When you think of a luxury SUV, a Cadillac Escalade or Land Rover Range Rover might come to mind. But the luxury SUV action right now is in a smaller size class, so Cars.com has staged its first Luxury Compact SUV Challenge, pitting seven models from around the world against one another in more than a week of testing in the city, suburbs and on a drag strip.
We set a price target of $50,000 as equipped, plus or minus $3,000, and requested volume-selling engines. Willing contestants included several new or freshly redesigned models: the 2019 Infiniti QX50 and 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Volvo XC60; the popular 2018 Cadillac XT5 and Lexus NX 300 also participated. All came equipped with optional all-wheel drive.
Four judges individually awarded points in 13 categories: interior quality, front-seat comfort, backseat comfort, cargo storage, in-cabin storage, multimedia features, convenience features, handling, powertrain, ride quality, noise, visibility and worth the money (see our methodology in the How We Tested article).
Each luxury SUV model was also awarded points based on zero-to-60-mph times, panic-braking distances, fuel costs, the advanced active-safety and driver-assistance features with which the test vehicle was equipped, and its grades in our Cars.com Car Seat Check, which gauges the accommodation of various child-safety seats. Half-point scores were rounded up to the next whole number. All categories combined for a possible maximum score of 1,000 points.
Our Challenge judges were:
- Patrick Masterson, Cars.com copy editor
- Kelsey Mays, Cars.com senior consumer affairs editor
- Brian Wong, Cars.com Los Angeles bureau chief
- Ashish Bodhanwala, an in-market consumer
As always, the results were enlightening, proving what did and didn’t distinguish each vehicle from another. Two categories in particular showed near parity: convenience features and fuel costs, the latter designed to account for the Cadillac’s regular-gasoline requirement rather than focusing on mpg. The difference between the thirstiest models and the most miserly was only $125 per year.
So you won’t see much mention of fuel issues, but read on to see how the vehicles ranked — and why.
7 2018 Lexus NX 300 F Sport, 574 out of 1,000 points
The verdict: The NX 300 has numerous improbable strengths, but it doesn’t seem to have taken the “utility” part of “SUV” very seriously with its cramped backseat and cargo area.
Our Test Vehicle
Zero-to-60 mph (seconds): 7.33, slowest of seven
Braking distance (60-to-zero mph, feet): 136.3, longest of seven
Powertrain: 235-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder; six-speed automatic; all-wheel drive
Estimated city/highway/combined mpg (gas grade): 22/27/24 (premium)
As-tested price: $49,190
The Lexus NX brought up the rear, leading the points totals in no respects and placing last in seven (category rankings are based on point totals and not judges’ averages). Some of its shortcomings are due to its small size, which our consumer judge Bodhanwala crystalized when he said, “It feels more like a hatchback than an SUV.”
Standard safety features: Forward automatic emergency braking, full-speed adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, front parking sensors and automatic high beams were all included. Only the inclusion of adaptive headlights, lane-centering steering and 360-degree cameras gave one competitor, the Volvo, superiority.
Front-seat comfort: Front comfort wasn’t a great point of distinction in the test, but Cars.com and consumer judges praised the Lexus because sport seats are often done poorly. “These F Sport seats are F-ing comfortable!” Mays enthused.
Drivetrain behavior: Despite the slowest acceleration time, “Power comes on smoothly and the engine and transmission work well together,” Wong said. Mays agreed: “With decisive shifts and less kickdown lag, it’s more responsive than rivals’ seven- and eight-speed units.”
Hands-free liftgate: “The NX 300 was the only car equipped with the hands-free feature that we could get to work,” Masterson said. “A simple swipe of the foot underneath the rear bumper proved responsive.”
Also noted: Convincing faux leather, a sporty Eco mode, console padding by the driver’s right knee, a conventional gear selector, a barely detectable floor hump in the otherwise cramped backseat, a large and high-resolution display, and dashboard panels with “overlapping seams and perforated inserts that have an element of richness,” said Mays.
Pokiness: A zero-to-60-mph time of 7.33 seconds was the slowest in the test, and judges cited modest passing power. Bodhanwala said the engine felt taxed and made an undesirable noise.
Braking distance: Its panic-braking distance of 136.3 feet was the longest.
Backseat comfort: With the lowest rating by a good margin, “The NX 300 was easily the most cramped, claustrophobic backseat experience of the group, from the tight head, hip, knee and shoulder room to the Stelvio-esque small windows,” Masterson said. Being the only contestant with a small rather than panoramic moonroof made the NX feel even more cavelike.
Cargo storage: With just 26.5 inches of cargo height as tested, it was the group’s shortest by at least 2 inches. The Lexus had the least points in this category.
Ride: “Shock absorption is passable, but isolation is downright poor,” Mays said of the second-to-last-rated NX. “There’s tons of body roll in the corners,” Wong added, “so you’d think the suspension would be pliant and good over broken pavement, but the opposite is true — a busy ride without benefits.”
Touchpad multimedia control: The Remote Touch interface was well-hated. “Using it while driving is way too cumbersome and potentially unsafe,” Wong said. Masterson added, “I don’t think I’ve ever tried to avoid using a multimedia system in a car as much as I did in the NX. Forget about getting from one menu page to another — just getting from one menu option to another was nearly impossible.”
Child-seat accommodation: The NX 300 got the lowest rating in our Car Seat Check, losing points for cramped quarters, having recessed seat belt buckles, a wonky top-tether anchor and a middle shoulder belt that comes from the ceiling, complicating booster fit.
Also noted: Lots of engine noise and “climate-control button lights that look straight out of a ’91 Ford Escort and are hard to read in broad daylight,” said Masterson.
6 2018 BMW X3 xDrive30i, 636 points
The verdict: As equipped, the X3 lacked advanced safety features and had a multimedia screen that would have been adequate in a previous generation. Its only saving grace was a robust powertrain and good ride quality.
Our Test Vehicle
Zero-to-60 mph (seconds): 6.66, fourth fastest
Braking distance (60-to-zero mph, feet): 123.2, second shortest
Powertrain: 248-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder; eight-speed automatic; all-wheel drive
Estimated city/highway/combined mpg (gas grade): 22/29/25 (premium)
As-tested price: $47,645
The worst-equipped vehicle in the test, though nearly $3,000 less than the group’s target price, had too few baked-in qualities for judges to see much potential beyond what was before their eyes. It ranked last in five categories and first in none.
Handling: “This has a good combination of sporty handling and luxurious ride,” said Bodhanwala. “It’s composed without being soft.” The X3 was second only to the Alfa in handling.
Powertrain: “BMW knows how to build engines,” Wong said. “It’s responsive up and down the rev range and gives the X3 plenty of pep around town.” The X3’s powertrain rated second after the Alfa Romeo’s, subjectively, and delivered the fourth-quickest zero-to-60 sprint of 6.66 seconds.
Braking distance: The X3 had the second-shortest braking distance, just a half-foot longer than the Q5.
Ride quality: “The ride isn’t terrific in any of these SUVs, but the X3’s suspension stays poised over small and medium bumps, and rapid elevation changes don’t buck you around,” Mays said. Wong and Bodhanwala agreed, but the X3 rubbed Masterson the wrong way, so its point total was merely average.
Visibility: “Thin roof pillars and flip-down rear head restraints aid visibility,” said Mays.
Also noted: The only rear window shades in the test, the only front-seat thigh cushion extensions and a roomy cargo area under a spring-tensioned cargo floor.
Safety and autonomy: The X3 came in a distant last in this category. “BMW remains stingy with must-have features like forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, which most rivals in the test include standard,” Mays said. “Our test car skimped on other safety and self-driving tech, too.” Note that many features could have been added with the $900 Driving Assistance Package.
Interior quality: “From the rough, unfinished edging on the door panels to the rubbery, industrial-grade vinyl seats, it’s clear BMW didn’t sweat the details on cabin quality,” Mays said of the lowest-rated interior. Wong added, “The fake leather is obviously fake from the moment you touch it, contrasting with the fine imitation leather in the Lexus.”
Multimedia features: Another last-place finish, the X3’s multimedia system got as much criticism for its standard 6.5-inch screen amid rivals’ 8-, 9- and 10-inch displays as for its small iDrive controller. “The information you’re shown takes up a fraction of the screen, leaving a baffling amount of negative space that could be used for larger visuals or more information,” Masterson said. “And it was the only participant with just one USB port in the entire interior.” Apple CarPlay and Android Auto were absent. (CarPlay and a 10.25-inch touchscreen are optional.)
Worth the money: Even after considering its low price as equipped, judges didn’t see much value in what the X3 offered. It trailed the Alfa and Lexus by a point and a half to bring up the rear in this category.
Also noted: Lacking remote start and both a heated and power tilt/telescoping steering wheel helped put the X3 at the bottom of the convenience features scoring.
5 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio, 643 points
The verdict: The Stelvio is the overwhelming driver’s choice in this group, but it’s saddled by trade-offs, many of which seem unnecessary.
Our Test Vehicle
Zero-to-60 mph (seconds): 5.33, fastest
Braking distance (60-to-zero mph, feet): 123.6, third shortest
Powertrain: 280-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder; eight-speed automatic; all-wheel drive
Estimated city/highway/combined mpg (gas grade): 22/28/24 (premium)
As-tested price: $52,435
The Stelvio scored last in six categories and second to last in three, but its three wins managed to make it something of a favorite in a class full of bland driving experiences.
Handling: “It’s head and shoulders above the pack,” said Mays of the top-scoring Stelvio. “The quick-ratio steering tracks instinctively into corners, and the tail slides just enough to help reorient the nose, but not enough to feel squirrely as you accelerate out. Hard to believe this is an SUV.”
Acceleration: Apart from being the quickest to 60 mph by almost a full second at 5.33 seconds, the Stelvio earned the most points for its powertrain behavior. Masterson lauded “the best accelerator response of the pack,” while Mays called out “visceral, old-school quickness: noticeable lag at first, then boundless power — turbo whooshing and all — as the boost kicks in.” The transmission’s conventional PRND-style gear selector got some love versus the “side-to-side or Tetris-esque up-and-down movements of some electronic gear shifters,” Masterson said, and Wong merely lamented the lack of shift paddles.
Braking distance: The Stelvio stopped just a few inches longer than the second-place BMW.
Also noted: A relatively simple center control panel, the only 110-volt household outlet, two USB ports for the backseat, “fantabulous” braking response, standout styling and a model name rather than alphanumeric hieroglyphics — “a branding identity that doesn’t include a number or the letter X,” Masterson observed.
Visibility: “It stinks,” Mays said of the lowest-rated outward visibility in the Challenge. “The rear window is tiny, and the elephantine C-pillars leave no room for a rear-quarter window. The windshield is low. The A-pillars are chunky. It’s a bunker inside.”
Ride quality: Mays described the ride as “busy on anything short of smooth pavement, with excessive body movement over rapid elevation changes.” Though it collected the fewest points for ride quality, judges were more forgiving in exchange for the Stelvio’s excellent handling. “I noticed many of the road bumps, but not in a bad way,” said Bodhanwala. Wong described it as “connected to the road without a punishing ride.”
Cabin storage: “There’s hardly any room in the center console to store items, and the storage bin that is there is divided to the point that it negates half the depth, rendering it mostly useless,” Masterson said. The Stelvio came in last place for this judging category as well.
Backseat comfort: “The backseat is tiny and the poor sightlines don’t help matters; it feels confining,” Wong said. Only the Lexus scored worse.
Interior quality: “From cut-rate plastics to rickety controls, cabin quality isn’t up to snuff for this crowd,” Mays said. Only the X3 rated as poorly.
Cargo space: At just 37.5 inches wide, the Stelvio’s cargo area was narrowest by at least 3.5 inches, and it scored just one point above the last-place Lexus.
Multimedia system: Rated below average, “The multimedia system is hard to use, and there isn’t much recourse since the display isn’t a touchscreen and you’re stuck using the giant, clunky puck,” Wong said. Bodhanwala noted, “The screen is wide but not tall enough. I didn’t like the layout, and it didn’t present the right information. The screen is also washed out and hard to use in direct sunlight.” The backup camera displays on only a sliver of the screen. “It’s nuts that parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has a user-friendly touchscreen in most SUVs but left Alfa with this mess,” Mays said.
Also noted: Wind and exterior noise penetration.
4 2018 Cadillac XT5 Luxury, 663 points
The verdict: The XT5’s size provides most of its advantages in cargo room and a useful backseat, but the snooze-inducing drive and frustrating multimedia experience dial back excitement.
Our Test Vehicle
Zero-to-60 mph (seconds): 6.72, fifth fastest (tie)
Braking distance (60-to-zero mph, feet): 129.7, sixth shortest
Powertrain: 310-hp, 3.6-liter V-6; eight-speed automatic; all-wheel drive
Estimated city/highway/combined mpg (gas grade): 18/25/21 (regular)
As-tested price: $52,560
Our in-market consumer, Bodhanwala, called the XT5 “a step up from my previous experience with Cadillacs.” The most expensive luxury compact SUV contestant as equipped took or tied for first place in two categories but placed last in three.
Backseat: “The XT5 has all-wheel drive, yet somehow the backseat has no middle hump, so it was the most comfortable for three passengers,” Wong said. Masterson called shoulder and headroom among the roomiest across all seats. The XT5 earned the second-best backseat rating.
Cargo storage: “The XT5 was the biggest vehicle in the Challenge and made good use of that size with the most cargo room,” Wong said. The Cadillac collected the most points in this category.
Front-seat comfort: Though margins were thin, the XT5 tied with Infiniti for the second-best front-seat comfort.
Interior quality: “There’s no doubt that the XT5 was among the plushest of the competitors,” said Masterson. “The leather was of good quality, and the soft-touch surfaces extended to the dash.” Mays said, “Overall quality isn’t a complete slam dunk — the detailing isn’t terribly intricate, and too many buttons still have flat, uninviting textures,” which may be why the Caddy ranked second to the Volvo in this category.
Regular gasoline: “The XT5 makes up for its dismal EPA gas mileage with the group’s only recommendation for regular gas, not premium, which costs some 20 percent more these days,” Mays said.
Also noted: Good accelerator response, two USB charge ports for the backseat, a good powertrain warranty and three years’ free scheduled maintenance, the longest in the test.
Noise: “Strangely, it was very noisy, with lots of road and wind noise — a really nice cabin, but lacking isolation, so it dampens the whole experience,” said Wong. Masterson added that “the cabin sounded more like the engine bay at times.” The Cadillac ranked last in this category.
Powertrain: Despite the quick accelerator response noted above, the XT5 collected the fewest powertrain points. “This was the only V-6 in our test, but it didn’t pay dividends,” Wong explained. “It had decent off-the-line punch, but 2nd and 3rd gear were both way too tall and stamped out your momentum, making the car feel very sluggish.” The all-wheel drive was “clearly a reactive system.” Mays added. “Regardless of the driving mode, moderate acceleration induces piles of front-tire spin before the system diverts power rearward.”
Handling: “Our XT5 has the reflexes you’d expect of the group’s heaviest SUV, with lots of body roll, nose-heavy dynamics and vague, slow-ratio steering,” said Mays. “It lists like a ship on stormy seas when you turn it,” echoed Wong. Bodhanwala summarized: “It does well on the luxury side of things but lacks a fun driving experience.” The Cadillac rated last for handling.
Multimedia system: The Cadillac User Experience system’s numerical rating was average, but judges were put off by the literal interface, where human and machine meet, such as the touch-sensitive buttons. “A finger slider to change stereo volume? A capacitive hazard light button? Make it stop,” Mays pleaded. Masterson said, “The plus of having pinch-and-zoom capability is completely negated by CUE’s torpid response.”
Also noted: The “weirdly low resolution” of the backup camera and displays with too-small text that wash out in sunlight.
3 2019 Infiniti QX50 Essential, 689 points
The verdict: The QX50 does most things well and has a lot of cargo room, but it’s held back by a hesitant transmission and a multimedia system that squanders its two-screen opportunity.
Our Test Vehicle
Zero-to-60 mph (seconds): 6.54, third fastest
Braking distance (60-to-zero mph, feet): 128.8, fifth shortest
Powertrain: 268-hp, turbocharged variable-compression 2.0-liter four-cylinder; continuously variable transmission; all-wheel drive
Estimated city/highway/combined mpg (gas grade): 24/30/26 (premium)
As-tested price: $49,685
The QX50’s 2019 redesign seems to have paid off, though the performance of its landmark variable-compression turbocharged engine is mixed. This contestant’s scores trended higher and included first-place rankings in two categories.
Fuel costs: Though the totals were pretty close, the QX50 deserves notice for the lowest annual fuel costs (based on a relatively high mpg rating on premium gas) in a vehicle with a competitive 268 hp that took third place in the zero-to-60 sprint, at 6.54 seconds.
Cargo storage: “The cargo area is both deep and tall, with a best-in-group 32 inches of height at its opening, and the sliding backseat means you can expand the space even more,” Mays said. The QX50’s cargo score was just a half-point behind the top-rated Cadillac.
Child-seat accommodation: The QX50 earned the most points in our Car Seat Check, where it proved the most accommodating to our various seat types, receiving only one demerit for recessed outboard seat belt buckles.
Front-seat comfort: Our judges found “very comfortable front seats with good support,” said Bodhanwala. Wong said, “The redesign for 2019 did wonders for the QX50’s comfort as well as cabin materials.” The Infiniti tied with the Cadillac for second-most points in this category.
Worth the money: The QX50 was just two points behind the top-rated Volvo for value. Being one of the lowest-priced contestants as equipped, it had a decent feature set to start with and left money to spare for more, such as active-safety features. Its powertrain (six years/70,000 miles) and bumper-to-bumper (four years/60,000 miles) warranties are the best combination in the Challenge.
Backseat comfort: Rated a close third, “The QX50’s backseat affords lots of legroom and a reasonably high seating position, with sliding and reclining adjustments to boot,” Mays said.
Soft surfaces: Also rated a close third for interior quality, the Infiniti drew praise for its generous padding: “Whether it was along the window where your elbow would go or across the dash, Infiniti took some care with stitched vinyl and real leather surfaces that feel uniform in either case,” Masterson said.
360-degree camera system: Wong and Bodhanwala cited the Around View Monitor, and Masterson said it stood out because “the two-screen setup allows you to see not just an above-vehicle graphic, but also live cameras from the bumpers.”
Also noted: The two-screen concept, and both 12-volt and USB outlets for the backseat.
Handling: The QX50’s handling didn’t wow the judges, scoring slightly below average alongside the Volvo. “The QX50’s steering in its Normal setting is so light as to be vague, making it hard to steer straight on the highway,” said Wong. Judges also dinged body roll and all-wheel drive that reacts to slippage rather than proactively powering the rear wheels to pull out of a corner.
Powertrain: “Driven hard, the transmission feels snappy,” Mays said, “but in lesser circumstances, it suffers gobs of droning, rubber-band nonlinearity.” The powertrain rated average, again matching the Volvo.
Multimedia system: Though its overall multimedia offering rated average, judges missed Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and complained that the two displays looked like they came from different SUVs, “with separate resolution and swipe speeds,” Mays said. Masterson added, “The pinch-and-zoom abilities are even slower than the XT5’s CUE map.”
Active-safety features: Our test vehicle lost points for not being equipped with high-speed forward collision warning, lane departure warning and prevention, lane-centering steering and adaptive headlights with automatic high beams, but for another $2,000, the ProActive Package would provide all of these features to this comparatively low-priced QX50.
Also noted: The drivetrain’s Eco mode is too sluggish and Sport is too twitchy. “Normal is just right,” said Brian “Goldilocks” Wong.
2 2018 Audi Q5 2.0T, 701 points
The verdict: The well-rounded Q5 is roomy and sophisticated with good dynamics, a quiet interior and impressive in-dash technology, but a hesitant drivetrain and stinginess with safety features hold it back.
Our Test Vehicle
Zero-to-60 mph (seconds): 6.15, second fastest
Braking distance (60-to-zero mph, feet): 122.7, shortest
Powertrain: 252-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder; seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission; all-wheel drive
Estimated city/highway/combined mpg (gas grade): 23/27/25 (premium)
As-tested price: $52,275
Typical of Audis in our Challenges, the Q5 proved well-rounded and had no last-place finishes in any scoring categories, and it led or tied for first in three.
Ride and handling: “I enjoy the luxurious ride; it feels comfortable and nice, and would be good for a long trip,” noted Bodhanwala of the top-rated ride quality in the test. The Q5’s above-average-rated handling stands out partly because it’s teamed with ride comfort. The Stelvio had as many combined points, but it came from the highest handling and lowest ride scores.
Braking distance: At 122.7 feet from 60-to-zero mph, the Q5 had the shortest braking distance.
Quietness: “Very good cabin isolation from the composed ride and good sound deadening make the Q5 a nice sanctuary from the outside world,” said Wong. The Audi was top-rated in this regard.
Multimedia features: The Q5 was second behind the touchscreen-based Volvo thanks in part to “a crisp dashboard display with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and integrated Wi-Fi,” said Mays. “As knob-based controllers go, Audi’s MMI system is intuitive enough.” The Virtual Cockpit digital instrument display also wowed the judges.
Visibility: The Q5 was second again behind the Volvo for visibility. “The Q5 had arguably the thinnest A-pillars of any competitor, which translates to clear views,” said Masterson.
Quickness: With a zero-to-60-mph time of 6.15 seconds, the Audi was second to the Alfa. Bodhanwala lauded the smooth power delivery, but the powertrain isn’t without faults (see below).
Also noted: A variety of camera perspectives and the only heated backseat in the Challenge.
Powertrain: The second-quickest sprint to 60 didn’t save the Q5 from an average subjective score from the judges. “There’s a weird throttle lag at low rpm that makes it hard to put power down,” said Wong. Mays added: “Even in sportier driving modes, it can take a full second from when you step on the gas to when the Q5 actually starts moving. It’s nearly a deal-breaker.”
Backseat comfort: Features like a sliding adjustment, heated seats and climate vents and controls bolstered our Q5’s backseat to an average score, but “the bench itself suffers a low seating position, modest knee clearance and flat, unsupportive cushions,” Mays said.
Active-safety features: “Despite running just $285 less than the priciest-as-tested XT5, our Q5 lacked safety and autonomous technology like curve-adaptive headlights, adaptive cruise control and any lane departure mitigation,” Mays said. These aren’t standard even on the highest trim level.
MMI touchpad: “It’s a good thing the Q5 has a responsive dial with firm clicks and a clear menu layout, because trying to control anything via the touchpad while you drive is a pointless and potentially dangerous endeavor (though it’s not quite as hard to control as the NX),” said Masterson of the otherwise highly rated system.
Also noted: No USB ports in the backseat.
1 2018 Volvo XC60 T5 Momentum, 754 points
The verdict: The XC60’s driving experience is merely fair, but its comprehensive technology, practicality and quality combine with safety features and value for a big win.
Our Test Vehicle
Zero-to-60 mph (seconds): 6.72, fifth fastest (tie)
Braking distance (60-to-zero mph, feet): 125.3, fourth shortest
Powertrain: 250-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder; eight-speed automatic transmission; all-wheel drive
Estimated city/highway/combined mpg (gas grade): 22/28/24 (premium)
As-tested price: $50,115
The XC60 racked up eight wins outright and tied for first in one other judging category. It rated last in only one.
Interior quality: The top-rated interior “has a true luxury feel, with the real wood trim, pebbled leather and good detailing,” Bodhanwala said. Judges praised the detailing, materials selection and the textured wood trim that flows across the entire dashboard.
Safety and autonomy: The top-rated Volvo not only had all of the features you could expect, it also executed them well. “It had the group’s only lane-centering steering, and it worked all the way to a stop,” Mays said.
In-cabin storage: “The entire center console felt like a place to put things, with room for the largest of smartphones and little nooks for lesser items alike,” said Masterson. The XC60 edged out the Cadillac and Infiniti with the most points.
Worth the money: Despite the XC60’s mid-pack as-tested price, judges nevertheless deemed it the best value for the features and attributes it included and how well they’re executed.
Multimedia features: Sharing top honors ahead of the knob-based Audi system, the XC60’s 9-inch touchscreen is what many feel is a superior interface — in theory. Though not without drawbacks, the system responds quickly to commands and offers some of the extras like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Visibility: “The rear window seems enormous from the driver’s seat, and the mirrors are set off from the A-pillars for a commanding view out the front,” said Masterson. “No cabin felt as open as the Volvo’s.” Judges also praised the narrow pillars and exclusive remote-collapsible backseat head restraints.
Backseat: “My favorite backseat of the bunch, with tons of headroom and excellent visibility with a panoramic moonroof, giant side windows and rear air vents mounted in the pillars,” said Wong. Mays cited “width to spare.”
Also noted: A conventional gear selector, a large and vertical touchscreen, and high-resolution backup camera image.
Powertrain: Rated below average, the XC60’s powertrain was characterized as merely passable, unremarkable, with decent linearity but an “agricultural” sound and a tendency to cling to 3rd gear too long in both Comfort and Sport modes. Transmission response for passing was also average.
Handling: “There was a substantial amount of body roll, and the steering felt vague in corners,” said Masterson. Mays cited “shifty body motions” at higher speeds. The XC60 rated below average for handling.
Multimedia quirks: Though the multimedia offering and touchscreen itself rated high, judges complained of slow boot-up, so-so legibility and philosophical drawbacks of relegating practically all vehicle functions to this system: “Volvo buries climate and heated-seat controls into touchscreen submenus rather than giving separate dashboard controls,” Mays said. One judge also experienced a frozen screen while using Android Auto.
Also noted: No USB ports for the backseat, the XC60’s thumbwheel drive-mode selector and being reminded onscreen that you didn’t buy navigation but still can.
How Each SUV Scored
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