Five brilliant first tries at SUVs

Kodiaq is Skoda's first proper seven-seat SUV. But it's come fairly late to the genre.
PAUL OWEN/FAIRFAX NZ

Kodiaq is Skoda's first proper seven-seat SUV. But it's come fairly late to the genre.

 

The Skoda Kodiaq is a seriously good first go at a full-size SUV from a company not previously known for them.

But this has happened before. Today we take a look at five automotive manufacturers that got it right first time with SUVs.

BMW X5

BMW nailed the SUV thing with the X5 in 1999. With a little help from Land Rover.
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BMW nailed the SUV thing with the X5 in 1999. With a little help from Land Rover.

Up until 1999. BMW was rather well known for building excellent sporting sedans, wagons and occasional sports cars. But that all changed when the company bought Land Rover and decided to use its acquisitions expertise to get into the SUV market. And in 1999 it did so a rather impressive way.

The X5 was big, handsome and actually somewhat capable off-road, thanks to Land Rover knowhow and technology. While Mercedes-Benz had a few years head start with the M-class (and Range Rover had a couple of decades) the X5 pretty much opened the luxury SUV floodgates by proving that a manufacturer with no SUV experience could make a very good one indeed.

Honda CR-V

The 1994 Honda CR-V really set the template for today's family oriented "soft roaders".
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The 1994 Honda CR-V really set the template for today's family oriented "soft roaders".

Much like the X5 did a few years later for the luxury segment, the Honda CR-V (along with the Toyota RAV4) opened the doors on the deluge of mainstream car-based "crossover" SUVs that are commonplace today.

While Honda had a couple of SUVs in its line up prior to the CR-V, it didn't actually make any of them: the Jazz was an Isuzu MU, the Passport was an Isuzu Rodeo and the Crossroad was a Land Rover Discovery. But the CR-V was all Honda's own work and a damn fine effort for the times. While it did attract criticism for underpowered engines, Honda soon rectified this and the first CR-V was an unqualified success.

Range Rover

Range Rover was a totally new concept in the late-1960s. But the luxury came later.
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Range Rover was a totally new concept in the late-1960s. But the luxury came later.

This one may seem pretty obvious. But think about it - before the original Range Rover, Land Rover was only known for the Series I and Series II, which weren't exactly refined or even comfortable.

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Land Rover had been experimenting with a larger, more refined vehicle for a number of years, but it wasn't until Spen King started working on the idea in 1966 that something actually came of it. The original Range Rover was never intended to be a luxury vehicle and had a fairly spartan interior, even for the time; but it certainly blossomed into one and it's one of the greatest automotive designs of all time.

Willys Jeep Station Wagon

Willys Station Wagon of 1948 took tough Jeep and made it into a suburban wagon. The world's first SUV then?
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Willys Station Wagon of 1948 took tough Jeep and made it into a suburban wagon. The world's first SUV then?

While you would expect Jeep to nail its first attempt at an SUV , there is one other factor to this one: SUVs didn't actually exist in 1948 when the Willys Jeep Station Wagon came out.

Sure, the Russians had played around with the idea, but the Jeep wagon was the first to set in place the basic ideas of what an SUV would eventually become. The Station Wagon was one of Jeep's best post-WWII sellers thanks to it being popular with families moving to the suburbs. Yes, that sounds like an SUV to us.

Lamborghini LM 002

Lamborghini LM 002 was originally designed as a military vehicle. Can you tell?
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Lamborghini LM 002 was originally designed as a military vehicle. Can you tell?

No one really expected Lamborghini to make an SUV in the 1980s, but it did and it was outrageous!

The LM 002 sprang from the rear-engined Cheetah concept that the company had tried to flog to the US military with no luck back in the '70s. Dropping the Chevrolet V8 from the rear and packing the 7.2-litre V12 from the Countach must have seemed like a good idea in the early '80s, so Lamborghini went for it.

The resulting LM 002 was the wonderfully bonkers result.

* Have we missed other great first time SUVs? Tell us in comments below.

 - Stuff

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