What Car?'s best sports SUVs in 2020
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. If any of them take your fancy, just click the relevant links to find out more or 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 has the power to match, in the form of a thumping 4.0-litre V8 engine developing a meaty 641bhp.
The result is a car that can reach 62mph in just 3.6sec – faster even than the Porsche 911 sports car.
10: Lamborghini Urus - interior
- Mind-boggling fast
- Comfortable; even on 22in wheels
- Sharp handling
- Rear head room is a little tight for tall adults
- Fuel economy in the low 20s
- Hefty purchase price
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, it's very nearly as fast.
This GLC is ridiculously rapid, then, but it's also comfortable enough for everyday use.
9: Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 - interior
- Epic soundtrack
- Ridiculous fast
- Comfortable enough for everyday use
- Intrusive stability control
- Interior could be more solidly constructed
- Unintuitive steering
8: Audi SQ5
For its second generation, the SQ5 has switched from diesel to petrol power, not only to bring it into line with rivals, but escape the repercussions of 'dieselgate'.
However, the handling is still beautifully judged —if not quite as entertaining as that of the Porsche Macan — and the ride comfortable. Plus, it’s based on a practical large SUV, so makes a great family car.
8: Audi SQ5 - interior
- Classy and practical interior
- Comfortable price
- Strong performance
- Woeful fuel economy
- Not that much fun
- Subdue engine note
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. 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.
7: Jaguar F-Pace SVR - interior
- Ferocious pace
- Glorious V8 soundtrack
- Surprisingly practical
- Interior quality is mediocre
- So-so infotainment system
- Lots of road noise
6: 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. And 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.
6: BMW X3 M40i - interior
- Fast yet approachable
- Composed handling
- Generous standard kit
- Firm ride
- Uninspiring exhaust note
- Lots of road noise
5: 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.
5: Cupra Ateca - interior
- Cheap by performance SUV standards
- Just as practical as a regular Seat Ateca
- Very well equipped
- Expensive compared with many conventional hot hatches
- S0-s0 interior quality
- Engine could sound fruitier
4: Porsche Cayenne Coupé Turbo
There is no such thing as a slow Cayenne Coupé. 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.
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.
4: Porsche Cayenne Coupé Turbo - interior
- Powerful engines
- Sharp handling
- Classy interior
- Expensive to run
- Stingy kit list
- Air suspension is a must
3: Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
If you want to surge past the traffic, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is a superb choice, 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.
3: Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio - interior
- Wonderful engine
- Fluent handling
- Generous standard kit
- Interior feels cheap in places
- Poor infotainment system
- Inconsistent brake feel
2: 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. 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.
2: Volkswagen T-Roc R - interior
- Thrilling handling
- Strong and flexible engine
- Well equipped
- Cheap-feeling interior
- Some road noise
- Not the roomiest
1: Porsche Macan S
We recommend the mid-range S version of Porsche's smallest SUV rather than the range-topping Turbo, because it's still ferociously fast – dispatching the 0-62mph sprint in 5.1sec – yet also able to keep running costs reasonably sensible.
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). It's the best sports SUV on sale today.
1: Porsche Macan S - interior
- Punchy performance
- Superb handling for an SUV
- High-quality interior
- Some rivals are more spacious
- Important safety kit optional
- Thirsty petrol-only engines
And 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.
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. Poor refinement and an unsettled ride count against it, too.