Now that six-figure SUVs seem here to stay, mainstream automakers want to cash in, too.
Displaying at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show, Lexus took its aging LX full-size SUV, lavished it with black chrome and a fancy climate control system and limited its production to 500 units. The price: $100,420.
But the 2019 Lexus LX Inspiration Series isn’t the only body-on-frame truck outfitted with a new luxury package. Rival brands also are pushing the envelope, introducing exclusive or limited-edition trims to ratchet up prices and compete with a spate of swanky newcomers such as the Lamborghini Urus and Rolls-Royce Cullinan.
Here’s a look at the latest SUVs to go upmarket.
2019 LX Inspiration Series
Lexus refashioned its standard LX full-size SUV with new luxury chops. For roughly $15,000 over the price of the standard model, buyers get 21-inch black alloy wheels and center caps, a black front grille, chrome trim and Black Onyx exterior paintwork.
The cabin features durable “moonlight white” leather upholstery and a black headliner. A “climate concierge” feature monitors the temperature of the SUV’s quartet of climate zones, adjusting the fans and temperature of the seats and steering wheel as needed.
Like the LX’s base model, the Inspiration Series runs on a 383-horsepower, 5.7-liter V8 and comes with drive modes to adjust the suspension and dynamics for rocks, mud, sand and other rough terrain. But with limited edition models, it’s what’s on the outside that counts: The 2019 LX Inspiration Series sports signature projector door lamps that announce its arrival.
2019 Infiniti QX80 Limited
Like Lexus, Infiniti improved upon its flagship QX80 full-size SUV for the 2019 model year with a limited-edition run. The Infiniti QX80 Limited features dark machine-finished 22-inch forged aluminum-alloy wheels, satin chrome exterior trim and a cornucopia of high-end cabin trimmings. Materials include two-tone black and stone Nappa leather, silver-tinted open-pore wood, leatherette-trimmed floor mats and an Alcantara headliner.
Nissan’s luxury division plans to sell fewer than 2,000 units this year, starting at $90,100 a pop.
“It’s truly limited in production,” says spokesman Kyle Bazemore. “There are less than one per retailer per month produced, so it’s very much a special version.”
“There’s always a need for something a little more exclusive, and a want for the best,” Bazemore said.
2019 Range Rover SVAutobiography
Starting at $207,900, Jaguar Land Rover’s latest top-tier Range Rover, the SVAutobiography, strives for the pinnacle of luxury: a plush, five-passenger SUV designed to ferry royals and captains of industry alike across the countryside and other variable terrain.
The 2019 Range Rover SVAutobiography is marked by a distinct grille design with chrome inserts, a long wheelbase and an elegant Zenith clock.
But the truck has substance, too. The SVAutobiography harnesses a 5.0-liter, supercharged V8 engine to deliver 557 horsepower, putting it in the same class as the Mercedes-AMG G63, the brand’s most capable SUV.
The Range Rover’s backseat is designed to help passengers escape daily demands: 22-way power adjustable seats recline up to 40 percent and offer heated calf and foot rests and a hot stone massage function. A refrigerated compartment can hold four 20-ounce bottles or two standard wine bottles and a set of stemware for two. Also included is JLR’s rear seat entertainment system, which is two 10-inch high-definition touchscreens mounted to the front row headrests.
Each model is hand-finished by Jaguar Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations, a team that builds the brand’s most exclusive variations.
2019 Lincoln Navigator Black Label
Lincoln introduced its high-end Black Label treatment in 2015, but customer interest has only recently begun to accelerate, according to Robert Parker, head of Lincoln’s sales, marketing and service. Originally available only on the MKZ and MKC SUVs, Black Label upgrades made up less than 10 percent of sales. But Lincoln is gearing up for a surge of interest.
“As we’ve rolled it out on Navigator for the first time, we can’t build them fast enough,” Parker said. “It’s in double digits. With Aviator we expect it to be even higher. It fits better with these more expensive SUVs.”
Conceived to help customers personalize their purchases, Black Label offers a dealership concierge who determines the best-fitting color combinations and materials based on customers’ tastes and interests. It was introduced as an option for the 2018 Navigator with accents including chrome, dark wood and leather.
“There’s a lot of customers in luxury that just say ‘I want the best,’ ” Parker said. “When they say that, they don’t want to go through a million combinations. We’ve tried to take control of that by limiting the amount of options we have.”
The Navigator, which can seat up to eight passengers across its three rows, starts at just under $100,000 but easily tops six figures with options. The newest model to sport the Black Label treatment, Lincoln’s all-new Aviator mid-size SUV, arrives next year as a 2020 model.
2019 Cadillac Escalade Sport Edition
General Motors’ luxury brand debuted a black-accented version of its full-size Escalade SUV at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show. The Sport Edition features glossy black exterior trim for the front grilles, window moldings and body side moldings atop 22-inch wheels finished in Midnight Silver.
As Cadillac’s first special edition for the current-generation SUV, the model is expected to capitalize on customer demand for a “dark and aggressive look,” according to Cadillac President Steve Carlisle. The move comes as Cadillac cuts two sedans from its lineup to focus on its larger, more profitable vehicles. The upscale treatment will help the three-row Escalade, last redesigned in 2015, challenge Lincoln’s new Navigator.
The Sport Edition carries the same engine as the Escalade’s base model: a 420-horsepower, 6.2-liter V8.
Starting at $84,790, the treatment will be available for Luxury, Premium Luxury and Platinum models when it arrives at dealerships early next year.