Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a five-part series comparing a range of cars during what can be prime season for car buyers.
WASHINGTON — If your budget is big enough, compromises are no longer necessary when picking a ride. Multiple brands now offer to combine the performance of a two-door sports car — amazingly — with the cargo space and bad-weather capabilities of a four-wheel drive truck.
Whether end-of-year car shopping has taken you upscale, or you’d just like to gawk at some amazing machines, we’re comparing three SUVs-on-steroids — all from the horsepower-enablers under the Fiat Chrysler umbrella: the Maserati Levante GTS, Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, and Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk.
Starting at $119,980
Maserati Levante GTS Pros: “It is about luxury,” says Maserati’s Alvin Bond, after noting the leather-stuffed Levante also has a 550 horsepower twin-turbo V8. Accelerating sent our dash-camera flying backwards.
Cons: The Levante’s dapper presentation can lull you into a false sense of security that gets shattered with one stab of the gas pedal. There’s enough power to make both ends of the SUV tremble while accelerating. It takes a bit of effort to dial up the Ferrari-tuned engine note. You might get nasty looks from purists who believe a Maserati SUV is the latest sign of societal collapse.
Starting at $79,995
Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio Pros: “It is the fastest SUV on the planet,” says Alfa Romeo’s Berj Alexanian, citing its performance at Germany’s Nürburgring race track. “It’s for the person that maybe had a two-door sports car and now they’ve got a family.” The interior, with the same mix of Alcantara and carbon fiber accents found in high-end sports cars, lets you know immediately that this machine is ready for some shenanigans.
Cons: This dialed-in, track focused SUV could be a bit harsh for those who want more comfort in their daily driver. Survivability from a Beltway pothole impact: unknown.
$96,525 as tested
Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk Pros: The Trackhawk features a previously unheard of 707 horsepower engine in a SUV. That’s the equivalent of joining together nearly 4½ engines from the base jeep Renegade, and it’s more than twice the output of the base Grand Cherokee engine. Four-wheel drive means the power can be put to the pavement without excessive wheel spin.
Cons: It could also have been named the Grand Cherokee Tooth Chipper or the Grand Cherokee Stomach Pit Finder; it should come with an intravenous Dramamine supply. Plus, it gets 11 miles per gallon city, 17 highway. In what must be some sort of sick joke, it has an “eco” button.
Pick: The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. Not only is it a phenomenal all-around performer – it can even do some substantial towing with the right package – but its looks may also be stealthy enough to avoid unwanted attention.
Part 1: 3-row SUVs
Part 2: Hatchbacks
Part 3: Family cars
Part 4: Muscle cars
Part 5: Flashy SUVs