Crossover SUVs can have any type of “personality,” determined by the chassis they’re derived from and the automaker building them. Base a crossover on a compact car and you have a miserly, daily-grind commuter. Leverage a midsize sedan and get a bland people hauler. But what if a muscular engine gets pilfered from a prominent performance car builder? This rundown of sporty, fun-to-drive SUVs answers that question. The following offerings run the gamut from 250 horsepower to more than 700, from under $30,000 to more than $220,000 — but they all make the drive to soccer practice an edgy, adrenaline-charged experience.
Starting MSRP: $70,000 – $80,000 (est.)
To start, we have a 707-horsepower supercharged 6.2-liter HEMI V8 in all its Hellcat glory — without the fiery kitty name. The Jeep Trackhawk is the most powerful and, with its scalding 3.5-second zero-to-60-mph time, the second-quickest ride on this list. It puts the power down like no other. Similar to its wheelie-popping cousin — the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon — the Jeep uses a launch-control system dubbed Torque Reserve that momentarily limits torque before the driver releases the brake . . . and powers to an 11.6-second quarter mile at 116 mph. The Jeep features Select-Trac AWD with five modes to dial up the grip. When it comes to its more luxury-minded competitors, the Trackhawk is a less frills, more thrills proposition — making it our favorite sporty utility.
BMW X5 M
Starting MSRP: $100,700
Six digits for an SUV can be a big ask, but we still like this Bimmer. Thanks to its highly-developed and well-executed M Power 4.4-liter TwinPower turbocharged V8 engine, you get 567 horsepower under the loud pedal. The driveline has even been blessed by the M Power clergy; the xDrive all-wheel-drive system has been precisely optimized for nearly miraculous road-gripping traction. An interior with the perfect blend of luxury and sport amenities, 4.0-second zero-to-60-mph times, and handling that reigns down authority and confidence make this BMW a religious experience on apex-hugging canyon roads and long on-ramps alike.
Tesla Model X P100D
Starting MSRP: $145,000
With Tesla’s Performance All-Wheel Drive and a 100-kWh battery providing the juice, the P100D is the quickest ride on this list, blistering the pavement to the tune of 2.9 seconds for a zero-to-60-mph sprint. Its range checks in at 289 miles. The Model X can be configured to provide ample seating for seven and ordered with options right out of a science fiction movie, such as self-driving, four-camera ultrasonic sonar cruise control, and accessories run by high-tech tablet displays instead of dials. We love the looks and the Falcon Wing rear doors that allow unrivalled access even it tight quarters. Plug ‘n’ play never made more sense.
Mercedes Benz AMG G-Class
Starting MSRPs: Base G-Class $122,400; AMG G63 $141,400; AMG G65 $220,400
The “hip to be square” crowd will love the Mercedes G-Class. It’s big, brawny and boxy. Although its slab sides and tall stance evoke authority rather than sporty, AMG — Mercedes Benz’ performance division — ensures that the deeper you bury your right foot, the broader the smile on your face. The G63 sports a 5.5-liter bi-turbo V8 rated at 563 horsepower. The G65 brings a 6.0-liter bi-turbo V12 and 621 horsepower to the party. Concerns about quality? Engines are handcrafted and signed by their builders.
Starting MSRP: $200,000 – $225,000 (est.)
Still skulking around in production concept disguise — you know, the black and white vinyl wrap with all the curlicues everywhere — the Urus will indeed see the street. It’s been in the rumor mill since 2008, a concept since 2012, had official specs released in 2015 . . . perhaps production in 2018? Lamborghini has indicated a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 will be providing the thrills, and says the mission of the Urus is to be the most powerful SUV. Its original goal was most likely topping the 600 horsepower Bentley Bentayga, but the emergence of the Jeep Trackhawk may be a wrench in the works for the Italian firm. However, there are also rumblings of a super performance Super Veloce, or SV, model in the offing . . . so look out Trackhawk.
Porsche Cayenne Turbo
Starting MSRP: $118,100; Turbo S $161,600
Thai chefs treat orders for five stars of spice like a dare; Porsche takes the same tack with its top-flight SUV. The peppers are flying as the base Turbo puts out 520 horsepower and the big-dog Turbo S produces 570 horsepower from its 4.8-liter twin-turbocharged V8 powerplant. The Turbo S runs an 8-speed Tiptronic S and Porsche’s Traction Management AWD system (employing an electronic and map-controlled multi-plate clutch) to distribute all that power between the front and rear axles. Engine behavior can be controlled via a Sport button that alters throttle response, providing a sportier commute with a 4.2-second zero-to-60-mph time . . . because everyone needs a little passing power.
Starting MSRP: $229,100
With the biggest engine — by cylinder count — on our list, the Bentley Bentayga’s 6.0-liter W12 powerplant pumps out 600 horsepower. And this 5,340-pound rig makes the most of it, topping out at 187 mph, which makes it the fastest production SUV on Earth . . . for now. Zero to 60 mph flashes by in 4 seconds flat, and the Bentley uses start-stop technology and a variable displacement system to achieve a respectable 14 mpg city / 21 mpg highway fuel efficiency. Striking good looks with an equally impactful price tag, the Bentayga earns extra distinction as the most expensive SUV on this list. Sure, it’s an overly (and overtly) opulent Sheik’s play toy with more than 20 hues of blue to choose from — but look at it.
Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR
Starting MSRP: $111,350
Not many SUVs get flogged on Germany’s famed Nurburgring race track. Meet one in the form of the Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR. As a testament to its sportier nature, this Brit posted a lap of 8 minutes 14 seconds. To put the achievement in perspective, the official Top 100 list of Nordschleife hot-lappers cuts off at 7 minutes 56 seconds . . . this SVR gets it done. The Range Rover’s 5.0-liter 550-horsepower supercharged V8 uses the company’s Terrain Response 2 system to optimize transmission, suspension and traction settings to match a variety of on- and off-road conditions. The system can be driver controlled via six settings, including Automatic; Dynamic; Rock Crawl; Grass, Gravel and Snow; Mud and Ruts; or Sand. Don’t snicker at the ruts and sand settings . . . the SVR won Four Wheeler magazine’s “Four Wheeler of the Year” award in 2016.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
Starting MSRP: TBD
In the Stelvio, vibrant and daring Italian design gets teamed with an impressive 2.9-liter twin-turbocharged V6 that throws down 505 horsepower . . . a remarkable specific output of 174 horsepower per liter. Alfa’s Q4 all-wheel-drive system with torque vectoring and the automaker’s four-mode DNA Pro Drive Mode Selector — which provides Dynamic, Natural, Advanced Efficiency and Race settings — ensure a precise, controlled application of power. The term Quadrifoglio translates to four-leaf clover, a designation symbolic of Alfa’s highest performing trim in a given model. So, when you see a clover on the fender of an Alfa, fear what lurks beneath the hood.
Infiniti QX70 AWD
Starting MSRP: $47,650
This Infiniti draws inspiration from the Nissan 370Z sports car, as evinced by its 3.7-liter 325-horsepower V6. The QX70 uses a 7-speed automatic transmission and Nissan’s Intelligent All-Wheel Drive to engage its driver. The system continually monitors road conditions and automatically distributes power from rear-wheel drive to all-wheel drive to maximize traction. Infiniti has a long tradition of combining luxury and performance, and the sporty QX70 can trace its roots back to 2003 and the first FX-badged SUVs. Want more thump? Upgrade to the 400-horsepower V8-powered QX80 starting at $63,850.
Jaguar F-PACE S
Starting MSRP: $59,775
This ride is the first SUV for the Leaping Cat, and the marque is jumping in full-bore with the F-PACE. Offered in five trims ranging from $42,065 to the line-topping S at $59,775, all variants are motivated by a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine rated at 380 horsepower. The Jag runs a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system with torque vectoring and Jaguar’s All-Surface Progress Control system that includes individual braking of inside wheels to help the vehicle rotate through tight turns. This is high-tech jibber-jabber for “handles like a go-kart.”
Volvo XC60 AWD T6 R-Design
Starting MSRP: $51,000
The Volvo XC60 ties with the Subaru Forester for smallest engine on this list, but it remains a fave thanks to its high tech. The 2.0-liter 4-cylinder unit generates 302 horsepower, or an impressive 151 horses per liter — the second highest specific output behind the Alfa Romeo. The T6 engine takes advantage of its supercharger’s low-end power and transitions to turbo boost in the upper rev range. This translates to a smooth and seamless powerband and a speedy commute. Add in clean, logical Swedish design and you have a winner.
Acura MDX Sport Hybrid
Starting MSRP: $51,960
Under the “mean and green” banner we find the only hybrid on our list. The MDX Sport Hybrid is motivated by a 3.0-liter V6 engine that drives the front wheels, while twin electric motors power the rear wheels up to 84 mph; above this speed the Acura is front-wheel drive. Combined output checks in at 321 horsepower and 289 lb-ft of torque. Regarding efficiency, the MDX Hybrid is the mileage champ on our list, returning 26 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. The instant torque of the electric motors adds a bit of zip to the SUV’s off-the-line prowess, and you can claim tree hugger status when the need arises. That’s a win-win.
Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT
Starting MSRP: $66,895
Don’t to feel sorry for the SRT. Although it does give up 232 horsepower to its bigger sibling, the 475 ponies it does have in its corral stack up well here, coming in ninth place on our 19-vehicle list. The SRT has most of the bells and whistles the Trackhawk possesses, including driver-selected performance modes (track, snow, and tow settings) as well as launch control. Its HEMI V8 powerplant is stout enough, and we like the sculpted looks of this rig. We’re wondering how the SRT’s price will compare to the Trackhawk’s. If they end up being too close, there could be a lot of these SRTs lingering on dealer lots.
Maserati Levante S
Starting MSRP: $83,800
Mama Mia! Maserati is joining Jaguar and Alfa as late-comers to the crossover SUV party. How does this Italian stand out? It has a soothing look thanks to a shape that is part shooting brake, part SUV. Beyond the sheet metal, its interior is elegant (especially when trimmed in red leather) and its engine is designed by Maserati and built by Ferrari. Got your attention? The blue-blooded 3.0-liter V6 powerplant dishes out 424 horsepower, feeds an 8-speed transmission and Maserati’s Q4 all-wheel-drive system. Want to make a good first impression? The Levante oozes Euro chic inside and out, so let the good times roll.
Starting MSRP: $53,300
Prefer the bold German design dogma? Distinct Audi styling is the SQ5’s calling card. The lines of this SUV are breathtaking, its interior lavish, and the thrills continue as you press the issue with its 3.0-liter 354-horsepower TFSI supercharged V6 engine. The driveline consists of Audi’s famous rally-bred quattro all-wheel drive, and an 8 speed Tiptronic automatic with an aggressive sport-shift setting and paddles to work your magic with ease.
for high mileage drivers and those who regularly travel off the beaten path.
Cadillac XT5 Crossover
Starting MSRP: Base $39,395 FWD; 3.6L Luxury AWD $48,790
For a long time, Cadillac was known for the wild fins of its 1959 model and land yachts of the 1960’s. But the GM luxury brand has revolutionized its design philosophy and its bottom-line demographic by offering true drivers’ machines. The company’s XT5 is an all-new vehicle that replaces the SRX. This rig has the look and its 3.6-liter V6 contributes 310 horsepower to the proceedings. Since it’s a Cadillac, premium materials are used throughout and since it’s new it takes advantage of the latest design and technology from Detroit. In the realm of luxury SUVs it has a low cost of entry, although the XT5 is outgunned from a horsepower standpoint compared to others on this list.
Ford Explorer Sport EcoBoost V6
Starting MSRP: $45,355
The EcoBoost line of turbo engines has made a huge impact on the roads of America. They range from the 1.0-liter 4-cylinder kicker in the Fiesta to the 3.5-liter V6 in this Explorer Sport. Here, Ford uses twin turbochargers to generate an impressive 365 horsepower. All that added pep is put to good use by Explorer’s Intelligent 4WD that uses driveline differentials and the brake system to maximize traction. This Blue Oval is one of the more connected SUVs on the list, with plenty of access to apps, smartphones, and onboard media.
Subaru Forester 2.0XT Premium
Starting MSRP: $29,295
As the cheap thrills special, this Forester 2.0XT has the smallest engine (ties with the Volvo XC60) and the lowest sticker price. What you get is a WRX in sheep’s clothing. The 2.0XT runs a 2.0-liter turbocharged Boxer engine rated at 250 horsepower, a Lineartronic CVT with paddle shifters that simulate eight speeds, and Subaru’s tried-and-proven Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive. The fun can be found when taking advantage of the Boxer engine’s low center of gravity during hard cornering. This SUV settles in nicely once set into a long sweeper, and all you do is lean on the gas pedal to tickle the edge of adhesion. When accelerating, the simulated gears in the CVT do a good job of keeping the engine in its powerband. Feel like a rock star without rocking the bank account.