These SUVs buck the design trend started by the first BMW X6

Back in 2007, BMW revealed a high-riding vehicle that would end up changing the SUV market segment forever: the X6. It was presented as a sportier and more aggressive looking version of the practical X5 luxury family hauler. As it turns out, it was about as close to an instant hit if I’ve ever seen such a thing in recent times in the automotive industry, taking buyers by storm, and completely shifting their perspective on what an SUV or crossover can look like.

It threw the familiar two-box design straight out the window and in its place BMW designers imagined a dramatic, sloping rear end design reminiscent of what we might call a fastback design on a lower, non-SUV car. Not everybody liked it to begin with, and many people still find the shape a bit contrived (the author of this article included). I have to admit I wasn’t over the Moon ecstatic when BMW announced it was going to make an X4 (which is nearly identical to the X6, but slightly smaller).

Then, after allowing BMW to have the newly created coupe SUV niche all to itself since 2008, Mercedes launched its own model to go head to head with the X6. By that time, however, the X6 was already in its second generation, and The Three-Pointed Star didn’t really present an innovative looking vehicle, but rather its interpretation of the X6 style grafted onto its GLE (which up until that point was known as the M-Class). Then Mercedes added a smaller version of the GLE, dubbed GLC Coupe, to go head to head with the X4, completely copying what its Bavarian rival did.

However, while nowadays even Renault is preparing a model with a similar shape and the new Geely-owned manufacturer Lynk & Co has one in the works, there are manufacturers out there who have not gone down the same design path when creating their sporty, rakish, coupe-like SUVs. This article focuses on those models whose underlying idea is the same (create a sporty SUV with a coupe twist) but whose execution is different and more original.

Audi Q8

2019 Audi Q8 Exterior
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Audi has really succeeded in making SUVs cool with its new Q8, the more style-oriented and sportier model you go for when you feel like the Q7 is a bit too ordinary for you. The Q8 is definitely a coupe SUV, in terms of the way it looks, but the shape of its roof is nowhere near as extreme as that of the X6. It still exudes sportiness, but it looks more like a tall fastback/hatchback type vehicle than an SUV. It actually looks really good.

If you haven’t yet seen one of these out on the road, you’ll be in for quite a treat when you see it for the first time.

The Q8 has so much presence thanks to its imposing front fascia (and its size), but it gives off a completely different vibe compared to the more practical Q7.

It also has plenty of design details that make it unique and, from a distance, you will be forgiven for confusing it with another model we’re featuring further down on this list.

It also has posh frameless side windows, a light bar running across the entire width of the rear end, and an assortment of available colors that just suit it really well. This is probably one of the best looking Audis ever and certainly their best crack at making a stylish SUV.

Read our full review on the 2019 Audi Q8

BMW X2

2018 BMW X2 - Updated
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2018 BMW X2

BMW could have made the X2 an even smaller replica of the X6 (like it did with the X4), but it instead opted to take its design in a completely different direction. And I think it’s hugely successful both as a design exercise and also because, thanks to it, we don’t have to exist in a reality where BMW makes three sizes of X6...

The X2 looks really good in person and actually pulls a similar trick to that of the Audi Q8 in that it looks like a slightly tall, but still sporty hatchback.

And, since the X2 is considerably smaller than a Q8, there’s an air of familiarity about it - you expect hatchbacks to usually be smaller cars and the X2 fits that bill.

However, an X2 can’t really go unnoticed as most I’ve seen out on the road seem to be specced in bright blue, gold, or other bright colors, and they sit on big rims. This, plus the slightly tall ride height and the very cool badge placed proudly on the C-pillar (an absolutely brilliant design detail) just gives the X2 even more character.

Read our full review on the 2018 BMW X2

Lamborghini Urus

2019 Lamborghini Urus Exterior
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Twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8; 650HP; 627 LB-FT
It mates to a ZF eight-speed automatic that uses an electric torque converter - a first for Lamborghini

If you want the same basic look as the Audi Q8, but in a more extreme package, with more power, more badge, and generally more performance, The Urus is where you need to look. There is definitely a more muscular and sportier twist to the Urus’ design, and in person, they exude quite different energies. From a distance, however, you could still mistake one for the other.

Like the Q8, the Urus is clearly not your usual boxy SUV, but it doesn’t have an exaggerated roofline - sure, it does drop towards the rear, but not in an extreme manner. That comes thanks to the help provided by the rising beltline.

It’s an interesting bit of SUV design, and while there are similarities between it and the Q8, the Urus is probably the coolest and most daring high-riding vehicle currently out there.

It’s also one of the most desirable.

It even matches its sporty look with plenty of performance as it’s motivated by a 4.0-liter, twin-turbo, V-8 that puts out 650 metric horsepower and is able to push the Urus to 100 km/h (62.1 mph) in 3.6 seconds and on to a top speed of 305 km/h or 190 mph. That’s as fast as supercars used to be not much more than a decade ago.

Read our full review on the 2019 Lamborghini Urus

Mazda CX-3

2019 Mazda CX-3
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You don’t have to break the bank to get behind the wheel of a coupe-styled high rider, and one of the cheaper options out there is the excellent Mazda CX-3. It’s probably the best looking crossover Mazda has ever made, and it doesn’t resort to the X6’s hunchback design to draw attention to itself. It instead relies on clever design tricks to achieve a similar result.

The CX-3’s roof doesn’t dip down aggressively like in other coupe-inspired crossovers all that much, and the tapering window effect is achieved by aggressively raising the beltline immediately after the B-pillar.

Mazda also successfully integrated a “floating roof” style design trick on the C-pillar that features black plastic to give the impression the rear screen wraps around and makes up one piece with the small rear side quarter light.

The only area where the CX-3 doesn’t deliver is straight line performance. Mazda doesn’t offer a hot version of it (or any of its models anymore, for that matter), so it only runs regular gasoline and diesel engines which don’t really do its styling justice. It does at least handle really well, and you can opt for a very capable and grippy all-wheel-drive system in models higher up in the range.

Read our full review on the 2019 Mazda CX-3.

Range Rover Evoque

2020 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
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Range Rover sells the Evoque as an actual three-door, but for the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on the five-door model that has unique styling. Despite that styling, its end goal is still to look sporty, rakish, and coupe-like. But, the Evoque achieves that look in a unique way, by raising the beltline and dropping the roofline by equal amounts in order to achieve a coupe-like aesthetic.

If you look at an Evoque from the side dead on, you will see that the glass area on the rear door is quite a bit smaller than what you see on the front door.

The new Evoque makes this design trick less evident, but the outgoing model makes it more visible due to its sharper creases and squared off overall aesthetic.

It’s probably from the rear three-quarter view that the Evoque five-door looks most coupe-like, since you get to see just how narrow the side glass gets towards the rear. And, just like many a crossover these days, the Evoque uses a floating roof design trick by having blacked out C-pillars at the back which give the impression that the roof is not connected to the lower part of the body. It also features a wrap-around glass area at the back.

Read our full review on the 2020 Range Rover Evoque.

Toyota C-HR

2018 Toyota C-HR High Resolution Exterior
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Believe it or not, one of Toyota’s smallest high-riding vehicles, the cute and not very expensive C-HR probably has the most extreme coupe-crossover design on this entire list. It has a dramatic roofline that really starts dipping towards the back, ridiculously small rear side windows, and hidden door handles all in the name of style.

It also has bold, wide haunches with flared fenders that stick out front and back, as well plenty of creases to really give it a unique style all its own. The rear end has bold boomerang-style light clusters and a ducktail spoiler, plus another spoiler at the top part of the rear glass area; it extends back a bit, like the one you see on sporty hatchbacks.

The C-HR is a bold design statement, a real success story when it comes to tapering off the design of a high-riding vehicle and not making it look awkward.

There’s nothing else like it on the road, at any price point, and in all fairness doesn’t look like the X6 or any other vehicle on this list - kudos to Toyota for bringing it out in this form. Remember, this C-HR replaces the dreadfully dreary (and slightly inappropriately named) Urban Cruiser.

Read our full review on the 2018 Toyota C-HR.

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