Crossover SUVs becoming more popular as luxury-vehicle option

If you're looking for a luxury vehicle these days, most of your choices won't look like they looked even 10 years ago.

Where sedans were once the default upscale ride, crossover SUVs have now taken that position.

And within a huge selection, some new ones have arrived for this year.

They're starting with a revised Mercedes-Benz GLE, which has descended from the one that pretty much got the whole craze started more than 20 years ago, the ML.

Mercedes has refined the vehicle over the years, but it's still built exclusively at Mercedes-Benz's U.S. factory in Alabama. One new interior highlight is a wide LCD screen for instrumentation and other functions. When the vehicle's ignition is off, it just looks like a big dark screen. But when switched on, all the instruments and controls appear - sharp, crisp and easy to see.

Under the hood of the GLE350, there's a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that's amazingly powerful and smooth. Mercedes-Benz's 4Matic all-wheel drive is available, as is a larger six-cylinder model, the GLE450.

Another older model getting a new name is the Lincoln Nautilus, the two-row luxury crossover once known as the MKX. Ford's upscale division is finally going back to model names instead of just letters, and using a cohesive design language for all its vehicles. The Nautilus competes with a slew of high-tech safety features standard, and slots in between the smaller MKC (the last Lincoln SUV to use the letter system), and the upcoming Lincoln Aviator.

So why all these luxury SUVs? Well, people are buying them more and more. The combination of luxury and utility seems to be a winning combination.

And luxury buyers want them in all kinds of sizes, including a smaller, trimmer size like the new Cadillac XT4. It slots in below the XT5 model, and brings a new angular shape, plus an improved infotaiment control system. Though if you're looking for plentiful backseat room, this may not be the one, as the rear seat is pretty cramped for average-size adults.

If you do need more interior room, the next Cadillac SUV to hit showrooms will be the XT6, recently introduced at the Detroit Auto Show. Featuring three rows of seats, it manages to look like a scaled-up XT4, and a scaled-down Escalade (Cadillac's largest SUV) at the same time.

Luxury car brands will still offer sedans, for people who still like those.

But the market has spoken, and the industry has answered back. For this year and beyond, "luxury" increasingly means a vehicle shaped like some kind of SUV.
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