Best sports SUVs 2020 (and the ones to avoid)
If you want thrills as well as practicality and comfort, these are the SUVs you should have on your shortlist. Plus, we name the ones to avoid.....
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 top of 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. Then if any of them take your fancy, be sure to click the relevant link to see how much you could save by using our New Car Buying service.
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10: Lamborghini Urus
A list like this just wouldn't be complete without the Lamborghini Urus. Not only does it look like it comes from the 22nd century, but it also has the power to match, in the form of a thumping 4.0-litre V8 engine developing a meaty 641bhp.
10: Lamborghini Urus - interior
The result is a car that can reach 62mph in just 3.6sec – faster even than the Porsche 911 sports car.
9: Mercedes-AMG GLC 63
This is the most potent version of the GLC you can buy. Like the Urus, it has a 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine resting under its bonnet, and with 469bhp in standard form and 503bhp if you go for the S version.
9: Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 - interior
This GLC is ridiculously fast, then, but it's also comfortable enough for everyday use.
8: Audi SQ5
Unlike the other cars in this top 10, the SQ5 is a diesel. However, it still ticks all the important boxes, because its engine provides quick but effortless performance along with sensible fuel economy, and sounds pretty tasty, too.
8: Audi SQ5 - interior
The handling is beautifully judged —if not quite as entertaining as that of the Porsche Macan — while still giving you a comfortable ride. And it’s a practical large SUV, so makes a great family car.
7: Jaguar F-Pace SVR
Even in its sportiest SVR form, the F-Pace strikes a sweet balance between ride comfort and handling finesse, and the V8 engine sounds spectacular.
7: Jaguar F-Pace SVR - interior
True, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio is faster in a straight line and will ultimately go around corners quicker, but it’s no more rewarding to drive.
6: Porsche Cayenne Turbo
"There is no such thing as a slow Cayenne", our review of Porsche's biggest SUV begins. However, even though the entry-level versions are fast in their own right, it's the range-topping Turbo model that will really make you feel like a supersonic jet pilot, thanks largely to its V8 petrol engine.
6: Porsche Cayenne Turbo - interior
The Turbo also comes with air suspension, which remains relatively firm but also helps to take the edge off most lumps and bumps in the road.
5: Volkswagen T-Roc R
With nearly 300bhp and four-wheel drive as standard, the Volkswagen T-Roc R promises hot-hatch thrills in a more practical package. But here's the crucial thing: it actually delivers on that promise.
5: Volkswagen T-Roc R - interior
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.
4: BMW X3 M40i
Even though it's not a full-blown M car, this hot version of the X3 large SUV still has plenty of power in its 3.0-litre engine – 355bhp, to be precise. It also gets stiffer suspension than the standard X3 and racier styling inside and out.
4: BMW X3 M40i - interior
And the engine is sensational; despite being able to dispatch the 0-62mph sprint in just 4.8sec, it's also wonderfully smooth when you just want to cruise along.
3: Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
If you're looking for an SUV that injects some Italian flair into your morning commute, look no further than the Alfa Romeo Stelvio.
And if you also want to surge past the traffic, the Quadrifoglio version has a 503bhp 2.9-litre V6 petrol engine that revs keenly and emits a truly soulful soundtrack.
3: Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio - interior
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 feel overly nervous.
2: Porsche Macan S
We recommend the mid-range S version of Porsche's smallest SUV, because it's ferociously fast – dispatching the 0-62mph sprint in 5.1sec – yet also able to keep running costs reasonably sensible.
2: Porsche Macan S - interior
And like all Macan's it pulls off the trick of mixing thrilling, confidence-inspiring handling with a ride that's compliant enough for everyday use, particularly when fitted with the optional Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM).
1: Cupra Ateca
Even in standard, Seat form, the Ateca is one of the best-handling family SUVs, so with its lower and stiffer suspension, the Cupra’s body is propped up excellently through fast corners.
Accurate and well-weighted steering adds to the fun. And yet when the suspension is in the softer of its two settings, the ride doesn’t feel any firmer than the Seat Ateca’s.
1: Cupra Ateca - interior
Add in the fact that it's considerably cheaper than most the other cars on this list, yet still unbelievably fast, and it's easy to see why the Cupra Ateca was the winner of our inaugural Sports SUV of the Year trophy and remains the class benchmark.
So what about the sports SUVs to avoid?
Maserati Levante V6 S
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.
Maserati Levante V6 S - interior
And the interior can't touch those of class leaders either. Best avoided.
Mini Countryman John Cooper Works
Endowing Mini's SUV with the same performance as its hot hatch sibling sounds promising, but this sports SUV never feels as fast as its power output might suggest.
Mini Countryman John Cooper Works - interior
Poor refinement and an unsettled ride count against it, too.