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The grille of the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, positioned by RR as: “A vision in black. Cultivate your dark side. An imposing force. Be drawn in by a tremendous presence that commands attention and respect.” You can almost hear the crack of the whip. © BFA 2022

Status Symbol

Big Swingin’ ... SUVs

How do you demonstrate you’re a family man and a stud? Behold, the new generation of Ultra-Luxury Super SUVs.

According to Urban Dictionary, a “Penis Car” is “any flashy, expensive and/or fast car that a man uses to make up for his small [stick shift].” Sporty rides like Ferraris, Bugattis, Porsches, and Lamborghinis. Makes sense. Who wouldn’t feel more virile and less bald when installed in a sleek, low-slung, powerful driving machine? There’s no time to fret about other shortcomings when you can do 0 to 60 in under three seconds. 

But what if you are now a Master of the Universe with a Tibetan Mastiff drooling on your leather interiors, and three kids who need to be shuttled to soccer? How do you demonstrate you’re a family man and a stud? Behold, the new generation of Ultra-Luxury Super SUVs.

“A super-luxury SUV doesn’t just say ‘I am rich’ like a sports car,” notes Jonathan Anastas, an LA marketing and advertising executive who has owned luxury SUVs for 20 years. “It says, I’m active, I’m safe, and—unlike with a low-slung missile—you can picture those two tiny heads in the back seat headed to private school drop-off a few years from now. All without sacrificing badge status or the testosterone-affirming horsepower or 0-60 stats.”

Even the car names seem to be saying: Look at Me. Take, for example, the Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT, because hot pepper is the driving experience you want. Or the Lamborghini Urus Performante (owners: Travis Scott, Kanye) named for an extinct hairy long-horned ox (a high-performante one, naturally). “This is a polarizing car, you either love it or you don’t,” Lamborghini’s former CEO, Stefano Domenicali, said. “For those that don’t, I say just drive it.”

Who wouldn’t feel more virile and less bald when installed in a sleek, low-slung, powerful driving machine?
Former Lamborghini CEO Stefano Domenicali with the luxury automaker’s Lamborghini Urus. He’s now CEO of Formula One Group. © Griffin Lipson/BFA 2022
Former Lamborghini CEO Stefano Domenicali with the luxury automaker’s Lamborghini Urus, named for an extinct hairy long-horned ox. Travis Scott and Kanye both own one. © Griffin Lipson/BFA 2022

The Tesla Model X Plaid mystifyingly seems to only come in solid colors but does boast being able to get from 0 to 60 in 2.3 seconds, guaranteeing you’ll be first out of the Costco parking lot. The Aston Martin DBX707 could be the car that James Bond drives when he trades his license to kill for a license to pick up the dry cleaning. (I’m not sure about the significance of “DBX707” . . . it sounds like a tax form.)

Rolls-Royce’s entry into the race is the Cullinan (owners: A$AP Rocky, Wes Watson, Nick Cannon), named for the 3,100-carat diamond, the largest ever found. But there is also a distinctly S&M vibe: From the RR site: “A vision in black. Cultivate your dark side. An imposing force. Be drawn in by a tremendous presence that commands attention and respect.” You can almost hear the crack of the whip.

Not that everyone who can easily afford one of these cars craves one. My friend Maggie, an entertainment executive who could easily afford a Super SUV in every bespoke color, notes, “The problem with these vehicles is that they don’t check all the boxes for either luxury-car enthusiasts or real sports-car enthusiasts. If you love Maseratis like I do, you see the SUV as a watered-down niche-filler. It’s not a sports car, it’s just an aspirational brand at that point.”

Still, the lovers love these hulks with a 0-60-in-3.2-seconds passion. And while they’ve been around since 2015, with the introduction of the Bentley Benyaga, it’s probably no coincidence that they had a huge surge in popularity during the pandemic. 

Rolls-Royce’s entry into the race, the Cullinan (owners: A$AP Rocky, Wes Watson, Nick Cannon), is named for the 3,100-carat diamond, the largest ever found. It also has a distinctly S&M vibe.

2021 saw the greatest sales year ever for Lamborghini and Aston Martin, thanks to their sports/SUV crossovers. 2022, say manufacturers, is promising even greater spoils. (Incidentally, sales may be strongest in climate-change-activist hotspots like LA and the Hamptons…but fuel efficiency? That’s for the little people. Miles per gallon for these behemoths average around 12; a big selling point for Bentley’s Bentayaga is that it gets 16.)

I met a 20-something on the corner of Wilshire and Robertson in Beverly Hills—Ground Zero for luxury-car dealerships. His parents were checking out the Lamborghinis. A car nerd since he was three, the kid, eagerly talked suspensions and drag and brake torquing and supremacy—a term which specifically refers to the height of the ride but, in this case, seems a little too on the money. 

He was eager to explain the special allure of a Super SUV during quarantine. “Like, if you’re a family with money and you wanted to show it off, what could you do? You couldn’t have people over to your house. You couldn’t go to parties and break out your designer clothes and jewelry… But if you’ve got a Lamborghini Super SUV…you could always go for a drive.” 

And despite current market woes, the Supers trend shows no signs of slowing down. The newest of the lot is the Ferrari Purosangue, literally “pure blood” (which sounds perhaps more German than Italian). Translated more felicitously to “thoroughbred,” in keeping with Ferrari’s spirited horse logo, the Purosangue was just premiered in Dubai and will hit other exclusive markets next year. The price of admission starts at just under half a million dollars—about the cost of 20 Toyota Camrys—and there’s already a waiting list. But its top speed is 193 mph—perfect for escaping your own mortality.

Hero image: © BFA 2022

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