Do crossovers have to be dull?

12th April 2018
Ethan Jupp

No. That’s the short answer. Your soul doesn’t have to wither as you idly listen to a salesman explain the virtues of the new D-TEC engine in the HR-V versus the dCi in the equivalent Nissan. You can ride the crossover bandwagon and still claim to be a car enthusiast.


That’s what Audi, Cupra, Mercedes, Nissan and many more will have you believe, given the range of hopped-up high-riders they offer.

It probably started a couple of years back. Four years after they made their billions kicking off the genre in 2007 with the Qashqai, Nissan teased us with a concept of a Nismo version of the quirky Juke. The production car that followed in 2013 featured a scrappy 200bhp turbocharged engine, a slick-shifting manual and chassis tinkering to choke a grin out of the most stubborn hot hatch traditionalist. In 2015 the Nismo RS update added a limited slip diff to that concoction. A hot Juke was a legitimate tonic, scrabbling its way out of hairpins with some serious new-found hardware. 

The Germans have not been blind to the rise of the crossover these past eleven years or so. Their participation in the market was swift and profitable, if somewhat to the detriment of some of their very specific naming structures. Audi and Mercedes teased us as Nissan were coming to market, with concepts of the RS Q3 and GLA45 AMG. As the standard models were basically jacked-up hatches, so too would the hot versions receive similar hand-me-down hot hardware. 


When the production versions arrived in 2015, the mumsy crossover vibe gave way to vents, spoilers and poppy exhausts – as at home on the school run as they were the cannonball run. The Merc’s savage 2.0-litre four-cylinder delivered a heady 360hp wallop, making the GLA45 good for 62 in under five seconds. The Audi goes from high street hauler to rally stage brawler, with its 2.5-litre five-pot turbo roaring, whistling and popping as it delivers its 340hp to the road via Quattro all-wheel-drive. Though you might scoff – we agree they aren’t nearly as aesthetically pleasing as a proper hot hatch or saloon – they still deliver the goods, all while offering that bewildering hypnotic crossover appeal.

Where are we at the moment? The market is awash with high-performance high-riders – from crossovers to SUVs. While the recently announced F-Pace SVR, Maserati Levante Trofeo and their Porsche Macan Turbo rival are a bit too far toward the actual SUV side of things, they prove there is life even in the dullest echelons of their product ranges. The latest actual performance crossover to come to market is the Cupra Ateca. Yes, Cupra’s inaugural standalone model is a hot crossover. 


That’s how appealing manufacturers think performance crossovers should be. Some 300bhp parping four-pot turbo muscle courtesy of the Leon Cupra doesn’t go amiss, nor do the all-wheel-drive system, gaping vents and bronze accents. It all sounds relatively – still nauseatingly – annoyingly appealing, doesn’t it?

So buying a crossover doesn’t have to relegate you to the latest craze of anonymous motoring homogeny. The above cars are the new generation of sleepers. Cars that for the most part bare resemblance to everything else but hide serious, pant-wetting, sportscar-baiting pace. We just need to buy them, so that manufacturers can keep performance alive, even if in the belly of the crossover beast.

  • Mercedes-Benz

  • Audi

  • Nissan

  • Cupra

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