Purist petrolheads tend to look down on the SUV, often describing the rise in prominence of these bulky beasts as a mere fad, driven by greed. Porsche now sells more SUVs than sportscars, Lamborghini too... and soon Ferrari will join the club. For many these are the dreamcars of today... but will these SUVs be future classics?
I faced quite the dilemma recently when casting my eyes over the cars registered for the SentiMETAL Gathering in Bedfordview. There, among all the Porsches, BMWs and other modern classics was a first-generation Audi Q7. "Not a chance mate!," was my first reaction, but then I looked closer. This Q7's unquestionable neatness apart, what really made me give it the thumbs-up was the fact that it was the V12 TDI... and that I was consequently intrigued.
Launched to a stunned public (and media) in 2007, the Q7 TDI was built to remind the world of Audi's Le Mans dominance. This was the first production car with a V12 turbodiesel engine and its 368kW and 1000Nm of torque would make it a strong contender, even now, 13 years later.
Not many of these Q7s were made. According to the website howmanyleft.co.uk, there were 27 left in the UK in 2018, so you can bet that the South African number is well below that. So, ironically, the Q7 6.0 TDI that showed up at the recent SentiMETAL Gathering may well have been one of the rarest vehicles present on the day, and many an eyebrow was raised when its bonnet was opened...
Will it become a classic though? I wouldn't bet against it.
Every generation tend to hero-worship the cars of their era, while at the same time regarding what follows as less important (the same goes for music and fashion). Read though classic car-themed magazines of the '80s and '90s and the same question that is now being asked about SUVs were also asked about '80s hot hatches. And we all know where those are going...
The fact of the matter is that today's generation of petrolheads will grow up remembering the thundering sound of a Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S more than the SL, which has traditionally been the Mercedes-Benz glamour model. People liked to poke fun at the first-generation Porsche Cayenne, but without it there would be no Porsche today, and if you can find a neat first-gen Turbo S, then why the hell not? If you can stomach the looks, of course, but even that having been said, questionable design has not stopped many cars from becoming classics.
Personally I think the same elements that drive other cars to becoming classics (or not), apply to the SUV.
Firstly, a mass-produced variant is unlikely to become a future collectible, but even in the world of the SUV, which is supposedly just about profits, there have been limited-edition specials. Only 600 of the first-generation Cayenne S Transsyberia were built, for example. And the first-generation BMW X6, which made many a bimmerfanatic shake their heads in disbelief in the early 2000s? Well, they made only 100 of the X6 M Design Edition... that's incredibly rare. Enough to make it a future classic. That's debatable...
As is the case with traditional classic vehicles, low-mileage, original cars of limited build and historical significance are what you should be looking for. A plain, run-of-the-mill Lamborghini Urus is unlikely to become a classic, because the volumes are too high (more than 5 000 in its first year!), but there will undoubtedly be more exclusive versions.
And if you still don't believe me then there's this...
It has happened already. The Lamborghini LM002 is already collectible, as are certain variants of the Land Rover Defender, the Ford Bronco and the first-generation Range Rover.
I'd also not be surprised if most of the following vehicles become quite collectible in the future (some, like the Land Cruiser and LM002, already are).
- Audi Q7 6.0 V12 TDI
- Lamborghini LM002
- Toyota Mega Cruiser
- Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG 6x6
- Toyota Land Cruiser J40
- Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution
- Land Rover Defender 90SV
- VW Touareg R50
So, then... don't entirely ignore the SUV market when pondering future classics. It's becoming quite a fascinating sub-genre. Me... I'm always on the hunt for a real unicorn... the Isuzu VehiCROSS, a futuristic 2-door SUV way ahead of its time. I'd even be interested in a neat first-generation, 2-door Toyota RAV4, to be honest... and I really regret selling my Suzuki SJ410 two decades ago!
And the ultimate? Well, if you combine rarity with obscurity and sheer nuttiness, then you can't beat the Sbarro Windhawk from the late '70s. It would be quite the way to make an entrance...