The immensely popular SUV/crossover segment enables car buyers to get anything that suits their tastes. From large to small, budget to downright extravagant, the automakers have you covered. As for excitement, several sport-designed SUVs are available. Here’s a selection of family haulers that look cool, raise the bar in performance, and pump fun into your daily driving.
2017 Jaguar F-Pace SUV
$41,990 starting MSRP – pictured Prestige 35t (18city/23hwy/20combined est mpg)
Jaguar introduces it’s first SUV with a sporty aluminum, unibody construction and performance to match. Models include Base, Premium, Prestige, R-Sport and top-level S ($57,700 starting MSRP). The supercharged 3.0 V6 pushes 340 hp/332 lb-ft, while the S delivers 380 hp/332 lb-ft with a 0-60 run at 5.1 seconds. A 2.0L turbocharged diesel is available with 180 hp/318 lb-ft. Both motors employ a terrific ZF 8-speed transmission. All F-Paces are AWD, but function with much heavier rear wheel bias on dry roads, about 90% of the torque force. When things get slippery, a 50:50 split distributes to the front and rear. The infotainment system is a standard InControl Touch, or an upgrade to InControl Touch Pro with 10.2″ touchscreen. The standard panoramic sunroof is superb. I like the low key, clean styling of the F-Pace compared to competitors. The optional deployable side steps are a treat. Jag needs to go with a cap-less fuel filler like others. The rear storage is roomy, with full size spare optional. All have standard leather seats with corzine headliner, while suede headliner comes with the S.
I drove the ’17 F-Pace 35t Prestige V6 version. The seating is comfortable, but adjustment controls on the driver’s seat side are somewhat puzzling. The interior could use some refinement, but space and visibility are good. An aggressive, yet pleasant engine sound fills the cabin. The ZF 8-speed shifts smoothly and the paddle shifters are responsive. The gear selector knob sits right on the console but the driving mode buttons below it are poorly placed. I’d rather they were higher up instrument panel just below infotainment screen. It drives energetically like a performance car, rather than an SUV. The handling feels sporty, while true dual exhaust pipes provide the soundtrack.
2017 Lexus RX350 F Sport SUV
$49,020 starting MSRP – pictured in Matador Red Mica (20city/27hwy/23combined est mpg FWD, 19city/26hwy/22combined AWD)
The F Sport’s 3.5L naturally-aspirated V6 is identical to the standard RX350, pulling 295 hp/267 lb-ft. While this SUV is the slowest on the list (0-60 7.7sec FWD, 0-60 7.9sec AWD), the F Sport adds enough eye candy to impress. Paddle shifters trigger the 8-speed, there’s sharp exterior performance cues, adaptive variable suspension (AVS) plus Sport S+ mode, racier instrumentation, and 20″ dark graphite alloys.
The controversial spindle grille remains, and you either love it or hate it. I think the F Sport’s mesh insert adds impact. Cargo storage and interior room is plentiful, no complaints here. An optional 12.3″ display is placed accordingly. The aluminum pedals, trim, steering wheel F Sport badging, bolstered sport buckets and performance gauges all contribute wonderfully to the sporty design. Performance could use a boost, in my opinion. Now Lexus, how about a turbocharged F Sport?
2017 Mercedes-Benz AMG GLC43 SUV
$54,900 starting MSRP – pictured in Cardinal Red Metallic (18city/24hwy/20combined est mpg)
Bringing it’s deep racing heritage to the street with the AMG model, Mercedes-Benz hits a home run with this SUV. Take a 3.0L biturbo V6 motor producing 364 hp/384 lb-ft, add a 9G-Tronic 9-speed automatic, and you achieve a 4.8 second 0-60 time. The standard start/stop system keeps the mpg in check. The AMG GLC43 has 4MATIC AWD with bias to the rear rubber, and sport suspension, to maintain a performance edge. A 7″screen, or optional 8.4″ COMMAND system with navigation and touchpad, support the technology/entertainment needs. The rotary knob is ideally placed in the stunning interior.
This Chicago Auto Show vehicle has sporty black leather and red stitching with carbon fiber trim, red seatbelts, panorama roof and sharp AMG multispoke 20″ rims with black accents. Interior room hits the sweet sport for my nearly 6’2″ body. There’s good passenger room, and rear seats that fold to provide over 56 cubic feet of cargo storage. Hood opens up, and the engine bay pops with a red stripe on the cover. Simply put, a great balance of refinement and racing-developed performance and make this my top-pick sport SUV.
2017 Porsche Macan GTS compact SUV
$67,200 starting MSRP- pictured in Rhodium Silver Metallic (17city/23hwy/19combined est mpg)
Porsche brings a practical, compact option to the SUV market. Performance is intact with a 3.0L twin-turbocharged V6 good for 360 hp/369 lb-ft, 159 mph on the track, active AWD, and a 0-60 time in 4.8 seconds. Transmission is the proven 7-speed PDK auto w/paddle shifters. The combined Alcantara and leather seating is sporty and comfortable, with interior and instrument gauges well configured. The PCM (Porsche Communication Management) infotainment system is a touchscreen that’s standard and easy to use.
At just over 184″ long, the Macan is the shortest SUV on the list, but provides a respectable 53 cubic feet of rear storage with the seats down.
2017 Maserati Levante S SUV
$83,800 starting MSRP – pictured in Grigio Maratea (14city/19hwy/16combined est mpg)
Like Jaguar’s F-Pace, Maserati introduces it’s first SUV this year. A 345 hp/369 lb-ft, 3.0L twin-turbocharged V6 powers the Levante. The motor is built by Ferrari, but designed by and solely for Maserati. A supreme Italian luxury treat with top craftsmanship and sporty command, the Levante S ups performance to 424 hp/428 lb-ft. You get 0-60 in 5 seconds with a top speed of 164 mph, highest in class according to Maserati. Combined with 8-speed gearshifts, torque vectoring, and Q4 AWD configuration, I think a wonderful driving dynamic can be expected for this SUV. Four driving modes include Normal, Sport, Off Road, and I.C.E for increased control and efficiency.
Under the hood, a blue V6 identification on the engine cover indicates the S version. Interior design, leather, trim and overall feel is outstanding. The MTC Maserati Touch Control 8.4″ infotainment setup works in conjunction with a conveniently placed rotary control. I like the sport package with shift paddles, racier seats, wheel, foot pedals, and carbon fiber trim. Exterior enhancements include dark roof rails, skid plates, grille, spoiler. Rosso red brake calipers behind Nereo 20″ alloy polished/staggered rims complete the look.
Visit the 2017 Chicago Auto Show February 11th-20th at McCormick Place. Learn more at www.chicagoautoshow.com and hashtag #CAS17 on Twitter.
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