The Acura RDX quickly gained ev­ery­one’s at­ten­tion with its punchy power de­liv­ery.

Motor Trend - - Comparison Test -

han­dling of these crossovers on the roads of South­ern California’s Pa­los Verdes Penin­sula—which in­cludes hilly switch­backs, open boule­vards, and the gnarled, slow-mo­tion land­slide known as Por­tuguese Bend.

Whether it was on city streets, in the desert, or on the high­way, it was easy to choose a win­ner in terms of per­for­mance. The RDX quickly gained ev­ery­one’s at­ten­tion with the way it cor­ners, its punchy power de­liv­ery, and the smooth­ness of the 10-speed au­to­matic. It’s not the quick­est of the group, but it’s the one that han­dles best. “I love the sup­port­ive, comfy seat, the con­tour and weight of the steer­ing wheel, and the di­rect­ness of the steer­ing,” Wal­ton said.

With four driv­ing modes avail­able (Com­fort, Snow, Sport, and Sport+), driv­ers can en­joy the dif­fer­ent set­tings depend­ing on the road con­di­tions. The RDX re­sets to Sport ev­ery time it’s turned on, but it’s easy to switch to a dif­fer­ent mode via the enor­mous ro­tary knob in the cen­ter con­sole. Like its name sug­gests, Sport+ is the most lively of all, as the soft­ware re­fines the re­sponse of the steer­ing and sus­pen­sion while the engine revs to higher rpm. The RDX took 6.6 sec­onds to get from 0 to 60 mph and com­pleted the quar­ter-mile test in 15.1 sec­onds at 92.9 mph.

The good pow­er­train com­mu­ni­ca­tion we en­joyed in the RDX was miss­ing in the QX50. The In­finiti’s vari­able-com­pres­sion engine is a tech­no­log­i­cal marvel, but it is poorly mated to a CVT, which mutes power de­liv­ery. “There are at least three things chang­ing all the time— gear ra­tio, turbo boost, and engine com­pres­sion—and they are each fight­ing over who takes the mic,” Wal­ton said. “They only all come to­gether and agree what to

do at wide-open throt­tle. What a mess.” Aya­pana shared this feel­ing, say­ing that the throt­tle re­sponse has a “lurch­ing, sling­shot­like de­liv­ery.” We also com­plained about the sus­pen­sion, notic­ing far more vi­bra­tions in­side the cabin than when driv­ing the RDX or XT4 over the same pave­ment. “I found bumps and im­pacts I didn’t know were there,” Wal­ton said. Re­gard­less, the QX50 was the quick­est of the group, tak­ing 6.3 sec­onds to get from 0 to 60 mph.

Things got a lit­tle bet­ter with the XT4, though Wal­ton de­scribed its ride as “flinty.” Aya­pana liked the re­spon­sive­ness of the steer­ing but said that it lacked road feel. He en­joyed the trans­mis­sion’s reaction to throt­tle in­puts. Yet the three of us found our­selves opt­ing for the pad­dle shifters for a sportier ex­pe­ri­ence. De­spite the XT4 be­ing the small­est crossover of the mix, we no­ticed a lot of body roll, which lost the Cadil­lac points in terms of han­dling. This was the tweener with less power and more heft, with a weight-to-power ra­tio of 16.7 lb/hp—the worst in the group.

Con­nec­tiv­ity

There are sev­eral meth­ods to achiev­ing in-car con­nec­tiv­ity. With dual screens, touch­pads, and even sim­pler in­ter­faces, Acura, Cadil­lac, and In­finiti have fol­lowed dif­fer­ent paths to please their cus­tomers.

Wal­ton, Aya­pana, and I all liked how Cadil­lac han­dled its busi­ness with an up­dated ver­sion of its once-pil­lo­ried CUE sys­tem. It be­haves like a smart­phone and has modern graph­ics. Through an 8.0-inch touch­screen, oc­cu­pants can use their phone via Ap­ple Carplay or An­droid Auto, or they can use the nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem to get around. The in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem re­sponds quickly, and it’s easy to get to where you want with­out frus­tra­tion—you can use your fin­gers to zoom in or out. With a straight­for­ward lay­out, Cadil­lac paid at­ten­tion to the tech­nol­ogy. Af­ter all, some buy­ers place an in­tu­itive in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem higher on their must-have list than, say, han­dling.

Such con­tem­po­rari­ness is miss­ing in the QX50’S nav sys­tem and its out­dated graph­i­cal in­ter­face. In­finiti opted for a dual-screen lay­out, leav­ing the top screen for the nav sys­tem and the bot­tom for in­fo­tain­ment. But it’s a missed op­por­tu­nity. The clunky user in­ter­face is “a glar­ing weak­ness in an oth­er­wise de­cent cabin,” Aya­pana said. Wal­ton com­plained about the many op­tions to con­trol the two screens: steer­ing wheel but­tons, touch­screen, hard but­tons be­low the touch­screen, and the push-knob con­troller. “In a hurry, I never know what to do to change some­thing,” he said. We were also dis­ap­pointed to find that the QX50 of­fers nei­ther Ap­ple Carplay nor An­droid Auto. Even though the QX50 is rel­a­tively new, the fact that In­finiti failed to pro­vide this use­ful tech­nol­ogy made us won­der what the prod­uct plan­ners were bench­mark­ing. In a retro

Acura, Cadil­lac, and In­finiti have fol­lowed dif­fer­ent paths to please their cus­tomers.

touch, the QX50 is the only one in the group that of­fers a CD player—great for folks who pre­fer a higher-qual­ity au­dio source, al­beit in a pon­der­ous form fac­tor.

With a touch­pad cur­sor that mir­rors the screen above, Acura has the most avant-garde in­fo­tain­ment setup in the group. But the in­ter­face still needs some re­fin­ing. How eas­ily you can con­trol a touch­pad might de­pend on which gen­er­a­tion you be­long to. The younger folks on our staff found the in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem eas­ier to use than did the ma­ture group at the of­fice—yet both groups con­cluded that the hap­tic touch­pad was dis­tract­ing, as you have to take your eyes off the road to fol­low the cur­sor on the screen. Sure, the screen is mounted on the high­est point pos­si­ble on the cen­ter dash, but even then it’s hard to know where each icon is lo­cated. Ap­ple Carplay also takes more time to nav­i­gate, as you have to swipe your fin­ger across the touch­pad to move the cur­sor to where you want it. An­droid Auto is not avail­able. How­ever, Acura’s voice con­trol was a good re­dun­dant op­tion, and it un­der­stood my com­mands even with my strong Span­ish ac­cent.

Safety

When you’re buy­ing a crossover from a lux­ury brand, you ex­pect the best. And that in­cludes safety mech­a­nisms. Of­fer­ing Acu­rawatch as stan­dard across the lineup, the RDX comes with col­li­sion mit­i­ga­tion brak­ing, adap­tive cruise con­trol, lane keep as­sist, for­ward col­li­sion warn­ing, lane de­par­ture warn­ing, and road de­par­ture mit­i­ga­tion. Only the Acura had been tested by the In­surance In­sti­tute for High­way Safety at the time of this story’s clos­ing; it was given the pres­ti­gious Top Safety Pick+ award, scor­ing “Good” in all cat­e­gories.

Our In­finiti came with the Proas­sist pack­age, a $550 op­tion that adds backup col­li­sion as­sist, adap­tive cruise con­trol, rear cross-traf­fic alert, and dis­tance con­trol as­sist, which helps main­tain safe fol­low­ing dis­tance with­out cruise con­trol en­abled. The Cadil­lac car­ried the Driver As­sist and Driver Aware­ness pack­ages, which add adap­tive cruise con­trol, for­ward and re­verse au­to­matic brak­ing, front pedes­trian brak­ing, for­ward col­li­sion alert, lane keep as­sist with lane de­par­ture warn­ing, and in­tel­li­gent high-beam head­lights—for $1,870.

Wal­ton en­joyed a stress-free drive in bumper-to­bumper traf­fic with the safety tech of the RDX, in­clud­ing adap­tive cruise that works all the way to a full stop. “It slows more gently and ac­cel­er­ates faster than some other sys­tems I’ve tried,” he said. The QX50’S Proas­sist sys­tem, a step be­low the top-trim Propi­lot As­sist pack­age, doesn’t bring the full semi-au­ton­o­mous ex­pe­ri­ence to the QX50. Yet the adap­tive cruise con­trol fol­lowed the car in front with no hic­cups. We least liked the XT4’S lane keep­ing sys­tem, which had a dif­fi­cult time keep­ing the Caddy cen­tered be­tween the stripes.

Ver­dict

All three SUVS bring some­thing spe­cial to the ta­ble. Acura takes the lead on han­dling and safety, In­finiti of­fers out­stand­ing de­sign and su­perb in­te­rior space, and the Caddy’s in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem takes the user ex­pe­ri­ence to the next level.

Main­stream crossovers are about trans­port. But up­grad­ing to a pre­mium brand puts a bit more em­pha­sis on looks, per­for­mance, con­nec­tiv­ity, safety, and a pleas­ant in­te­rior ex­pe­ri­ence. Whether you’re start­ing a fam­ily or trans­port­ing your grand­chil­dren, for $50,000 you also want a ve­hi­cle that makes you feel spe­cial. In this tweener seg­ment, there’s only one SUV that de­liv­ers on all those traits. n

We’re not in love with the Acura RDX’S ex­te­rior de­sign, but we agree it has a sporty pres­ence on the road.

With a nav sys­tem that looks like it’s a decade old, the In­finiti QX50’S cabin leaves a bit­ter­sweet taste.

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