SUVs are, first and foremost, designed to be practical. At the base level, they are neither fast nor fuel efficient, leaving their redeeming feature the immense amount of cargo and passenger space that they have over their competitors. However, even those who need space still like to have fun every now and then.
Since the early days of utility vehicles, they have become both more fuel efficient and faster, perhaps more importantly the latter. A well-spec’d SUV today can offer sports-car beating performance, though it’ll likely be pretty costly.
Not surprisingly, the Germans have set a strong foot forward in this segment, as they seem to with anything fast and powerful. Here are seven of some of the most powerful SUVs that can be bought from the factory, discounting those made by after-market tuners.
7. BMW X5 xDrive50i
What makes the BMW X5 xDrive50i so remarkable is that it’s the top of the line model in BMW’s stable that hasn’t been touched by the company’s M division. The 445 horsepower, 4.4 liter twin-turbo V8 is all BMW’s engineers, without some added tweaking from the guys in BMW’s skunkworks. It starts at $68,200, and can hit 60 miles per hour from a standstill in under five seconds. It’s 480 pound-feet of torque will still allow you to tow whatever you need, and of course you’ll still be swaddled in BMW’s legendary luxury trappings.
6. Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
The Jeep (FIATY.PK) Grand Cherokee is no slouch, but the SRT version is the model to have if you’re looking for power. A 6.4 liter HEMI V8 churns out 470 horsepower, pegging a zero-60 time of 4.8 seconds and a top speed of 160, if the occasion ever arises; at over $63,000, it’s an expensive play on the Chrysler badge, but looks like a bargain compared to its competition based on power alone. Brembo brakes will bring it to a stop almost as fast as it took to get up to speed, and a quarter mile can be dealt with in a little over 13 seconds.
5. Land Rover Range Rover Sport
Land Rover is one of the top names in the luxury off-road business, but that wouldn’t be case if it were not for the supercharged, 510 horsepower 5.0 liter V8 that moves the Range Rover Sport to 60 in five second flat. In addition to its muscular engine, the Range Rover Sport offers an immense array on in-car technology, such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, blind spot detection, and more. Not to mention, its still one of the best-handling off-road SUVs on the market. It starts at $79,000 or so, but you’ll want more on hand to peruse Land Rover’s options list with.
4. Mercedes-Benz ML63
Impressively, $97,250 won’t buy you Mercedes-Benz‘s (DDAIF.PK) most expensive SUV. But it will buy you the ML63 and its 518 horsepower, thanks to AMG’s fantastic 5.5 liter twin-turbocharged V8. Despite its tall and SUV-like stature, it can make 60 in 4.7 seconds; the front is covered in aggressive-looking aerodynamic bits, with AMG’s big menacing wheels and a that throaty V8 growl that only Mercedes can provide. A seven-speed transmission transmits the power to all four wheels, and the top speed is “limited” to 174.
3. Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG
Fo $135,700, the G63 AMG is Mercedes’ most expensive SUV, at least in the States (and until the G63 6X6 comes out, but we’re not holding out breath.) Horsepower is up 18 over the ML63 to 536, enabling the boxy G63 to reach 60 in a scant 5.3 seconds, thanks to 560 pound-feet of torque (made more impressive considering its leaning toward 6,000 pounds.) Like the Land Rover, the Mercedes is as much a capable off-roader as it is a luxury coach; the V8 power plant is the same twin-turbo 5.5 liter V8 that’s found in many other AMG offerings.
2. Porsche Cayenne Turbo S
For the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S, 60 comes in a very sports-car like 4.3 seconds, thanks to Porsche’s 550 horsepower twin-turbo V8 engine. The horsepower is matched with 553 pound-feet of torque, and the Cayenne Turbo S can manage 175 miles per hour at full-tilt; not surprisingly, it commands a very Porsche-like price of $146,000, but what would you expect from what is essentially a Carrera that can fit the kids?
1. BMW X6 M
BMW’s X6 M is one of those vehicles that tries to straddle segments with mixed results. BMW calls it a “Sports Activity Coupe,” but what it really comes down to is an X5-sized behemoth with 555 horsepower under the hood. This translates to a 155 mile per hour limited top speed, and a zero-60 time of 4.5 seconds; at $93,900, it comes greatly cheaper than the Porsche (over $50,000 less), but offers comparable performance, though perhaps less trunk space. But you weren’t shopping for a 555 horsepower SUV for that reason, were you?