Small SUVs are a popular group and among
luxury models nearly every brand has thrown its hat in the ring. We took seven
contenders all of them recently redesigned updated or introduced in the
Alfa Romeo Stelvio, the Audi Q5, the BMW X3, the Cadillac XT5, the Infiniti QX50,
the Lexus NX 300 and Volvo XC60. Cars.com editors joined a luxury SUV
shopper to put these vehicles to the test on local roads in suburban Chicago.
We also tested acceleration, braking, car seat accommodations and much more to see
which SUV came out on top. In distant last place is the Lexus NX 300. An SUV
with the group’s oldest roots judges agreed interior quality was a strength
but the NX had a lot of inherent flaws. By our measurements cargo space was the
worst in the group and the backseat was among the tightest when we tested three
adults across. A responsive six-speed automatic transmission helped everyday
driving but the NX turned in distant last-place numbers in our drag strip
testing for both acceleration and braking. In 6th is the redesigned BMW X3
which boasts a comfortable roomy cabin but uninspired driving manners and a lot
of missing features in our test car. Now our X3 was the most affordable in
the group at some $47,000 but it seemed like you just missed more features than
that savings even made up for. It’s dashboard display measured a puny six
and a half inches in lacked Apple Carplay or Android Auto most critically
the X3 lacked forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, a
must-have safety feature checked by all the other SUVs most of which have its
standard. BMW – got to get with the program. Next is the all-new Alfa Romeo Stelvio,
an Italian stallion that saddled us with plenty of controversy. On the drag strip
the Stelvio bested all comers by more than half a second in acceleration.
Couple that with sports car poise when you throw it into corners and the
Stelvio was the unabashedly fun choice. But it kind of stank is a luxury SUV with
a cramped backseat, horrendous visibility, cut-rate interior quality, minimal cabin
storage and a disastrous multimedia system. Finishing fourth is the Cadillac
XT5. A half size larger entry in this class.
That exercise and weight made for pokier acceleration than the
XT5’s specs suggest with excessive engine noise to boot. Poor handling, an
unintuitive touch-sensitive dashboard controls presented further drawbacks.
Seriously, Cadillacs volume slider is about as bad
as a White Castle slider. Still the XT5’s strengths can’t be overlooked cabin materials felt a cut above and the front
seats scored well on features and comfort. Infiniti QX50 finished third.
This redesign turned out well despite some missed opportunities. The dashboard
stacks two screens that look like they’re from separate cars in terms of
responsiveness and resolution. Speaking of resolution, Infiniti needs to resolve
to add Apple Carplay and Android Auto, both missing. The continuously variable
automatic transmission in the QX50 felt responsive when driven hard but
droned like most cvts in everyday driving. Still the QX50 had a lot to like
with roomy seats and the group’s largest cargo area by our measurements. Finishing
in the runner-up spot is the redesigned Audi Q5, an SUV with few drawbacks. The
conservative interior styling works in Audi’s favor with an understated quality
across myriad details. Audi’s knob based multimedia system has
clear intuitive menus though the touchpad just made us really want a
touchscreen which the Q5 lacks. The Q5 turned in solid acceleration on the drag
strip though accelerator lag became a constant annoyance around town. Still if
that gas pedal felt sloppy the brakes were stoppie.
Drag strip braking ranked as the group’s best. And finally in first place we have
the redesigned Volvo XC60. No pun intended but the XC60 smoked the rest of
the pack. No okay pun totally intended. But it was with good reason.
Volvo’s stylish redesign boasts a practical interior and lots of safety
and multimedia technology. It was really a runaway winner here. We liked the cabin
quality a lot with stitched accents and wood trim across the entire dashboard
that really felt especially luxurious and nice little details like metallic
accents on the air vents and even a little Swedish flag stitched into the
passenger seat as a reminder of Volvo’s heritage. All that really conveyed a
sense of serious attention to detail. All that extended to storage to where we
found numerous nooks to put things in and around the center console. Visibility
is underrated and with the only remote folding rear head restraints
in the group, the unobstructed view out the XC60’s large rear window would make
Jimmy Stewart jealous, and mirrors set off the narrow a pillars make for great
visibility out front too. Our XC60 also came packed with safety technology and
rated best among our challenge competitors in that regard.
Still the XC60 didn’t do everything right. Judges rated the Volvo’s
powertrain below average and noted a sort of agricultural sound from the
engine at full bore with transmission response decidedly lacking. Body roll was
also noticeable and that sleek 9-inch multimedia screen suffered from slow
boot up, so so legibility and too many functions buried in two sub menus instead of having their own separate controls. But those are really only minor
quibbles because in the scheme of things Volvo notched a decisive victory over
the XC60’s rivals. It’s the best choice here. So there you have it. Now for a full
scoring breakdown on these SUVs and a lot more about our tests, be sure to
check out Cars.com.