Tween­ers

Motor Trend - - Contents - Miguel Cortina

2019 Acura RDX vs. 2019 Cadil­lac XT4 vs. 2019 In­finiti QX50 Life be­tween two worlds for these lux­ury SUVS.

As an im­mi­grant of Mex­i­can de­scent, I have be­come ac­cus­tomed to hear­ing the phrase, “Ni de aquí, ni de allá.” It means, lit­er­ally, “Nei­ther here nor there.” My friends and cousins of­ten jok­ingly say that to de­scribe me: I may have lived in Amer­ica for more than a decade, but when I min­gle with Amer­i­cans I’m al­ways seen as the out­sider.

That phrase can also apply to our re­cently tested trio of lux­ury SUVS. They have a shorter wheel­base and a lower price than the tra­di­tional com­pact Euro­pean SUVS (such as the BMW X3, Mercedes GLC, and Audi Q5), yet they are larger and pricier than their sub­com­pact coun­ter­parts (such as the BMW X1, Mercedes GLA, and Audi Q3). Our batch of crossovers lives be­tween two worlds. They are in-be­tween­ers.

Whether you’re in your mid- to late 30s and are about to start a fam­ily, or you’re an empty nester who’s look­ing to down­size from your three-row SUV or

mini­van, these tween­ers pro­vide the util­ity, agility, and value you might be seek­ing.

As au­tomak­ers grow their SUV of­fer­ings, they try to sat­isfy all needs, splin­ter­ing seg­ments into ev­ernar­rower niches. In this par­tic­u­lar sec­tor, we see con­sis­tently el­e­gant and ag­gres­sive de­signs but quite dif­fer­ent ap­proaches to tech­nol­ogy and com­fort­ably seat­ing five. Did Acura, Cadil­lac, and In­finiti make the right choice in split­ting it down the mid­dle? The Play­ers Our goal was to have each SUV priced at about $50,000. But Cadil­lac wasn’t able to pro­vide us with a model meet­ing those specs, so they sent us one with $18,545 worth of pack­ages and op­tions—top­ping out at an eye­wa­ter­ing $56,835 for an SUV with a base front-drive price of $35,790. Although the XT4 is the small­est crossover from this group, it also was the most ex­pen­sive. It’s pow­ered by a 2.0-liter turbo engine mated to a

nine-speed au­to­matic that sends 237 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels. With a 6.7-inch ground clear­ance, the XT4 rides closer to terra firma than the other SUVS in this group, but its pol­ished de­sign and clean lines make it an at­trac­tive crossover on the road.

Acura sent a $51,715 ver­sion of its top-trim RDX, with 20-inch wheels (that alone price out at $3,320). Pro­pelled by a lightly mas­saged ver­sion of the 2.0-liter turbo-four yanked from the wild Honda Civic Type R backed to a 10-speed trans­mis­sion and Su­per-han­dling AWD, the RDX SH-AWD is the most pow­er­ful player in this group, with 272 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. How­ever, its de­sign can be po­lar­iz­ing. With a yawn­ing pen­tag­o­nal grille and an over­sized brand logo, the RDX’S lines could be kindly de­scribed as busy. From the cock­pit, it’s im­pos­si­ble not to stare at the hood’s sharp creases, which ex­tend from the grille to­ward the A-pil­lars.

With its Vc-turbo 2.0-liter in­line-four, the In­finiti QX50 has the most com­plex pow­er­train of the group. It’s a tur­bocharged vari­able-com­pres­sion engine mated to a CVT that sends 268 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels. A tech­ni­cal marvel, In­finiti met our $50,000 cap by send­ing the Es­sen­tial trim, priced at $49,685. The QX50 can also be de­scribed as the most at­trac­tive of the tween­ers, thanks to its el­e­gant lines and sim­ple creases. Its con­sti­tu­tion blends and ex­presses lux­ury from ev­ery an­gle.

In­side

The QX50’S in­te­rior is the nicest of the three, a clear state­ment of lux­ury. The de­sign flows well, with a pre­mium alu­minum trim that de­lin­eates the con­tour of the cabin. For $50,000, this is one of the finest in­te­ri­ors you’ll see at this price point, and if your bud­get is more flex­i­ble, In­finiti pro­vides a com­bi­na­tion of suede, wood, and leather that’s even more op­u­lent. This is also the only tweener that of­fers a sec­ond row with re­clin­ing seat backs and its own HVAC con­trols for rear pas­sen­gers. Acura and Cadil­lac pro­vide air vents and heated seats for the sec­ond row, but the RDX has two USB ports while the XT4 and QX50 have one.

In terms of ver­sa­til­ity, both the RDX and XT4 have fold-flat rear seats, but In­finiti’s seats are a few de­grees off. The Acura and the In­finiti can tum­ble their sec­ondrow seats from ei­ther the rear hatch or the rear door open­ings; the Cadil­lac, how­ever, only does so from the cargo area. Speak­ing of room for your stuff, In­finiti’s

cargo space is su­pe­rior in the cat­e­gory, with up to 31.1 cu­bic feet of space. Acura of­fers a smidge more cargo room, but only if you in­clude the 1.6-cu­bic-foot bin lo­cated un­der­neath the cargo floor.

As for seat­ing mul­ti­ple pas­sen­gers, these tween­ers are chal­lenged for space, but we con­cluded that the QX50 would be the one to pick—mostly due to its re­clin­ing sec­ond-row seat backs. The RDX also has a spa­cious sec­ond row with a flat floor that frees legroom for mid­dle-seat oc­cu­pants. Both Erick Aya­pana and Chris Wal­ton of our test team, who are hardly gi­ants, found the XT4 cramped. Although it has a longer wheel­base than the RDX, the Caddy’s poor pack­ag­ing and high beltline proved too con­fin­ing. As for my 6-foot frame, there was pre­cious lit­tle head­room and barely enough legroom.

One of the must-haves in to­day’s lux­ury SUVS is a pre­mium au­dio sys­tem. Af­ter con­tin­u­ously lis­ten­ing to the three sys­tems, we judged Acura’s 16-speaker

The Cadil­lac XT4’S pol­ished de­sign and clean lines make it an at­trac­tive crossover on the road.

ELS Stu­dio 3D as the best. It de­liv­ered crisp, clear au­dio qual­ity, whether I played my own tunes through Ap­ple Carplay or lis­tened to Sir­iusxm ra­dio. Both In­finiti and Cadil­lac of­fer a Bose sur­round-sound sys­tem, but the QX50 comes with 16 speak­ers, and the XT4 has 13. Aya­pana pre­ferred the clar­ity of the Cadil­lac’s sys­tem but added that the QX50’S sound sys­tem was also de­cent.

For driver as­sis­tance, Cadil­lac and Acura of­fer a head-up dis­play. Cadil­lac’s mul­ti­color ver­sion felt more in­tu­itive and clear, with a pre­mium ap­pear­ance.

Per­for­mance

We had a chance to sam­ple these SUVS in two dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ments—first at the Honda Prov­ing Cen­ter near California City, as part of the Mo­tortrend SUV of the Year test­ing. The Honda prov­ing ground al­lows for closed-course driv­ing on a chal­leng­ing wind­ing track, an off-road sand cir­cuit that mim­ics fresh snow, and dif­fer­ent sur­faces that im­i­tate the worst con­di­tions of our na­tion’s high­ways and by­ways. A few weeks later, road test ed­i­tor Wal­ton, as­so­ciate road test ed­i­tor Aya­pana, and yours truly took a deeper look at the

Acura’s ap­proach to in­fo­tain­ment con­trols re­lies on a touch­pad with a steep learn­ing curve.

The all-black XT4 in­te­rior is a bit bor­ing, yet its cleanly de­signed in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem is easy to use.

The QX50’S beau­ti­ful in­te­rior is torn down by its du­alscreen lay­out, which looks out­dated in this modern era.

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