History may have forgotten these gems, but we still remember.
The performance SUV market has never been more buoyant. What began with luxury models like the Porsche Cayenne Turbo and BMW X5M has now turned into one of the most desirable segments on the market. Sometimes we don't understand the appeal of performance-oriented SUVs, but people love to buy them so who are we to argue? Jeep is about to come in and drop a 707 hp bomb on this market, but before they do we thought we'd take a look at five amazing performance SUV models that most people have long forgotten about.
Long before the Volkswagen Group was pressured by the Dieselgate scandal, it built a few amazing models that exemplify why the company has the most ambitious engineers in the world. The Veyron and the Phaeton were amazing engineering achievements, but we think that stuffing a V12 diesel from a race car into a Q7 is right up there. Before Audi ever built an SQ7, it decided to build the Q7 V12. This SUV was sold from 2008 to 2012 and produced 490 hp and 790 lb-ft of torque. The V12 TDI was based on the engine from the Audi R10 race car, even though the two weren't technically the same. The Q7 was also given new suspension, tires and brakes to cope with the extra power.
This engine was an absolute torque monster that could rocket the Q7 from 0-60 in 5.5 seconds. This is also the SUV that famously towed a jet with no issue.
The Explorer basically started the whole SUV boom back in the 1990s, but Ford has never built a true performance version. However, from 1998 to 2001, tuning company Saleen built a performance version of the Explorer called the XP8. The XP8 came with either a 5.0-liter naturally aspirated V8 or a Saleen-developed supercharged 5.0-liter V8 with 286 hp going to a four-speed automatic. Only 256 of these SUVs were built and the first 20 were reserved for Saleen employees. There was also a factory mixup where Saleen received V6 Explorers with only 205 hp. Rather than send them back, Saleen built around 10 examples called the XP6. Only six are confirmed to exist.
Dodge is finally building a performance SRT8 version of the Durango, but from 1999 to 2000, Shelby built an SUV called the S.P.360 that was based on the Durango. This SUV packed a 5.9-liter Magnum V8 with a supercharger. Output was 360 hp and 412 lb-ft of torque. Shelby even matched the Viper's blue with white stripe paint job. The truck could hit 60 mph in 7.1 seconds and reach a 142 mph top speed. One of these trucks sold at Barrett-Jackson for just $16,500.
Around a decade ago, Chevy was going crazy putting an SS badge on almost all of its models. One of our favorite cars from the period was the Trailblazer SS. This SUV came with an LS2 V8 from the 2005 to 2007 C6 Corvette. This 6.0-liter V6 produced 390 hp, making it one of the fastest SUVs on the market at the time. The SS was only sold from 2006 to 2009, but the car was also sold as the Saab 9-7X. The 9-7X was just a rebadged Trailblazer, and the Aero version was the equivalent of the SS. We would love to see GM build a new Corvette-powered SUV like this today.
The FX50 seems to be glossed over every time people talk about performance SUVs because Infiniti never really advertised it. It seems ridiculous that Infiniti went to all of the trouble of creating the K50VE, only to use it in a single model. This 5.0-liter V8 produced 390 hp and 370 lb-ft of torque, so why didn't it end up in any other Nissan or Infiniti models? Only the FX and the renamed QX70 (in 2014 only) received this engine. Besides this one SUV, the only other use of this engine was a few LMP3 race cars at Le Mans.