Car Tips

Compact, luxury SUVs are the new sweet spot

Friday, January 11, 2013

One of the hottest segments in the auto industry right now is the compact, upscale crossover SUV.

Mercedes-Benz has redesigned its largest SUV, the GL, for 2013 with subtle improvements here and there to keep it fresh.

The carmaker has also freshened up their smallest SUV, the GLK. The pint-size sport utility is a small SUV with a touch of luxury and prestige, one of a growing sweet spot in the automotive world.

The GLK gets updates in terms of styling to stay current with other Mercedes products, but keeps its distinctive tall, upright cabin. For people who find a lot of today's vehicles kind of claustrophobic, the baby Benz's interior is a bright spot.

Also new this year is a redesigned Acura RDX. As an early entry in the small premium category in its first go-round, it now offers a standard V-6 engine for a combination of smoothness and relatively good gas mileage. And as usual with Acura products, it holds lots of technology.

The upscale small SUV segment is getting so hot that GMC recently added a Denali trim level to the terrain, its most compact sport utility offering. The flashy Denali package adds a unique grill, wheels and even special seat stitching.

BMW has been a player in the small, premium SUV segment for some time. They've had their X3 model for several years. The carmaker has realized that the segment is big, so it added an additional model, a smaller, more affordable and more fuel efficient X1. It's trim on the outside, but still pretty roomy on the inside for people and cargo. The base engine is BMW's new two-liter turbo four that moves it along smartly but doesn't gulp gas. Official fuel economy ratings for the X-Drive with four-wheel drive are 22 city and 33 highway. If you can live without the all-wheel drive, it does even better.

Choosing X-Drive also edges the price up a bit, as do option packages. One loaded to the gills checks in at almost $45,000.

BMW might be on to something by going a little smaller. Buyers who want luxury, but not excessive size or excessive fuel consumption, could find it a good fit.

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