25 Crossovers And SUVs With Surprising Performance And Handling

With crossovers and SUVS dominating the automotive landscape when it comes to sales, some vehicles in the segment are evolving into ultra-capable performance machines that can devour winding roads and race tracks with ease. While there are still some crossovers/SUVs based on truck platforms, the majority share their underpinnings with their car siblings, meaning they can easily be tuned to possess sports car-rivaling road capabilities. In today’s brave new world where tall, jacked-up vehicles are en vogue, a select subset offers levels of performance that can make your jaw drop. They may not look like vehicles you’d take on a winding road or throw into tight corners, but when you get them there, they’ll surprise you with the way they drive.

Mini John Cooper Works Countryman

2013-Mini-Countryman-John-Cooper-Works-left-front-11>As the brand’s first crossover, the Mini Countryman is one of the largest models in its lineup. At the top of the Countryman range is the John Cooper Works model, which uses an upgraded 1.6-liter turbo-four good for 208 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque. Since it’s barely higher than your average compact car, the Countryman—especially in John Cooper Works guise—drives like a tall hot hatch and is right at home on winding mountain roads. For those who want style over substance and still seek a larger Mini than the Hardtop 2-Door, the Paceman—which is essentially the two-door variant of the Countryman—is also available.

Nissan Juke

2015-Nissan-Juke-SL-AWD-front-three-quarter-02>Not everyone loves the Nissan Juke’s polarizing exterior, but the car’s fun-to-drive nature is appreciated. In its most potent iteration, the Juke Nismo RS, you can opt for a six-speed manual gearbox in the front-drive model paired to a 1.6-liter turbo-four rated at 215 hp and 210 lb-ft. (AWD models only come with a CVT and are rated at 211 hp and 184 lb-ft.) Take a Juke of any variant of Juke on a fun, twisty road and you’ll surely be grinning.

Want you Juke to stand out even more? Check out Nissan’s Color Studio personalization program where you can play with all kinds of customizations including contrasting spoilers, colored alloy wheel inserts, and body color interior trim.

Mercedes-AMG GLA45

2015-Mercedes-Benz-GLA45-AMG-front-three-quarter-in-motion-02>Think of the Mercedes-AMG GLA45 as an AWD hot hatch on stilts with a massive nuke under the hood. While its engine only has 2.0 liters of displacement, technologies such as direct fuel injection and a turbocharger enable it to generate a mind-blowing 375 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. Pair that with the available AMG Dynamic Plus package, which adds adaptive suspension, a limited slip differential and Race mode, and you’ve got a fire-breather that can easily devour highways and winding roads. In an April 2015 comparison test that pitted four performance crossovers, the GLA45 emerged as the winner.

Ford Escape 2.0T EcoBoost

2017 Ford Escape Titanium front side view parked>Sharing platforms with the Ford Focus has its benefits, and nowhere is this clearer than in the Escape, easily one of the best-handling mainstream compact crossovers today. When equipped with the optional 240-hp 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbo-four, the Escape has plenty of power to complement its agile handling. Add AWD to the mix and you’ll be able to have fun in any weather without sacrificing practicality in the name of handling. A refreshed Escape arrives for 2017 (pictured) and gains two new EcoBoost engines, including a reworked 2.0-liter turbo-four that’s now equipped with a twin-scroll turbo and makes 245 hp and 275 lb-ft.

Mazda CX-5

2016-Mazda-CX-5-front-three-quarter-in-motion-02>While it’s no powerhouse, the Mazda CX-5 will wow you with its agile handling and engaging character. It’s one of the best-handling vehicles in its class, and when equipped with the 184-hp 2.5-liter I-4, you’ll have a good bit of power to work with on your daily commute and impromptu detours through twisty roads. If you’re crazy enough, you can also opt for a base model with a 155-hp 2.0-liter I-4 paired to a slick six-speed manual gearbox should you be willing to make the sacrifice to row your own gears.

Subaru Forester XT

2014-Subaru-Forester-XT-front-passengers-side2>A two-time Motor Trend SUV of the Year recipient, the Subaru Forester offers a great balance of practicality, comfort, handling and power. In XT guise, the turbocharged 2.0-liter flat-four blesses the SUV with 250 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque for strong straight line performance. Should you be daring enough to follow a BRZ or a WRX onto a hilly highway, you’ll be glad to know that the Forester XT is also a great handling vehicle, and with its standard sport suspension, you’ll be able to keep up with the canyon carvers. Got the guts to go off-road? Well, you’ll be glad to know that the Forester XT has more than 8 inches of ground clearance for some rock crawling and high-speed runs on trails in the African savannah.

Lexus NX 200T

2015-Lexus-NX-200t-F-Sport-front-three-quarter-in-motion1>Lexus’ smallest SUV, the NX, is also one of the best-handling vehicles in its class thanks to its well-balanced ride and punchy 235-hp turbo-four. Sure, the NX’s design is polarizing, but once you’re behind the wheel, you’ll be treated to a great driving experience. Want the sportiest NX available? Consider the NX 200t F Sport with AWD, which comes with 18-inch alloy wheels and a more aggressive suspension setup. In a March 2015 comparison test, the Lexus NX 200T was crowned the winner. Should you want something more environmentally friendly, Lexus also offers the NX as a hybrid called the NX 300H.

Ford Edge Sport

2015-Ford-Edge-Sport-AWD-front-three-quarter-in-motion-02>Thanks to a potent EcoBoost 2.7-liter twin-turbo V-6 that makes 315 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque, the Ford Edge Sport comes standard with impressive acceleration. The car’s handling also belies its size because it has a suspension setup tuned specifically for tackling winding roads. For maximum handling potential, don’t forget to opt for the 21-inch alloy wheels, which are wrapped in summer tires so you can extract the most out of your SUV’s capabilities in good conditions.


2015-BMW-X3-xDrive28i-front-three-quarters-in-motion>No other compact luxury SUV puts as much focus on the driver as the BMW X3 thanks to its sports sedan-like handling. For maximum performance, consider the X3 xDrive35i, which comes with a 300-hp 3.0-liter turbo-six and an eight-speed automatic transmission, giving it powerful straight-line acceleration. If you’re more concerned about getting good fuel economy, there’s also a diesel-powered variant available in addition to the potent turbo-four.

Porsche Macan

2015-Porsche-Macan-S-front-three-quarter-in-motion-02>Slotting under the Cayenne, the Porsche Macan offers a driving experience that’s closer to a sports car than an SUV. Powered by a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 in three states of tune, the Macan blends straight-line acceleration with handling that can shame some performance cars. For maximum potency, consider the 400-hp Macan Turbo and add performance goodies such as the optional air suspension with Porsche Active Suspension Management, and the Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus system.

Audi SQ5

>Since it barely looks any different than your run-of-the-mill Q5, the Audi SQ5 is the perfect stealth performance vehicle. Powered by a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 that (conservatively) makes 354 hp and 346 lb-ft, the SQ5 possesses instant acceleration the moment you step on the gas. The standard Quattro AWD system, a lowered ride height, and a performance-tuned suspension make the SQ5 handle exceptionally. The high amount of grip generated by the car enables it to stick to the road like glue, making it feel unflappable even at high speeds.


2015-BMW-X4-xDrive35i-front-three-quarter-in-motion-03>Do you need a sporty compact luxury SUV but find offerings like the BMW X3 too boring because of their conservative exterior? If you’re eager to standing, consider the X4, which is essentially a less practical version of the X3. In addition to styling differences, a lower center of gravity and a higher price tag differentiates the low-roof X4 from its X3 sibling. For those looking for the most powerful version of BMW’s compact attack turtle, the X4 M40i will arrive next year sporting a new 3.0-liter turbocharged I-6 that makes 355 hp and 343 lb-ft of torque.

Volvo XC60

2015-Volvo-XC60-T6-Drive-E-front-three-quarter-in-motion-turn1>Wait, a Volvo that’s fun to drive? Why yes! The XC60 is one of Volvo’s best-selling vehicles and it drives just as good as it looks. In the T6 R-Design guise, the crossover gets standard AWD, a sport-tuned suspension, and 3.0-liter turbo I-6 with 325 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque. If you’d like to try one of Volvo’s new Drive-E engines, the T6 Drive-E is equipped with a turbo- and supercharged 2.0-liter I-4 generating 302 hp and 295 lb-ft. Regardless of which XC60 you choose, T6 Drive-E or T6 R-Design, both offer a good mix of agility and power that makes it right at home on the highway or twisty roads. The T6 Drive-E model will gain AWD in early 2016.

Infiniti QX70

>No, it’s not the newest crossover on sale today, but the Infiniti QX70 still pleases on the road thanks to its agile handling and strong powertrain. With a standard 325-hp V-6 engine and seven-speed automatic gearbox, the QX70 doesn’t skimp on power. Because and it shares its underpinnings with the recently departed Infinti G37 sports sedan, the crossover is a willing dance partner on winding mountain roads. Sadly, you won’t be able to get a V-8-powered QX70 anymore because the automaker dropped it for the 2015 model year.

Porsche Cayenne

2016-Porsche-Cayenne-GTS-front-end-in-motion-02>When it first came into the market, the Porsche Cayenne was frowned upon by enthusiasts everywhere because it was an SUV. Years later, it has proved its mettle by showing that an SUV can be a performance machine on- and off-road. Now available with a range of engines including a hybrid and the 570-hp 4.8-liter twin-turbo V-8, there’s a Cayenne for everyone, and all of them offer excellent handling and performance.

Lincoln MKX

2016-Lincoln-MKX-27-EcoBoost-front-three-quarter-turn>Is the Ford Edge not luxurious or quick enough for you? Well, the Lincoln MKX, a crossover with Edge underpinnings, should solve all that with a bit more boost and opulence. While both share the 2.7-liter EcoBoost twin-turbo V-6, the MKX comes with even more power at 335 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque. A nice ride and balanced handling make the MKX a great dance partner when the road gets twisty. In AWD variants, the MKX comes with a continuously variable damping system that improves its handling while maintaining a smooth ride.

Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT

2014-Jeep-Grand-Cherokee-SRT-front-view-in-motion-2>Powered by a 6.4-liter V-8 rated at 475 hp and 470 lb-ft mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT proves that SUVs can tackle everything from a trail to a race track. Get behind the wheel of one and you’ll surely be scratching your head at how such a massive SUV can go from carving up a race track to crawling up rocks without even breaking a sweat.

Ford Explorer Sport

2016-Ford-Explorer-Sport-front-three-quarter>While the Ford Explorer Sport isn’t a two-door version of the massive Explorer SUV, it does come with a nice performance upgrade in the form of a 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6 producing 365 hp and 350 lb-ft. The Explorer Sport has an upgraded chassis for better handling and body control so that you’ll be able to conquer the winding road sitting between you and your destination without issue.


2015-BMW-X6-M-front-three-quarter-in-motion-02>BMW essentially created a new niche segment when it introduced the X6. Dubbed the “Sports Activity Coupe,” the X6 is a two-row midsize crossover with a low, swooping roofline that cuts into your rear visibility and cargo space, all for the sake of catering to niche consumers who want a crossover that (vaguely) looks like a coupe. The second-generation X6 offers mind-boggling on-road performance and handling that makes your head spin because it can easily shame some sports cars. The most potent variant, the X6 M, is quite possibly one of the most insane crossovers out there.

Check out the Head 2 Head episode that pitted the BMW X6 M against the Mercedes-AMG GLE63 here.

Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe

2016-Mercedes-Benz-GLE63-S-AMG-Coupe-front-three-quarter-in-motion>After BMW found a surprising amount of success in the oddball X6, Mercedes-Benz followed suit a few years later with the GLE Coupe, a doppelganger of the Bavarian automaker’s crossover with a coupe-like roofline. Just like the X6, the GLE Coupe’s performance and handling will make your head spin and the noises that both models—the GLE450 and GLE63 AMG—make is exactly how you want your attack armadillo to sound like so it can wake the dead and start a zombie apocalypse.

Acura MDX

2016-Acura-MDX-SH-AWD-front-three-quarter-in-motion-01>Currently one of the best-selling three-row luxury crossovers available, the Acura MDX is better known for its ability to haul a family than its performance. However, drive the car hard and you’ll realize that the MDX’s acceleration and handling belie its size, offering excellent body control and strong straight-line performance that makes you question the 3.5-liter V-6’s 290-hp output. When equipped with Acura’s excellent SH-AWD system, you’ll have an all-weather family SUV that offers excellent handling for its size.

Volvo XC90

2016-Volvo-XC90-front-three-quarters-in-motion>Our newly crowned SUV of the Year, the Volvo XC90, can haul your family and haul on the road. Featuring a supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 with 316 hp and 295 lb-ft, the XC90 comes standard with plenty of grunt. Go for the optional air suspension for improved handling without sacrificing ride comfort. If the base T6 model isn’t enough for you, there’s the T8, which takes the base engine and pairs it to an electric motor for a combined output of 400 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque.

Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR

2015-Land-Rover-Range-Rover-Sport-SVR-front-three-quarter-in-mud-01>Tuned in the famous Nurburgring Nordschleife race track, the Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR is the ultimate go anywhere vehicle. Equipped with a 550-hp supercharged V-8 and a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox, the Range Rover Sport SVR has all the go-fast goodies expected out of a car built by Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations division. Like its American counterpart, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, the Range Rover Sport SVR will make your head spin with its on- and off-road capabilities because vehicles this massive shouldn’t drive like they don’t weigh anything and prefers to power oversteer when the stability control is off.

Click here to watch the Ignition episode on the Land Rover Range Rover Sport.

Bentley Bentayga

2017-Bentley-Bentayga-off-road-01>The Bentley Bentayga is proof that SUVS are trendy. As one of the first breeds of ultra-luxurious sport utes, the Bentayga promises to be the go-anywhere vehicle for members of the one percent with active lifestyles. Under the hood is a new 600-hp twin-turbo W-12 engine that hauls the massive SUV with ease and puts its power down through all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Should you decide to go crazy and customize your Bentayga to your heart’s content, you can even add a $160,000-dollar Breitling clock with a mechanically wound Tourbillion movement, a diamond-studded mother-of-pearl face, and a rose or white gold case.

With crossovers and SUVs being all the rage these days, would you consider one of their performance-minded variants or would you rather stick with hot hatches, wagons, sports sedans and coupes? Tell us in the comments below.

Source : http://www.motortrend.com/news/20-crossovers-suvs-surprising-performance-handling/

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