12 Best-Sounding SUV Engines Money Can Buy

Opinion / 13 Comments

And the cheapest one can be yours for only $35,000.

It wasn't so long ago that SUVs were only driven by parents with families or outdoor lovers looking to get some fresh air. Today, automakers know that shoppers aren't buying sports cars in bulk, and are even trading in their sedans for SUVs. To that end, the number of performance crossovers available on the market has never been more expensive. Pick any random brand, and chances are they sell a high-riding vehicle with a sports car engine and level of performance.

We test a load of cars and wanted to take a look at some of our favorite performance SUVs because solely on the sound of the engine and the exhaust. These are the best-sounding SUVs money can buy.

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1. Cadillac Escalade-V

It took more than two decades for General Motors to drop a supercharger into one of its full-size SUVs, but the 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V was well worth the wait. This list is in no particular order, but we wanted to single out the Escalade-V as the best-sounding SUV on sale today. It packs a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 shelling out 682 horsepower and 653 lb-ft of torque (the second-most on this list) with an exhaust note that would embarrass a C8 Corvette. That's because the Escalade-V's engine is the same one used in the CT5-V Blackwing and Cadillac's engineers fought with management to . The results speak for themselves.

2. Jaguar F-Pace SVR

Our former pick for the craziest SUV on sale (before the Escalade-V) arrived was the 2022 Jaguar F-Pace SVR. We tend to think of British cars as suave and charming, which the F-Pace can be when driven around normally. But when you put the SVR into Dynamic Mode, the exhaust can wake the dead from miles away. This is the same 5.0-liter supercharged V8 used in the F-Type Sports car, producing 542 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, and Jaguar certainly didn't trim its claws for SUV usage. The Jag F-Pace SVR has a mighty roar, and did we mention it comes in matte green?

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3. Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio

Most of the SUVs on this list have V8 engines, but a few managed to make the list with fewer cylinders. The 2022 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio deserves its spot on the list courtesy of a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 producing 505 hp. Though it's down on power compared to some other SUVs on this list, the Stelvio QV ranks among the quickest thanks to its smaller size and lower curb weight. At one point, it was even the quickest SUV around the Nurburgring. Alfa's V6TT makes a unique exhaust note that sounds like two three-cylinder engines battling each other.

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4. Mercedes-AMG 4.0-Liter

Mercedes-AMG loves shoving its 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 into almost everything, so we simply couldn't pick one vehicle for this list. This engine is currently available in the GLE 63, GLE 63 Coupe, GLS 63, and G63, all producing around 600 hp. AMG tunes the exhaust to deliver plenty of pops and cracks on upshifts and when you lift off-throttle, giving these luxury SUVs a sinister muscle car soundtrack. We wouldn't place these too highly on the list though, as the turbochargers muffle the engine pretty significantly, meaning other options on this list sound better at full tilt.

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5. Aston Martin DBX

Though it uses the aforementioned AMG engine listed above, the 2022 Aston Martin DBX is tuned differently to provide a more traditional British exhaust note. If you drive this back-to-back with an AMG-tuned SUV, you will notice the difference. We'll also give Aston Martin some credit for tuning the AMG power unit to deliver 697 hp in the DBX 707, which is more than any of the Mercedes SUVs currently available today.

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6. Ford Bronco Raptor

One of only two V6 engine options, the 2022 Ford Bronco Raptor proves that there is a replacement for displacement. We'd love to see a V8 model, but the EcoBoost engine sounds better than you might expect. Learning from the F-150 Raptor, which emits a nicer exhaust note than a Nissan GT-R, the Bronco Raptor produces a loud shriek from its 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6. It produces 418 hp, making it the most powerful Bronco available today. Though it's not quite as lovely as the F-150, it still sounds great.

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7. Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392

Ford may not offer an off-road SUV with a V8 ,but Jeep does. The 2022 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 packs a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 engine with a rumbling 470 hp. This is the same 392 cubic inch engine used in other Mopar products like the Dodge Charger Scat Pack and the Dodge Durango SRT, another SUV with a muscle car exhaust note. In fact, we love the Durango SRT because it provides usable wet-weather grip. Meanwhile, the Rubicon 392 bundled the on-road fun of a Charger with the off-road capability of a Wrangler.

2021-2023 Jeep Rubicon 392 Forward View CarBuzz
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8. Maserati Levante Trofeo

Maserati is no longer allowed to use Ferrari engines, but you can still buy a few Trident cars with a Prancing Horse powertrain. The Maserati Levante Trofeo uses a Ferrari-sourced 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 tuned to produce 580 hp. It hasn't gone on sale yet, but we assume the Maserati Grecale Trofeo with its Nettuno V6 will sound nice, but fail to match the Ferrari soundtrack. Later this year, the Ferrari Purosangue would vault up on this list next, especially if it arrives with the rumored V12 engine.

2019-2020 Maserati Levante Trofeo Front Angle View Maserati
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9. VW Group V8

Once again, with find a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 used in a variety of vehicles. Only this time, they come in multiple vehicles from several brands. The Audi RS Q8, Lamborghini Urus, and Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT all use different versions of the same VW Group V8TT engine. This engine is known for its low rumble, which doesn't shout like the Jag or crackle and pop like the AMGs. It's just a smooth operator that never lets you forget about its presence.

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10. Hyundai Kona N

There's only one four-cylinder on this list, but we'd argue it's one of the best-sounding; it's also the cheapest by far. The 2022 Hyundai Kona N only costs $35,000, but it produces a whopping 276 horsepower. With the N Grin Shift feature providing 30 seconds of overboost, the Kona N can deliver additional oomph for a total of 286 hp. This little crossover sounds like a rally car, emitting a loud growl with plenty of cracks and bangs. We didn't know a four-pot could sound this good and run with the big dogs.

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11. BMW X3 & X4 M

The last six-cylinder SUVs on this list line them up in a single row, not a V formation. Sharing an engine with the M3 and M3, the 2022 BMW X3 M and 2022 BMW X4 M make the same lovely inline-six wail as their sedan and coupe counterparts. BMW's latest S58 twin-turbo inline-six's exhaust note is so far improved over the outgoing S55, we even decided to include it over the V8-powered X5 M and X6 M. The S58 is raspy, provides pops on the overrun, and revs out like a normally aspirated engine. It's just such a great overall power plant.

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12. Audi Five-Cylinder

The final two vehicles on this list are wildcard additions because neither is currently offered in the US, but their engine is. Audi currently sells the RS3 with a 400-hp 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine, which is the only five-cylinder engine you can currently buy Stateside. This engine is also stuffed into the Audi RS Q3 and Cupra Formentor VZ5. It seems highly unlikely at this point, but we'd love to see the VW Group offers its legendary five-cylinder engine in a US-spec crossover.

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