My face hurts from smiling. My ears are ringing. My shoulders sore. Behind me, 2,358 horses tick cool in the mountain air. Grocery getter. Mall crawler. Chelsea tractor. Family hauler. These four Skittle-colored SUVs shouldn’t exist. They’re too big, too heavy, too powerful. Yet these stupid things—the 2020 Bentley Bentayga Speed, 2019 Jaguar F-Pace SVR, 2019 Lamborghini Urus, and 2019 Porsche Cayenne Turbo—are among the best-driving SUVs on the road and among the most fun vehicles I’ve driven this year, period. And one of them is going to earn its way into the crucible that is Best Driver’s Car.
Combined, these four trucklets have 2,360 lb-ft of torque, and each puts its power down through an eight-speed automatic and a grippy all-wheel-drive system. Each offers levels of performance that would have easily put them in the running for top spot at Best Driver’s Car as recently as 2011, when the Ferrari 458 Italia won. The performance capability of these four is silly. Stupid—in all the best ways—even.
But one certainly has to be the silliest, stupidest, most fun super SUV on the road.
With our annual Best Driver’s Car competition fast approaching and a hard cap on the amount of performance cars we could bring, we decided to have another play-in game to determine which SUV most deserved a ticket to one of the most grueling performance car tests in the world. Last year the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio earned entry to BDC after a similar play-in comparison, and it stunned us when it finished an impressive eighth place—beating heavy hitters like the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 and the Ford Mustang GT PP2. This year, the Bentayga, F-Pace, Urus, and Cayenne are each getting their shot at disrupting the field.
Because the stupidest SUV earns an invite to BDC, these four contenders will play by the same BDC rules. Over a week of testing on Los Angeles’ best roads, we’ll focus on how rewarding each is to drive—Does it drop right into a corner or fight you? How well balanced is it? Does it pin you in your seat when you stomp on the gas? Do you want to keep driving it?—and considerations like price and cabin comfort and space will be ignored. Objective test numbers will be a factor, but weighted less than usual.
This is how it all shook out.
Fourth Place: 2019 Jaguar F-Pace SVR
Sprinting in Boots
Goddamn, am I going to miss supercharged V-8s. Although I’m ready to embrace electrified performance with open arms (there’s a reason the last holy trinity of hypercars all had electrified powertrains), the F-Pace SVR’s 550-horse 5.0-liter V-8 is gonna make me sad to see internal combustion go.
No engine in this comparison can match the Jag V-8’s character. With the sole supercharged engine of the group, the F-Pace delivers its 502-lb-ft of torque right off idle, delivering a delightfully juvenile roar as the Jag attempts to punch a hole in the space-time continuum. It has the best power delivery of the bunch, associate road test editor Erick Ayapana said. “It’s strong from the start and continues to pull hard to redline, and it sounds amazing doing it.” You’ll hear no complaints from us on the Jag’s eight-speed automatic, either (assuming one could be heard complaining over the SVR’s exhaust note). When left to its own devices, it fires off shifts quickly and decisively.
We wouldn’t change a thing under the F-Pace’s hood, but we would change a thing or two at the wheels, starting with the brakes. Given the amount of power on tap and the SVR badge on the Jaguar’s rump, we were expecting some serious stopping power. Instead, we’ve got simple 15.5-inch front and 15.6-inch rear two-piece vented discs, each smaller than the Cayenne’s rear brakes. The result is you’ll get plenty of butt-puckering moments when pushing the Jag hard. “Not kidding, there was a moment or three when I was not convinced the SVR was going to stop,” senior features editor Jonny Lieberman said. “The pedal went to the floor, and I could feel the rapid click-click-clicking of the ABS. These binders just cannot cope with the engine.”
And then there’s the issue of Jaguar’s tire choice. Europeans get to choose between all-season and summer rubber on the F-Pace SVR, but Jag’s New Jersey-based product planners have determined that all U.S.-spec SVRs will exclusively ride on all-season tires. I’ve got no doubt that the all-season tire choice will make the SVR a better year-round performer—especially in the Northeast, Jaguar-Land Rover’s largest market—but it seriously hurts the F-Pace’s performance. The choice of rubber doesn’t do any favors to the SVR’s hyperactive Xbox steering feel and leaves the SVR constantly fighting for grip every time you dive into a corner or power out of it.
The Jaguar’s struggle for traction is evident at the test track. Despite being the lightest SUV of the group by 300 pounds—and having the second-best power-to-weight ratio—the F-Pace SVR brings up the rear in every single of our instrumented tests. Granted, its 3.7-second 0-60 time and 12.0-second quarter mile at 116.5 mph is quick any way you look at it, but it gets left in the dust by the Volkswagen Group triplets.
This isn’t surprising considering our experience on the road, but the SVR lags behind the others in 60-0 brake tests and on the figure eight, too. Perhaps the result that most shows how under-tired and under-braked the F-Pace really is, though, is in its 0-100-0 result. It took 13.1 seconds to get up to 100 mph and back down again, more than a second slower than the next quickest performer.
The Jaguar is ridiculous, childish fun, but as Ayapana put it, “Unfortunately for the F-Pace SVR, brakes and tires are kinda important for a performance vehicle.”
Third Place: 2020 Bentley Bentayga Speed
Yep, It’s Fast
Never has a performance variant had such a fitting name. “Speed” tells you exactly what to expect from this Bentley Bentayga; with a 190.1-mph top speed, it’s the world’s fastest SUV. Powered by a monstrous 6.0-liter twin-turbo W-12 making 626 hp, Bentayga Speed nevertheless is neither the quickest nor even most powerful SUV here, but it is the heaviest. Despite that, the Bentley surprised us with how well-rounded it is.
At the test track, the big Brit accelerated from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.1 seconds, and it blew through the quarter mile in 11.5 seconds at 120.7 mph—just 0.2 second and 0.6 mph behind our leader. Impressive considering its more than 5,600 pounds of steel, leather, and depleted uranium (probably), but that extra pork hurts the Bentayga on both the figure eight and in the 60-0 test. In the latter, the Bentley’s best stop was its first, in 114 feet, and it lapped the figure-eight course in 24.6 seconds at 0.79 g, just edging out the Jaguar.
Out in the real world, though, the Bentayga Speed handles better than it has any right to. Aided by air springs, an active anti-roll bar, and proper summer tires, the Bentley drives far smaller than it is, somehow feeling more agile than the significantly lighter Jag. Although steering feel is a bit on the dull side, the Speed transitions smoothly through bends and is impressively free of body roll. “I’m shocked that when the going gets hard, the Bentayga is able to transform from a chrome-dipped hippo into something of a lion,” Lieberman said.
The Bentley gets better as roads straighten out. Its test-best 664 lb-ft of torque are delivered nearly instantly off the line. “This one made me giggle for the sheer, unadulterated power,” features editor Scott Evans said. “Something this heavy shouldn’t conceivably be able to accelerate this hard by pistons and compressed air alone.” The Bentayga Speed is EV-like in the way its W-12 delivers its power. Despite having two massive turbos wedged between 12 cylinders, the Bentayga squats down on its rear wheels when you bury your foot in the throttle, instantly pinning you back in your seat, nearly silently turning the scenery outside its jewel-encrusted cabin into a blur.
As impressive as the Bentayga Speed is, it lacks the sharpness and poise of our top two finishers and comes off more as the ultimate grand touring SUV than a high-riding supercar. “The Bentley’s a lot sportier than you’d give it credit for, but in the end it’s just too heavy,” Evans said. “You feel it every time you turn, the sense it really isn’t meant for that even if it can do it. A 747 can do a barrel roll, but that’s not the point.”
Second Place: Porsche Cayenne Turbo
If the Bentley’s a 747, then the Porsche Cayenne Turbo is an F-15: big and heavy, yes, but also fast and immensely capable. Like pretty much all modern Porsches, the Cayenne Turbo makes driving quickly easy, happily taking any punishment you throw its way. The drama of the Bentley’s W-12 as it launches forward is gone, but so too is the Bentayga’s considerable heft—impressive considering the Cayenne shares its platform and transmission with the Bentayga (as does the Urus).
It’s hard to pinpoint why, exactly, the Cayenne lacks the excitement of the other three SUVs here. Looking over the numbers, the Porsche is a strong contender. It’s 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 only has 541 hp and 567 lb-ft of torque, but it explodes from 0 to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds and blasts through the quarter mile in 11.8 seconds at 115.8 mph. Aided by huge, progressive-feeling carbon-ceramic brakes, the Cayenne even sports the best braking performance of our quartet and the best 0-100-0 time of 11.5 seconds. Its cornering numbers are near best-in-class, too, lapping the figure eight in 23.9 seconds at 0.83 g.
Out on the road, the Cayenne does all the right things. Its engine is a touch laggy, but it pulls strongly once its turbos spool up. It’s eight-speed auto, if left to its own devices in Sport plus, fires off PDK-quick upshifts and smart downshifts. It corners well, too; steering is a touch on the numb side, but it’s easy to point the nose where you want it as Porsche’s Dynamic Chassis Control, torque-vectoring all-wheel drive, four-wheel steering, and grippy summer rubber all work hand in hand to get you around the bend and pointed toward the next straight section of road.
So why, then, is the Porsche heading back to Stuttgart with a silver medal? “The steering, the grip, the power, the brakes are all excellent, so it’s hard to fault the Cayenne Turbo for anything measurable, at least performance wise,” Lieberman said. But when it comes to the immeasurable, the Cayenne might as well be called the Bell Pepper.
It’s just a bit boring, sadly—as if Porsche engineered all the excitement out of its SUV. It’s missing the silly exhaust note of the F-Pace, the Bentayga’s constant need to stop the rotation of the Earth, and the Lamborghini’s absurdity. “There’s no flair, no excitement,” Evans said. “I don’t mean bad behavior. I mean a ‘wow’ moment.”
The Cayenne Turbo is like an excellent session musician; it’s immensely talented and incredibly versatile, but it doesn’t stand out in the final mix. Our winner, however, certainly does.
Winner: Lamborghini Urus
A good SUV and a great Lamborghini
An Audi platform, Bentley bits, and a Porsche engine. In all fairness to Urus’ corporate cousins, those borrowed parts wouldn’t seem to make a good Lamborghini. A great Audi, Bentley, or Porsche, sure, but a Lamborghini?
You’re excused for being skeptical, but the Lamborghini Urus is way more than the sum of its parts, combining the speed and power of the Bentayga Speed, the precision and handling of the Cayenne Turbo, and the personality only Italian supercars typically have.
The Urus’ cousins do deserve some credit, though, for giving Lamborghini engineers such a capable platform for the automaker’s first SUV in 26 years—especially the Porsche engineers responsible for the Urus’ 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8. Not content with the Cayenne Turbo’s power output, Lamborghini went to Porsche Motorsports—the outfit that builds Porsche’s GT3 and LeMans cars—to soup up the engine for Lambo duty. The result is 641 horses and 627 lb-ft of twist. It’s 66 hp shy of the Jeep Trackhawk, to be fair, but even that mighty Grand Cherokee doesn’t accelerate like the Urus can.
The Urus is the quickest SUV we’ve ever tested, beating the Jeep, Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S, Tesla Model X P90D Ludicrous (we haven’t gotten our hands on the P100D version yet), and the Bentayga Speed on all fronts. The Urus launches from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.0 seconds and can run the quarter mile in 11.3 seconds at 120.1 mph. It can handle, too, lapping the figure eight in 23.5 seconds at 0.87 g—0.2 second quicker than the most recent BMW M5 we tested.
The reborn Rambo Lambo is even sillier on the road. Like the Stelvio Quadrifoglio last year, the Urus is one of the only SUVs that truly delivers a super-SUV experience—check that, it’s one of the only SUVs on the road that delivers a supercar experience.
Take the way it goes around a corner. Just like all-wheel-drive supercars such as the Nissan GT-R or Porsche 911 Turbo, you can throw the Urus into a corner as hard as you dare, stomp on the gas midcorner, and let the torque vectoring and four-wheel steering system rip you out. Every time you think the Lambo is going to run out of grip, it somehow finds more. “It did things in turns I didn’t think it could do,” Evans said. “The grip! The power! I can’t explain it. There’s just no way this much power and weight with this center of gravity should be able to do these things.”
The Urus’ powertrain is phenomenal, even if it lacks the traditional Lamborghini V-12 or V-10 soundtrack. The V-8, even while relaxed and quiet at city speeds, is but a stab of the throttle or a flick of a paddle away from unleashing gobs of power. “The high-speed stability would be impressive on a sports car,” Lieberman said, “and is damn near impossible on an air-suspended SUV.”
It would’ve been so easy for Lamborghini to screw the Urus up, but it truly delivered. The Urus is not just a good SUV. It’s a great Lamborghini. This special monster takes the comfort and versatility of an SUV, mixes it with the speed and precision of a supercar, and tops it all off with a healthy dose of Lamborghini personality. There’s no SUV as capable and as rewarding at the limit—either its limit, or more likely yours. There seems to be two camps when it comes to the Lamborghini Urus: those who haven’t driven one and hate ’em and those who have driven it and become prophets of the big, silly, stupid, wonderful thing. Count us in with the converts—and the Urus in for this year’s Best Driver’s Car.
4th Place – Jaguar F-Pace SVR: Proper tires and brakes would go a long way in improving the SVR’s standing.
3rd Place – Bentley Bentayga Speed: Certainly fast but more suited for straight stretches than curves.
2nd Place – Porsche Cayenne Turbo: It’s a Lamborghini Urus minus the $210 designer T-shirt, $550 pre-ripped designer jeans, and $800 studded designer sneakers. It’s missing the personality and power, too.
1st Place – Lamborghini Urus: Constantly trying to convince you it’s a real Lamborghini—and it is. Mission accomplished.
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