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.