Putting The Fun In Functional SUVs

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The SUV and crossover segments are top-sellers in the USA because of the supreme practicality that they offer. But, not everyone wants to trade in their Audi TT for a cumbersome Audi Q8 here, so automakers have created a niche segment of SUVs that live up to the sport part of their moniker. Naturally, the majority of these are luxurious models that put power and performance at the forefront of their design philosophy. But remaining practical and comfortable are just as essential.

If you’re looking for a family car that looks as good as it feels to drive, then these should be at the top of your list. And it certainly won’t hurt that they come loaded with all the latest and coolest tech available. Of course, that’s not to say that there aren’t a few affordable fun crossovers out there, but finding them can be a tedious task. So, to help you skip over the boring searching and sorting and get straight to the fun test drive portion, here is a list of some of the most fun-to-drive SUVs currently on the market in the USA.

Audi RS Q8

The performance variant of the German automaker’s juggernaut, the RS has oodles of power under the hood. The twin-turbocharged V8 engine develops a whopping 591 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque, which is directed to the quattro drivetrain. This ensures that power is always present where it is needed, optimizing handling and acceleration. The fact that the hefty machine can race from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds is proof of this.

Despite all of this, the biggest Audi still manages to be a practical daily driver, when you’re not tossing it around corners to see just how much it can handle. It seats five instead of seven like the Q7, and the trunk stows a respectable 30.5 cubic feet of cargo. Whereas a similarly powered sports car would barely be able to accommodate a couple of bags, the RS can easily perform daily errands between hooning around the less busy streets in town.

Porsche Cayenne

At around $67,000 MSRP, the Cayenne won’t be on everyone’s shopping list. But, with classic Porsche styling showing through the heavier frame, it certainly makes a statement. And this is backed up by its 335-hp turbo V6 or a 434-hp variant on the S model. In either of the two configurations, it is an eminently capable SUV that even has the potential to wander off the beaten track a little.

Unfortunately, it does sacrifice more practicality than many of its ilk in the name of athletic handling and sheer fun factor. The rear seats should offer enough head- and legroom for adults of all sizes, but the trunk is smaller than what most rivals offer at just 27.1 cubic feet. Still, no low-riding Porsche could even come close to this, and the Cayenne is still extremely fun to drive. And to top it all off, fuel economy is not actually half bad at 19/23/20 mpg.


From the M Performance division of the German auto-giant comes a coupe-styled SUV with the power to match its sharp looks. Another turbo six-cylinder does duty here, directing 473 horsepower to the xDrive AWD. With a sprint time of 4.1 seconds, it can keep up with most of the competition, but it isn’t the fastest. What it lacks in raw power, though, it makes up for in finesse. The midsize SUV feels a lot smaller than it actually is, responding to inputs with an eagerness you’d expect from something a lot lower to the ground. Nevertheless, it still retains the smooth ride quality we have come to expect from the segment.

Inside, it is as opulently appointed as any other premium badge from the brand, with room for five, if those in the back don’t mind the sloping roofline. This also devours quite a bit of the available trunk space, leaving a mere 18.5 cubic feet for daily needs. This is a small price to pay for the sensation you get behind the wheel, though, and the quality of the interior does a great job of offsetting any discomfort from limited space.

Jaguar F-Pace

Despite its gentlemanly looks, this Brit knows how to move in street-smart circles. While a tad larger than its direct rivals, it handles with a type of grace seldom seen in a vehicle of this size. If you opt for the stronger of the two engine options, you’ll accelerate from 0 – 60 mph in a brisk but not whiplash-inducing 5.1 seconds. But this is more than made up for my extremely refined handling dynamics. However, it isn’t the smoothest rider on the list, which is a pretty big sacrifice in the family-oriented segment.

The interior of the cabin looks great, with plenty of plush leather and genuine wood adorning every surface. But the lack of passenger space is noticeable. Luckily, a class-leading trunk, offering 33.5 cubes of storage helps to mitigate this a bit. Loads of modern infotainment and comfort tech along with a comprehensive safety suite do the rest of the work to bring the F-Pace in line with the rest of the competition.

Hyundai Kona N

Definitely the most affordable performance SUV on the list, the new Kona N proves that you don’t need to break the bank to have some fun. You also don’t need a ludicrously powerful turbo V6. The small Korean crossover is more than just an N-line package upgrade to the existing model, but rather a whole new beast with a turbo four-pot exciting all four wheels. This it borrows from the popular Veloster hot-hatch, making it somewhat of a hot SUV, thanks to its petite dimensions.

Of course, with so little room to work with, Hyundai won’t be able to give us quite as much passenger and cargo capacity as the other entrants on this list. But if the standard Kona or Santa Fe are anything to go buy, the N will do just fine in this regard. Since we’ll still have to wait over a year to see it hit the dealerships, the pricing of this anticipated cruiser is still unclear. But there is no doubt that it will be a lot less than you’d pay for something just as fun from a more prestigious label.