Various coupes, convertibles and sedans claim high-end performance, but with consumer tastes shifting to utility vehicles, numerous fast SUVs are now available. Although none can handle corners as well as most sports cars, they can deliver blistering speed with at least 500 horsepower on tap. If performance is your calling card, the following nine models will excite you.
1. Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
The Stelvio’s 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 engine is the smallest of the high-performance SUVs, but it still manages a very impressive 503 horsepower. It shares its platform and carbon-fiber driveshaft with the Giulia sedan, and the two vehicles have a strong family resemblance as well.
The ultra-luxury Bentley brand has its first SUV in the Bentayga. If you choose the Speed edition, with its 6.0-liter twin-turbo 12-cylinder engine, you’ll have a 0-60 mph time of 3.9 seconds thanks to 626 horses. A plug-in hybrid variant with more power and improved efficiency is also planned.
3. BMW X5 M Competition
For this German brand, “M” means performance, and BMW has several fast SUVs that qualify. The X5 M is motivated by an enhanced version of its legendary 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8. An output of 617 horsepower makes the run-up to 60 mph just 3.8 seconds. Choose the similar X6 M if you prefer a coupe-like design.
4. Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
The same 6.2-liter supercharged V8 from Dodge’s Hellcat models powers this top-end Jeep. With an output of 707 horsepower, it’s one of the fastest SUVs in the world, making the 0-60 mph jump in 3.5 seconds. If that isn’t enough, it also pulls up to 7,200 pounds with an installed trailer hitch ball mount. For 2021, the Jeep is joined by the three-row Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat with 710 horsepower.
5. Lamborghini Urus
As sports car manufacturers wade into the SUV market, the vehicles they are producing draw upon rich performance pedigrees. In the case of the Lamborghini Urus, a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 delivers 641 horsepower, rocketing this SUV from 0-60 mph in 3.1 seconds. In the crossover SUV segment, only the all-electric Tesla Model Y matches the Urus.
6. Maserati Levant Trofeo
We’re still waiting on a Ferrari SUV, but in the meantime, Maserati will do. Its 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 is borrowed from Ferrari and throws down 590 horsepower. This trim level, which translates as “trophy,” certainly lives up to its name against nearly all SUVs on the road.
7. Mercedes-AMG GLS63 S
Mercedes swaps out Benz for AMG in the performance variants of its largest SUV. Like BMW, Mercedes has several high-performance models to choose from, but none matches this model’s 603 horsepower thanks to its 4.0-liter twin-turbo hand-built V8 and 48-volt hybrid system.
8. Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid
As is common with many upscale models today, Porsche has electrified its Cayenne — though the vehicle still relies on a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 for its primary motivation. At full throttle, this Porsche bangs out 670 horsepower, but it’s faster than the Jeep.
9. Rolls-Royce Cullinan
The ultra-lux Rolls-Royce marque wasn’t going to let its British rival Bentley steal the spotlight. Enter the Cullinan — an ostentatious SUV powered by a 6.7-liter twin-turbo V12 with 563 horsepower. The glass partition separating the passenger and cargo areas is just one of many features unique to this model. Costing more than $335,000, it is by far the most expensive SUV listed here.
As tech advances and SUVs increase their share of nationwide auto sales, keep an eye out for even more of these potent yet practical vehicles in the future. If you think these vehicles are a bit beyond reach, note that their growing popularity means an emerging used market will likely make these beasts attainable for the rest of us soon enough.
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Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.