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Super SUVs

Big on space, big on performance

Jordan Schmidt
April 26, 2023
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Super SUVs

The ‘Performance SUV’ as a working concept has seen more and more success over the last few years. No matter what the purists may say, performance SUVs just can't be ignored. As our test results will show you, some of our Speed Week contenders in this segment were surprisingly fast on our hill climb and we’d bet you’ll be more shocked at the results than we were.  

BMW X4M Competition

You could never miss the Sao Paulo Yellow BMW X4M Competition. It is brash and obnoxious at first sight yet conducts itself similarly in execution to a performance sedan. As an added extra, it’s a bit more practical than some of its other M-badged brethren. With a 3.0-litre, twin-turbo powerplant up front, it churns out a monstrous 375 kW and 650 Nm of torque. The X4M is mightily fast on the open road, but as SUVs go, it suffers from a harsh ride. 

Be that as it may, we’re not judging the X4M on its comfort here, and when it comes to performance, the car is all sorts of good. Despite its bulk, the X4M loves to be thrown at corners and is able to quell body roll to a major degree, all the while still maintaining its composure and balance. From the manner in which it puts its power down through all those four contact patches, to how it shifts through the gears with vehement precision, not to mention how it turns in without the expected terminal understeer is quite an exemplary trait. 

Its wow factor? Just how easy it is to tame. Unlike some of the other BMW’s here, the X4M was the most composed even at speed. As the third fastest car up the Slaaihoek pass, the X4M was one of the biggest shocks of the week, trouncing everything but two other cars.

Volkswagen Tiguan R

Another surprising entrant was the Volkswagen Tiguan R. It is one of the first performance SUVs to come from VW's stable. We're not talking R-Line stickers with go-faster styling bits here. This is proper, full-fat, Volkswagen capability wrapped in a family-friendly SUV package. It received a heart transplant from the Golf R with the same engine, the same power and same platform. On paper at least, the cars are nearly twins except that one came out with a spacious SUV cabin and raised ride height. 

The Tiguan was certainly one of the unsuspecting competitors at Speed Week 2022. Nobody paid much attention to it at our Show Day. Nobody jumped at the opportunity to drive it. It seemed to slink away into the background doing its road trip without much fanfare and circumstance. We didn’t expect much from it. We were so wrong. 

Much like the Volkswagen Golf 8 R, the Tiguan’s Jekyll to Hyde transformation at the push of a few buttons(quite a few actually) was out of this world. The Tiguan stunned all of us when it was called to do business up the hill. It launched with furious intention and then, as Mandla put it, the Tiguan seemed to be the most surefooted of all the cars. Mandla praised its steering and chassis calibration. He couldn’t believe just how good it was up the hill and whilst it was a wet track, you can’t ignore the cars it beat, just 0.3-seconds off the GR Yaris. If you ever wanted a ‘Sleeper’ in your garage, this is a good choice.  

Jaguar F-Pace SVR

This thing is a big show-off. It's a large, premium performance SUV which houses top-grade luxury in a powerful and loud package. We like it. The cabin is a spectacular place to be and as Jag’s flagship in the range, it comes with all the bells, whistles and frills you would expect. 

With that powerful supercharged 5.0-litre V8, it seemed like a good choice to take the fight to these two mentioned before it. It's brutal and makes the tedious task of overtaking an absolute joy – you know, if we were talking everyday application of this kind of power. Its signature? That monstrous sound. Everybody is drawn to it. Not everybody loves it, especially the neighbours. 

Down to the tune of absolute performance, the Jag F-Pace SVR can hold its own against pure-bred, performance-focussed cars at the lights. But when it comes to the twisty bits, its loud luxury doesn’t quite match up to the others. The Jag’s biggest crutch is its weight and its suspension. Unlike the X4M that also tips the scales at over 2-tons, the Jag’s suspension isn’t as sophisticated. It doesn’t use a raft of computer wizardry to curb the body roll and its brakes cry at having to tame that weight corner after corner. Its front end is prone to understeer when the going is really hard and so all in, the Jag had a hard time at Slaaihoek. The application of driving a mountain isn’t quite the Jag’s strong suit.  

If drama is the measure of showiness, the Jag is a winner. As an uber-luxurious SUV that happens to have an enthralling nuclear powerplant propelling it forwards, it’s a winner too. But in this company and in this application, the Jag was sadly outclassed and outgunned. 

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