Not every driver who craves comfort and utility wants a big vehicle, with all the accompanying parking and fuel-economy headaches. Oil prices are still at dizzying heights, and environmental regulations keep tightening. So it's little wonder that small luxury crossover SUVs constitute a growing trend, with professional services firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers predicting a 12% sales increase in compact and small SUVs through 2015, compared with 5.6% for the overall auto market.
Here are some marvelous models taking this ultra-hot segment by storm.
The success of Porsche's mid-size Cayenne crossover, which has consistently been the German company's best-seller since its introduction in 2002, caught many industry observers napping. We won't get fooled again: Anticipation and expectations for the German marque's new Macan compact crossover, which debuted at the L.A. Auto Show in November, are running feverishly high. The all-wheel-drive Macan masterfully melds the drivability of Porsche's legendary sports cars with celebrity-level comforts and everyday five-door, five-seat practicality. Posh, but still Porsche.
Land Rover LR2 and Range Rover Evoque
Land Rover offers a brace of comfy compact crossovers that are equally at home on city streets and rock-strewn trails. The LR2 is dubbed "entry-level," but this handsome little ute nonetheless boasts a 240-horsepower turbocharged 2-liter engine, standard 7-inch color infotainment touch-screen and available surround sound — all for around $37,000. The muscular-looking Range Rover Evoque manages 30 miles per gallon on the highway while offering refined driving both on and off road, thanks in part to outstanding build quality.
Though the junior in BMW's well-established X family, the X1 "Sports Activity Vehicle" boasts a potent turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, fuel-saving start-stop technology (helping it achieve up to 24 mpg city/34 highway), standard leatherette seats and intuitive iDrive infotainment. What it lacks in cargo space the X1 more than compensates for with agile handling and ride comfort. The lowly base MSRP of $30,900 might induce reverse sticker-shock, but X1 options (which include a panoramic sunroof and rearview camera) can add up.
Draped in luxury and technology, the surprisingly roomy SRX is at once a contemporary compact crossover and classically a Cadillac. Standard and available features on this striking yet functional ride include CUE infotainment system, ambient interior lighting, UltraView power sunroof and 20-inch chrome aluminum wheels. A reassuring array of radar, cameras and ultrasonic sensors enables Cadillac's hard-to-beat Driver Awareness and Driver Assist technology packages, while one year of OnStar Directions and Connections service is standard on this sub-$38K stunner.
Already available in 2.0 TFSI, 3.0 TFSI and hybrid versions, Audi's trim Q5 crossover now also comes as a fuel-thrifty TDI clean diesel and high-performance SQ5 (the first-ever Q model S variant). Sporty yet sophisticated, it can hit 60 miles per hour from a standstill in a staggering 5.1 seconds (SQ5) while offering cabin comforts such as leather seating surfaces, all-natural walnut trim and even an optional thermo heated/cooled cup holder. The Q5 starts at just $37,300.
Other small premium utes to consider include the Acura RDX, Infiniti EX, Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class, Volvo XC60 and, expected by 2016, a production version of Jaguar's head-turning C-X17 concept.