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After driving a bunch of SUVs around Southwest Florida for a week at a time, some options stood out in the crowd. It probably won’t come as a surprise the 2023 Toyota 4Runner landed on this list of the best and sportiest SUVs, but don’t count out the brand-new 2024 Mazda CX-90. Honorable mention goes 2023 Lexus NX for all the F SPORT upgrades that just add to the experience.

1. 2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th Anniversary 

You might be thinking, is the 2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th Anniversary really one of the sportiest SUVs on the market this year? Sure, it is old. We know. But there is so much more to this Toyota SUV that makes it fun to drive on a daily basis. Even though the technology inside isn’t new, it still works pretty well. Using Apple CarPlay has proven to be an incredibly annoying and not-universal experience from brand to brand, but the 4Runner worked seamlessly the entire week.

For how big the 2023 4Runner is, it drives well and feels pretty solid on the road. The 4.0L V6 engine gets 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque to barrel around town. In basic traffic situations, that was enough to easily keep up with traffic and get up to highway speed when needed. Toyota’s brakes worked surprisingly well on the reliable old midsize SUV, stopping easily in the rain on a few occasions. Even though the sportiest SUVs on the road might not consist of many 4Runners, we still thought it was the most fun to drive.

The Toyota 4Runner is about as versatile as it gets, with plenty of room for all your stuff and capable in most situations. Target runs? Done. Weekend off-roading? Easy. Taking the dogs to the beach? The 2023 4Runner can do it all, and people really like the retro stripes.

2. 2024 Mazda CX-90 S Premium Plus 

Even though the 2024 Mazda CX-90 S Premium Plus only hit the market back in April, this three-row SUV has set the bar pretty high for next year. With three rows of space and the latest technology, the CX-90 is a shining example of next year’s SUVs.

Quilted tan Nappa leather seats set the CX-90 apart inside the cabin. The digital dashboard displayed all the essential information, including fun little animations for the different modes. The Head-Up display showed your speed and the speed limit if that information was available. This was one of the best features of the 2024 CX-90 and would be so helpful on the daily commute.

That 340 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque aided it in qualifying for the list of sportiest SUVs. Mazda has some magic that makes its vehicles a joy to drive, and the 2024 CX-90 is another fine example of that.

3. 2023 Lexus NX 350 F SPORT

As the smallest and sportiest SUV on the list, the 2023 Lexus NX 350 F SPORT proves that big things come in small packages. Our test vehicle was the F SPORT variant, which added some nice upgrades. Either way, the compact SUV was fun to drive around town and even on a short road trip. The most helpful features on our trip were the Road Sign Assist and Lane Keep Assist. Road trips can be tiring, and these systems were nice to have along the way.

The 2023 Lexus NX 350 has a 2.4L turbo engine with 275 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque. We found the engine offered a spirited ride around town, and since the NX is so small, it feels pretty quick. It is also easy to park! For those who might do a lot of city dwelling, the NX slips into small spots easily.

The Ultrasonic Blue Mica exterior with Black and Circuit Red seats sets this trim level apart. Even though the interior of all the Lexus SUVs is high-end, the F Sport details inside were a nice addition. We could easily drive this every day.


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