Pretty much anything can be called a sport-utility, even if the vehicle in question is about as sporty as a tricycle with two flat tires. The truth of the matter is that many SUVs are geared toward how many cup-holders and USB ports are onboard, not anything related to tire-burning acceleration and sharp handling that puts a smile on your face.
Granted, most SUV buyers aren’t looking to set hot-laps in their downtime from commuting, running errands, and getting kids to soccer practice. But it’s nice to know that vehicles exist that can accommodate all the trials – and cargo – of modern life, without sacrificing the thrill of driving.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the wildest, fastest, and most powerful SUVs on the planet. None of them are shrinking violets, that’s for certain, and a few are downright crazy in terms of price or (gasoline) drinking habits. But when it comes to combining stratospheric performance and sport-utility functionality, these machines are the best of the best.
1. Bentley Bentayga
The current king of all SUVs, the Bentley Bentayga has the power – and price-tag – that you expect from this storied British luxury brand. It helps that Bentley’s broad-shouldered styling translates so nicely to SUV proportions. The Bentayga truly looks like a Bentley, apart from a slightly bland set of tail-lamps. We know, we’re being fussy. Then again, with a starting price of $229,000, customers can be choosy when stepping foot into a Bentley showroom. A 600 horsepower twin-turbocharged W12 engine lurks behind that glitzy front grille, and it comes mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and standard all-wheel-drive. Punch the gas, get pressed deep into the leather seats in the Bentayga’s posh cabin, and hold on; this SUV won’t stop going until it hits a top speed of 187 miles per hour.
Next: America brings muscle car power to the full-size SUV segment.
2. Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT
About one of the only things that can outrun and outperform the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT is, well, an even crazier version of the same vehicle. As it stands, the Grand Cherokee SRT is a monster, thanks to its 475 horsepower 6.4-liter Hemi V8, eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters, and Jeep’s all-wheel-drive prowess. Riding on 20-inch alloy wheels helps rule this Jeep out for rock-crawling and off-road adventuring. That’s fine with us, because this Jeep is a riot on paved roads. If you like what you’re reading, then wait for more! Next year, Jeep will introduce the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, an all-wheel-drive model fitted with the same 707 horsepower, 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi V8 found in the Dodge Charger sedan and Challenger coupe Hellcats.
Next: This performance SUV was widely mocked when it was introduced 15 years ago…
3. Porsche Cayenne Turbo S
We know, we’re being a little greedy by going straight to the top of the Porsche Cayenne pecking order. Hey, we told you from the start that these were the most exclusive SUVs on the planet. Sure, the Cayenne GTS has loads of performance, and even the standard Cayenne Turbo is way more SUV than you’ll ever need. But come on, how can we resist a 570 horsepower Porsche-built truck that has the German automaker’s reputation for incredible handling, braking, and track composure all behind it? The twin-turbo 4.8-liter V8 engine pushes out 570 horsepower and a staggering 590 pound-feet of torque. Top speed is listed at 176 miles per hour, per Porsche. If anything, that sounds a little pessimistic to us. And at $160,650 to start, the Cayenne Turbo S suddenly seems like an absolute bargain compared to the Bentayga.
Next: Proof that the Germans know a thing or two about fast SUVs.
4. BMW X5 M and X6 M
This duo represents BMW engineering at its best – and don’t start throwing a fit all you M3 and M5 fans. Let’s face it, SUVs are big, heavy, and should corner and brake like, well, a big and heavy truck! Right? Luckily, BMW’s engineers ignored this common belief and developed a pair of sport-utes that behave like sports cars. The 567-horsepower BMW X5 M and X6 M are both motivated by a twin-turbo V8 and eight-speed automatic. All-wheel-drive and ultra-precise handling make either one a perfect complement to any performance stable. For our money – and with a base price of almost $100,000, that’s a lot of money – the slightly boxier and more practical X5 M is our pick of the two.
Next: Shockingly, this SUV can trace its roots directly back to the 1970s.
5. Mercedes-Benz AMG G65
How do you take one of the world’s most extreme vehicles and crank it up even more? Start by stuffing a giant V12 engine under the hood, for starters. The Mercedes-Benz G65 SUV is a variation of the iconic G-Wagen, which started life decades ago as a rough-and-tumble truck meant for military service. Over time, the G has become the ultimate off-roader-meets-luxury status symbol. Tipping the scales at more than 5,600 pounds, the 621 horsepower 6.0-liter V12 launches this massive conveyance from zero to 60 miles per hour in an estimated 5.3 seconds. It might look like a bank vault, but this Mercedes has the thrust of a rocket. As you’d expect, the G65 also drinks fuel like NASA’s finest; you’ll barely crack double-digit MPGs during city driving.
Next: For a luxury SUV, this full-size offering is a real beast.
6. Cadillac Escalade
The ‘Sclade was once merely a Chevy with a load of options and a Cadillac emblem on the nose. Now, today’s Escalade does a mesmerizing job of coddling you while also hiding all of its 204 inches of total length. This is a big machine, no doubt about it. And we know you might think the Escalade is out of its depth in this company. Trust us, go try one, and then see how you feel. The 420 horsepower 6.2-liter V8 gives the modern Escalade plenty of thrust to match its surprisingly sharp driving manners. It’s not going to harass an X5 M on a track, of course, but it doesn’t wilt when you need to hustle down the road. With a starting price of approximately $74,000, the Escalade also happens to be the bargain of this prestigious bunch.
Next: Proof that Range Rover can be just as exciting on the road as it is off.
7. Range Rover SVR
When you’re talking about combining the engine found in the Jaguar F-Type sports car along with a devilishly handsome Range Rover SUV, good things are bound to happen. This 550 horsepower British bruiser is addictive in the way it rides, handles, and bellows whenever you punch the gas pedal to the floor. It’s comfortable and classy when you want it to be, and an outright lunatic for those times when you unleash its supercharged V8 fury onto the world. When you consider the starting price of the SVR model is $111,000, you realize that you could put two of these raucous Range Rovers in your garage, or only one Bentley Bentayga. Tough decisions, we know!
Next: The least rugged of the bunch proves to be the fastest.
8. Tesla Model X P100D
Unlike most of the models on this list, we wouldn’t recommend taking the Model X off-road. But that’s okay; this all-electric beast utilizes two electric motors to deliver 691 horsepower to all four wheels. Scrambling from zero to 60 in just 2.9 seconds, the $140k Model X isn’t just the fastest SUV of the bunch, it’s one of the quickest cars in the world, period.
Next: At first glance, you might mistake this beast for your mother’s SUV.
9. Mercedes-AMG GLS 63
While the boxy G65 stands out, Mercedes’ other red-hot SUV is a little more low-profile. Under its suburban-friendly sheetmetal lies a 5.5 liter twin-turbo V8 that cranks out an impressive 585 horsepower. It may be a nearly three ton SUV, but the $125K-and-up GLS 63 can scramble from zero to 60 in just 4.5 seconds. Top speed is an electronically limited 155 miles per hour.
Next: Unfortunately, this technological powerhouse isn’t sold in the U.S.
10. Audi SQ7
Unfortunately, we can’t get the SQ7 in the U.S. That’s a shame, because not only would it be a welcome addition to our roads, it may repair some of the damage done to diesel’s reputation. Powered by a supercharged 4.0 liter diesel V8 and a mild hybrid system, the SQ7 cranks out a whopping 664 pound-feet of torque to go with its 435 horsepower. Not only does zero to 60 come in just 4.8 seconds (on the way to a limited top speed of 155 miles per hour), but its state-of-the-art powertrain returns an average 30.9 mils per gallon. No plans have been made to bring it stateside, but if it does come our way, expect it to start at around $75K — a bargain compared to most bruisers on this list.