Jacob Black, Lesley Wimbush, Jonathan Yarkony

Photos by Jonathan Yarkony

Introduction, Jacob Black

These three luxury SUVs (CUVS? Compact? Small-medium SUVs? Extra-medium SUVs?) are all demonstrations of the constant refinement and diversification of model lineups in a quest for market share.

That’s why the Lexus NX is such an interesting proposition. A little smaller than the very popular RX, the NX backfills the size void left by that car’s inevitable expansion. Likewise the Mercedes-Benz GLK sits on the cusp of a size segment that is occupied by that other Mercedes-Benz SUV, the ML-Class, and a properly compact GLA serving entry level crossover needs for the brand. And then there’s Lincoln. The MKC isn’t quite as close to its MKX sibling, but it sure seems spacious for what we’ve gotten used to from ‘compact’ crossovers.

We’ve run into trouble defining caches of raised, unibody wagon/sedans in the past – our comparison test of the Volvo V60 Polestar, Mercedes-Benz GLA 45 AMG and Porsche Macan a notable example. We also had a spot of bother demarcating the classes in our most recent Luxury SUV shootout when we put the MKC up against the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque and the BMW X4.

Phew, that’s a lot of comparisons! And with good reason. This size of vehicle and class is not only the most rapidly expanding in terms of products, but it’s one of the big drivers behind 2014’s booming sales.

Automakers have cottoned on fast, hence the launch of the MKC and the NX to take on the GLK and segment veterans like the BMW X3, Acura RDX, Volvo XC60 and sales leader Audi Q5. This trio is similarly priced, coming out around $55K each. There are other luxury options in this class – like the champion from our 2013 Luxury Crossover Comparison Test, the Audi Q5, and my muddy-road nemesis, the Volvo XC60 – but despite our best efforts we couldn’t get them for this comparison test. They simply weren’t available anywhere near our price window.

With the Q5 a Did Not Start it was up to Mercedes-Benz to take up the fight on behalf of the old guard with its GLK 250 Bluetec.

Is the all-new Lexus NX from Japan capable of wresting the luxury SUV crown from the Germans? Or will a plucky challenger from domestic ranks, the MKC, redefine the game?

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