Speed: Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
There are various benchmarks for being the fastest car in any category – acceleration and top speed being chief among them. But nothing sets car nerds into such a froth as being quickest around Germany's infamous Nürburgring Nordschleife race circuit, a benchmark that the 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio lays claim to in the production SUV standings – a fact that it will mark with a commemorative edition of the car. It is a real feat when you consider the wealth of speedy sports utility vehicles it is up against in the present day, with seemingly almost every carmaker worth its petroleum having a contender.
The Stelvio Quadrifoglio certainly doesn’t arose suspicion of its rocketing potential when I take the car on a drive up and down Jebel Jais, the UAE’s highest mountain, in Ras Al Khaimah. Despite that four-leaf clover badge denoting something a little racier than usual going on with the Alfa, the uninitiated would probably dismiss it as another European crossover SUV. That would be a mistake, because beneath that relatively unassuming exterior beats a 510hp, twin-turbo V6 engine made by Ferrari. That is approaching Maserati levels of power in a car that you could use to take your children to school without barely a second glance from the other parents.
Clever green tech will deactivate half of those cylinders when they aren’t needed. Even then, you won’t forget that you are in a tugging-at-the-leash tyke thanks to carbon fibre aplenty in the interior, including on the stripped-seat backs, which have nothing as ostentatious as storage pockets.
The upcoming Lamborghini Urus is set to give the Stelvio Quadrifoglio a run for its fastest production SUV title. But at less than half the outlay – UAE numbers are yet to be confirmed, but in the United States, the car's starting price is the equivalent of Dh300,000 – it will retain at least one major advantage.
Price: Dh300,000 (estimate)
Until recently, the Bentayga was the fastest, most powerful, most luxurious SUV in the world. With the Urus and Rolls-Royce Cullinan imminent, Bentley has quietly dropped the word "fastest", but it still has a valid claim as the most luxurious SUV out there.
The Bentayga family has been growing fast – it was launched in W12 form only, but now we have the V8, with a plug-in hybrid making its debut at the Geneva motor show this week.
The V8 promises to be the most popular version of the Bentayga – it is more frugal than the W12, is cheaper and has a throatier roar and sporty styling to match.
The exterior stying remains widely disliked, but you can’t quibble with the interior, which is sublime, no matter which version, or specification, you choose. Bentley still rules the roost in terms of leathers, veneers, stitching, colour palettes and textures. The V8 may be 58hp lighter, but it has a host of styling upgrades to make it desirable to a younger, sportier crowd. Carbon-ceramic brakes are offered for the first time; there’s a black grille, new 22-inch black five-spoke wheels and, for the first time in a Bentley, a glossy carbon-fibre finish instead of more traditional wood veneers.
The new 4.0-litre twin turbocharged V8, developed with Porsche, develops 550hp, but can run on four cylinders on partial throttle for better fuel economy. It is an impressive set-up in an SUV that is still currently at the top of its chosen tree.
Price: from Dh856,500
Size: Karlmann King
If you attended Dubai International Motor Show a few months ago, you may well have encountered this huge piece of engineering and immediately felt like a character from The Borrowers. The Batmobile is a commonly used motoring comparison for futuristic pieces of metal, but the Karlmann King is probably the closest yet without actually getting into one of Bruce Wayne's movie props – its origami lines and Henry Ford-esque preference for black lend it to being a steed of the Caped Crusader.
When I come face to face with the six-tonne monster at its exclusive Middle East dealer, Car Vault, in Al Quoz, it is every bit as imposing. Just shy of six metres long and as high as it is wide (about 2.5 metres), it will weigh even more for customers who request it in bulletproof form.
Based on a Ford F-550 truck, and put together in Italy via 30,000 hours of hand-building for each vehicle, it is fired by a 6.8-litre V10. While it can only hit a maximum of 140kph, it is designed to operate in extreme temperatures, from minus 40°C up to 90°C. To put that upper figure into perspective, that is more than 30°C more than the hottest mark ever recorded on Earth. This is a survival vehicle, then, rather than for setting lap records.
Where things get truly impressive is the limousine-level rear passenger compartment, separated from the front seats by a panel that includes a retractable wide-screen television. The tech toys don't stop there: the example on show at Car Vault features a PlayStation 4, a Nespresso machine, a mini fridge, a small safe, Apple TV, electrically operated pop-out tables and a rainbow of mood lighting. Customisation options extend to the exterior body panels, the company will install any audio-visual entertainment system required, while satellite internet is also available. A mere nine are being built – and the only thing that makes it more exclusive than that is the multimillion-dirham price tag.
Price: from US$3.8 million (Dh14m)