Are Performance SUVs Overtaking Performance Cars?
Early in our motoring careers most of us learned an important lesson: the laws of physics cannot be broken. Momentum will have you continue straight ahead as the road bends left. Inertia will ensure that tiny Lotus beats your Mom’s minivan away from the lights, and a lack of friction will have you spinning in circles. No, physics just cannot be beat.
Or can it? The new breed of performance SUVs suggests Newton’s Laws are just recommendations. Consider the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. It weighs 5,400 lbs and stands almost 68” tall yet it’ll sprint to 60 in 3.5 seconds. Remember when only the Lambo Countach could hit that yardstick in under 5?
And speaking of the Italian tractor manufacturer, what are we to make of the Urus? Yes, Lamborghini, builder of the lowest, wildest, most exotic supercars on the planet (arguably,) is minting cash with a giant SUV.
Slightly lower on the performance totem-pole sits the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, another SUV capable of the benchmark sprint in under 4 seconds. Then there are German performance SUVs, like the Macan and the BMW X5M. All blisteringly fast, both in a straight line and on the track, even though your eyes tell you they should be nothing of the sort.
What’s Going On?
Not many years ago, a performance car had to be light, low and short. That put the center of gravity close to the road and gave it razor-sharp handling. Mostly important though, it also created a sensation of speed. Almost every performance car you can name hewed to that formula. (Yes, the glorious ’60’s muscle cars were fast but we’d argue straight line speed alone does not a performance car make.) And so we ask, why the demand for performance SUV’s?
We offer three reasons:
- Modern cars are so incredibly fast manufacturers no longer need to create a sensation of speed.
- Traction control and torque vectoring will today get tall vehicles round corners at speeds that would cause their predecessors to roll over.
- Most performance cars are neither practical or comfortable. And since most folks can afford only one car, it’s the more sensible choice that wins.
Let’s wrap it up with one last thought: while many of us want a performance car the performance SUV is the smarter choice. Then again, there’s always the Mercedes AMG E63 S wagon.