Top 10 best sports SUVs 2023

Open gallery Close News by James Disdale 10 mins read 21 April 2023 Share

Whether you consider it a contradiction in terms, a total aberration or the ultimate all-rounder, there’s no denying the performance SUV has the ability to stir debate. On paper, these high-riding and highly tuned machines shouldn’t work for keen drivers, yet they’re flying out of showrooms quicker than most can get to 62mph.

In many ways it’s not hard to see their appeal, the combination of pace and practicality allowing them to slip easily into most lives. What’s more, despite a hefty kerbweight and a high centre of gravity, many drive with greater poise, precision and panache than you’d believe, allowing them to be hustled hard over give-and-take roads.

Then there’s usual upmarket SUV perks of a luxurious cabin, commanding view out and the all-weather security of all-wheel drive. And, if it’s your bag, there’s kerbside kudos of all that fashionable off-road intent. On paper, these are cars that have all the bases covered.

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Our top 10 here represents the high performance heartland for SUVs, with a mid-sized vibe and a price ceiling of around £100,000 (although some of our contenders float a little above this self-imposed limit). If you want more exotic and rarefied fast 4x4s such as the Lamborghini Urus, then here’s our list of Super SUVs.

1. Porsche Macan GTS

If any SUV is going to earn grudging respect from the died-in-the-wool sportscar fan, then it’s the Macan. Despite nearing its tenth birthday (and essentially being based on the original Audi Q5, which debuted in 2008), Porsche’s entry-level off-roader continues to set the bar in this closely fought class, with a blend of pace, space and dynamic grace that makes even the greatest naysayers nod in approval.

With a new, all-electric version on the horizon, Porsche has both spruced-up and pared-back the current Macan line-up, with an end-of-life facelift. The flagship Turbo has gone, but the GTS that effectively replaces it packs the same 434bhp turbocharged 2.9-litre V6 so there’s no loss in performance (you’ll be at 62mph from a standstill in just 4.5 seconds, while the top speed is a biscuit under 170mph).

Crucially, its subtly lowered and uprated suspension delivers the sort of involving and agile driving experience that has you convinced you’re in something smaller and more hot hatch-shaped – it’s physics-defying antics beggar belief. The steering also has a similar weighting and response to the brand’s low-slung road-burners, while the expensively tuned dampers are cast iron in control but cushioned in operation.

Yet with its standard air suspension and cossesting, lavishly appointed interior, the Macan is a relaxed and easy-going as an executive saloon when you just want to cruise. It’s not quite as roomy as some of the younger entries here, but there’s enough space that you’ll get few complaints. If you only ever drive one SUV, make it this one.


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2. Jaguar F-Pace SVR

When Jaguar started making SUVs, it became a pretty bankable probability that it would one day make a performance SUV. And the day it did, it showed so many of its faster-moving German rivals where they’d been going wrong by launching a fast 4×4 brimming with pace and sporting sense of occasion, but also more laid back in its dynamic character than many.

The F-Pace SVR is the sports car for someone who wants a car to use on the office commute and school run, and for weekend errands – and not one so stiffly suspended that it feels like a gigantic, rolling vehicular contradiction. Its snarling 5.0-litre supercharged V8 gives it all the speed and drama a car of this size ever needed, and its purposeful handling is exciting, but its practical cabin and boot, and its pragmatic chassis tuning, also make it well suited to the real world.

A facelift in 2021 helped nudge the fantastic F-Pace SVR into first place here. Its body is now ever so slightly more aerodynamic. A new torque-converter automatic gearbox lifted straight from the Project 8 can now handle the V8’s full 516lb ft in all gears. Suspension tweaks have made the model more rounded and usable, but without compromising its dynamism. The interior and infotainment have been updated, too. Make no mistake: this is a seriously impressive piece of kit.

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