Best sports SUVs 2022
If you want thrills and performance as well as practicality and an elevated driving position, these are the SUVs that should be on your shortlist – and the models that are best avoided...
Who says an SUV can't plaster a big smile on your face? While most of these high-riding cars put practicality and comfort a long way before driving fun, a growing number of sports SUVs add big performance to the mix.
This class contains both large and small models, but what they all have in common is a powerful engine. And although thrills and agile handling are high on the agenda, the best still provide decent ride comfort and a spacious interior.
Here, we count down the top 10 sports SUVs you can currently buy – and reveal the models that are best to steer clear of. If any of them take your fancy, just click on the relevant links to find out more or see how much you could save by using our New Car Buying service.
If you want a sports SUV that still puts the family first, the X3 M40i is a fine choice. A pair of gangly teenagers will have room to stretch out in the back and can pick their own temperature thanks to three-zone climate control, yet you still get crisp handling and a tuneful powerhouse of a turbocharged six-cylinder engine. There are several more entertaining options, however.
- Fast yet approachable
- Composed handling
- Generous standard kit
- Firm ride
- Uninspiring exhaust note
- Lots of road noise
In its most powerful form, the Formentor has the firepower and handling prowess to keep pace with similarly priced rivals, plus it offers comparable practicality and a nicer interior. Unfortunately, like the M40i, it doesn't thrill in the way that the very best sports SUVs can.
- Very well equipped
- Surefooted and grippy handling
- Smart interior for the money
- Not the quietest car at 70mph
- Not quite as practical as some family SUVs
- Fiddly dashboard controls
Despite awesome acceleration and impressive agility, the SQ8 is almost as comfortable and relaxing as regular Q8s. It's easy to mistake for a regular Q8, though, and the infotainment system can be distracting.
- Effortless performance and a great V8 noise
- Composed ride and tidy handling
- High-quality interior
- Cayenne Coupé is more fun
- Distracting touchscreens
- Cheaper SQ7 is even more spacious
With nearly 300bhp and four-wheel drive as standard, the T-Roc R promises hot-hatch thrills in a more practical package. But here's the crucial thing: it actually delivers on that promise. It blends the regular T-Roc’s practicality with sharp handling and bombastic performance. So, the only thing that disappoints is the cheap-feeling interior.
- Thrilling handling
- Strong and flexible engine
- Well equipped
- Firm ride
- Some road noise
- Not the roomiest
While we’re in no doubt that a Lamborghini Urus would be quicker point to point and a Bentley Bentayga more relaxing, the DBX provides a more immersive and interactive drive than either rival. The fact that it combines this with a luxurious and surprisingly spacious interior rounds off an altogether compelling package.
- Characterful engine
- Playful handling
- Extraordinary pace, especially in DBX707
- Lumpy ride around town
- Iffy fit and finish for the price
- Dated infotainment system
The RS Q8 is an outrageously fast sports SUV that corners with unbelievable composure, mostly rides well and betters its rivals for practicality. Just bear in mind that the closely related Porsche Cayenne Coupé is a bit more fun.
- Ballistic performance
- Handles like a much smaller car
- Great interior quality
- Heavy fuel consumption
- Distracting infotainment system
- Gearbox can be sluggish
If you want to surge past the traffic, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio absolutely delivers, thanks to a 503bhp 2.9-litre V6 petrol engine that revs keenly and emits a truly soulful soundtrack. However, it’s not simply a boisterous toy like the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 or Range Rover Sport SVR. Instead, the Stelvio feels light and responsive, thanks to steering that’s super-quick without making the car seem overly nervous.
- Entertaining handling
- Razor-sharp accelerator responses
- Generous standard kit
- Engine only sounds good in Race mode
- Interior feels cheap in places
- Rear space is a bit tight
The range-topping GTS version of Porsche's smallest SUV is significantly more expensive than the mid-level S, but it comes with a lot of desirable extra kit, including air suspension and Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) system, which help it pull off the trick of mixing thrilling, confidence-inspiring handling with a surprisingly compliant ride.
- Performance ranges from punchy to rapid
- More rewarding to drive than most other SUVs
- High-quality interior
- Some rivals are more spacious
- Important safety kit optional
- Thirsty petrol-only engines
The Cayenne Coupé GTS is insanely agile, especially if you tick the box for adaptive air suspension. Body lean is incredibly well contained, while the steering is precise and perfectly weighted. Yet once you’ve finished hooning around, the GTS is also remarkably comfortable for something so talented in the twisties.
- Powerful engines
- Fantastic handling for a big SUV
- Classy interior
- Expensive to run
- Stingy kit list
- Pricey air suspension option is a must
Until recently, buying a sports SUV required a sizeable outlay, but the Ford Puma ST changes that. And don’t think the fact that it costs far less than the competition means it’s far less fun. Even the mighty Porsche Cayenne has to bow to the Puma’s incredible agility, while its greater driver engagement and less extreme acceleration mean there’s far more chance to enjoy yourself on public roads.
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- Immensely enjoyable to drive
- Surprisingly big boot
- Great driving position
- Occasionally bouncy low-speed ride
- Infotainment could be slicker
- A VW T-Roc is bigger in the back
And the sports SUVs to avoid...
This most powerful version of Maserati's SUV has 424bhp to play with, but stodgy handling and a bumpy ride keep it from placing among the class best. Read our review
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Our chief photographer wanted an SUV that brought more than a touch of fun to a gruelling daily routine. How does the Ford Puma ST stack up?