May 12, 2014
Gasoline utes, Diesels and Hybrids. Click image to enlarge
Review by Jacob Black, Jeff Wilson, Lesley Wimbush and Jonathan Yarkony; photos by Chris Coughlin, Brian Weeks and Jeff Wilson
2014 Acura MDX
2014 BMW X5 xDrive35i
2014 Infiniti QX60 Hybrid
2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport
2014 Lexus RX450h
2014 Mercedes-Benz ML 350 Bluetec
2014 Porsche Cayenne Diesel
Luxury SUVs might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but these days it seems like everybody and their sister want one (or two). The better the economy gets, the more of these things pop up on our roads, and with good reason.
To put it plainly, these are nice vehicles. Easy to get in and out of, easy to see ahead (over diminutive and bourgeois cars), fine craftsmanship, comfort and refinement, plenty of room for the whole family and all your gear or shopping, good power to haul everyone and everything (for the most part) and composed handling that will satisfy most drivers’ needs. Sports cars they are not, though some approach them to a degree that would surprise you. However, this is a varied segment, widely varied in price and mission, so it was a bit of a challenge to collect an even set of competitors.
When collecting our group of luxury SUVs, we sent in requests to Acura, Audi, BMW, Infiniti, Land Rover, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, and we ended up with the seven popular mid-size luxury SUVs in Canada.
The sales king of the segment is the Lexus RX, selling over 7,000 units per year (all sales numbers as reported on goodcarbadcar.net), but in order to compete with larger, more expensive models, we requested the highest-spec model we could get and were delivered an RX 450h hybrid with the Executive Package ringing in at almost $80K. The Executive Package alone was $15K, but it was a helluva package! Would the comfort, refinement, features and efficiency be enough to win the comparison?
The next most popular lux SUV in Canada is the Acura MDX, available with only one drivetrain choice, a 3.5L gasoline V6, the acclaimed super-handling AWD and a practical sevens seats. But its ace in the hole is value: at $68,085, its combination of sportiness and practicality is a winner. However, we had concerns over its infotainment system going in based on our experiences during an MDX long-term test this past winter.
And of course, the Germans.
The Audi Q7 was unavailable, and although we were tempted to request the Q5 as the only car approaching the RX in sales numbers, but concluded it is just too small for this set.
BMW’s X5 is fresh off a refresh with updated design and dynamics, but the ever-popular turbo straight-six was a perfect fit for power, efficiency and cost of entry. Even so, it was the second-most expensive at $83,740, so it would have to really impress to overcome its pricing.
Mercedes-Benz counters with its signature diesel, the ML 350 Bluetec, also one of the most popular mid-size premium utilities, and especially in efficient and torquey diesel trim. However, it’s not a new design, so would newer technology and fresher designs overshadow this tried and tested SUV. It was also reasonably priced at $74,625.
The Land Rover Range Rover Sport is a fetching design and with its new supercharged 3.0L V6 and extreme weight loss thanks to extensive use of aluminum promised at least reasonable efficiency. At $86,610, it was the priciest in the group, but did we mention how pretty it was?
2014 Luxury SUV Comparison. Click image to enlarge
We first requested the Infiniti QX70 as the appropriate challenger to the sporty X5 and Range Rover Sport, but it was unavailable and is a bit of an afterthought on the market, and the QX60 (JX35 last year) was an immediate success, but the only model available was the new Hybrid. We thought the gasoline-powered QX60 would have been a better competitor (as we did for the Pathfinder in the mid-size SUV comparison last year, which the hybrid narrowly missed winning), but the pricing was much more in line with the others and a matchup with the RX hybrid made it a good fit.
Funny thing is, despite winning an Autos.ca Top Pick, we almost forgot to invite the Cayenne, but we were lucky enough to secure a reasonably priced Porsche Cayenne Diesel to complete our bracket setup. You see, after listing all the SUVs once our booking were made, we saw that we had two hybrids, two diesels, and three gassers, so we thought we’d go with a bit of a segmented approach and present these vehicles in their niche, although all our scoring was universal, so there are overall places and winners in each subcategory and, of course, one big winner. We hope you enjoy our little experiment, and as always, look forward to your comments and reaction in our Autos.ca forum.