Best Performing SUVs
Best Performing SUVs
SUVs have a reputation for being cumbersome to drive. In some cases, that’s deserved: SUVs that ride on truck platforms drive like trucks (surprise, surprise). But, with the increasing popularity of crossover SUVs that ride on car platforms, more and more SUVs are driving like cars -- which is good news if you‘re bummed about giving up the performance of your sport sedan for the utility of an SUV.
While even the most performance-oriented SUV won’t be able to take on sports cars at the track, today’s SUVs feature powerful engines and performance-enhancing technology that make them more rewarding to drive. When shopping for performance, look for SUVs with turbocharged engines, which add power without taking much of a toll on fuel economy. Luxury performance SUVS will often have adaptive suspensions that tailor the SUV’s responses to the type of driving you’re doing. Just know that performance comes at a price: the best performing SUVs in a class also tend to be the most expensive. Plus, while a taut suspension makes for great handling, it can also mean a ride that’s rougher than your passengers may like.
For the right buyer, sacrificing budget and some ride comfort at the altar of performance is worth it, but performance SUVs aren’t for everyone. If your right foot is itching to drop the hammer, but you need an SUV, here are some of the best performing ones you can buy.
Affordable Compact SUVs -- Your Pocket Rockets
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. Reviews state that the Tiguan handles quite well, with a driving experience more like a car than an SUV. Its 2.0-liter turbocharged engine puts down 200 horsepower, enough to propel the Tiguan from zero to 60 in just 7.8 seconds.
MSRP: $21,700 - $33,035
The Mazda CX-7 has excellent handling, though sporty performance comes at the price of a suspension that’s a bit stiff over less-than-perfect roads. Equipped with the optional 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, the CX-7 puts out 244 horsepower and gets up to 60 mph in just 7.5 seconds while still offering plenty of passenger and cargo space.
Luxury Compact SUVs -- The Sport Sedan Alternative
MSRP: $35,200 - $42,500
The Audi Q5 lives up to the brand’s reputation for surefooted performance. The standard 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder, or optional 3.2-liter V6, launch the Q5 from zero to 60 in 7.1 and 6.7 seconds, respectively. Then there’s the optional Audi Drive Select, which allows you to tune the suspension for a comfortable ride on your drive to work -- you can also put it in sport mode for a weekend drive on a country road.
MSRP: $34,600 - $36,600
With a smooth, car-like ride and impressive performance, the Mercedes GLK is more than just a pretty face. Its 3.5-liter V6 puts out 268 horsepower and is mated to a seven-speed transmission that is well-liked by test drivers. Factory estimates put the zero-to-60 time around 6.5 seconds -- that’s sport sedan quick, especially when compared to the comparably priced Mercedes C-Class.
Affordable Midsize SUVs -- Grocery Get-Up and Go