An SUV that is ultra-comfortable, practical and capable of teaching more than a few sports cars a lesson in a track environment? At the beginning of the sport-utility vehicle craze, the very concept that such a model would eventually one day exist seemed laughable at best, and yet here we are a decade later with a list of crossovers and SUVS that can do just that. Powerful, nimble and with braking that seems to defy physics given their impressive mass, these high speed people movers not only get the job done quickly, but they manage to do it with serious class and style.
Let’s take a quick look at 8 luxury SUVs you can take to the track.
The 2011 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Supercharged proves that the same design expertise that the brand dedicates towards building formidable off-road vehicles can be repurposed to conquer the tarmac as well. The Land Rover Range Rover Sport Supercharged makes use of a 510 horsepower, blown 5.0-liter V-8 engine that also generates 461 lb-ft of torque. Matched with a six-speed automatic transmission (featuring both a Sport mode and full manual control over gear changes), the high performance SUV can hit 60 miles per hour in just 5.9 seconds.
The Range Rover Sport Supercharged also benefits from 15-inch front brake discs with six-piston calipers (14.3-inch discs in the rear) as well as an advanced traction control system and an active suspension system that ensure all of the Land Rover’s power is transmitted to the pavement with a complete absence of drama.
The 2011 Infiniti FX50 has a leg-up on many of the SUVs in this list thanks to the fact that it borrows its platform from the Infiniti G37 sport sedan. Relatively light and featuring a supremely communicative steering setup, the Infiniti FX50 is a true driver’s SUV that doesn’t skimp on either power or luxury. Under the hood, the FX50 boasts a 5.0-liter V-8 that churns out 390 horses and 369 lb-ft of torque – numbers that are good enough to propel the crossover SUV to 60 miles per hour in 5.5 seconds. All-wheel drive is included as standard equipment and also helping the Infiniti FX50 impress on the track is an adaptive suspension system and an advanced seven-speed automatic transmission featuring steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
The 2011 BMW X5 M applies the combined racing and performance experience of BMW’s vaunted M division to its most popular crossover SUV, the X5. The BMW X5 M features numerous improvements to the people mover’s chassis, including an M-tuned xDrive all-wheel drive system that can shuttle power between the front and rear axles as needed and an adaptive suspension system that automatically balances comfort and performance on the fly. The vehicle’s 4.4-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8 engine hurtles the X5 M forward with the force of 555 horsepower and 501 lb-ft of torque, a furious output that is deftly managed by a six-speed automatic transmission that offers manual control over gear shifts. 60 miles per hour from a standing start arrives in a very brisk 4.7-seconds with the BMW X5 M.
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG takes the prototypical luxury SUV and dials everything up to 11. The Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG maintains all of the features and equipment that have made it such a popular choice amongst high-end SUV shoppers and drops in a divine AMG-tuned drivetrain. The vehicle’s 6.2-liter V-8 engine thunders out 503 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque, and it spins all four tires through a seven-speed automatic transmission that comes with gear shift paddles stuck to the steering wheel. The ML63 AMG matches the BMW’s 0-60 time of 4.7-seconds, and it also delivers through the corners thanks to an adaptive air suspension system, big brakes and upgraded wheels and tires that hug the road and add a high level of driver confidence to the SUV’s overall package.
The 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 represents the top of the line edition of the popular all-road SUV, and as such it comes with a generous set of luxury features to complement its searing performance capabilities. The completely redesigned Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 sits on a tighter chassis, an adaptive damping system and a four-wheel drive system that features Selec-Track traction management. Also coming with the SRT8 are an electronic limited slip differential, Brembo six and four-piston brakes and a five-speed, paddle-shifted automatic transmission.
Why does the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 need all of this high-end equipment? The quick answer is to better deal with the rapid acceleration and 155-mph top speed afforded by its 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 engine, which offers up 465 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque. The Hemi’s powerband is so broad that it can propel the SRT8 to 60 miles per in a brisk 4.8-seconds.
Also offering a fresh design for the current model year is the 2011 Porsche Cayenne Turbo. One of the first SUVs to provide drivers with a vehicle that was not only practical but which also featured sports car-like handling, the Porsche Cayenne Turbo improves on its already sublime package thanks to a serious weight reduction program, an air suspension system, 19-inch wheels and standard all-wheel drive.
Also helping the 2011 Porsche Cayenne Turbo keep ahead of the performance SUV pack is a gutsy 500 horsepower, 4.8-liter V-8 engine that makes use of twin-turbos to additionally generate 516 lb-ft of torque. Porsche adds a couple of extra forward gears to its Tiptronic S automatic transmission, giving buyers access to eight in total and helping the SUV leap to 60 miles per hour in 4.4-seconds. This makes it one of the quickest performance crossovers on this list.
The 2011 BMW X6 M prefers to be referred to as a “sports activity coupe,” in reference to its sloping rear roofline and 2 + 2 interior seating arrangement. Its size and heft, however, place it firmly under the SUV banner. Like its X5 M cousin, the BMW X6 M has received extensive attention from the German brand’s M division, making use of the same special all-wheel drive system and adaptive damping systems offered by its corporate stable mate. Braking is also excellent for the X6 M, which is an important consideration given that its twin-turbo V-8 engine has been tuned to provide 555 horsepower and 501 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission that can be manually shifted helps the BMW X6 M blow past 60 miles per hour in 4.3-seconds, neck and neck with the Porsche Cayenne.
The 2011 Acura ZDX is the dark horse entry on this list, a more affordable performance SUV that like the X6 M attempts to disguise its four-door design under the “coupe” heading. Certainly the Acura ZDX looks the part of a two-door SUV, thanks to its attractive proportions and hidden rear door handles, and its car-like handling ability earns it a place amongst much more powerful luxury crossover options.
The 2011 Acura ZDX features a 300 horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 engine that also produces 270 lb-ft of torque. Sent through a six-speed automatic transmission – of course featuring a manual shift option – the ZDX reaches 60 miles per hour from a standing start in just a tick over 7-seconds. What makes the ZDX particularly noteworthy, however, is the fact that it comes with Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system, which is adept at moving power from wheel to wheel in order to maximize grip through corners and improve traction during hard acceleration. This gives the ZDX a unique advantage when the road gets twisty compared to some of its luxury SUV rivals.