Not so long ago, the only fun to be had in an SUV was off-road. While today’s SUVs are more fun off-road than ever, there’s also an embarrassment of riches when it comes to fun road-driving characteristics in SUVs, whether at the smaller end of the spectrum or the larger. Curated from a list of new vehicles with starting prices below $75,000, here are the 10 most fun-to-drive SUVs.
1. 2023 Alfa Romeo Stelvio
The Alfa Romeo Stelvio
Italian styling, thrilling performance, and a range of trims and engines to choose from, the 2023 Alfa Romeo Stelvio (starting at $46,200) undoubtedly belongs on any fun-to-drive SUV list. For those seeking the most fun Stelvio, especially those unburdened by budgetary constraints, there’s the roughly $87,500 Stelvio Quadrifoglio. It sports a Ferrari-derived twin-turbocharged 2.9-liter V-6 engine good for 505 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque. The Quadrifoglio can hit 0-60 mph in 3.6 seconds and has a top speed of 176 mph. Even the base Stelvio is tons of fun, with the most powerful base engine in its class at 280 hp from a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder.
2. 2022 Ford Bronco
The Ford Bronco
Nearly as fun on-road as it is off-road, the 2022 Ford
Bronco was seemingly built with fun as a primary objective. While it’s certainly not the same kind of fun as the Stelvio, the Bronco’s iconic style and range of packages mean there’s probably a fun version for just about anyone. Beyond its advanced 4WD system and massive 11.6-inch ground clearance or its 400-hp Bronco Raptor off-road variant, the Bronco’s removable doors and roof go a long way toward making it a fun-to-drive SUV, regardless of the terrain.
3. 2023 Genesis GV70
The Genesis GV70
Sensuous styling makes the 2023 Genesis GV70 a pleasure to look at before you open the door and slide inside. And once you do, the standard all-wheel drive and potent engines will have you smiling. The base engine is a 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder rated at 300 hp, while the upgrade engine is a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 good for 375 hp. Oh, and the interior is comfortable, high-tech, and just as stylish as the exterior. If that doesn’t sound like fun, why are you even reading this?
4. 2023 Hyundai Kona N
The Hyundai Kona N
Fans of performance vehicles will know the Hyundai N moniker thanks to vehicles like the Veloster N. For the 2023 Hyundai Kona N, Hyundai
carries forward the formula of previous years, slotting a 276-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder into its subcompact crossover for unreasonable amounts of giggle-inducing acceleration. The 8-speed paddle-shift dual-clutch transmission adds to the sense of driver engagement, and the Kona N suspension tune is firm and aimed at fast cornering rather than commuting comfort.
5. 2023 Jeep Wrangler
The 2023 Jeep Wrangler Willys 4xe
While it’s not as comfortable for extended highway trips as the Bronco, the 2023 Jeep Wrangler is considerably more refined, with more creature comforts than previous generations of Wrangler. Fortunately, it retains every bit of its excellent off-road ability, as well as its fully removable top and doors. There’s also a mild hybrid option as well as a plug-in hybrid Wrangler 4xe variant for those seeking to green up their driving fun, whether on the trails or the roads.
6. 2022 Mazda CX-30 Turbo
The Mazda CX30
The 2022 Mazda
CX-30 Turbo is one of the most fun-to-drive SUVs from a brand known for making fun-to-drive vehicles, so it’s no surprise it’s on this list. In addition to its excellent dynamics, the CX-30 Turbo’s interior is classy and refined, its exterior is attractive, and it’s surprisingly affordable. The Turbo option maximizes the fun factor, upgrading the 187-hp 2.5-liter 4-cylinder base engine to a turbocharged version capable of 250 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque while delivering 30 mpg highway.
7. 2022 Mercedes-AMG GLC 43
Every one of Mercedes’ SUVs is available in a high-performance AMG flavor, and the GLC 43 might very well be the sweet spot. A compact SUV, think of the GLC 43 as a competitor to the midtier Porsche Macan S and GTS. No one should be surprised to see a German vehicle on a fun-to-drive list, even if it’s an SUV. What may surprise you, however, is that it’s a Mercedes-Benz. Those who’ve been paying attention for the past few years will know that Mercedes has been sharpening dynamics across the whole portfolio, SUVs included, and the AMGs especially. The GLC 43 AMG isn’t the range-topper — the bonkers GLC 63 S fills that role — but it’s still plenty powerful and fun-to-drive as a result, with 385 hp on tap from a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine.
8. 2022 Porsche Macan
The Porsche Macan
Yep, more Germans. Nope, not a surprise this time. If a fun-to-drive list doesn’t have at least one Porsche
it’s a bad list. Fortunately, there are no bad Macan SUVs, as even the base model feels more like a sports car than an SUV from behind the wheel. Yet it comfortably seats five while still hauling a fair amount of gear. However, there is a performance sweet spot in the Macan range, and it’s the Macan T. It gets most of the handling upgrades found on the Macan S and GTS but sticks with the 261-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged base engine. While the turbocharged V6s of the S (375 hp) and GTS (434 hp) are genuinely entertaining, the lighter, the Macan T’s nimbler feel is even more fun.
9. 2023 Toyota 4Runner
Like the Bronco and the Jeep, the 2023 Toyota
4Runner is more of a classic SUV than a street-friendly sport-hatch masquerading as one. Accordingly, many of the 4Runner’s fun driving characteristics blossom off-road. Its narrow body makes it easy to squeeze up tight trails. It has an old-school body-on-frame construction, and its 4WD makes for more traction than you’ll likely know what to do with.
10. 2022 Toyota RAV4 Prime
The Toyota RAV4
It looks a bit like a Transformer (and it’s even named like one), but the 2022 Toyota RAV4 Prime is, in fact, a plug-in hybrid crossover. You’re right; none of those words sound especially fun. But in this case, the plug-in hybrid drivetrain adds power rather than losing it. With a total of 302 hp compared with the standard RAV4’s 203 hp, the RAV4 Prime is respectably quick off the line hitting 60 mph in just 5.7 seconds. That’s only about a second behind a 4-cylinder Toyota Supra. Who says hybrid crossovers can’t be fun?
This story originally ran on Autotrader.com.