And, as more of these hot high-riding machines arrive, I’ve come to realise something. So it’s confession time: I actually quite like high performance hot SUVs. I know. Believe me, I know.
I know that the whole concept of a high-performance SUV is wrong. I know that the physics simply don’t work, that the high-riding stance and bulk that defines an SUV is the antithesis of the low centre of gravity and lightweight design that I know that, in essence, they’re cynical ploys to create a desirable ‘halo’ model that firms can charge a premium for by offering performance most people don’t really need.
Aston removes the roof from its super-GT coupe, to create the DBS...
And I know that, if you really want a hot machine with a large luggage capacity, a performance estate offers far fewer compromises and far more practicality.
And yet, the chance to sample a few hot SUVs in the last year or so has led me to develop a soft spot for them. It’s taken a while to work out why. But I think I’ve got there: I like them precisely because they make no sense, because the physics simply don’t work.
It helps that car firms eager to show off the performance credentials of their hot SUVs often do so on a race circuit – somewhere I imagine few buyers of such machines will ever take them. But that means that, in the last year or so, I’ve had the chance to try both the Cupra Ateca and the bonkers Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk (complete with 5.7-litre turbocharged Hemi engine) on circuits.
Obviously, a hot SUV on track is never going to rival a McLaren Senna or similar. But they’re actually quite fun: usually surprisingly nimble, and plenty powerful. In fact, it’s easy to forget you’re in a heavy SUV – until you reach a corner and start to brake.
No matter how smart engineers are they cannot, as Scotty knows, change the laws of physics.
But that’s okay. Because, in a way, coping with those built-in contradictions is part of the fun. Something that’s imperfect can be entertaining. It’s the same reason why cars that aren’t really designed for motor racing (think touring cars) are usually more fun to watch than those that are (Formula 1).
Now, I’m not saying that driving a Cupra Ateca to its limits is ever going to be as exhilarating as finding the final tenths in an Aston Martin Valkyrie. But, in truth, I’m likely not a good enough driver to ever do so.
But I can jump in something like the Cupra Ateca, take it on a circuit and find entertainment in trying to battle its in-built compromises.
Perhaps that says more about my lack of driving talent, or just my odd tastes. But rather than get angry about that car firms are cynically churning out performance SUVs, I’ve come to enjoy them for what they are: inherently wrong, but all the better for it.
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