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Best SUVs 2018

evo staff
9 Feb 2018

If you want an evo-approved fast car but need the practicality of an SUV, here are our top ten choices


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1. Porsche Macan GTS

The best part of a good sporty SUV is the way it seemingly defies physics. A top-heavy, compact off-roader shouldn’t be able to thrill its driver like a sports saloon – but amazingly, the Porsche Macan does.

Our pick of the range is the GTS model. Oddly enough, it doesn’t sit at the top of the Macan tree, instead slotting between the regular 3-litre S and the full-fat Turbo, both in terms of price and power.

The Macan GTS benefits from a range of chassis changes – suspension lowered by 15mm, sportier settings for the adaptive dampers, and a new set of matte black 20-inch Spyder wheels. The front brakes have also been upgraded with 360mm discs, as fitted to the Macan Turbo.

> Porsche Macan review - physics-defying fun

Under the bonnet, changes such as a reworked inlet and more boost on the turbo bring power up to 355bhp at rpm and torque to 369lb ft from 1650rpm. That’s enough to propel the 1895kg Macan from 0-60 in just 5.2 seconds.

But the best part is how the Macan handles. There’s an almost ridiculous amount of grip, while the body control will shame many a hot hatchback. The electronic aids may be beating the laws of physics with a bat rather than subtly dancing around them, but oh boy, does it work. The GTS even manages to maintain acceptable road manners when you’re not hooning about.

2. Jaguar F-Pace

When Jaguar announced it was going to build an SUV, it was a worrying prospect - even with the expertise garnered from sister company Land Rover. But when the F-Pace arrived we were amazed at the competence, character and involving drive on offer.

The F-Pace doesn’t actually share all that much with any Land Rover model, instead taking its platform from the XE and XF saloons. That endows it with brilliant road manners matched to poise and composure that belie its size. We’d even go so far as to call it fun.

> Jaguar F-Pace - Jaguar's SUV is one of the best

A range of engines provide generally good economy and performance, but we’d lean towards the powerful 3-litre diesel mated to an eight-speed automatic ‘box. It’s not that characterful, but it’s very flexible, and you can easily make swift progress without trying too hard.

The F-Pace is an impressive handler for such a big car – helped by its lightweight aluminium construction, it stays flat and level in the corners, and the rear-biased four-wheel-drive system even allows a modicum of fun.

Add in good looks, a great interior and the space on offer from its practical, boxy body and the F-Pace is a real winner.

3. Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrigoflio

Alfa Romeo’s rejuvenation, lead by the astonishingly good Giulia Quadrifoglio, has certainly been remarkable but it’s perhaps the new Stelvio Quadrifoglio SUV that is even more of an astonishing achievement. Alfa has sport saloon form after all, but to bring its first SUV to market as virtually the class leader is a major coup.

It packs the same muscular (503bhp) 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 as its namesake and is capable of a sub-four second 0-62mph time as well as being the fastest SUV around the Nürburgring. The V6 is mated to the familiar eight-speed auto, but the ‘box has been recalibrated for its SUV application and teamed with Alfa’s Q4 driveline.

> Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

Left in its automatic mode it’s well-mannered and very rapid above 3000rpm but you’ll need to engage Dynamic or Race mode to feel the full force of the V6 as in these modes the throttle response is sharper and the ZF’s shift times are reduced.

The Stelvio QV also has an entertaining chassis with the same quick-witted feel to the steering that you get in the Giulia and combined with strong brakes and decent body control it’s surprisingly engaging to punt along very rapidly. The standard tyres do let go a little earlier than expected though which can lead to more understeer than you might expect. As an all-rounder though it’s a great first effort at a sporting SUV from a resurgent Alfa Romeo.

4. Porsche Cayenne Turbo

The sporty SUV that started it all? When Porsche first announced it was putting its iconic badge onto something that wasn’t a low-slung sports car, there was outrage. Porscheophiles were out for blood, incensed that such an abomination should be allowed to occur.

Then the first-generation Cayenne arrived, and once the outrage over the dilution of the brand (and the heinously ugly looks) died down, it became evident that Porsche’s chassis engineers had worked some magic on the Cayenne. It became a sales hit, and can be credited with the rise in premium SUVs in general – let alone the sporty sub-section of the market.

> Porsche Cayenne Turbo review - bonkers and brilliant

The current model Cayenne is still great to drive, especially in Turbo form, which is our pick of the range. More powerful but less thirsty than the outgoing model, it’s powered by a 4.8-litre V8 producing 513bhp and 533lb ft of torque. That gives it performance stats that could bend time and space – 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds anyone?

It corners at ridiculous speeds, with real involvement and finesse, while remaining practical and well-built – if expensive. When we reviewed it in 2014, we described it as ‘the ultimate all-rounder’. What more is there to say?

5. Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S 

We’re huge fans of Mercedes-AMG’s 4-litre twin-turbo V8 – it’s just the sort of power plant we’ll sorely miss when the current vogue for downsizing sees just about everything being powered by a four-cylinder motor – but can it really lift the comfort orientated Mercedes GLC from cruiser to bruiser?

In 63 S form you get the full monty – 503bhp and a 0-62mph time of 3.8sec – the ‘normal’ GLC 63 makes do with 469bhp and a 4-sec benchmark sprint time. The V8 is hooked up to Mercedes’ nine-speed multi-clutch transmission and the 4Matic all-wheel drive system and it’s a devastatingly effective combination with the V8 bellowing its approval while the tyres do their level best to shred tarmac.

> Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S review - better than a fast estate?

The chassis is thoroughly revised from its standard GLC set up and the AMG receives air suspension, adaptive damping and the expected range of drive modes, and while it’s a remarkably tidy handler the ride always remains on the overly-firm side of acceptable. It makes a good fist of disguising its bulk on tighter roads but it can’t quite match the class-leading agility levels when the going gets tough.

Its steering is a little remote, especially around the straight ahead, but with that V8 under the bonnet it’s possible to forgive the AMG GLC 63 S for its few (minor) faults.

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