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Small but Luxurious Crossovers Reviewed

BMW can get you out of “upgrade envy”. A luxury compact crossover may be just the antidote. Upgrade envy is that irritation you may feel if your mobile device or TV… or car… lacks the very latest in design and technology. It’s a motivation to change, even if your current phone or flatscreen or, say, midpriced compact crossover, works just fine.

And it’s certain to be stoked by surveying the fashion-forward styling, cutting-edge features, and upscale image that define today’s luxury compact crossovers. So relax, relent, and treat this guide as a remedy. Arranged alphabetically are this year’s luxury compact crossovers, with 2016 models highlighted when they’re about to replace the ’15 editions. Key changes and attributes are called out. And please note that fuel-economy numbers cited represent EPA combined city-highway ratings. Base prices include the manufacturer’s delivery fees, usually around $900.

2016 Acura RDX

Acura freshens its offering for 2016 with updated styling, a new drivetrain, and added features. The only engine is again a 3.5-liter V-6 and while it’s marginally more powerful at 279 horsepower, versus the 2015 RDX’s 273, it’s a more advanced design that should deliver better fuel economy thanks to cylinder deactivation. Also new to the benefit of mileage and driveability is a nine-speed automatic transmission in place of a six-speed automatic. Front- and all-wheel drive are again available. A new Advance Package includes rain-sensing windshield wipers, remote engine start, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, and a blind-spot camera. The 2016 Acura RDX goes on sale in spring 2015. Prices were not available at time of writing but expect a starting figure of about $37,000 with loaded versions topping out around $43,000.

Audi allroad

It’s OK to think of this as a station-wagon version of the German maker’s A4 compact sedan fortified with a raised suspension and SUV styling elements. The sole powertrain teams a lively 220-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder with an eight-speed automatic transmission and Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive. The relatively short roofline limits cargo volume and there’s no excess rear seat legroom. The payoff is a lower center of gravity than its competition, for less lean in turns and better aerodynamics. The cabin is solid and upscale, but with base prices spanning $43,325-$50,725, the allroad is about $8,000 too expensive for what it is. Audi’s own Q3 and Q5 match or beat it for versatility and comfort, rate the same 23 mpg combined, and can be much cheaper when comparably equipped.

Audi Q3

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Essentially an A3 hatchback with roofline raised and ride height elevated, the new-for-2015 Q3 becomes Audi’s entry-level for this size vehicle and its entry in the burgeoning premium “subcompact” crossover category. It’ll compete with such rivals as the BMW X1, Buick Encore, Lexus NX, and the combing 2016 Infiniti QX30. Built on the same impressive platform that underpins the A3 as well as the new Volkswagen Golf, the conservatively styled Q3 shares the 200-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder also found in those models. It comes with front-wheel drive starting at $33,425 and all-wheel drive from $35,525; range to $39,425 with out add-ons. Rated fuel economy is 23 mpg combined for all versions. Top-line models offer built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, Google Earth maps, real-time weather, news, and fuel prices, and Google Voice Local Search. An optional Sport Package nets a sport steering wheel and grippier front seats. Q3 represents a solid choice for buyers who want to upgrade to the “four rings” brand.

Audi Q5

With a turbocharged four-cylinder, a supercharged V-6, a diesel and a hybrid, this lineup is among the widest and deepest in the category. Classy styling inside and out marks this roomy five-seater. All models gain xenon headlamps for 2015, plus LED daytime running lights and a power liftgate. Base prices start at $40,225 for the 220-horsepower base model and hit $61,125 for the high-performance, 354-horse SQ5. Every version has all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission. The turbo four is a gem, while the torque diesel actually beats the hybrid for fuel economy, rating 27 mpg combined versus 26. All versions handle with confidence, while the SQ5 combines terrific grip with 0-60 mph acceleration in just 5.1 seconds. The Q5 was introduced as a 2009 edition, so it’s become a familiar face; the next full redesigned will likely be for the 2017.

BMW X1

It might surprise you that this offering is BMW’s most affordable vehicle, with a starting price of $32,150 for the rear-wheel sDrive28i with a 240-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder. Of course, optioning any X1 with leather upholstery, navigation, sport suspension and other goodies can get pricey, pushing the sticker on the 300-horse turbo-six-cylinder all-wheel xDrive35i to near $47,000. In between is the nicely balanced xDrive28i, starting at a competitive $33,950. Even then, however, items such as an automatic-dimming rearview mirror, satellite radio, front-seat lumbar support, and ambient lighting are not standard. Rear-seat legroom is tight, and the ride can be quite stiff if you opt for one of the sportier wheel-and-tire packages. But nimble and lively, this is a fun to drive BMW (not all are these days). It comes with the automaker’s 4-year/50,000-mile free scheduled maintenance plan. And let your dealer know you’re aware a fully redesigned X1 is due for as a 2016. That should encourage some discounting to clear 2015 inventories.

2015 BMW X 3

This popular BMW is updated for 2015 with freshened styling, introduction of a diesel, and the addition of one with rear-wheel drive. The X3 is larger inside and out than the X1 and it looks less like it now thanks to a refashioned nose, tail, and mirrors. Revisions inside also bring it more in line with the latest look and layout of its siblings. The rear-wheel sDrive28i ($39,450 to start) joins the all-wheel xDrive28i ($41,450); both have a 240-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder. The xDrive35i ($46,450) returns with a 300-horse turbo six. New is the xDrive28d ($42,950) with a turbodiesel four rated at 280 pound-feet of torque and 30 mpg combined. Any X3 is among the sportier compact crossovers, though passenger and cargo room are about midpack. Base prices are competitive, but can escalate quickly if you’re less than judicious when going over the options sheet.

BMW X4

If the X6 is too big and at $61,000-$103,000 too expensive, check out this near lookalike scaled down to compact-class dimensions. The Germans calls both of them Sport Activity Coupes and as the X6 is to the boxy X5, the X4 is essentially an X3 with a sloping coupe-like roof — and $2,000-$3,500 added. Two trims are offered, both with standard all-wheel. The xDrive 28i has a 240-horsepower turbrocharged four-cylinder, starts at $45,625, and rates 23 mpg combined. The xDrive35i has a 300-horsepower turbo V6, is priced from $48,950, and rates 22 mpg. Both are sporty and sure-footed, though their elevated center of gravity compared to a sedan is evident in greater body lean in turns. The X4 has tighter rear headroom and less cargo volume than the X3, but the drop-off isn’t as pronounced as that between the X6 and X5. Still, this is primarily a fashion statement, and not a particularly pretty one. The German Automaker, though, obviously believes it’s a statement a certain strain of upscale buyer wants to make.

Buick Encore

This least expensive entry in our guide is also the smallest. GM took a chance when it adopted this diminutive foreign-market vehicle to the Buick lineup for 2013. But it’s been a surprise hit, supported by a playful personality, better-than-expected interior room, and decent performance from a 140-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder linked to a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. Though relatively affordable, Encore doesn’t skimp on amenities. A rearview camera and touchscreen infotainment system are standard on the $24,990 base. The top-line Premium, which lists for $31,860, includes leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, front- and rear-obstacle detection, blind-spot alert, lane-departure warning, and forward-collision alert among others. For singles and empty-nesters who crave luxury but don’t want or need a bigger vehicle, Encore is a compelling choice.

Cadillac SRX

Forget big, powerful and gaudy: the best-selling Cadillac is this five-passenger. For 2015, the standard OnStar assistance system adds 4G LTE connectivity with a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot. It’s a mobile hub for drivers and passengers that’s on whenever the SRX is on and comes with a three-month/three-gigabyte data trial. All SRXs continue with a 308-horsepower V-6 and a six-speed automatic. Four trim levels are offered in a range of $38,600-$52,725. The entry-level trim is fairly spartan for a premium vehicle and comes only with front-wheel drive. The next-up Luxury model ($44,635 front-drive, $47,130 AWD) has more of the trappings you’d expect, including leather upholstery, a panoramic sunroof, power liftgate, blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic alert, and front- and rear-obstacle detection. The CUE infotainment system operates like a tablet, allowing users to swipe between information screens, and it supports voice recognition. Look for a full SRX redesign for the 2017 version.

Infiniti QX50

Formerly known as the EX37, the Infiniti QX50 borrows its styling from the larger, bold QX70 but its basic underpinnings from the brand’s Q40 sedan (formerly the G37). That translates into a five-seater that’s fun to drive but less roomy than most competitors. A 325-horsepower V-6 is the sole engine and is available with rear- or all-wheel drive. Two models are offered. The base version ($35,995 rear-drive, $37,395 AWD) comes with leather upholstery, aluminum cabin trim, and pushbutton start and adds Bluetooth for ’15. The Journey ($38,195 front-drive, $39,995 AWD) is the better value. It includes as standard a moonroof, power tilt and telescopic steering column, and genuine maple wood interior accents. A navigation system, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot alert are among the options, but they require the purchase of costly packages. This has been a slow seller for Nissan’s premium brand and its U.S.-market future beyond 2016 is uncertain.

Land Rover LR2

2015 is the swan song for the Land Rover LR2. The just-introduced Discovery Sport will take its place as the gateway to this premium British SUV brand. LR2, known as the Freelander elsewhere in the world, has standard AWD and a 240-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder. Leather upholstery, rear-obstacle detection, and a Meridian-brand audio system are standard across the board. Oddly, heated front seats are optional, but the package that includes them also has a heated front windshield, washer jets, and steering wheel. Base-price range is $37,525-$42,625. On-road driving manners are below par, but it’s very capable off-road and has a bright, airy cabin. Act soon if it suits your fancy.

Land Rover Discovery Sport

This latest addition to British lineup looks like a shrunken take on the midsize Range Rover Sport from Land Rover’s even-more-premium division. Introduced as a 2015, it’s replacing the LR2 as the entry-level vehicle and is larger and more modern inside and out. It uses the LR2’s turbocharged 240-horsepower four-cylinder but pairs it with a nine-speed automatic instead of a six-speed. It rates 22 mpg combined. Land Rover’s sophisticated AWD with Terrain Response is standard. HE, HSE, and HSE Luxury models are offered in a base-price range of $37,995-$46,495. All seat five. An optional third-row bench increases capacity to seven, and versions so equipped have six USB charging ports, which will keep both parents and children happy during extended road trips. The Discovery Sport is far more contemporary than the unpopular LR2 but no less adept off-road; it’s certain to sell in far greater numbers.

Land Rover Range Rover Evoque

The “baby” Range Rover is among the very few vehicles of this class available not only as a four-door wagon but also in a two-door body style. It’s notable as well for providing a relatively spacious passenger compartment within its fashion-plate styling and for upholding brand tradition with great off-road capability thanks to standard Terrain Response AWD. On-road handling is sporty, too. Still, Evoque is designed for the urban jetsetter rather than the outdoor adventurer. Added for 2015 are top-line Autobiography trim levels, with the Autobiography Dynamic version getting a 285-horsepower edition of the 240-horse turbocharged four-cylinder standard in other Evoques. All models use a nine-speed automatic transmission. Autobiography versions come only as four-doors and have unique exterior and interior trim. Base pricing for the Evoque range from $42,025-$60,925 (base price for the Autobiography Dynamic was unavailable in time for this review). The two-doors are about $1,000 higher than their four-door counterparts. On sale in autumn 2015 will be a freshened 2016 with a restyled nose highlighted by standard LED headlamps on all models and an updated interior with an 8-inch touchscreen.

Lexus NX

Lexus primps the RAV4 from parent Toyota to create its first compact crossover. Though it’s virtually the same size inside and out, the NX looks distinctly different than the RAV4, its styling marked by the upscale brand’s controversial spindle-shaped grille. The interior is fancier and more lavishly equipped, including a power tilt/telescope steering column and power front seats. The NX comes as the 200t and the 300h hybrid, both with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. The 200t is the first vehicle from Lexus with a turbocharged engine; it’s a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 235 horsepower. It uses a nine-speed automatic transmission. Front-drive versions rate 25 mpg combined and start at $35,405, AWD models rate 24 mpg combined and start from $36,805. The dressier F Sport AWD model begins at $38,905. The 300h teams a gas four-cylinder with battery-electric power for a net 194 horsepower. Front-drive 300h models start at $40,645 and rate 33 mpg combined, AWD versions begin at $42,235 and rate 32 combined. The NX has the latest revision of Lexus’ “Remote Touch” interface for controlling the infotainment system. It has a laptop-style trackpad and supports gestures for control similar to that of a smartphone. The F Sport adds a performance suspension, sport bucket seats, steering-wheel paddle shifters, and unique exterior trim.

Lincoln MKC

Introduced as a 2015 and off to a solid sales start, this upscale American offering marks the next step in Ford’s plan to reinvigorate its premium brand. The MKC is based on the Ford Escape but with unique styling inside and out, a fancier interior, and more powerful turbocharged four-cylinders. The base engine has 240 horsepower and is available with front- or all-wheel drive. The $1,140 optional upgrade has 285 horses and comes only with AWD. Both team with a six-speed automatic transmission with shift buttons on the upper dashboard and with manual-type control via steering-wheel paddle shifters. The available hands-free parallel parking system not only helps drivers pull in to tight parking spaces, but it now can assist them in leaving those confines. A new “MyLincoln Mobile” smartphone app allows drivers to remotely start, lock, unlock, and locate their MKC, as well as schedule a remote start for a later time. Rear-seat legroom is mediocre, but this successful reimagining of the Escape is refined and fully contemporary. It’s competitively priced, too, with a range of $33,995-$47,100 with front-drive and $36,940-$49,595 with AWD.

Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class

Mercedes-Benz expands its lineup with a five-passenger four-door that looks more like an aerodynamic hatchback on stilts than an SUV. The GLA slots below the GLK-Class in size and price. It borrows elements of its design and powertrains from the brand’s CLA-Class. The base GLA250 has a 208-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder and is available with front-wheel or the automaker’s 4Matic all-wheel drive. The 4Matic rates 27 mpg combined; ratings with front-drive were unavailable in time for this review. The high-performance GLA45 AMG has a 355-horsepower turbo four-cylinder, AWD, and a lowered, sport suspension. It does 0-60 mph in 4.8 seconds – about 2 seconds faster than the GL250 4Matic – and rates 25 mpg combined. Both GLAs use a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. The GLA is aimed at similarly fashion-conscious rivals such as the BMW X4 and Range Rover Evoque. But with a starting price of $33,225 ($34,225 with 4Matic), the GLA250 is priced against the Audi Q3 and BMW X1. The GLA45 AMG runs with the hot-rod class and starts at $49,225.

Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class

This boxy auto is headed into the sunset, slated to be replaced for 2016 by a sleeker compact crossover called the GLC-Class. The ’15 GLK is solid, upscale, and confident on the road, though cargo volume behind the rear seat is below par for this class. It offers gas and diesel engines, both with a smooth seven-speed automatic. The GLK350 has a 302-horsepower V-6 and rates 21 mpg combined with both rear-wheel and Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel drive. The GLK250 BlueTec 4Matic has a turbodiesel four-cylinder with 200 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. It rates 28 mpg combined. Base-price range is $38,825-$40,825 for the GLK350; the GLK250 BlueTec starts at $40,325. This is the only large Mercedes-Benz that doesn’t offer a high-performance AMG version, though expect that to change with the GLC-Class.

Porsche Macan

For the ultimate in compact-luxury-SUV performance, look to this newest arrival from Germany’s premier sports-car builder. Starting with the basic underpinnings of the Q5 from parent-company Audi, Porsche infuses this five-seater with its own potent brew of powertrain and suspension tuning and an interior and exterior design inspired by its midsize Cayenne. Two variants are offered, both with AWD and twin-turbocharged V-6s. The Macan S has 340 horsepower, does 0-60-mph in around 5 seconds, and starts at $50,895. The Macan Turbo has a larger engine with 400 horsepower, hits 60 in around 4.4 seconds, and starts at $73,295. Interestingly, both rate 19 mpg combined. Either is an absolute joy to drive but are also among the most expensive vehicles in this class with base prices than climb dramatically when costly standalone and packaged options are added.

2015.5 Volvo XC60

The mid-model-year switch to a smoother nose, upgraded seats, improved safety, and some innovative new powertrains changed this crossover enough for Volvo to tag it a “2015.5”. The biggest news is introduction of four-cylinders from the automaker’s new “Drive-E” design family. The base version is turbocharged, makes 240 horsepower, and rates 27 mpg combined. A second uses both a turbocharger and a supercharger to produce 302 horsepower and rates 25 mpg combined. Both Drive-Es come with an eight-speed automatic and for now are available only with front-wheel. Depending on the model, all-wheel XC60s use either a turbo five-cylinder with 240 horsepower or a turbo inline-six with 300 horses (325 in the performance-tuned R-Design). They rate 20-21 mpg combined. Not quite as sporty as their German rivals, these are nonetheless highly capable with Scandinavian-design interior themes and a wide range of standard and optional safety features. Volvo’s new “On Call” connectivity system turns the XC60 into a rolling Wi-Fi hotspot. Starting prices for the 2015.5 XC60 range from $37,395 to $52,045.