Top Gear’s Top 9: premium SUVs to buy before SST returns

By topgear, 13 November 2020

2020 was a forgettable year for many, but we at TGM always try to find a silver lining anywhere we can. One such example is the government's on-going sales tax (SST) waiver for new car purchases until the end of the year.

Yes, we know, we've already listed list nine cars we think you should consider after the tax break was first announced. However, despite the pandemic, the market has evolved tremendously since then, and demand for SUVs – premium ones in particular – has reached fever pitch.

With that in mind, we set out to see what are the best premium SUVs worth considering now before the SST break ends as initially planned come 1 January 2021. Well, if you have the means, here's our pick of nine premium SUVs we reckon you ought to reward yourself – and perhaps your family – with...

Words: Thoriq Azmi & Daryl Loy

1. Porsche Cayenne

From RM680,000 (pre-order)

Want a family-friendly SUV that's both posh and infused with a lot of proper sports car DNA? You need not look further past Porsche and its benchmark-setting Cayenne. Notably, the 2021-spec Cayenne recently got sweetened with a new Premium Package option offer that adds even more tech and features. Best of all? This option comes at no additional cost, which in turn makes the RM680,000 starting price the Cayenne commands even more tempting. You'd definitely have better luck convincing the Missus of your mid-life crisis needs with this over a 911, surely... TA

2. BMW X1 sDrive18i

PRICE: RM208,368.48 (until 31 December)

BMW's local 'SAV' range expanded further with this new entry-level variant of the X1 and, its status as a locally assembled (CKD) product saw it shave over RM7k from its initial RM215,800 fully taxed price tag. For that, you get a respectably posh and very practical crossover that's also equally impressive to drive – as all Bimmers should – despite having less power from its smaller 1.5-litre three-banger powertrain. If that's not enough, then the fact that it stands as the most affordable Bimmer on sale right now – period – should seal the deal. TA

3. Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R Design

PRICE: RM255,888 (until 31 December)

Want a distinctively Swedish twist to your posh compact SUV flavour? Volvo's 'baby' XC40 ought to sate this need perfectly, more so now with the savings of over RM14k from its initial fully taxed price tag of RM255,888. Also, the most affordable new Volvo on sale now comes  fully loaded with all the high tech features and plush amenities as how its bigger and pricier XC60 and XC90 siblings do sans electrification. And, as we discovered not too long ago, this Swede Sensation was one to savour... TA

4. BMW X5 xDrive45e M Sport

PRICE: RM440,745.11 (until 31 December)

Found BMW's last plug-in X5 somewhat lacking a little? Well, its successor landed in back June this year, brandishing a peppier 3.0-litre straight-six turbo mill as a remedy. Respectably quick (0-100kph in 5.6 secs) and very eco-conscious (2.5 litres/100km, 56g/km CO2), BMW Malaysia even went to town in speccing this plug-in X5 with the very latest and greatest tech too. And if you thought its initial RM448,800 fully-taxed price figure was tempting, the slash of slightly over RM8k from that makes this a solid proposition. Could you think of another sub-RM500k SUV that's this electrifying, posh, and sporty? Yeah, thought so... TA

5. Volvo XC90 T5 AWD Momentum

PRICE: RM350,810 (until December 31)

If you’re a fan of the Swedish flair but find the XC40 too small, Volvo's base variant of the XC90 might just fit the bill. Sure, it's a little slower and thirstier than its electrified twin, but the spec sheet comparison shows that it isn't as watered down as it seems it to be, especially in terms of safety and convenience – two fronts where Volvo shines best. Moreover, this XC90 variant offers the most savings from Volvo's current line up – over RM23k. It also promises to be less taxing to maintain out of warranty thanks to the absence of electrification. TA

(Note: XC90 T8 Inscription Plus variant pictured)

6. Mazda CX-9 2.5T

PRICE: RM282,520.40 (until 31 December)

It may be a CBU imported all the way from Japan, but as the out-and-out flagship SUV of the brand, the CX-9 is still the car that offers the most SST savings in a Mazda showroom today – you’ll save RM8,090 if you buy one before the tax holiday ends. At RM282,520.40, the turbocharged CX-9 punches well above its weight, with its seven-seat layout and luxury-oriented trimmings, giving things like the BMW X5 and Volvo XC90 a run for their money in terms of sheer practicality and presence. DL

7. Mercedes-AMG GLC43 Coupe

PRICE: RM498,723 (until 31 December)

It’s interesting that Mercedes-Benz Malaysia chose to facelift the GLC43 locally in Coupe-only format (at least for now), but we suppose if you want a feisty SUV befitting the Affalterbach’s hallowed trio of letters, you may as well go with the supposedly sportier-looking package. Even by CKD standards, RM498,723 for as long as the SST exemption is in effect isn’t exactly cheap. But the sub-RM500k price tag sounds like a steal once you factor in its 390hp/520Nm output and 4.9-second century sprint that outclass the RM600+k Porsche Macan S in a theoretical head-to-head. DL

8. Mercedes-Benz GLB250 4Matic AMG Line

PRICE: RM318,009 (until 31 December)

If the GLC43 AMG Coupe offers power you don’t need at a price you can’t afford, then the RM318k Merc GLB250 could use your attention. With 224hp, seven seats and AWD, the A-Class’s three-row crossover offshoot should prove to be quite the versatile performer in and out of the city – we’re waiting for our first road test to validate these guesses. There’s also the cheaper, RM269k GLB200 for budget-conscious suitors who can live with the 1.3-litre FWD powertrain. Once again, these prices are expected to go up once the exemptions are lifted in 2021. DL

9. Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace 2.0 R-Line

PRICE: RM208,554 (until 31 December)

To save even more Ringgits on a European trip, VW’s seven-seat Tiguan presents a similar concept to the GLB250, with a two-litre turbo and AWD also part of a package that costs a whopping RM110k less than the Merc after factoring in the RM5k SST waiver the VW enjoys till the end of the year. 220PS, 350Nm, a wet-clutch DCT and some snazzy R-Line bits essentially make the Allspace a family-spec, picnic-ready Golf GTI of sorts. That’s certainly a thought we can get behind. DL