Top 10: Best sports SUVs you can buy
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 driving an SUV can't also put a big smile on your face?
While most SUVs focus on practicality and comfort over driving enjoyment, a small but growing group of sports SUVs match family-friendly interiors with big performance.
This class contains both small and large SUV models, but what they all have in common is a powerful engine. And while driving enjoyment and agile handling are top of the agenda here, a sports SUV should also have precise, feelsome steering, decent ride comfort and a spacious, practical interior.
Don't forget that if you're in the market for a new sports SUV, or indeed any other type of car, you could save thousands by buying through What Car?'s New Car Buying service.
Let's get into it:
Editor's note: Images are purely illustrative and may not reflect mentioned trim levels
Slideshow story - click right-hand arrow above to continue
10: BMW X5 M50d
The M50d is the range-topping version of the BMW X5 luxury SUV.
It gets 395bhp from its 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel engine, so it feels ferociously fast, gaining speed so effortlessly that you'll be hitting motorway speeds before you know it.
10: BMW X5 M50d - interior
It also comes with adaptive suspension, giving it a nimbler edge than regular X5 variants.
9: BMW X4 M40i
If you want to look your absolute best as you beat every other car in the dash away from the traffic lights, perhaps the coupé-esque styling of the new BMW X4 will appeal.
9: BMW X4 M40i - interior
This M40i version even has 349bhp to call on to make your getaway as fast as possible. It also happens to be the only petrol-powered version of the X4 you can buy – for now, at least.
8: Mercedes-AMG GLC 43
The Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 may not be the most hardcore version of the GLC family SUV you can buy (that honour goes to the GLC 63 S), but it's nevertheless excellent fun to drive.
8: Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 - interior
Under its bonnet is a 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine developing 362bhp, and that's strong enough to catapult it from 0-62mph in just 4.9sec – faster than the rival Audi SQ5.
The GLC 43 also turns in sharply and has communicative steering.
7: Lamborghini Urus
This list 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.
7: Lamborghini Urus - interior
The result is a car that can reach 62mph in just 3.6sec – faster even than the Porsche 911 sports car.
6: 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, developing 469bhp as standard and 503bhp if you go for the bonkers S version.
6: Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 - interior
This GLC is ridiculously fast, then, but it's also comfortable enough for everyday use.
5: Porsche Cayenne Turbo
"There is no such thing," our review of Porsche's luxury SUV begins, "as a slow Cayenne."
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.
5: Porsche Cayenne Turbo - interior
The Turbo also comes with air suspension, which remains relatively firm but also helps to iron out most lumps and bumps in the road.
4: BMW X3 M40i
Even though it's not a fully blown M car, this hot version of the BMW X3 family SUV still has plenty of potential 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
Boy, is it fun. 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 want to inject some Italian flair into your morning commute, look no further than the Alfa Romeo Stelvio. 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
You also get 20in alloy wheels and adaptive sports suspension as standard.
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. It's certainly more sensible than the new 434bhp Turbo.
2: Porsche Macan S - interior
You don't get much many extras with S trim, but you do get sportier styling and different alloy wheels to go with the plethora of kit that comes as standard on the Macan.
1: Cupra Ateca
Not for nothing was the Cupra Ateca the winner of our inaugural Sports SUV of the Year trophy. Not only is it the cheapest car here by some margin, but it's also among the most fun to drive.
In fact, no other sports SUV offers anywhere near as much pace for less than £40,000. Powering the first standalone Cupra model is the same 296bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine that you'll find in the Volkswagen Golf R hot hatch, meaning this family SUV can reach 62mph in just 5.2sec.
1: Cupra Ateca - interior
And since the regular Seat Ateca is already one of the finest-handling SUVs, the Cupra version is wonderfully entertaining to weave between corners. Put simply, it's the best sports SUV money can buy.
And what about the two sports SUVs you should avoid?
Maserati Levante V6 S
This most powerful version of Maserati's SUV has 424bhp to play with, so it's no slouch. But stodgy handling and a bumpy ride keep it from placing among the class best.
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. Avoid.