500+ Horsepower!...In an SUV?


For some people, performance is the make-or-break of a vehicle. It doesn’t matter about the safety or technology features, a powerful engine and sporty suspension are key. There are so many vehicles out there with at least 500+ horsepower that you can find any vehicle you want. Along with engine upgrades, there are usually specific sports or even race modes, modified suspension, and larger brakes. The price tags for these vehicles signify that they aren’t the regular models and want to showcase they are the cream-of-the-crop. 

As we know, SUVs have become the dominant segment with many capabilities. Need seating for seven? Check. Luxurious interiors that are actually made by Bentley and Rolls Royce? You got it. How about a smaller city run-about? Sure thing. Those are all great, but we know what’s going next? Do you want a high-performance SUV with at least 500-horsepower or even 600-horsepower and the speed to embarrass some older supercars? As I found out when I drove a 2020 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, absolutely. Are they necessary? No. Really expensive and have the same flaws as any vehicle driving in traffic? Yes. 

Who cares? Really, who cares that these super-SUVs get MPG in the teens? SUVs, for the most part, are quite boring to drive. You’ll usually see some front-wheel-drive biased crossover made for the school run or to get groceries. Most of these SUVs just blend in with the scenery. Performance SUVs try their best not to blend in. Bigger wheels, aggressive styling, and much louder exhausts let them literally shout: I am powerful, hear me roar! The automakers that create these amazing SUVs span from Audi all the way to Rolls Royce. For now, let’s see a few different powerful gasoline-powered all-wheel-drive SUVs, starting with Mercedes-AMG and BMW.

Mercedes-AMG and BMW have been in horsepower wars for as long as I can remember and they’re still at it. BMW has eight different SUVs with over 500-horsepower while has a paltry six. Even though the power-outputs range from 500 to over 600-horsepower, the two I’m going to look at are the 2020 BMW X5M Competition and the upcoming 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S. Checking on the stats, both of these have over 600-horsepower but the X5M Competition edges out the horsepower with a 4.4-liter V8 producing 617-horsepower. The GLE63 S has to get by with 4.0-liter V8 producing 603-horsepower. Sorry Mercedes-AMG fans. Either way, you’ll have a high-performance German midsize SUV with a 0-60MPH time of around 3.5 seconds. 

What I like about both of these is that they don’t really shout their performance quite like some others. Yes, they do have more aggressive styling compared to the lesser models but they don’t go about it as ostentatious. That said, you’ll get at least 20-21” tires with options of 22”.  Both of them have configurable driving programs that make the engine, exhaust, and chassis that go from tame to pure sporty. Both BMW and Mercedes have great infotainment systems with BMW’s iDrive and Mercedes’ MBUX. Along with performance styling options, the usual luxury and active safety vehicles are available. Both are about $115,000 before options.


What we are going to look at next put the luxury of Mercedes-AMG and BMW to shame. When I think of the most luxurious vehicles, I go towards the Brits. Both Bentley and Rolls-Royce did exactly what they needed to: make SUVs since people adore them. I may not be the biggest fan of Bentley’s Bentayga Speed or Rolls-Royce’s Cullinan’s looks, but they are extremely imposing. Both were made to be opulent, but only one was made to be quick. Cullinan’s come with a 6.7-liter V12 producing 563-horsepower while the Bentayga Speed makes 626-horsepower. Because of the difference in both horsepower and weight, it isn’t a surprise that the Cullinan wafts to 60 MPH in 4.5 seconds while the Bentayga Speed is a second quicker. 

Even though these are quite powerful SUVs, their aces in the hole are pure luxury. The Bentayga Speed and Cullinan can be ordered exactly the way you want. Any color, any trim, and basically any option you can have in a luxury SUV can be optioned. Premium sound systems, all safety features, and customizable rear seats are available. VIPs can be taken in supreme comfort and speed with the most supple leather, real wood trim, individual seating with massage seating, and entertainment systems. Thankfully, these SUVs are quite inexpensive. The regular Bentayga can be bought for only $170,000 while the Speed starts at $250,000. Sadly, the Cullinan is a tad bit more at $330,000. 

Let’s switch gears from “mundane” to the extreme. This may not be surprising, but Lamborghini makes some of the most aggressive looking supercars. Lamborghini’s second attempt at an SUV, the Urus, may have parts from other Volkswagen companies, but the looks are pure Lambo. Powering the Urus is a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 which is shared with the Porsche Cayenne Turbo. That said, in the Urus, it makes 641-horsepower and is the quickest SUV in this group. It goes from 0-60 MPH in 3.1 seconds. Urus’ also get carbon-ceramic brakes as standard and go from 21-23” tires. If you want to go racing, just put the drive select, called Anima, into Corsa. Corsa is Italian for race, and that’s just one part of the Anima system. 

Lamborghini wants the Urus to go anywhere with their Anima driver-select program. The other selections include Strada (Street), Sabbia (Desert), Terra (Off-roading), Neve (Slippery), and Sport (which means Sport). Although the infotainment and digital dials are pure Audi, the interior design is all Lamborghini. The controls for the transmission, engine start/stop button, and Anima look like they came straight out of a fighter plane. There are standard luxury features such a heated and ventilated seats, upgraded sound system, and seats with heated, ventilated and massaging features. There may be plenty of Audi, Porsche, and Bentley within the Urus, but the Urus is a full Lamborghini with a price of around $250,000. 


Finally, we get to the most powerful gasoline engine. We already looked at a few different high-end and high-performance automakers, so of course, this goes to someone like Ferrari, right? No. It’s a Jeep. To be more specific, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. The Trackhawk has a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 which produces a massive 707-horsepower. In case you were wondering, yes, this is the Hellcat engine. Even though this is the most powerful SUV, it only goes to 60 MPH in 3.5 seconds. I mean, Jeep did try. The Trackhawk still has a lot of bragging rights in both horsepower and the transformation it made from a regular Grand Cherokee to this. 

Grand Cherokees aren’t the most aggressive SUVs but the Trackhawk’s front end and 20” wheels make it look powerful. For those that don’t know the Trackhawk is supercharged, don’t worry because Jeep has you covered with “supercharged” badging. Other than that and a few performance features including performance seats, it’s standard Grand Cherokee fare. The fit and finish aren’t anywhere up-to-par with everything written above, but the controls look easy to use and the Trackhawk uses FCA’s 8.4” UConnect infotainment system. You can look at the $86,000 starting price in two ways. Either it’s an extremely expensive Jeep or one of the best ways to get into an SUV with 700-horsepower. 

The entry to 500+ horsepower can be found in many ways, but SUVs seem like the most popular way. All of them have all-wheel-drive, blistering 0-60 MPH times, and fuel-economy that would make a mere mortal wince as would the price tags. Although some of these SUVs do have the ability to go off-roading and on tracks, 95% if not more will never see a track nor rugged trails. Five-hundred plus vehicles are fun to drive, even if they’re SUVs. They may not make a lot of sense, but powerful SUVs are here to stay. 

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