Let’s face it, SUVs are here to stay, and they have certainly come a long way from the days of agricultural, crude, and ungainly vehicles designed for utility and not much else.
These days, features such as comfort, luxury, speed, and even prodigious handling have been baked into many SUVs by automakers who have redefined this category over the past two decades or so.
Monstrous engines, intelligent all-wheel drive systems, sophisticated suspensions, and cutting edge safety devices have all conspired to create segment-busting, all-weather rocket ships that can haul people and cargo as well as more than hold their own on the track.
Modern technology has overcome – or at least mitigated – certain laws of physics to the point where having ludicrous horsepower in a tallish wagon doesn’t have to be a scary proposition, and discerning buyers do not have to opt for a cramped sports car to get their speed thrills! Here are 20 of these rapid SUVs, in no particular order.
20 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
From the storied halls of this iconic Italian brand comes a fire-breathing, seductive, and sweet-sounding SUV with no less than 505 horsepower. The Ferrari-designed turbocharged V6 is paired with a paddle-shifted transmission and adaptive dampers to truly reflect its eponymous pedigree (Stelvio is the name of a famous pass in the Italian Alps).
19 Mercedes-Benz GLA45 AMG
Part Crossover, part SUV, and part hot hatch, this ground-effected and winged German missile packs 375 usable horses and AWD into a tidy package. Its handling prowess and good looks are augmented with the latest safety features Mercedes-Benz is famous for, and although not as cavernous as most other SUVs, you will not be lacking for utility in this beast from Stuttgart.
18 Jaguar F-Pace SVR
A 5.0 liter, supercharged V8 packing 550 hp can propel this shapely SUV from the house of Jaguar to 60 mph in around 4 seconds. Having waved a magic wand over the comparatively more sedate but still handsome F-Pace, Jaguar’s Special Vehicle Operations team blessed this fierce SUV with adaptive dampers and an 8-speed ZF transmission to deliver groceries and eye-opening lap times at the track.
17 Maserati Levante Trofeo
Until Ferrari reveals its own SUV (to the collective gasp of every tifoso), you will have to make do with another Italian SUV with a legendary racing pedigree.
This agent provocateur of a tall wagon packs a sublime twin-turbo Ferrari V8 and its accompanying 590 horsepower under the hood along with the electronic dampening of its “Skyhook” suspension keeping all those “cavalini” in check on the road and on the track. The trident lives on, albeit in an unexpected guise.
16 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S e-Hybrid
Zuffenhausen’s entry in this borderline ridiculous segment of the automotive marketplace comes with an equally nutty price tag and is a 670 hp tour-de-force that demolishes the 0-60 in 3.6 seconds and reaches a (governed) terminal velocity of 183 mph. This monstrously powerful SUV packs a twin-turbo V8 plus an electric motor to generate this motivational force, along with performance numbers to shame many supercars.
15 Porsche Macan Turbo
A 434 horsepower compact crossover, the Macan Turbo showcases technical wizardry that Porsche is famous for, and offers pavement-scorching performance in a dynamic package. It combines utility and is (relatively, for a Porsche) affordable, provided you can resist the temptation to go overboard on Porsche’s mile-long list of costly options.
14 2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S
Porsche’s first all-electric vehicle is nothing short of revolutionary. Combining that magical Porsche DNA with an electric drivetrain is a monumental task, one that was accomplished by Porsche engineers with aplomb and telesis, according to early reports.
With 750 hp on tap, this electrical beast rips to 60 mph from a standstill in 2.6 seconds and is as fast around the Nurburgring as a Cayman GT4, a full-fledged sportscar.
13 Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography
Sharing the supercharged 5-liter V8 as well as many other parts with the Jaguar F-Type SVR, the Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography is like an iron fist in a velvet glove.
Designed to be more luxurious and not quite as sporty as its brethren Jaguar, the Range Rover possesses elegance and a refined dynamic attitude that elevates it beyond mere horsepower figures. The interior is plush and has an air of understated luxury without being garish. This is one eloquent and dazzling autobiography.
12 Bentley Bentayga
The fastest SUV in the world. This is the title that was recently bestowed upon the Bentley Bentayga over its Volkswagen Group stablemate, the Lamborghini Urus.
A near-200 mph, 600 horsepower vehicle that weighs nearly 6,000 lbs, the Benteyga seems to have a knack for collecting superlatives. It goes without saying that this behemoth of a rapid SUV will lay waste to many sportscar pretenders out there while cocooning its occupants in sheer luxury. Opulence and speed co-existing in utter harmony, the Bentley way.
11 2020 BMW X5 M Competition
What do you get when you stuff a 617 hp, twin turbo V8 from a performance icon such as the BMW M5 into what BMW calls a “Sport Activity Vehicle”? You get a grocery hauler that will rocket to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and has a top speed of 177 mph.
So instead of using your SUV (or SAV) to trailer your race car to the track, you can do hot laps and then drive the said utility vehicle home!
10 2020 BMW X6 M Competition
Much like its more capacious (and admittedly less hunchback-like brother) the X5 M Competition, this 4-door coupe SUV (feel free to insert your own designation here) blitzes many sportscars and even some supercars with earth-shattering performance on the road and on track. BMW is seemingly keen on catering to most performance SUV buyers, whatever their criteria maybe. Come one, come all!
9 Jaguar I-Pace
If you would like electrons to power your SUV and don’t quite have enough cash to opt for a Tesla Model X or a Porsche Taycan, the I-Pace from Jaguar offers a handsome sheet metal backed up by respectable performance numbers, all in a relatively affordable package. And if 400 hp and a 0-60 time of 4.5 seconds aren't enough, you may just want to wait for the I-Pace SVR model, which promises an eyeball-popping 0-60 time of less than 2 seconds. Taycan who?
8 Jeep Cherokee Trackhawk
As American as fireworks on the 4th of July, the real pyrotechnics are happening inside the 707-hp, 6.2L Supercharged Hellcat engine that propels this Jeep to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds. Topping out at 180 mph, this 4x4 SUV brings plenty of brawn for not much green (starting at around $87k). With performance numbers like this, the Trackhawk has laid waste to many sports cars at the drag strip if not on a race track.
7 Lister LFP
Lister Motors has been tuning Jaguars for years, and now they have taken it upon themselves to wrest the title of the “World’s Fastest SUV” from Bentley that seemingly owns it at the moment.
Their bespoke weapon of choice is this 670-hp Lister LFP, based on Jaguar F-Type mechanicals, although they haven’t officially released any other information to cement their claim yet. Stay tuned.
6 Mercedes-Benz GLC63 AMG
Although not as big on utility as some other voluminous SUV offerings out there, the Mercedes-Benz GLC63 AMG packs a potent 503-hp, twin turbo V8 into a rakish and exciting exterior, along with 4Matic all-wheel drive. It’s an addicting proposition, and a sensible and appetizing counterpoint if BMW’s offerings leave you cold with their designs.
5 Tesla Model X
The iconoclastic Tesla Model X has warped the definition of what an SUV is for several years now. Effortless, torrential, and quiet electrical power, amazing range and ground-breaking aesthetics have set Elon Musk’s SUV apart from the herd. Plus, the outrageous “ludicrous” mode has recalibrated our definition of acceleration and speed.
4 Rolls-Royce Cullinan
Stately, elegant, and a tectonic effort is Rolls-Royce’s first endeavor at creating an SUV.
Although not especially quick, its buttery V12 is good for 563 hp and helps this immaculately-appointed country club on wheels reach 60 mph in a very respectable 4.8 seconds. The torrent of torque and effortless speed will propel you and your Grey Poupon to an electronically-limited 155 mph, and in the process, put many lesser cars with sporty pretensions receding in its rearview mirror.
3 Range Rover Sport SVR
Yet another SUV packing Jaguar/Land Rover’s venerable 5.0 liter supercharged V8, this 575-hp elegant box is designed to deliver immense power, substantial towing capacity and plenty of luxurious appointments. The melodic exhaust note that precedes the law-breaking shenanigans only underscores the alluring intensity of this top-of-the-line Range Rover.
2 Lamborghini Urus
The Raging Bull badge from Sant'Agata Bolognese's famed dream factory has adorned many cars on the lunatic fringe of automotive excess for years. For its first SUV, Lamborghini borrowed heavily from the deep wells of the Volkwagen Group, but the unbridled and over-the-top power, future space-travel aesthetics, and adrenaline-inducing dynamics remain purely Lamborghini.
1 2020 Audi RS Q8
The forthcoming 2020 Audi RS Q8 heralds Audi’s foray into the hyper-expensive SUV territory.
Reportedly as fast around the Nurburgring as an Acura NSX (which is a full-blown supercar), the beast from Ingolstadt will reportedly have close to 600 hp, Quattro AWD, and a gaggle of cutting-edge technology to transfer all that power to the pavement.
Audi is seemingly intent on entering the high horsepower SUV battle with all comers using this track-worthy weapon, and the initial signs should make Mercedes and BMW engineers lose much sleep.