New Fuel Efficient Engines Shake Up Consumer Reports Sporty Compact Suv Ratings

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BMW X3 and Redesigned Acura RDX Move To Top of Ratings

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The RDX had been a weak spot in the otherwise competent Acura lineup; the previous version wasn’t refined and had a stiff ride. But the engine upgrade, along with a roomier, user-friendly cabin and an improved ride, helps it score near the top

While the BMW X3 and redesigned Acura RDX have moved up in Consumer Reports Ratings of upscale compact sporty SUVs, both vehicles earned a top spot by changing their powertrains in different directions.

The X3 has been powered by a six-cylinder base engine since its inception in 2004, but BMW opted to go smaller for 2013. It replaced the previous 3.0-liter inline six with a new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The new engine ekes out 1 mpg better overall fuel economy (23 mpg) than the old one. The turbo four is not as refined as the six, but it delivers the same 240 hp and comparable acceleration. Precision handling and a taut ride make the X3 drive like the best sporty sedans. Add to that a quiet and plush interior, and the X3 scores at the top of CR’s Ratings.

By contrast, Acura dumped the RDX’s rough and thirsty turbocharged four-cylinder engine in favor of a more refined 273-hp, 3.5-liter V6. The larger engine not only performs better but also contributes to a respectable fuel economy of 22 mpg overall. The sweet sounding V6 feels smooth and responsive, delivering effortless acceleration.

“The RDX had been a weak spot in the otherwise competent Acura lineup; the previous version wasn’t refined and had a stiff ride. But the engine upgrade, along with a roomier, user-friendly cabin and an improved ride, helps it score near the top of its category,” said David Champion, Sr. Director of Consumer Reports Automotive Test Center.

Another good choice is the Audi Q5 which features enjoyable handling and a well-trimmed interior. Consumer Reports originally tested it with the uplevel 3.2-liter V6 but now tested it with its base engine, a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that averaged a good 21 mpg overall on premium fuel. Shifting is very smooth from the responsive eight-speed automatic transmission. Optional for 2013, is a potent 3.0-liter supercharged V6 that replaces the 3.2-liter V6, with a 3.0-liter V6 turbo diesel and hybrid expected later.

The full report and road test results on Consumer Reports’ latest tests are available on on July 24th and in the September issue of Consumer Reports on newsstands July 5. Updated daily, is the go-to Website for the latest auto reviews, product news, blogs on breaking news and car buying information. Check out CR’s ongoing Twitter feed at @CRCars.

Rounding out Consumer Reports’ foursome is the Cadillac SRX, which dropped its overtaxed 3.0-liter V6 and optional 2.8-liter turbo V6 for a larger 3.6-liter V6 that gets 18 mpg overall. Despite a power increase and impressive acceleration track times, the heavy SRX still feels sluggish in everyday driving. The interior is plush but driver visibility is problematic. Overall the Cadillac scored a respectable 72 in Consumer Reports Ratings, dropping a point because its revised suspension tuning hurt its emergency handling performance.

The RDX and the Q5 are Recommended because reliability is predicted to be average or above. The X3 four-cylinder is too new for Consumer Reports to predict reliability, and the SRX has shown below-average reliability.

Consumer Reports also tested two other turbocharged four-cylinder SUVs for this report: the Kia Sportage SX and the Ford Edge SEL. The Sportage gained a turbocharger to boost power; the Edge is another SUV that downsized from a V6 to a turbo four to save fuel.    

The Kia Sportage’s stylish design stands out from the crowd of typical boxy SUVs. But if you want even more fun, you can buy the top-level Sportage SX with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. With 84 more horses than the standard four-cylinder, acceleration is much quicker. Handling is agile and responsive, with body lean that’s kept in check in the corners, but the steering is heavy and doesn’t give much feedback. The ride, which was already stiff in the base Sportage, becomes worse with the SX version. There is also quite a bit of wind noise and pronounced road noise.

From the outside, the tested Ford Edge SEL might look like any other Edge. But under the hood it’s missing two engine cylinders. That’s because this SEL has Ford’s optional EcoBoost 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine instead of the base 3.5-liter V6. The little engine moves this not-so-little SUV around with plenty of power There’s less engine noise, too: The four-cylinder turbo actually sounds more refined than the V6. Fuel economy is improved over the V6 but you can’t get all-wheel-drive with the EcoBoost four-cylinder. The six-speed transmission lacks refinement and handling comes up short on agility.

Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website and other publications. Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

© 2012 Consumer Reports. The material above is intended for legitimate news entities only; it may not be used for advertising or promotional purposes. Consumer Reports® is an expert, independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves. We accept no advertising and pay for all the products we test. We are not beholden to any commercial interest. Our income is derived from the sale of Consumer Reports®,® and our other publications and information products, services, fees, and noncommercial contributions and grants. Our Ratings and reports are intended solely for the use of our readers. Neither the Ratings nor the reports may be used in advertising or for any other commercial purpose without our permission. Consumer Reports will take all steps open to it to prevent commercial use of its materials, its name, or the name of Consumer Reports®.

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