High-performance used SUVs aren’t necessarily a dime a dozen on the market. Sure, there are some models that target those who want to burn rubber in their not-so-small sports utility vehicle, but for the most part, the performance SUV market has very few players compared to the bustling SUV segment as a whole. If you happen to be one of those people who find themselves getting dragged into purchasing an SUV, whether for work, family, or finances, yet you still have that urge to embrace your inner speed demon, well, there are some used SUVs for sale in the high-performance category that just might be up your alley.
Now, before we get started, let’s lay down some ground rules here. First, no PHEVs. Sure, they get great gas mileage and can get off the line quickly, but they usually don’t have the best high-end performance in the upper rev ranges, and you sometimes have to deal with the issue of keeping the electric motor’s battery charged. Second, no BEVs. Battery electric vehicles are fine if you want transportation that runs on alternative fuel sources, but shoppers looking for high-performance SUVs are probably searching for something that provides a little noise and an exciting experience. Lastly, no hybrids. Sure, they’re cool and all, but if you’re looking for something you can tinker with on your own time and upgrade as you see fit, then a hybrid will throw a wrench in those plans. Now, with all that out of the way, let’s hop to the list.
#1 – Lincoln Navigator: 3.5-Liter Turbo V6
The Lincoln Navigator probably isn’t the first SUV that comes to mind when you think of high performance, but believe it or not, it has the power and the capabilities to give you some of the performance you crave from your overly large, family-oriented utility vehicle. Since the third-generation refresh in 2015, the Navigator has been available with a turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6. This engine was initially introduced as a replacement for the 5.4-liter V8. While we might lament the demise of the big eight-cylinder engine, the V6 is still more than capable, with newer models outputting an impressive 440 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque. While you probably won’t be performing donuts and powerslides in a Lincoln Navigator, you’ll still be able to enjoy some snappy off-the-line performance thanks to the turbocharged EcoBoost V6.
#2 – Acura MDX Type S: 3.0-Liter Turbo V6
The MDX has been in production since the turn of the millennium and has four generations of updates, upgrades, and improvements under its belt. With the 2022 redesign, this midsize SUV received a high-performance Type S variant, making the Acura MDX a go-to luxury SUV for those who want a very high-performing vehicle. How does it achieve that? With a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 pumping out 355 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque. Getting your hands on a used example gives you access to a very nimble vehicle thanks to its motorsports-inspired suspension and powertrain. Added performance features, like the wheel-mounted paddle shifters, make you feel like you’re on the racetrack when you’re sitting behind the wheel of this three-row SUV, even if all you are doing is going to the local mart for some milk and bread.
#3 – Nissan Armada: 5.6-Liter Endurance V8
The Nissan Armada has been around for two decades at this point and has had various engine updates over the years. While the Armada has always come with a V8, its performance wasn’t always cutting edge. But for the second generation, Nissan updated the 5.6-liter Endurance V8, giving the Armada the power it needed to compete. If you buy a used second-generation Nissan Armada from the 2021 model year or later, you get a large SUV that can pump out 400 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque. Of course, while you might get some good power and performance out of the Armada, it does lack in the handling and nimbleness categories––but that’s part of the ups and downs that come with a large SUV.
#4 – Ford Explorer ST: 3.0-Liter EcoBoost V6
Ford wasn’t always big into high-performance SUVs, but the brand decided to dabble in high-performance SUVs with the 2013 Explorer Sport, which was specifically designed for those who wanted a powerful, performance-oriented SUV. Ford followed that up with the ST model for the 2020 redesign of the Ford Explorer. The Explorer ST benefits from an enhanced 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6, which produces an impressive 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque. For a midsize crossover SUV, that’s a lot of power. Ford matched that power output with a lighter chassis, bigger wheels, and better tires, resulting in a high-performance SUV that is as stylish as it is powerful.
#5 – Grand Wagoneer: 6.4-Liter HEMI V8
The Grand Wagoneer returned in 2022 after a 30-year hiatus as a large luxury-oriented SUV. Sure, the Grand Wagoneer may be a luxury SUV, but it’s also a very powerful one, and thanks to features like the Quadra-Lift air-ride suspension and the 6.4-liter HEMI V8 engine, you have a very powerful, very smooth riding vehicle. The HEMI V8 delivers 470 hp and 455 lb-ft torque, making a used Grand Wagoneer quite a force to be reckoned with on the road. Of course, since it’s a newer model, finding a used example may be a bit difficult and expensive. However, it’s also one of the more robust full-size SUVs thanks to its performance-oriented suspension and highly tuned powertrain.
#6 – Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392: 6.4-Liter HEMI V8
The HEMI 392 is one of the most prized powertrains offered for the Jeep Wrangler. Now, you might argue that the Wrangler isn’t a proper daily driver because of its off-road focus and lack of family-oriented features, but have you forgotten about the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited? The Wrangler Rubicon 392 is a four-door midsize SUV based on the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited design. What’s more, it comes with that potent 6.4-liter HEMI V8, giving you 470 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. This is one beastly SUV, and if you are looking for something with a ton of power to put down on the road (or off the road), combined with Jeep’s renowned 4×4 systems, it makes for quite the pick. You can find some used models of the Wrangler Rubicon 392 from as far back as 2021, and it’s well worth it if you can get your hands on one.
#7 – BMW X5 M: 4.4-Liter Twin-Turbo V8
The BMW X5 has been a fairly long-running midsize SUV and has always been a high-performance vehicle, but the BMW X5 M is a variant that takes things to the next level. It’s built around BMW’s motorsports DNA and indulges in that high-performance persona in a massive way. The twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 delivers some crazy specs, reaching up to 617 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque in 2020 and later models. Given that the BMW X5 M has been around since 2010, you have an excellent selection of used models to choose from. It’s easily one of the top used SUVs for sale you can get if you want a luxurious, high-performance model.
#8 – Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat: 6.2-Liter Supercharged V8
One of the most underrated high-performance SUVs has to be the Dodge Durango. The Durango has been around since the late 1990s, and it came onto the scene roaring with a 5.9-liter Magnum V8 engine. The Durango has always been a high-performance SUV with a lot of power to put down, and Dodge pushed it to the limits with the 2023 SRT Hellcat model, which produces an unbelievable 710 hp and 645 lb-ft of torque. The Durango SRT Hellcat was built to be the ultimate, American-made high-performance SUV, and if you want to hear the roar and rumble of a V8 in a used SUV, it doesn’t get any better than this.