Like their plebian counterparts, the luxury compact SUV and Crossover market is so hot. Wealthy Americans are buying them left and right. The luxury compact SUV’s smaller size makes them ideal for commuting in city traffic, yet their interior space can still swallow fairly large loads. The cabins are also comfortable, quiet, good-looking and filled with technology. Of course, these benefits often come at a cost, which can quickly increase as you add more options. In this market, you have to pay to play.
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Here are our four favorite compact luxury SUVs and Crossovers for 2016:
1. Porsche Macan
Porsche has a well-deserved reputation for doing things right, and the Macan compact SUV is no exception. Sitting in a Macan gives you the sense that it was designed and engineered with purpose. The interior is nice even in the most basic model, and the seats are supportive and comfortable. The Macan is offered in four trims: the Macan, Macan S, Macan GTS, and Macan Turbo, which range in price from $47,500 to $76,000. The biggest difference between the four trims is power. The base Macan is equipped with a 252-horsepower turbocharged four cylinder, the S and GTS receive a 3.0 liter twin-turbocharged V6 that puts out 340 and 360 horsepower respectively, and the Turbo gets a twin-turbo 3.6 liter V6 with 400 horsepower. That power makes the Macan the fastest SUV in the class, achieving a 0-60 time of 4.4 seconds in the Turbo.
Even though the base-trim Macan is the cheapest Porsche you can buy at $47,500, the options list is seemingly endless. In typical Porsche fashion, it’s possible to double the price of a Macan by picking leather coverings for A/C vents or choosing what color you want your key painted. The Macan also suffers from a smaller interior space compared with rival cars, but four adults can still fit comfortably over long distances.
2. Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class
Where Porsche focuses on performance, Mercedes-Benz tends to focus on luxury. The Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class embodies that idea, with a luxurious interior that feels premium from the headliner to the floor mats. The GLC also comes with opulent options, like the $350 Air Balance Package that features a perfume atomizer and a air purifier that ionizes the air to mimic the fresh-air sensation felt after a thunderstorm. Other options include ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel, leather upholstery and a panoramic roof. The GLC has a large amount of passenger space compared with its rivals, but cargo space is average. Rear- or all-wheel drive options are also available for those who fear the snow.
The primary downside of the GLC-class is that it is currently made up of only one model, the GLC300. This means that it is offered with only one engine, a turbocharged four cylinder. This engine provides an adequate 241 horsepower, but compared with others luxury SUVs, it can feel underpowered. It is expected that Mercedes-Benz will expand its lineup to include more powerful options, including an AMG performance variant.
3. Audi Q5
The Audi Q5 is a bit long in the tooth compared with many competing luxury SUVs, but it continues to shine as a benchmarkable example of the class. The Q5 comes standard with quattro all-wheel drive and the 240-horsepower 2.0T turbocharged four-cylinder engine that’s ubiquitous throughout the greater Volkswagen Auto Group, and a 3.0 liter supercharged V6 is available. There’s also a hybrid version for the efficiently minded, and the SQ5 performance variant with 354 horsepower. All versions of the Q5 handle athletically, and quattro all-wheel drive ensures that power is sent appropriately to each wheel. The interior is pure Audi, minimalist and refined but still comfortable and luxurious. Standard features include tri-zone climate control, and options include Audi Connect with integrated Google Maps and Wi-Fi. The Q5 also has more cargo space than most other luxury compact SUVs, and the wide rear hatch makes it easy to load.
The Audi Q5’s infotainment system can be a bit difficult to use sometimes, especially for climate control functions. Overall though, the Q5 is quite possibly the best all-rounder in the luxury compact SUV segment.
4. BMW X3
Back in 2003 when BMW debuted the brand-new compact X3 “Sports Activity Vehicle,” the luxury compact SUV market didn’t exist. Since then, every luxury carmaker has created their own compact SUV. It was clearly a successful formula, and BMW continues to improve on it to this day. The standard engine is a turbocharged four cylinder, but a turbocharged inline six cylinder and a turbodiesel are available as well. The X3s calling card is how it handles on the road. The suspension and chassis of the X3 allow it to feel much smaller and closer to the road than it actually is, especially when equipped with the Dynamic Handling Package. The cabin is appropriately luxurious, on par with the rest of its peers, but many features require you to pay extra. The X3 also has a large spacious interior for the class, with over 63 cubic feet of cargo space when the seats are folded down.
Like the Audi Q5, the BMW X3 is a great all-around compact luxury SUV, but the current generation is 6 years old at this point. An updated model is expected in 2017.