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6 performance vehicles that prove big SUVs donâ€t have to be boring


Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs to you and me) that spend the vast majority of their cushy lives wafting about on tarmac – rather than slicing through the type of rural landscape thatâ€d make Dr David Livingstone queasy – have rapidly increased in popularity over the past few years.

Station-wagons and minivans have seemingly fallen by the wayside as families clamour for the high driving position, added ride height and feeling of extra space that define the typical urban SUV – even if they have absolutely no intention of ever taking the wretched thing off-road.

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This has, of course, also seen the SUV build up a mass of staunch detractors (which includes many performance car enthusiasts), who point out that these gas-guzzling behemoths take up far too much space on the road and in parking lots, are little more than status symbols (bought with a “bigger is better” attitude) and generally embody a hideous culture of excess.

So, is it possible to render the road-biased SUV anything other than an object of automotive hate and ridicule? Well, if you ask us, thereâ€s just one way of achieving this. And, a little ironically, it involves taking the idea of “excess” to an even greater extreme.

Yes, we know this sounds a little counter-intuitive, but we reckon upping power makes potentially humdrum SUVs all the more exciting. Simply adding a huge dollop of under-bonnet oomph may not instantly transform a tank-like SUV into a hunkered-down sports-car – itâ€ll likely still go around corners with the subtleness of an inebriated cow, after all – but it certainly makes life more thrilling from behind the steering wheel.

They may not be “pure” sports vehicles and they may be even worse for the environment than their more mundane counterparts, but these super-SUVs certainly are special (yes, weâ€re easily and unashamedly swayed by extra kilowatts).

So, with that in mind, we decided to take a gander at six of the quickest production SUVs available. Of course, there are a growing number of compact SUVs – think Audi RS Q3, Mercedes-Benz GLA 45 AMG and Porsche Macan Turbo – that subscribe to a similar ethos, but today weâ€re going to stick to the full-size variants.

Big, boring SUVs? We think not…

1. Porsche Cayenne Turbo S
0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds

Opting to build the luxury Cayenne – despite protestations from hard-core Porsche fans – long ago proved to be an especially shrewd business move from the Germans. Of course, a super-performance version was always on the cards… and when it arrived it was christened the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S. It takes things a fair step further than its already rapid siblings, and is widely regarded as the quickest standard SUV in the world.

Its turbocharged 4.8-litre V8 makes an impressive 404kW, but itâ€s the mountain of torque (some 750Nm between 2250rpm and 4500rpm) that provides the grunt needed to shunt this two-tonne “off-roader” to three figures in just four-and-a-half seconds. Quick? One could say that…

2. BMW X6 M
0-100km/h in 4.7 seconds

The sales-type folks at BMW will try to fool you into believing that the mighty X6 M is, in fact, a “Sports Activity Coupe” – but this is just code for “thereâ€s not much room in the back”. Still, practicality isnâ€t our chief concern here today; instead, weâ€re focusing solely on power. And more power.

The all-wheel drive BMW X6 M certainly isnâ€t lacking in that department, thanks to the twin-charged 4.4-litre petrol V8 lurking beneath the bonnet. Itâ€s good for 408kW and 680Nm, which is enough to propel this Bavarian beast from standstill to three figures in just 4.7 seconds.

3. Mercedes-Benz ML 63 AMG
0-100km/h in 4.8 seconds

Three letters – “A”, “M”, and “G” – fixed to the tail-gate of this chunky Mercedes-Benz tell a story all on their own. The overwhelming theme of that story? Power. Lots and lots of power.

Some 386kW and 700Nm are extracted from the 5.5-litre V8 with a little forced induction magic, and sent to all four wheels via a seven-speed automatic transmission. It may be big and it may be heavy, but thereâ€s another word that comes to mind when first contemplating the Mercedes-Benz ML 63 AMG: potent.

4. Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT
0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds

This big bruiser holds the title of “most powerful production Jeep ever built”. It employs a 6.4-litre Hemi V8 engine that delivers 344kW and 624Nm. The resulting zero to 100km/h sprint? A not-to-be-sneezed-at 4.9 seconds.

An electronic limited slip differential, high-performance Pirelli rubber, and brakes bigger than Kim Kardashianâ€s, um, “ego” help to keep the Grand Cherokee SRT the right way up on the black stuff. It also boasts five distinct driving modes, including a “track” option should you be brave enough to attempt to take it around corners at anything approaching high speed.

5. Range Rover Sport Supercharged
0-100km/h in 5.3 seconds

It measures nearly five metres long and weighs over 2.3 tonnes, yet it can blast to three figures in a smidgen over five seconds. The Land Rover Range Rover Sport Supercharged, to use its full name, draws its urge from a (supercharged, as you may have guessed) 5.0-litre V8 petrol engine.

A meaty 380kW/625Nm is available to all four wheels through an eight-speed self-shifter, resulting in a seriously quick SUV. Thing is, this model is also highly capable off the beaten track and boasts the cabin appointments of a particularly spacious and well-equipped luxury sedan.

6. Infiniti QX70
0-100km/h in 5.8 seconds

The Infiniti QX70 – the vehicle formerly known as the Infiniti FX – is available with a handful of different engine options. But weâ€re obviously interested only in the biggest and baddest: the 5.0-litre V8 petrol powerplant.

This hefty eight-cylinder pumps out 287kW and 500Nm, sending its oomph to all four wheels through a seven-speed automatic gearbox. It may be the slowest vehicle on this list, but with a sprint time to 100km/h of less than six seconds, itâ€d leave most hot hatches in a thick cloud of particularly nasty CO2 emissions.

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