Which hot SUV is best? Here's what our car journos would buy
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DRIVEN's headquarters is, generally, one rolling ongoing argument after another about all things four-wheeled. Whether it's cars currently on test or rose-tinted memories from years gone by, the next passionate vehicular debate is never far away.
It made sense to take this excitable energy and turn it into something (hopefully) useful. As such, welcome to DRIVEN's new online content series (published each Monday), where we pick out the cars that we would actually buy with our cold hard cash.
We've already covered off mid-size family SUVs. Now, it's time to look at hot performance SUVs — the family haulers capable of scaring the heck out of sports cars and supercars. In some cases, anyway ...
Editor, Dean Evans: Skoda Kodiaq RS
Performance SUVs, huh? Geez, doesn’t really narrow it down much given the wide choice, so I have to remember I’m spending my own money here. My budget would typically range between $40-$60k… ish. Otherwise, I’d just take the easy options of an Audi RSQ8 or AMG GLC or a Tesla Model X. I’d even go for the RSQ3, but that’s $115k.
So to be realistic about this, I’d lean towards three speedy SUVs that are similarly alike: the Skoda Kodiaq RS, VW Tiguan or Cupra Ateca. My first choice was actually the Cupra, but given David and I share the love of slightly off-centre brands and cars, he’d already claimed that, so I’ll let him sing its virtues.
But I’m also equally happy in the Volkswagen Allspace, with the TSI R-Line 4WD serving up 162kW/350Nm from its 2.0-litre turbo, and just 7.8l/100km – and the sprint to 100km/h in 6.2 seconds, which is important when you’re on the hunt for a performance SUV. At $66,990 it’s on the high side for a Tiguan… though its modest styling probably pushes me into the Skoda Kodiaq RS.
The Skoda is $6k more than the VW at $72,990, but is full of character, comes in that iconic Race Blue Metallic colour, has 14kW more from a twin-turbo diesel, and 500Nm. It has better looking 20-inch wheels, is slightly more frugal 7.7l/100km, and the same seven-speed DSG gearbox.
Plus there’s the added practicality of the seven seats, and even though it’s slower to 100km/h (7.0sec), there’s distinct bragging rights to bore everyone about how its’ the fastest seven-seat SUV around the Nurburgring Nordescheife, with a time of 9m:29.84secs. Go on, tell them - to the hundredth of a second… and watch their eyes glaze over. It was set by Sabine Schmitz, you know… hello?...
Deputy Editor, David Linklater: Cupra Ateca Limited Edition
It’s got to be something based on a mainstream model, because personally I just can’t get behind those premium-brand efforts. They’re very exciting and accomplished, but for every crazy-fast high-priced Euro SUV there’s an RS, M or AMG passenger car that’s way cooler.
Wouldn’t it be great if a mainstream maker could give an everyperson medium-SUV (the single most popular type of new vehicle in New Zealand, remember) some real sizzle?
Seat did last year with the Cupra Ateca. To declare an interest, we have a Seat (not Cupra) Ateca FR at home. Or rather, to declare my preference.
Anyway, the Cupra Ateca basically adds the 221kW engine from the Golf R and rides on a bespoke suspension tune, including Dynamic Chassis Control with multiple drive modes. It’s a cool thing, decently quick (0-100km/h in 5.2sec) but most importantly, genuinely interesting/unusual and not overdone.
At $63,900 it’s not even that expensive, especially given there’s nothing quite like it on the market.
That considered, I’ll step up to the Cupra Ateca Limited Edition – just five examples (of 1999 globally) are currently on sale in NZ. It’s $78,900 but adds an Akrapovic exhaust system, sports seats, special interior trim, copper 20-inch alloys and 18in Brembo brakes.
Senior Multimedia Journalist, Matthew Hansen: Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
Well, someone's got to choose something dumb and irresponsible right.
Lamborghini can claim that its Urus is the quickest SUV on the planet, but the fact that Jeep can come as close as it does on the timesheets to the Veedub-engined Lambo is at the very least a moral victory.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk can't really match the Urus in top-speed stakes (289km/h versus 305km/h) and I'd also pay a handy wager that the Jeep would be toast on track too. What's interesting to note, though, is that back when DRIVEN drove the Trackhawk in Australia at its launch, we were able to hit 100km/h in 3.5 seconds — two tenths quicker than Jeep's claims and a tenth quicker than the Urus.
Does any of this matter? No. Not really. But it does draw a nice line under the legitimacy of the Trackhawk's performance capabilities. And it also helps me argue that, even at $169,990, it's a bargain. If you squint really, really hard.
What's always ensnared me with the Trackhawk in the few times I've driven one is how lovable it is. I'm not an SUV person, and performance SUVs in particular are a frustrating concept. But, there's so much to like about a Trackhawk.
The cabin is exceedingly American in that the seats are huge glorified armchairs and the infotainment is excellent. It's among the most docile things in class when you're just piddling around town. And, when you're not in the mood for piddling, the supercharged 6.2-litre Hemi V8 spins into action with incredible ferocity and visceral anger.
I'd have a black one with yellow brake calipers. And maybe a pair of yellow spitter guards on the front bar in order to look like a true Mopar-head.
Digital Writer, Andrew Sluys: Range Rover Sport SVR
Now I’ve established myself as a picker of the most overhyped vehicles in this segment, something like the Lamborghini Urus or the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk would be the obvious choice, but no.
I’ve gone with something that sits exactly in the middle of those two on the pretentious scale – the Range Rover Sport SVR.
If I’m buying an SUV, I’m not really looking for something that can chop up MX-5s in the turns, I’m after practically, power, and a touch of class. Unfortunately those three things come at quite a premium in the large SUV segment, but we’ll get to that later.
While looking like a classy Remuera tractor, the SVR uses a supercharged 5.0-litre V8 engine that makes 428kW and 700Nm of torque. This allows the large SUV to hit 100km/h in just 4.5 seconds, before topping out 283km/h which is more than you’ll ever need in a family wagon.
On the inside, the SVR benefits from Land Rover’s iconic interior that’s quite technical, but super easy to use. The red leather upholstery is also a must-have here.
Finally, we get to the bottom line. After speccing my perfect SVR up, with a striking blue two-tone exterior, and centre console refrigerator, I’ve landed at a hefty $251,000. This makes my choice the most expensive on the list, but oh well, it’s the new normal