SUVs are supposed to be top-heavy lumbering things only good for towing boats. But a surprising number of them rise above the stereotype, delivering sport-car-like handling. These vehicles use technology to help it challenge even the most adept canyon carver.
Acura's new MDX surprised us with its cornering capabilities. It has an active suspension, with sport and comfort settings that push back against body roll, keeping its large SUV body stable while its torque vectoring all-wheel-drive system sends extra power to its outside rear wheel in a turn, thus increasing rotation.
Audi's Q5 uses the company's new Drive Select system to let the driver individually put the power train, suspension, and steering into sport mode, which results in the SUV having amazing cornering performance. Like the Acura MDX, the suspension actively counters body roll while the all-wheel-drive system adds wheel rotation; however, Audi takes things a step further with its active-steering technology, which lets you push the Q5 exceedingly hard.
The X5 M makes the standard BMW X5 feel like a baby stroller. BMW put so much technology into the vehicle's suspension that the company had to install a special bus so the wheel sensors could communicate fast enough with its active antiroll components. After taking a few corners at speed, the X5 M begins to feel like you're driving a much smaller car.
Like the Acura MDX, Range Rover's latest SUV took us by surprise. The company added a new Dynamic setting to its Terrain Response System that features aggressive antiroll technology, and lets you push this big hunk of metal into corners and high speed.
Porsche has a strong sport reputation to uphold, so, of course, the company is going to engineer its SUV for excellent handling. However, the Cayenne doesn't really get capable until it gets Porsche's optional dynamic suspension. Combined with the manual transmission, a feature not generally available in this class of vehicle, you can throw it through turn after turn.