with new-model onslaught in 2019

29 Jan 2019

IF 2017 was the first year that SUVs outsold passenger cars in Australia, then 2018 was the year that the former asserted its dominance over the latter with a wire-to-wire victory on the sales charts.
Knowing that there is seemingly no end in sight for the rapid growth of SUV sales, premium brands, much like their mainstream counterparts, have been quick to prepare an onslaught of new models due in showrooms this year.
Premium SUVs
There is set to be plenty action across all segments in 2019, with launches ranging from critical new models to performance variants and battery-electric vehicles (BEVs).
Audi is scheduled to release its second-generation Q3 into the small class in the middle of the year, sporting a more mature design inside and out.
Switching across to Volkswagen Group’s venerable MQB platform, the Q3 is longer and wider than before, while its cargo capacity has grown from a tight 420L to a healthy 530L.
Lexus is set to make a splash in the first quarter by rolling out its first small SUV, the UX, which is arguably shaping as the brand’s most important new-model release yet.
With sharp pricing and the choice of petrol and hybrid powertrains, the aggressively styled UX is targeting a younger customer base for the Japanese brand.
Some heat is scheduled to be brought to the small segment when BMW adds the M35i performance flagship to its coupe-style X2 line-up.
Motivated by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that produces 225kW of power and 450Nm of torque, the M35i can leap from standstill to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds.
Similarly, Alfa Romeo is set to add some very serious spice to the mid-size class when it unleashes its range-topping Stelvio Quadrifoglio in January.
Packing a Ferrari-built 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged petrol V6, the Quadrifoglio develops 375kW and 600Nm, and demolishes the triple-digit sprint in just 3.9s.
Like its rival Lexus, Infiniti is scheduled to launch its most important model yet in 2019, with the QX50 looking to carve out a slice of the mid-size segment when it arrives mid-year.
After nearly a two-year wait, the QX50 will come armed with the world’s first variable-compression engine, with the 2.0-litre turbocharged producing 200kW and 380Nm.
The lightly facelifted version of Porsche’s popular Macan is set to enter showrooms in the first quarter, although buyers may be hard-pressed to spot the external differences.
Inside, a 10.9-inch touchscreen powered by the German brand’s PCM infotainment system now dominates, while the Macan S’ 260kW/480Nm 3.0-litre V6 is newly developed.
Range Rover is scheduled to go down a different path with an all-new look in the mid-size class when it launches its second-generation Evoque in June.
With a much larger line-up than before, the choice of mild hybridisation and a higher-tech cabin, the style-focused Evoque is taking another big step into the 21st century.
Sister brand Land Rover is set to celebrate its 70th anniversary when it releases the cosmetically enhanced Discovery Sport Landmark Edition special in February.
With unique alloy wheels and paintwork for its body and roof, plus distinctive interior trim and leather upholstery, the Landmark Edition is guaranteed to stand out from the crowd.
Stepping up to the large segment, Maserati is scheduled to bolster its brand-shaping Levante line-up with the release of the eagerly anticipated GTS.
With the GTS, Ferrari has again supplied another Italian brand with an engine, which in this instance is a 3.9-litre twin-turbocharged V8 that develops a colossal 404kW and 730Nm.
Mercedes-Benz is set to launch its second-generation GLE in the second quarter, ushering in new design inside and out and mild-hybrid powertrains that improve fuel economy. 
Technology-wise, the GLE will move the game on with the German brand’s dual touchscreen MBUX infotainment system that supports always-on natural voice control.
Electrification is scheduled to be further on Mercedes-Benz’s mind when it finally goes battery-electric with the futuristic EQC in the second half of the year.
Rocking a distinctive look that separates it from its internal-combustion counterparts, the EQC packs 300kW and 765Nm from its two motors and offers 450km of driving range.
However, Mercedes-Benz will not be the only German brand bringing an battery-electric SUV to market, as Audi is set to launch its e-tron in the second half of the year.
With a combined system output of 265kW/561Nm, the e-tron boasts a 400km driving range thanks to its 95kWh battery.
BMW is scheduled to be the only brand to launch a new model in the upper-large class this year, with the hulking X7 pencilled in for an April debut.
With the choice of six or seven seats across three rows, the luxury-focused X7 will initially be available with a pair of diesel engines, although more are expected to be eventually added.
What’s coming
Audi Q3 – mid-year
BMW X2 M35i – February
Lexus UX – Q1
Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio – January
Infiniti QX50 – mid-year
Land Rover Discovery Sport Landmark Edition – February
Porsche Macan – Q1
Range Rover Evoque – June
Audi e-tron – H2
Maserati Levante GTS – Q4
Mercedes-Benz EQC – H2
Mercedes-Benz GLE – Q2
BMW X7 – April

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