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.
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.
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.