What’s a ‘Performance SUV’ and Are They Any Good?

Performance SUV sounds like an oxymoron. In truth, an SUV isn’t much of a performance platform. They’re large, heavy, and are built more for hauling stuff than hauling butt. And many are chosen based on their off-road chops, not what we traditionally consider performance. But there are some SUVs that have better performance and handling than others. Especially SUVs with truck origins are best labeled as trucks rather than as performance vehicles. So follow along as we wade through the growing list of SUVs that may or may not be performance SUVs. 

For starters, anything considered a performance SUV will tend to be around $70,000 and up. Not all, the 2022 BMW X2 and 2022 Mercedes GLA come in at under $40,000. But then there is the BMW X6 M that skips past $110,000.

What distinguishes a performance SUV?

What they all have in common is lots of horsepower combined with fairly decent handling; especially for their size and weight. Like the Audi SQ7 with a turbocharged V8 pumping out 500 hp. Or how about the Porsche Cayenne which can be optioned with 541 hp? 

So, here are six of our picks for the best performance SUV in 2022. The hyper-expensive Lamborghini Urus, Bentley Bentayga, and Rolls Royce Cullinan are not part of this list due to their exceptionally high prices. And note that, unfortunately, no legacy U.S. manufacturers made the list. We hope that changes soon.

Here are the best for 2022

2022 Jaguar F-Pace

2022 Jaguar F-Pace
2022 Jaguar F-Pace | Jaguar

Jaguar has always been known for performance and handling, so it had to incorporate those traits when it introduced the F-Pace performance SUV. Starting price is $52,000, but can quickly fly past $85,000.

2022 Tesla Model X

The most fuel-efficient midsize SUVs, according to Consumer Reports
The Tesla Model X 100D electric SUV on display | Tesla

With no gas engine, the Model X is still one of the quickest SUVs you can buy. That’s why it made this list. And for its weight, it sticks to the road, partially due to the low center of gravity from the phalanx of batteries.

2022 Porsche Cayenne

Best Porsche models
2022 Porsche Cayenne | Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG.

As with Jaguar, Porsche’s trademark is performance and handling. So every vehicle it makes has to stay true to that mantra, which the Cayenne does. The Cayenne starts right at $70,000, which is the median for SUVs in this class.

2022 Mercedes G-Class

A blue 2020 Mercedes-AMG G63 'G-Wagon' at the 2020 Brussels Expo
2020 Mercedes-AMG G63 ‘G-Wagon’ | Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images

The Mercedes G-Wagen is the most expensive on this list with a starting MSRP of $133,000. But it can handle rugged terrain and has that bare-bones design. Yet inside, it’s nowhere near bare-bones. From the range of 54 different upholstery materials to the Burmester audio system, it is as luxurious as you expect from the three-pointed star. The AMG G 63 4MATIC version packs a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 with 577 hp.

2022 BMW X6 M

2022 BMW X6 M
2022 BMW X6 M | BMW

With the 4.4-liter turbocharged V8 and all-wheel-drive, the X6 M starts at $110,600. Not cheap, but acceleration and handling are some of the best on this list. With more of a sedan silhouette, it cramps rear-seat passengers that its X5 sibling doesn’t. 

2022 Audi SQ7

2022 Audi SQ7
2022 Audi SQ7 | Audi

This midsize seven-seater comes with a 4.0-liter turbocharged V8 and all-wheel drive. The SQ7 is the high-performance version of the Q7, the largest SUV that Audi makes. Both the BMW X5 M and Mercedes AMG GLE 63S have more powerful engines, but both cost a lot more. 

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