In the last decade-and-a-half, the world of automobiles has gone through a transformation in which SUVs have comprehensively dominated car markets across the world. This ever-increasing demand for high-riding SUVs and crossovers have forced automakers to experiment with the segment, which has given rise to different types of SUVs. The most popular amongst them is the high-performance kind, something no one would have or could have expected or accepted 20 years ago. Yet, the demand for high-performance SUVs is at an all time high, with companies like Ferrari, Lamborghini and even Aston Martin, forced to enter the segment. The advancement in automobile engineering has helped automakers build big and heavy SUVs with performances similar to the nimble supercars. Here’s a list of top sport utility vehicles that are as at home on racetracks as they are off the roads.
In the late 2000s, a new segment of performance SUVs began to take shape, with Porsche and Mercedes being the first of the German automakers to launch supercar-fast crossovers. Realising the growing demand for sporty SUVs, BMW decided to give its full-size X5 the M division’s high-performance treatment and launched the very first version of the X5 M back in 2009. The latest generation BMW X5 M, the F15 variant of the full-size SUV, is not only faster than its predecessor but also much more efficient and a better all-round package. It is powered by the same twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 engine found in the new M5, which is tuned to produce 567hp. The standard eight-speed automatic transmission channels the power to all four wheels through BMW’s xDrive system, helping the 2.5-tonne SUV sprint from zero-97kmph in just 3.8 seconds.
BMW claims that despite packing more performance, the new X5 M is 26 per cent more efficient than the previous generation model. In terms of styling, in typical BMW fashion, the exterior looks similar to the standard variant. Massive 21-inch wheels, blacked out grill and 'M’ badges around the bodywork make it stand out. Panoramic sunroof, adaptive suspension, and 18-way power-adjustable leather-trimmed front seats are all available as standard equipment.
Twin-turbo 4.4 litre V8, tuned to produce 567hp
Rs 1.77 crore
Mercedes-AMG GLE 43 Coupe
Mercedes-Benz was one of the first to launch a direct competitor to the BMW X6. The Mercedes-AMG GLE 43 Coupe is powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 engine that is tuned to produce 362hp and is paired to a nine-speed automatic. The high-riding Mercedes can do the zero to 96.6kmph sprint in just 5.3 seconds.
It also gets AMG-tuned brakes and suspension along with the drivetrain to match the crossover’s power to give it sports car like performance.
The sporty SUV has been on sale for a couple of years now, yet it's design is so contemporary that it doesn’t look dated at all in a market flooded with SUVs. In fact, it successfully manages to stand out in the world of box-shaped crossovers. The fastback roofline with the beautifully sculpted front and massive air intakes give the GLE 43 Coupe a proper muscular stance.
The massive three-pointed star logo of Mercedes and the full LED headlamps add extra aggression to the SUV’s front fascia. At the rear are AMG’s signature quad exhaust pipes and body-contouring sleek tail lights.
Inside the cabin, the interior looks similar to the standard GLE with added AMG touches. The sloping roof, however, doesn’t leave too much headroom for the rear passengers.
Twin-turbocharged 3-litre V, which produces 376hp
9-speed automatic 0-97 kmph 5.3 seconds
Rs 1.04 crore
Porsche Cayenne Turbo
The third-generation Porsche Cayenne, often credited with being the car that spawned the whole performance SUV segment, not only features Porsche 911’s design elements, but also gets its acclaimed performance and sporty dynamics. Powered by a twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine that makes 541hp, the all-new Cayenne Turbo can rocket from zero to 96.5kmph in just 3.7 seconds, which is supercar quick. However, it’s not just Cayenne’s straight line performance, but its advanced suspension set-up and driving aids that help the 2175kg SUV defy physics and make it handle like a nimble sports car.
Although, it shares its platform with the Audi Q8, Bentley Bentayga and the Lamborghini Urus, Porsche made sure to give the Cayenne a distinct character. In terms of aesthetics, Porsche gave the latest generation model a thorough update, both on the inside as well as outside.
The exterior is a lot slicker than before, thanks to the new bumpers, headlights and the sleek LED tail lights. Although it retains the brand’s familiar cabin design and instrument cluster with a central tachometer and digital speedo, Porsche has given it a modern touch. Otherwise, the interior is classic Porsche, wrapped in exquisite materials with perfectly balanced aesthetics.
4.0 litre V8 engine, 550hp 0-97kmph 3.7 seconds
Rs 1.92 crore
Range Rover Sport SVR
The face-lifted version of the second-generation Range Rover Sport is one mean looking SUV with high-performance built into its DNA. However, Land Rover decided to take its sporty credentials a notch higher by launching the Range Rover Sport SVR. It's blisteringly fast: The SVR's 5-litre supercharged V8 petrol engine produces 575hp, the same as in the Jaguar F-Type SVR and 50 more horses than the regular RR Sport. The engine is mated to a 8-speed torque convertor, which helps the sports SUV go from zero to 100kmph in 4.5 seconds and hit a top speed of 280kmph. To make the RR Sport SVR as light as possible, SVO put the SUV through its 'Special Materials Weight Loss Plan'. The bonnet is made from composite carbon fibre while magnesium construction is used in the lightweight front seats. The styling update received by the new Range Rover Sport makes it a lot sleeker and aesthetically pleasing than before. The gloss finish and the naked carbon fibre on the bonnet specific to the Sport SVR further augment the SUV’s appearance. On the inside, the cabin is well laid out with Range Rover’s updated dash design and also features new lightweight SVR performance seats in Windsor leather. There are plenty of SVR badges that make it stand out from the standard variant.
5-litre super charged V8 petrol, 567hp 0-100 kmph 4.7 seconds
Rs 2.05 crore
Announced back in 2015, Rolls-Royce’s first-ever high-riding model in its hundred years of existence debuted last year, making it the most expensive and opulent SUV currently on sale. The Cullinan is built on what RR calls the Architecture of Luxury all-aluminium platform, which also underpins the Phantom, and has large dimensions, measuring 5,341mm in length, 2,164mm in width with a 3,295mm long wheelbase. Powering the big-sized luxury SUV is a 6.75-litre V12 petrol engine that produces 571hp and is mated to an 8-speed automatic gearbox which sends power to all four wheels, making it Rolls-Royce’s first ever model to feature all-wheel-drive. For utmost comfort, the Cullinan is equipped with a self-levelling air-suspension and multiple off-road modes to tackle all kinds of terrains with ease.
It is unmistakably a Rolls-Royce with all the visual elements that are distinctly associated with the luxury automaker. On the inside, the cabin looks near-identical to the new Phantom with an all-digital instrument cluster, a touchscreen infotainment system and the trademark analogue clock on the dash.
The India version also gets the 12-inch rear entertainment screens as standard.
6.75 litre V12 engine, 563bhp
Rs 6.95 crore
It’s hard to believe that Bentley’s first-ever SUV, the Bentayga, debuted almost four years ago, and served as the most opulent and expensive SUV in the world before it was dethroned by the Rolls-Royce Cullinan. While the Bentley Bentayga was originally launched with a twin-turbo 6.0-litre W12 petrol engine with 608hp on tap, the British luxury car later expanded the range to the V8 models available in both diesel and petrol and a V6 hybrid variant. The fastest and sportiest of them all is the Bentley Bentayga Speed, which is powered by the same W12 engine tuned to produce 626hp. The newest version that debuted recently at the Geneva Motor Show is officially the fastest SUV in the world with a top speed of 305kmph. From the design standpoint, the Bentayga looks like a high-riding version of the Bentley Continental GT and has the brand’s easily recognisable design DNA, including Bentley’s famous grill and the distinct headlight design. Inside, the cabin is as plush and well-appointed as one would expect from Bentley, wrapped in premium wood, leather and even carbon fibre on the Bentayga Speed.
W12 engine, 600bhp
Rs 3.78 crore
Lamborghini introduced the Urus in 2017 as the world’s fastest and sportiest SUV money can buy. It’s the Italian marque’s second ever SUV after the brand experimented with a 4x4 off-roader in the late 80s. Preserving Lamborghini’s famous wild styling and ferocious performance, promises of supercar-like performance in an SUV’s body. Instead of being powered by Lamborghini’s famous V10 or V12 engine, the Urus has a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 engine under the hood that produces 641hp. Given the fact that the Lamborghini Urus is lighter than most high-performance SUVs, it is blisteringly fast with a 0-97kmph in 3.2 seconds and a top speed of 305kmph).
Underneath the unmistakable Lamborghini styling with aggressive body lines and sharp design, the Urus is underpinned by the same platform shared by the Audi Q7, Bentley Bentayga, and the Porsche Cayenne.
On the inside, the cabin has the same dramatic, classic Lamborghini styling with design cues inspired by fighter jets.
Twin-turbo 4-litre V8, 641hp 0-100 kmph 3.2 seconds
Rs 3 crore