The Best Fun To Drive SUVs
The best fun to drive SUVs are endowed with more than adequate horsepower, outstanding road holding, and superior brakes. In many ways, they’re more like sport sedans than SUVs. You’ll find most of them are outfitted rather luxuriously besides. While SUVs used to be focused primarily on making molehills out of mountains, these days, they’re more likely to be found tooling around the suburbs—if you find one outside the city limits. Builders are aware of this and have started making SUVs behave more like cars as a result. Given this development, the emergence of the high performance SUV was inevitable.
While the MDX ranks as Acura’s ‘big” SUV, its agility makes it one of the sportiest three-row SUVs on the market. Equipped with Acura’s advanced torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system, the MDX goes around curves like a sport sedan. Power is good too, with 290 horsepower and 267 ft-lbs of torque streaming to all four wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission. And yet, on the highway, the MDX is gracefully smooth and quiet. What’s more, the Acura is always mindful of the fact it’s also a family car. Storage space is abundantly distributed around the cabin and single-press buttons slide the second row forward to ease access to the third row. If you’re looking for a solid all-around vehicle for your family you can enjoy driving, the Acura MDX makes a very strong case for itself.
Brilliant handling, determined acceleration, and a sumptuous array of luxury features define the Acura RDX, while ranking it among the best fun to drive SUVs. Available features include smart cruise control, lane keeping assist, and remote engine start. The 3.5-liter V6 engine produces 279 horsepower and 252 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed automatic is standard, as is front-drive. All-wheel drive is an option.
Audi’s handsome Q5 crossover SUV is delightful in and of itself. When you go SQ5, Audi’s product planners turn all of the positive attributes of the Q5 up to 11. The brilliant Audi’s supercharged 3.0-liter V6 makes 354 horsepower and 346 ft-lbs of torque. All-wheel drive and an eight-speed transmission complete the powertrain. Naturally, Audi’s engineering team reworked the suspension system to significantly improve handling as well. Further, interior accommodations are every inch what you expect from one of the upper level Audi models.
Any BMW SUV with the letter M as the suffix of its nomenclature is going to be capable of extraordinary feats of automotive legerdemain. In this case, the X5M and its sister vehicle, the X6M, are the most powerful SUVs ever offered by the storied manufacturer. And frankly, they rank among the most powerful ever offered by any manufacturer. Output is 567 horsepower and 553 ft-lbs of torque from a 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8. Completing the powertrain is an eight-speed automatic transmission to feed all four wheels. When it comes to the best fun to drive SUVs, these BMWs are truly class leaders.
Those of with longer memories may recall the appellation “Bionic Cheetah” as applied to the Infiniti QX70 when it debuted as the Infiniti FX35 back in 2002. Some fourteen years later, the curvaceous Infiniti remains worthy of the name, as it is still one of the best handling crossover SUVs on the market. Exceptionally agile, the Infiniti QX70 shares its basic platform with the Nissan 370Z. Thus, the 2016 Infiniti QX70 has a rather valid excuse for behaving like a sports car. Its 3.7-liter V6 makes 325 horsepower and 276 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed automatic routes power to either the rear wheels or (optionally) all four.
Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT
Talk about your fire-breathing dragons, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT is the most powerful American SUV currently on offer. In fact, it also ranks as one of the world’s most powerful. The Jeep’s pavement shredding 6.4-liter V8 makes 475 horsepower and 470 ft-lbs of torque, which it feeds to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. What’s more, the GCSRT goes around corners like a sport sedan half its size. More than just go, the Jeep’s good to show, too. The near-opulent interior is just as luxurious as the GCSRT is fast. Folks thinking America needs to be made great again, really ought to take a look at this Jeep. They’ll see we’re just as badass as we’ve ever been.
Proof you don’t have to be a wealthy magnate of some sort to get your hands on one of the best fun to drive SUVs, the Mazda CX-3 is beautifully balanced, and graced with sharp steering as well as resolute braking. The Mazda’s free-revving 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine makes 146 horsepower and 146 ft-lbs of torque. While these are the lowest horsepower and torque ratings on this list, keep in mind they’re tasked with motivating the lightest vehicle on the list, too. The Mazda’s front wheels are fed by a six-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is offered as an option.
Mazda works to make everything it builds something a driving enthusiast will appreciate. With that said, of course the maker’s CX-5 mid-size crossover will rank among the best fun to drive SUVs. It’s also comfortable and nicely equipped. Treated to a minor makeover for 2016, the CX-5 boasts mildly refreshed styling, more sound insulation, a suspension revision to improve ride quality without hampering handling, and the newest version of the Mazda Connect telematics system. The 184-horsepower 2.5-liter four with 185 ft-lbs of torque will give you the most go for your dough. The engine is offered with a choice of either front- or Mazda’s predictive all-wheel drive. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard.
If this list of the best fun to drive SUVs is looking a bit Mazda-heavy, it’s because Mazda places driver satisfaction at the forefront for every product it offers. Case in point, the 2019 Mazda CX-9. It’s one of the sportiest, most fun-to-drive, and durable daily commuter vehicles in the midsize SUV class. The revered patriarch of Mazda’s SUV lineup seats up to seven passengers over three rows. The CX-9 earns a “10” for having one of the plushest interiors in the segment. The Mazda earns additional high marks for 2019 now that each CX-9 comes standard with a slew of superb safety tech. Those features include blind spot monitoring and forward automatic emergency braking. There’s also a plethora of entertainment features on some trims, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. More advanced driver aids await you on higher grades, such as pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, and a 360-degree parking camera. The fuel-efficient CX-9 is powered by a 227-horsepower, turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that’s teamed with a six-speed automatic transmission. Front- and all-wheel-drive models are available.
Porsche Macan Turbo
The quickest accelerating compact crossover sport utility offered today, of course the Porsche Macan Turbo is one of the best fun to drive SUVs. How quick is it? Porsche (in its usual conservative fashion) quotes a zero to 60 of 4.4 seconds. The Macan’s power comes from a twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter V6 capable of 400 horsepower and 406 ft-lbs of torque. Porsche’s seven-speed Doppelkupplung (PDK) dual-clutch automated manual transmission routes power to all four wheels.
Porsche Cayenne Turbo S
Rounding out our list of the most fun to drive SUVs is the most powerful model on the list. By the way, this is likely the only place you’ll ever see it come in last. The almighty Porsche Cayenne Turbo S boasts an amazing 570 horsepower and 590 ft-lbs of torque. This is derived from a twin-turbocharged 4.8-liter V8. An eight-speed automatic transmission routes power to all four wheels. Updated for the 2016 model year, the Porsche Cayenne Turbo also has refreshed styling and a redesigned suspension system to improve ride quality while preserving its outstanding handling characteristics, The top of the line Porsche SUV, the performance potential of the Cayenne Turbo S is rivaled only by the opulence of its interior.
Range Rover Sport SVR
The current iteration of the Land Rover Range Rover Sport readily ranks among the best fun to drive SUVs. However the Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR is capable of running to 60 miles per hour in less time than it takes to recite its name. This is without a doubt the fastest and most agile Range Rover ever offered. The SVR’s prodigious power output comes courtesy of a supercharged 5.0-liter V8, which is good for a solid 550 horsepower and 502 ft-lbs of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission feeds power to all four wheels. Even better, all of the luxury and off-road capability you expect from a Range Rover translates intact.
The crisp wedge-shaped styling of the XC60 telegraphs its performance potential, without being overtly racy. Even when you opt for the sport-oriented R-Design package the understated appearance of the Volvo is more responsible than raucous. For the 2017 model year, Volvo has fitted a 240-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with momentary overboost potential to 280 ft-lbs of torque. Agility, responsiveness and stability are strong points, along with a well-crafted interior treatment and a host of the expected safety features. These include a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors, a frontal collision warning system with fully automatic braking as well as pedestrian and cyclist detection. The XC60 can also be had with a driver-inattention warning system and lane departure warning.