From left: Lexus NX and Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4MATIC

Cross-Checking the Crossovers

What do Lexus and Mercedes bring to the luxury compact SUV scene?

BY CHRIS CASWELL

Premium crossovers - those versatile compact SUVs just as much at home carrying kids to soccer practice as arriving at the opera - continue to escalate in popularity. Sporting sumptuous interiors, serious sound systems, and high-quality styling, upscale compact crossovers such as the Audi Q3, BMW X1, Cadillac SRX, and Range Rover Evoque are hot, hot, hot. This season, two luxury heavyweights join the premium compact crossover cavalcade with the all-new Lexus NX and Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4MATIC, both loaded with more standard equipment, more cargo room, and lots of power. Here's how these two beauts are shaking things up.

LEXUS NX

Power: Choose from two engine options: Lexus' first turbocharged gas engine, the 235 hp NX200T; and its gas/electric hybrid, the NX300H. Front-wheel drive is standard with all-wheel as an option. An idle-stop system on the NX300H saves fuel at those long stoplights.

Styling: Toned down from the company's concept cars, it features a bold front like the IS, with an immense spindle grill, swept-back LED headlights, and sculptured sides. Thoughtful touch: The roofline peaks above the rear passengers for max headroom, always a shortage in crossovers.

Cargo: The 60-40 split rear seat gives you 54.6 cubic feet of stowage on a nearly flat floor. A power rear hatch is optional, and the low sill height makes for easy loading and unloading of everything from groceries to sail bags.

Cool Stuff: How can you not love door handles with hidden keyholes and night lighting? Plus, an aviation-style overhead console cleans up the dashboard and consolidates switches.

MSRP: Price not available, but best guesses are under $40K plus options.


MERCEDES-BENZ GLA250 4MATIC

Power: The turbo 4-cylinder punches out 208 hp through a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, using the 4MATIC all-wheel drive. Want more ponies? Opt for the GLA45 AMG 4MATIC model with a whopping 355 hp. Front-wheel-drive-only GLA250s arrive next spring to become the base-price model.

Styling: With a familial DNA that's apparent even if you can't see the three-pointed star, it has lines drawn from Mercedes' coupes and a powerful look with widely spaced wheels. On the inside, grained aluminum is the new wood, but options include burled walnut and others.

Cargo: Fold-down rear seats and an almost flat cargo space of 43.6 cubic feet combine with a standard power-lift gate and a low and wide rear sill. Perfect for transporting luggage and golf clubs.

Cool Stuff: The optional Distronic Plus cruise control uses radar sensing to adapt your speed to the flow of traffic and maintain a safe distance behind the car ahead.

MSRP: Price not available, but likely high $30s to low $40s with options.

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