While even the most performance-oriented SUVs don’t handle like a sports car, today’s SUVs have powerful engines and performance-enhancing technology that make them very rewarding to drive.
If you’re shopping for an SUV and have a lead foot, here are some of the best performing models you can buy.
Affordable Compact SUVs
Car and Driver calls the Volkswagen Tiguan “a GTI on stilts.” Given that the GTI has a perennial spot on Car and Driver’s 10Best list, that’s high praise. The Tiguan handles quite well, with a driving experience that is more like a car than an SUV. Its 2.0-liter turbocharged engine produces 200 horsepower, which is enough to propel the Tiguan from 0 to 60 mph in less than eight seconds, according to Volkswagen.
The Mazda CX-7 has excellent handling, though its sporty performance comes at the price of a suspension that’s a bit stiff over rough roads. Equipped with the optional 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the CX-7 puts out 244 horsepower and achieves 60 mph in about 7.5 seconds, while still offering plenty of cargo space and seating for five.
Luxury Compact SUVs
The Audi Q5 lives up to the brand’s reputation for surefooted performance. The standard 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine or optional 3.2-liter V6 launch the Q5 from 0 to 60 in 7.1 and 6.7 seconds, respectively. The Q5 also offers optional Audi Drive Select, which allows you to adjust the suspension for a more comfortable ride to work or a spirited drive down a country road.
With a smooth, car-like ride and impressive performance, the Mercedes-Benz GLK is more than just a pretty face. Its 3.5-liter V6 puts out 268 horsepower and is mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission that is well-liked by test drivers. Factory estimates put the 0-to-60 time at about 6.5 seconds, which is sport-sedan quick, especially when compared with the similarly-priced Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
Affordable Midsize SUVs
Jeep Grand Cherokee
The days of the Jeep moniker being nothing more than a rugged, trail-worthy off-roader are long gone. The Jeep Grand Cherokee proves it can do all that and offer equally impressive on-road performance. A recently-upgraded suspension system has greatly improved the Grand Cherokee’s road manners over previous models, while power comes from either a new 3.6-liter V6 engine making 290 horsepower or an optional 5.7-liter V8 making 360 horsepower. According to Car and Driver, a V6-equipped Grand Cherokee can hit 60 mph in about eight seconds. This SUV can handle paved roads and trips off the beaten path with ease.
The Ford Flex is not only a great family SUV, but it’s also a great performer. The Flex’s optional twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine gives it a 0-to-60 mph time of 6.6 seconds, according to Edmunds. If you’re on the lookout for an affordable midsize SUV, you’ll be hard pressed to find one that’s quicker. Checking the box for the 355-horsepower EcoBoost mill also adds such sporty features as a six-speed SelectShift transmission, paddle shifters and a suspension that reviewers claim make it one of the best handling crossover SUVs on the market. That’s an impressive feat for a midsize SUV that can seat up to seven.
Luxury Midsize SUVs
From the base Porsche Cayenne’s 300-horsepower V6, all the way up to the Cayenne Turbo’s 500-horsepower V8 and 4.4-second 0-to-60 sprint, there’s a Cayenne for any luxury SUV buyer. The Cayenne recently dropped about 400 pounds, which makes it nimbler than ever. Reviewers say the Cayenne is possibly the best-driving SUV on the market.
Land Rover Range Rover Sport
The Land Rover Range Rover Sport combines the best of Land Rover’s legendary off-road capabilities with better on-road manners than a full-size Range Rover. Buyers can choose either a 375-horsepower 5.0-liter V8 or a 510-horsepower supercharged version of the same engine to provide enough thrust to propel the Range Rover Sport from 0 to 60 mph in 7.2 and 5.9 seconds, respectively. A six-speed automatic transmission with an adaptive shift pattern responds to driving style and conditions to provide optimum performance.
There’s an SUV out there that will fit your performance wants, as well as your practicality needs.