The topic of crossovers replacing cars as the default way people want to get around has been beaten to death, so we won’t waste much time on it here. But it does lead to the question: where do we go from here in terms of affordable performance vehicles? What will become of hot hatches and sports sedans if hatchbacks and sedans, in general, are gradually phased out of the American car landscape?
The seemingly obvious answer is performance SUVs. There are a good amount of performance SUVs on the market right now, many of which are expensive luxury SUVs — but we also have a few from American volume brands like the ST variants of the Ford Edge and the Ford Explorer and the SRT variants of the Dodge Durango and the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
But there’s a big, huge name that is mysteriously absent from this crowd. I’m talking, of course, about General Motors. GM, one of the biggest car companies on the planet, produces exactly zero performance SUVs across its four brands in the U.S. One of them is even a brand dedicated to just trucks and SUVs — but even GMC doesn’t have anything in its lineup that implies on-road performance. GMC has been introducing new off-road-oriented AT4 versions of trucks and SUVs, but I don’t really consider a crossover with beefier tires and a black grille to be a performance SUV.
Then there’s Cadillac, which has finally been getting its act together in terms of creating a fuller line of SUVs — but there hasn’t been a "V" or even "V-Sport" badge placed on any of them. Cadillac seems like the most obvious GM brand to be given at least one performance SUV to compete with the "M" and "AMG" badged versions of its German rivals. Cadillac has that awesome new twin-turbo Blackwing V8 that it’s using in the CT6-V, which seems like a great candidate for V versions of Caddy’s bigger SUVs. A Cadillac V SUV doesn’t necessarily need to be a big seller, but it would make luxury SUV shoppers take a second look at Cadillac.
We’ve got Buick, which has gradually been becoming a crossover brand over the years — but still makes a couple of cars, one of which is the Regal GS sport sedan. You might think Buick wouldn’t be a good candidate for a performance SUV: why not just make a GS version of one or multiple of its three SUVs? The big Enclave 3-row crossover just got a new Sport Touring package, which suggests sportiness, but it’s just an appearance package that doesn’t actually add anything to the car’s performance.
Speaking of sporty appearance packages that don’t improve performance, let’s talk about Chevy. Chevy has gotten pretty generous with its Redline Editions, which it’s brought to the Trax, the Equinox and the Traverse. In case you’re unfamiliar, a Redline Edition adds more black inside and out with a little bit of red here and there. To Chevy’s credit, the Redline Editions of their respective crossovers do look pretty cool — but they’re writing checks that their actual performance can’t cash.
The new Chevy Blazer has an RS trim — but, you guessed it, it’s just an appearance package that implies performance more than it delivers it. Sure, the V6 in the Blazer RS is potent enough, but it’s not what I’d call a performance SUV, especially compared to the likes of the Ford Edge ST. Finally, there are the RST variants of the Tahoe and the Suburban, but again, that’s an appearance package that can be had with either V8 available in these SUVs.
Admittedly, the Suburban and the Tahoe do get into performance territory when you add the available Performance Package to the 6.2-liter V8. This adds a 10-speed automatic transmission and "performance-calibrated" magnetic ride control. Available features you can add include Brembo brakes and Borla exhaust. But at that point, you’re kind of piecing together your own performance SUV rather than Chevy simply offering us a trim of any of their SUVs that is clearly a performance model. Plus, it’s hard to make Chevy’s full-size SUVs into "performance" models, no matter what you do to them.
Chevy even has one of the most legendary performance trims in its arsenal with two powerful letters, "SS." I get their hesitation to slap super sport badges on anything that isn’t super sporty, but we had the TrailBlazer SS back in the 2000s — which was a legitimate performance SUV with V8 power, sport suspension, wider tires and revised differentials. I never thought I’d be asking GM to bring back one of its SUVs from the mid-2000s, but I would love to see a modern-day version of the TrailBlazer SS.
GM is the king of platform sharing. For example, the Chevy Traverse, the Buick Enclave, the GMC Acadia and the Cadillac XT6 are all pretty darn similar, mechanically. GM could make a performance version of this SUV and share it with all four brands if it wanted to. But, I guess performance SUVs just aren’t a priority for The General right now. I think they should be. Find an SUV for sale
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