2016 Volvo XC 60 ・ Photo by Volvo
SUVs have long since evolved past the idea they should be all about rugged off-road experiences requiring four-wheel drive, locking differentials, high ground clearance, and the sheer and utter ability to go absolutely anywhere. In many ways, the SUV category has become just as varied as the passenger car category. With this revelation, it comes as no surprise to find a number of SUVs on the market with driving dynamics chief among their palette of attributes. Yes, there really is a very credible slate of SUVs that think they’re sports cars. Here’s a list of them.
Updated for the 2016 model year, the sporty Acura RDX luxury crossover suv is an extremely competent handler with strong acceleration and a thoroughly contemporary look. Key features include smart cruise control, lane keeping assist, and remote engine start. The 3.5-liter V6 engine has been upgraded to produce 279 horsepower and 252 ft-lbs of torque (up from 273/251). A six-speed automatic is standard, as is front-drive. All-wheel drive is an option. Pricing starts at $35,270.
Photo by Acura
The 2016 Audi SQ5 is an outstanding, high-performance crossover and the very epitome of tan SUV that thinks it’s a sports car. Its 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. Audi’s engineering team reworked the suspension system to improve handling over the standard Q5 as well. Further, interior accommodations are every inch what you expect from Audi. Pricing starts at $53,300.
When the BMW M Division was let loose on X5 and X6, they took full advantage of the opportunity to create the most powerful SUVs ever offered by the storied manufacturer. With 567 horsepower and 553 ft-lbs of torque emanating from a 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8, plus an eight-speed automatic transmission with launch control feeding all four wheels, the BMW XM twins will scorch pretty much everything on the road. When it comes to SUVs that think they’re sports cars, these BMWs almost really are. The 2016 BMW X5M starts at $98,800, while the 2016 X6M starts at $102,200.
Photo by BMW
Nicknamed the “Bionic Cheetah”, the Infiniti QX70 shares its platform with the Nissan 370Z and the Infiniti Q60 sports models. One of the sportiest crossover SUVs out there, the QX70 is exceptionally agile, and one of the most fun to drive models in the segment. Sharing its basic platform with the Nissan 370Z, the 2016 Infiniti QX70 is an SUV with a very valid excuse for thinking it’s a sports car. The Infiniti’s 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. Pricing starts at $45,850.
Photo by Infiniti
Lest you think the Europeans have a lock on the ultra-high performance luxury SUV, good-ole’ Jeep comes through with a pavement crinkling 475-horsepower 6.4-liter V8 pumping out 470 ft-lbs of torque. With an engine note makes everybody think NASCAR’s come to town, this is one badass Jeep. It’s also highly civilized—well, on the inside. The near opulent interior is just as luxurious as the GCSRT is fast. Proudly flying the stars and stripes in a category virtually dominated by imports, the 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT proves the Americans can build SUVs that think they’re sports cars too. Pricing starts at $64,895.
For the 2015 model year, Land Rover introduced an entirely reworked version of the high-performance iteration of its highly regarded Range Rover; the all-new Range Rover Sport. Thoroughly living up to its nomenclature, yes the 2016 Land Rover Range Rover Sport is indeed a sporty SUV. However, when it comes to SUVs that think they’re sports cars, at the top of the Range Rover Sport heap is the SVR. Reputed to be the fastest, most agile Range Rover ever offered, its power comes from a supercharged 5.0-liter V8 good for 550 horsepower and 502 ft-lbs of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission feeds power to all four wheels. Pricing starts at $111,350.
Photo by Benjamin Hunting
The handsome Mazda CX-3 comes from an entire family of SUVs that think they’re sports cars. This is because Mazda infuses everything it builds with driving pleasure as a primary attribute. The five-passenger subcompact 2016 Mazda CX-3 packs a free-revving 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine with 146 horsepower and 146 ft-lbs of torque. Yes, this is one of the lowest specific output ratings on this list, but keep in the mind the little CX-3 is also one of the lightest vehicles on this list. The front wheels are fed by a six-speed automatic transmission in the standard configuration. All-wheel drive is an option. Pricing starts at $19,960.
Photo by Mazda
Mazda’s CX-5 is one of the most fun to drive sporty crossovers out there, and like the rest of its siblings in the Mazda crossover lineup is an SUV that thinks it’s a sports car. However, the 2016 Mazda CX-5 also delivers comfortable seating, outstanding crash test scores, and it’s pretty easy on the eyes, besides. Fresh off a minor makeover, the CX-5 boasts sleek new styling tweaks, more sound insulation, a suspension revision, and the newest version of Mazda Connect. For the best performance, go with the 184-horsepower 2.5-liter four with 185 ft-lbs of torque. This can be had with either front- or all-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission. Pricing for the 2016 Mazda CX-5 starts at $21,795.
The closest thing to a minivan you’re likely ever to see from Mazda, the sleek and powerful 2016 Mazda CX-9—despite its sheer size—is absolutely one of the SUVs that think they’re sports cars. We’ve already waxed enthusiastic about the way Mazda has a knack for making everything they build go like a Miata, but the fact they can accomplish this with something like the seven-passenger CX-9 is truly noteworthy. Yes, it’s been around for while, and hasn’t been redesigned since its introduction in 2007. However, the reason the CX-9 survived this long undisturbed is because it is really good. Power comes from a 273-horsepower 3.7-liter V6 with 270 ft-lbs of torque. Front-drive and a six-speed automatic transmission come standard; all-wheel drive is an option. Pricing starts at $29,985.
Photo by Benjamin Hunting
Sleekly curvaceous and definitively sexy, the smallest Mercedes crossover SUV is based on the company’s new CLA line of smaller cars introduced for 2014.Yes, there has been some back and forth over whether the AMG GLA45 is truly a compact crossover or an upscale five-door hatch. But since Mercedes is pushing it as a compact crossover, we’re including it on this list of SUVs that think they’re sports cars. Blessed with a wonderful engine note, outstanding handling, and exceptional speed, the 2016 Mercedes-AMG GLA45 certainly fills the role. Power comes from a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four with 355 horsepower and 332 ft-lbs of torque. This is directed to all four wheels through a seven-speed automated manual transmission. Pricing starts at $49,580.