Comparison Test: 2012 BMW X3 xDrive35i vs. 2012 Infiniti EX35 vs. 2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque vs. 2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design

By Winding Road Staff

June 07, 2012

[photo credit: Chris Amos]
 
Ever since Range Rover unleashed its ultra-compelling Evoque into the world, it has been winning plaudits and turning heads. Our first drive review of the car was overwhelmingly positive, though we’ve known from the start that only a full-scale comparison test would prove out Evoque’s promise within the segment.
 
This is due, in large measure, to the sort of strange value proposition that the small Range Rover presents to the buyer. Agree, at least for the sake of argument, that the Evoque is the best-looking car in the small crossover class. You’re still presented with a vehicle that is smaller, less powerful, and more expensive than the rest of its segment. Range Rover would argue that it is also the most potent off-road, which may very well be true, but we can’t see that as a top-level need for buyers in this segment.
 
So, we wanted to put Evoque to the test. Lining up the big-selling BMW X3, the ultra-powerful Volvo XC60 R-Design, and the original-gangster-small-crossover Infiniti EX35, we figured to have great representation within this class.
 
What’s more, because this selection of crossovers is required to be both comfortable, and pretty fun to drive, we’ve applied both our Involvement Index and our Comfort Index as the points of measurement.
 
Read on to peruse our test notes from this four-way shootout (with John Beltz Snyder and Brandon Turkus doing the narration), with rankings by Index, and the overall winner.
 
BMW X3 Front three quarters moving picture
 
BMW X3 xDrive35i
 
Involvement – 1st Place
 
Variety:
 
The BMW is on the twitchier side, although not to the degree of the frantic Infiniti. It’s clear that the suspension engineers built this thing for fun rather than highway cruising, as it’s very attuned to tighter bends than long stretches of freeway.
 
It soaks up imperfections better than some of the other cars here, although not to the degree that the Volvo does.
 
-BT
 
I found the X3 to be pretty good in the small turns, but I really had to work at it to keep it in line. It can take a hot corner, but it will fight against its own weight. Concentrate, be firm of hand, and it’ll do as you ask, though.
 
I had no troubles with the BMW on the highway. It felt pretty stable to me, and was comfortable cruising at high speed. Sometimes it could feel a little skittish when it encountered bumps, but it was pretty unflappable overall.
 
-JBS
 
Controls:
 
I think the BMW’s optioning really hurt it in this category. The addition of the sport seats from the Sport Activity Package would have probably elevated this score, as the standard seats just didn’t have enough support or adjustability for harder driving.
 
The steering feel isn’t great, but there’s a really nice weight on offer here. The BMW was the only one of our testers to offer a dedicated Sport mode (two, in fact). The sharpening of the throttle response and the other chassis tweaks really helped its controls score.
 
- BT
 
The steering feels a little artificially heavy in the X3, so you feel like you’re fighting it a bit in the corners. Once you get used to it, it’s a pretty precise rack, and it’s good to use in slalom-like situations.
 
I have to agree with Brandon about the seats—they don’t offer enough bolstering. In corners, I was falling out of the seat sideways. Combined with the bit of body roll the BMW expressed, it felt like it was going to tip over sometimes. Seats can make a big difference in confidence.
 
- JBS
 
Drivetrain:
 
The X3 is second in outright speed only to the XC60, and even then it’s only by a small margin. Unlike the Volvo, the BMW sounded outstanding, with an ear-pleasing six-cylinder exhaust note. The X3 is arguably the best singer of this group.
 
The power is great here, too, coming on in a smooth, predictable fashion. The throttle is quite progressive, and it’s easy to judge inputs based on how much speed you want/need.
 
- BT
 
This was my favorite motor of the crew of four, partly because of the sounds it made. You can really hear the engine and the turbocharger working in unison. The physical result is a fast-feeling car, whose throttle is really easy to modulate.
 
This transmission was my favorite, too. On its own, it did a wonderful job of predicting my driving style and shifting accordingly. Shifting manually, you actually pull the gear selector back to upshift, and push it forward to downshift—the most intuitive for enthusiastic driving, in my opinion.
 
- JBS
 
Handling:
 
The bigger X3 is barely beaten by the small, short-wheel based Infiniti. The X3’s biggest draw in this category is the amount of feedback available through the suspension. It’s the best talker of this group, and makes up for the lack of feedback through the wheel.
 
Still, the turn-in lacks the sort of sharpness I’ve noticed in BMW’s sedans, although that’s not exactly unexpected. Lateral movements are well controlled, and are great at relaying just what’s going on with the suspension.
 
- BT
 
The X3 initially felt a bit tippy in corners. With time, though, it revealed itself as pretty stable, with lots of lateral grip. It was a bit tough to gauge the amount of mechanical grip on hand, though, as traction control was eager in fast corners. A little more wheelspin would have helped propel the car smoothly through the corner. I noted that TC wasn’t too invasive, though, in general driving.
 
This car transitioned well from corner to corner, even if it did feel like it was tossing me about in my seat. The steering was quick to respond, but the ratio could have been a little tighter to match the car’s curve-carving capabilities.
 
- JBS
 
Character:
 
The BMW really comes together well, with a sonorous, torquey, turbocharged six-cylinder, a quick-shifting auto trans, and BMW’s trademark taut steering. The entire setup feels natural and effortless.
 
It’s rather thrilling, too, at times feeling more closely related to the more visceral 335i sedan (which it kind of is) than an X5 (which it kind of isn’t).
 
- BT
 
The X3 feels like a solid, trustworthy driving companion. It can do a lot when pushed hard. I feel like a life with the X3 would promise many miles of memorable driving experiences of different types.
 
It does seem to be a little confused about its own personality. It wants to be sporty, but it also wants to be presentable as a non-threatening family car. I think a little more dedication to its athletic personality would do the X3 justice—sharpen the steering, add paddle shifters, and sport seats (these last two available in the $3000 M Sport Package), and let it gallop.
 
- JBS
 
BMW X3 interior photo picture
 
Comfort – 1st Place
 
Visibility:
 
The X3 was my pick for best visibility. Forward visibility is quite good, with A-pillars that don’t get in the way much. It avoids the chop-top forward view that comes with the Range Rover and, to a lesser extent, the Infiniti.
 
An above-view camera setup and BMW’s awesome park distance control make the X3 a winner in tight spaces, like the parking lot at your local mall.
 
- BT
 
Visibility is decent in the X3, with a good openness and lots of glass to look through. It is a bit difficult to see what is immediately surrounding the car (the windows are all pretty far away from the driver, limiting the viewing angle), but beyond several feet, the view feels pretty commanding.
 
The BMW offers the top-down view for the parking cameras, so you can see what’s on the ground right next to you and directly behind you. If you prefer a more distant view from the rear of the vehicle, though, you’re going to have to turn your head around and look for yourself.
 
- JBS
 
Space/Seating:
 
The front seats just don’t offer much in the way of support or adjustability. Getting a good seating position often requires some fiddling, and even then, it felt like I was forced to choose between a comfortable seating position and one that would be good for dynamic driving.
 
Overall, the BMW feels less spacious than it actually is, particularly in front, where we felt a bit too close to the person riding shotgun.
 
- BT
 
Despite the lack of bolstering (OK, I’m done complaining about it), these seats are firm and supportive. I found it rather easy to find a comfortable driving position, and I felt like I could have spent a lot of time sitting behind the wheel of the X3.
 
It is easy to get in and out of the X3. It’s a good height, and I didn’t have to hop up or duck down to get in. Once in the driver’s seat, I felt like I had a good amount of open space to surround me.
 
- JBS
 
Ride/Handling:
 
The X3’s ride was too choppy, particularly over broken pavement and other imperfections. Roll control was decent, but this is not a vehicle as well suited for cushy long-distance highway jaunts, at least not as much the Evoque.
 
The turning radius is tight, and while I wasn’t crazy about the BMW’s secondary ride, its primary ride (lack of float, vertical motion) was typical BMW. In other words, it was impressive.
 
- BT
 
Despite a sort of stiff suspension, the BMW recovered very quickly after big bumps and whatnot. So, while the initial motion was often more noticeable, any rebound was mitigated.
 
I appreciated just how well this car could be driven smoothly. Throttle response was good, but didn’t ever knock you back in your seat unless you really wanted it to. Steering was weighty and gradual, so it wouldn’t unexpectedly snap passengers to either side. Brakes were strong, but easy to modulate.
 
- JBS
 
Acoustics:
 
Road and wind noise were well controlled, although not quite to the tomb-like levels of the Range Rover. The mechanical notes that do creep into the cabin are very pleasing, but only infiltrated the interior when I was really pushing the engine.
 
The stereo is decent, although not as good as either the Volvo or Range Rover. The real trump card was BMW’s excellent ConnectedDrive system, and the assorted web radio app. Limitless tunes.
 
- BT
 
The X3 offered a good balance in what sounds penetrated the cabin. I could hear the motor pretty well, but it sounded so good that I welcomed it. Tire roar was minimal, keeping the ambient sound low. You could hear a little bit of what was going on through the suspensions, but it wasn’t too invasive.
 
The sound quality of the audio system could have been much better. Music piping through the speakers sounded especially tinny to me. It wasn’t the rich, full sonic experience I had hoped for.
 
- JBS
 
Controls:
 
With this latest generation of iDrive, BMW is at the forefront of competent, intuitive, and visually appealing controls. Seriously, everyone should be copying this setup (I’m looking at you Land Rover). The HVAC buttons and secondary radio controls are easy to read and logically laid out, complementing the knob-and-button-based iDrive system.
 
The feature set for the X3 was rather typical, boasting items like heated seats and steering wheel, navigation, and such. You can price it out with more swag, but I really found the equipment on this SAV to be adequate.
 
- BT
 
Everything one uses for regular driving is very good to the touch. Instruments and switchgear are labeled and organized well, and controls on the center stack are easy to reach. There’s really nothing to complain about, here.
 
I found the BMW’s multimedia system to be quite user-friendly. I had no trouble navigating the menus, nor with using the dial and buttons to make my selections. It was easy to familiarize myself with its functions and capabilities.
 
- JBS
 
Infiniti EX35 front three quarters moving motion photo picture
 
Infiniti EX35 AWD Journey
 
Involvement – 2nd Place
 
Variety:
 
Relative to the other smooth riders here, the EX35 is twitchy. Its short wheelbase hurts its highway stability, giving it a crashiness over bumps.
 
Still, it’s a hoot in tight twisties and long sweepers, where its small overall size makes it easy to place on the road.
 
- BT
 
This is a car that can do it all. It might not be the best at anything (though I’d argue that it is, in fact, the best at some things), but it handled any type of driving situation we threw at it solidly and with composure.
 
Overall, this vehicle feels very stable, whether it’s in tight corners, tackling long-running curves, or cruising in a straight line at highway speeds. The only instability I really noticed came from vertical motion through the suspension, but it never seemed to affect grip or balance.
 
- JBS
 
Controls:
 
This is a quick steering rack, giving the EX an added feeling of agility. It’s not overly communicative though, lacking on-center response. Like the Volvo and Range Rover (in Prestige trim), the EX lacks a dedicated sport mode, which hurts its Controls score.
 
The seating position isn’t bad, but it’s not enough to elevate it in the rankings.
 
- BT
 
I really appreciated the sharp response the Infiniti gave to inputs. Turning is snappy, with steering that feels quick and natural. Throttle response is strong yet balanced, offering quick starts and smooth acceleration. The brakes, though, felt dull in their reply to my right foot.
 
While the seating position was comfortable, some of the controls on the center stack were a little tough to reach, though nowhere near as bad as the Range Rover. For all the important stuff—steering wheel, pedals, etc.—there were no problems in their placement.
 
- JBS
 
Drivetrain:
 
The EX is the only naturally aspirated engine in this comparo and it shows. Take off, shifts, and power application are all more linear than the other cars here, no doubt thanks to the turboless V-6.
 
It’s a sonically good engine, though, with a classic V-6 exhaust note. Throttle response wasn’t as sharp as we hoped for. Low-end punch is good.
 
- BT
 
This has probably the most boring motor of the bunch, simply because it is so damn predictable. The power is so straightly linear, there’s nothing to explore throughout the rev range. It’s pretty quick, but there’s no special moment when you dig into the throttle and plant it on the floor for a while. The VQ engine is still a gem, but it’s starting to show its age against this new turbo competition.
 
Left on its own, shifts are done at a medium pace. In manual mode (which is push to shift) I didn’t really find any benefit to trying to outsmart the car’s own shift programming. Either way, there’s not a lot of driver engagement to be had through this gearbox.
 
- JBS
 
Handling:
 
The EX is fast to turn in, with tight lateral damping. Quick lane-change or slalom maneuvers give the impression that the tires are really digging into the road. The short wheelbase means it feels more willing to rotate than the others.
 
It feels more confident because of this, and would be my choice for a tight, twisting bit of road.
 
- BT
 
I felt a lot of confidence in the handling of the EX35. I loved how flatly it cornered, with minimal roll getting in the way of its turning stability. It was compliant when asked to rotate, and felt balanced side to side.
 
On a fast, long curve like a highway on-ramp, lateral grip was good, and it was easy to bring the Infiniti back from the limit. The only grumble I have was that it felt kind of nose-heavy the harder I pushed it—something a little firmer suspension up front would have helped.
 
- JBS
 
Character:
 
The combination of sitting so low to the ground and packing Nissan/Infiniti’s tried-and-tested 3.5-liter V-6 give the EX a very car-like character. The only hiccup here is that the low-slung positioning makes it feel like a sedan, but the slightly softer suspension gives it away as a crossover. Not a horrible compromise, if you need a bit of ride height, but I’m not entirely sold.
 
Still, it’s a surprisingly thrilling piece to drive, namely because of said seating position and the acoustic signature of that engine.
 
- BT
 
Despite being a great vehicle all around, it has the least personality of these four testers. There’s not much about it that makes it feel special or particularly unique, from the driving dynamics, to the powertrain, to the interior. It impresses, but it doesn’t shape lasting memories.
 
There’s not a lot that the EX will teach you about driving that you don’t already know. Being a sort of jack-of-all-trades, there’s nowhere it absolutely shines. It’s not hiding any secrets for you to unlock, and it’s not challenging you to improve your skills.
 
- JBS
 
Infiniti EX35 interior photo picture 
 
Comfort – 4th Place
 
Visibility:
 
The EX has a fairly wide-open greenhouse, giving it a great openness from the driver’s seat. Forward, rearward, and lateral visibility is quite good, with great sightlines all around.
 
The thing that hurts the EX is the low seating position. Its sight lines are better than everything else here, but you are so low that it doesn’t really deliver the “command view” of the others.
 
- BT
 
This rear-view parking camera is great! It’s aimed fairly high, so you can get a distant look behind you. Plus, it offers such a wide angle, that you can see to the sides of the car (we joked that you could even see in front of the car) and the ground directly behind it, too. There’s no escaping the view of this thing.
 
Visibility is great in the EX. It has good sight lines, and good seating position in relation to the window. The only complaint (albeit a very minor one) is that the rake of the windshield puts the left A-pillar in the center of the view on certain curves.
 
- JBS
 
Space/Seating:
 
If you are looking for wide-open spaces, this is not the way to go. Ingress and egress in the smaller, lower EX were the most difficult of our test. The actual comfort once in the seats wasn’t bad, but getting in and out was more of a hassle than it should have been.
 
This is a car that could use a big panoramic sunroof (something all three of the competitors had), as it cuts down on the cabin-induced claustrophobia.
 
- BT
 
This sits a bit lower than other crossovers, so you do have to squat a bit to get in, like a normal-sized sedan. Also like a car, it doesn’t offer all the extra room in a cabin that is typical of most utes.
 
It was easy for me to find a comfortable seating position, but it was more suited to commuting or road-tripping than for enthusiastic driving. Also, the cushy seats weren’t as supportive as those in the other vehicles.
 
- JBS
 
Ride/Handling:
 
The EX’s ride was the most brittle of our group. Even moderate road imperfections translated to the cabin. The turning radius was decent, but highway stability was a big weak spot.
 
Roll control was good. I really needed to throw the EX into a bend to elicit any bad lateral behavior.
 
- BT
 
There wasn’t a truly uncomfortable ride to be had among these four vehicles. The Infiniti did exhibit more vertical motion than the other cars, making it feel like slightly less premium. Sometimes, it was just plain bouncy.
 
- JBS
 
Acoustics:
 
While the EX has a decent sounding engine, it’s loud enough that it impacts the comfort score. There’s also too much road noise. A crummy Bose stereo rounded off the EX’s acoustical faults.
 
The mechanical sounds that enter the cabin are pleasant to a point. At higher rpm, the engine doesn’t sound as good, and the cabin experience suffers for it.
 
- BT
 
I found this car to be fairly quiet, but I think the other competitors did a better job of letting the good sounds in and keeping the unpleasant ones out. The motor sounds like it groans a bit, and dully at that. Background noise was just a bit higher in the EX overall.
 
The sound system was basically average. It didn’t have any major failings, but it also wasn’t super rich, crisp, and clear. It’s fine for the average person who wants to listen to the radio, but audiophiles won’t get the fulfillment they desire.
 
- JBS
 
Controls:
 
I do like Infiniti’s dual touch/button infotainment system, but wish the buttons were easier to reach. Controls on the EX are easy enough to understand, with a fairly typical Nissan HVAC system.
 
This cabin is feeling dated, with materials that weren’t up to the caliber of the competition (even the Volvo, which is nearly as old).
 
- BT
 
All the controls are simply displayed and separated in a meaningful way. Infiniti hasn’t taken a lot of design risks here.
 
The navigation and infotainment interface is a bit a pain to reach while driving. That said, both are great to actually use. The menus are memorable and easy to navigate, and controlling the system is simple. The display is clear and bright, too, which is always a plus.
 
- JBS
 
Range Rover Evoque front three quarters motion moving photo picture
 
Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
 
Involvement – 3rd Place
 
Variety:
 
The off-road-oriented suspension soaks up the rough stuff fine, but hurts the Evoque’s ability in tight bends. Our example leaned towards understeer when pushed hard.
 
Still, it’s a fine ride in wide, open bends. Highway stability isn’t terrible, but it’s certainly not the best in the class (that’d be the Volvo in my opinion).
 
- BT
 
The Evoque felt very different from the other three vehicles. I felt it best suited to tight cornering, and not so great at the high-speed cruising job, contrary to Brandon’s comments.
 
Despite a lack of innate high-speed stability, this little Range Rover doesn’t get upset by bumps in the pavement. The suspension seems to sort them out pretty well without getting skippy, so it’s not going to feel more likely to kill you in a fast corner.
 
- JBS
 
Controls:
 
I’m going to go on record as disagreeing with John (below) regarding the seating position. There’s a lot of adjustability in the seat and steering wheel, and the seats themselves manage to blend a wide area with a nice degree of support.
 
Feedback from the steering isn’t great, either on- or off-center. Bonus points for being the only car in this test to come with a set of paddle shifters.
 
- BT
 
The steering wheel feels too far away. To get my legs comfortable, I can’t get the tiller close enough, so I have to sit very upright with my arms almost straight out. Obviously, this is not conducive to managing a twisty road.
 
- JBS
 
Drivetrain:
 
Evoque makes use of the only four-cylinder in this test. It’s important to note the difference between being slow and underpowered. Yes, the Evoque is slower than everything else here, but I was never in a situation where the 2.0-liter turbo didn’t still feel “quick.” My learning: the small crossover segment is becoming a powerful one.  
 
Low and mid-range punch is impressive for such small displacement, to be sure.
 
- BT
 
This turbo motor is very quiet and not sonically rewarding. It isn’t bad to use, though. There’s just a moment of hesitation as it build pressure, and then there’s plenty of power to work with. Being able to easily shift on your own, too, allows for a bit more leeway from this smaller engine in terms of achieving and maintaining speed.
 
I know it’s not the fastest in this crowd, and may be the slowest. That said, it does a good job of feeling fast. Part of this is thanks to its small size, and the varied responses you can tease out of this engine. Forced induction provides a visceral quality to acceleration.
 
- JBS
 
Handling:
 
There’s a little bit too much lateral movement here, but I’d hesitate to call it disruptive. It’s not particularly informative, though, either, as the Evoque isn’t really a great talker.
 
Despite its on-road oriented Continentals (massive twenty-inchers) and all-wheel drive, the Evoque never felt really grippy through bends. Turn-in wasn’t very sharp either. Overall, I was underwhelmed by the Evoque’s handling profile.
 
- BT
 
Brandon’s simply wrong. The Evoque had the most car-like handling of the group. This is good in the city or on tighter roads, where rotation is key. If forced to choose, this is the one I’d take to the autocross.
 
At higher speeds, the handling isn’t as much of a boon, though. The Evoque gives up a lot of highway stability, and in long sweepers (such as a highway on-ramp), I found myself having to make a lot of little steering adjustments throughout the curve.
 
- JBS
 
Character:
 
The Evoque’s small size and turbocharged engine give it an almost hot hatch feel, particularly relative to the X3 and XC70. I certainly don’t think it’s the best at anything, but it all comes together in a coherent package.
 
It’s not, however, going to be winning any points for thrills, as it’s outgunned by everything else here, and that’s pretty obvious from the get go.
 
- BT
 
I think that the character field is where the Evoque redeems any of its drawbacks. If you’re willing to sacrifice visibility or rear headroom, it’s because this Range Rover, as a complete package, feels very special. Part of that is because it’s still very new, but mostly because this is quite unlike any other vehicle on the road.
 
The Evoque is also appealing because it does take some time to get to know. It takes work to get to know how to stir up the most speed from the drivetrain, or to master a certain corner. The more I drove this one, the more I grew to understand it and like it. (Yes, my first impression of the Evoque wasn’t the best, but it won me over!)
 
- JBS
 
Range Rover Evoque interior photo picture
 
Comfort – 2nd Place
 
Visibility:
 
You’ll definitely have to count on Evoque’s multiple electronic-eyeball assistants to help out when maneuvering, and they work well enough. The rear-view camera and front and rear PDC are must-haves. I suppose the only thing the five-door has going for it is that the overall visibility is slightly better than the three-door.
 
- BT
 
With a high beltline and a tiny rear window, the Evoque has poor rearward visibility. It makes up for that lack, though, with huge side mirrors. Of course, the drawback there is that the mirrors block part of the forward view themselves. Those wiggly defroster lines in the windshield diffuse light a bit, making it slightly harder to focus, especially at night.
 
The lack of visibility isn’t such a big problem on the highway (with those mirrors, blind spot monitoring, etc.). It’s in the city that it becomes problematic. It is especially hard to park, because you can’t look down to see lines, the curb, or other obstacles. Tip your valet!
 
- JBS
 
Space/Seating:
 
It’s bigger on the inside than it looks. I had no issues in either the front or back seats. It’s easy enough to get in and out, and finding a comfortable seating position is merely a matter of trial and error.
 
The rear view doesn’t feel claustrophobic thanks in large part to the Evoque’s glass roof. It really opens up the cabin, and should be a requirement on anything with a beltline this high.
 
- BT
 
In my mind, this vehicle is tied with the Volvo XC60 in terms of great interior design. The Evoque feels very unique, with some familiar elements from the Land Rover family. Materials are nice on the eyes and on the fingers. The seats themselves are very supportive. It has a very fresh feeling overall.
 
The physical space itself seems a bit out of whack. I mentioned the seating already (which wouldn’t be a problem for someone long of arm and short of leg, of which I am the opposite), but it also feels kind of cramped.
 
- JBS
 
Ride/Handling:
 
I had a feeling the softly sprung suspension on the Evoque would handle bumps and imperfections well, but I didn’t think it’d be this good. There’s quite a comfortable ride here, without a disruptive amount of vertical motion.
 
The car’s turning circle very good for the class, and nipping into a parking space in a crowded lot is super easy.
 
- BT
 
The ride in the Evoque is nicely sorted out for comfort. It is quite isolated, protecting the people inside from the ongoing war between Michigan’s crumbling roads and the rubber they come into contact with.
 
With its responsive steering, the Evoque actually felt pretty light on its feet.
 
- JBS
 
Acoustics:
 
The quietest car of this group by a large margin. Wind and road noise just aren’t there. You get a hint of the engine note, but I certainly wouldn’t call it disruptive to the cabin experience.
 
The Meridian stereo delivered crisp, clear audio. I’m not an audio reviewer, but I’d say it was as good, if not better, than the upmarket stereo in the Volvo.
 
- BT
 
The cabin is very quiet. One must strain to hear the engine at work, and any noise from the tires gets filtered out before it can make its way inside. With the compact dimensions, it is very easy to carry on a conversation between rows.
 
The audio system in the Evoque feels plenty powerful. The only real problem I had with it was achieving a good balance of volume between the front and rear speakers (which created a small reverb effect).
 
- JBS
 
Controls:
 
Touchscreen display responds well, but it’s placed just far enough away to be annoying to use regularly. Can’t really be read if you’ve got the sunroof shade open and the sun is out.
 
HVAC and steering wheel controls are all logically laid out and easy enough to learn. Creature-comfort features, as with the other cars in this test, are pretty standard.
 
- BT
 
The Evoque features a touchscreen interface, which makes it easy to use. To reach it, though, one has to stretch and lean out of the driver’s seat like an inmate reaching for the jailor’s keys. In other words, access to the all-important infotainment is crummy.
 
This is something some people will love, and others will hate: there are a lot of controls mounted on the Evoque’s steering wheel. For me, having to sit back pretty far, this was easier than reaching over to the center stack. While it looks pretty crowded with buttons, I never found them to get in the way of my driving.
 
- JBS
 
Volvo XC60 R-Design front three quarters moving motion photo picture
 
Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design
 
Involvement – 4th Place
 
Variety:
 
The XC60 feels extremely poised on the freeway, with a great level of stability at speed. At the same time, it’s not totally unsorted in tight bends. Still, its best character is in wide, flowing pieces of road.
 
Soaks up bumps better than the other cars here. The combination of highway stability and the ability to iron out the bad stuff make the XC60 the long-distance cruiser of this group.
 
- BT
 
The XC60 feels very stable on the highway, and tracks true. This makes it ideal for long travels. There’s no wafting about in the lane, nor constant corrections to make at the wheel. It makes it easier to stay focused on other aspects of the driving. Bumps in the road don’t really affect this stability either, as the suspension soaks them up nicely.
 
This isn’t the most agile car of the bunch, but it’s not bad either. It is capable of handling the twisty bits of the road, but it just doesn’t feel particularly special doing it.
 
- JBS
 
Controls:
 
The steering is light, but still delivers a reasonable amount of feedback. It’s probably the best of this group, but then again, that’s not saying a great deal.
 
The six-speed auto shifts quickly and intelligently, without too much of a wait for downshifts. The seating position is just right, with a good deal of support for more aggressive driving.
 
Brakes are smooth and progressive, making the Volvo a breeze to bring to a stop.
 
- BT
 
In a lot of past Volvos I have driven, steering has been both numb and vague. In newer models, including the XC60, at least one of those qualities has been ameliorated. Steering in the XC60, while still mostly lacking in feedback, feels fairly precise and accurate.
 
The Volvo’s responsive throttle makes it a bit more fun to scoot around town in, but there’s no real joy to be had elsewhere. The transmission is best just left to do its own thing. You can choose gears via the gear selector, but it lacks flavor. Plus, it does the whole push-to-upshift-and-pull-to-downshift thing that feels counterintuitive to aggressive driving.
 
- JBS
 
Drivetrain:
 
The speed demon of the bunch, challenged only by the X3. Low, mid, and high-end power is abundant. All of this is great, but the throttle response is too sharp to be easily managed.
 
Despite the power, the XC60 lacks the evocative sound of either the X3 or the EX35. Bests the sonically dull Evoque, but not by a great deal.
 
- BT
 
This Volvo feels very quick. Throttle tip-in is sharp, and the car leaps energetically off the line. Those 354 pound-feet of torque are easily accessible in the low range, making this ute feel very athletic.
 
In the higher reaches of the rev range, you can just barely hear the turbocharger doing its thing. The power delivery doesn’t really feel peaky, though.
 
- JBS
 
Handling:
 
Of the four, I found the XC60 to be the worst handler in aggressive driving. Roll was too prevalent, and did little to communicate what was going on between the rubber and the road. Fore/aft damping was decent, but didn’t inspire lots of confidence.
 
Outright grip was all right, but was bested by the X3 and EX35. Turn-in felt sluggish and lackluster, and the Volvo rarely felt willing to rotate.
 
- BT
 
The lateral grip limits in all four vehicles were good, and while they may have felt a bit lower to me in the Volvo, the slippage at the edge of traction was very predictable. As it approaches its limit, the XC60 slowly and progressively lets you know exactly what is going on between tire and tarmac. This makes it easy to avoid getting in over one’s head.
 
Overall handling is mostly average in the XC60. It won’t jump into a turn like a skier, but it won’t overshoot it either. Roll is progressive, at least, but it is there. It does feel pretty balanced from front to rear, though, as it carves a corner, which helps with stability.
 
- JBS
 
Character: 
 
The Volvo, despite its handling inadequacies, comes together really nicely. It really nails the sleeper look, as you just don’t expect this much power in a Swedish crossover.
 
The overall experience of running it through the gears is thrilling, although it’s not quite as good as the BMW.
 
- BT
 
The XC60 has a sort of calm, subdued character. It hints at sportiness, with its powerful and compliant engine, but the rest of the car seems to want to simply keep you calm and safe. It’s great for people who don’t want their car to be a stressor, but that sort of dulls its involvement score.
 
There’s no real subtlety, challenge, or intensity to be had here. With the XC60 R-Design, you get exactly what you expect: a crossover that is safe, comfortable, and easy to drive.
 
- JBS
 
volvo xc60 interior photo picture 
 
Comfort – 3rd Place
 
Visibility:
 
The greenhouse isn’t quite as open as the Infiniti or BMW’s, but it’s still quite airy. Forward, rearward, and lateral sightlines are all quite good. The hood is a bit long, so picking out the corners of the car is difficult sometimes.
 
The reverse camera and PDC systems are good, but aren’t as comprehensive as the BMW and Infiniti, both of which offer an above-view camera setup.
 
- BT
 
Visibility in the XC60 is good, thanks to its relatively large windows. Rear visibility was especially good. Plus, there was a little switch up front that would drop down the rear headrests, so we didn’t have to crawl in back to adjust them after ferrying a backseat passenger. Just hit the button and they’re out of sight.
 
Volvo has put an extensive array of assistance technology to help keep track of what’s around you. Back-up camera, parking sensors, blind spot detection, lane departure warning, and pre-collision warning are all available to give you an extra sense of your surroundings and improve safety.
 
- JBS
 
Space/Seating:
 
It feels the most spacious of our four cars. I wasn’t pleased with the driver’s seat, though, as the pedal box felt too small for my size-13 feet. I had to rest my knee against the center stack to get a good position for my right foot on the throttle.
 
Rear ingress/egress is probably the best of the three, and there is plenty of room for second-row passengers. The skyward view isn’t as good as in the Evoque. The Volvo’s sunroof doesn’t extend back quite as far, and there isn’t nearly the same sense of airiness.
 
- BT
 
These seats are both beautiful to behold and very comfortable to sit in. The leather is nice and tight, offering good support, and it’s easy to find an ideal seating position.
 
This interior also feels the roomiest, front and rear. There’s a feeling of space surrounding the front seat passengers. The doors, headliner, and dashboard don’t encroach on one’s personal space.
 
- JBS
 
Ride/Handling:
 
Smooth, stable, and generally quite good. Primary and secondary ride were very good in the XC60, and even larger imperfections didn’t disrupt the overall in-cabin experience.
 
Feels big on the road, and particularly in the parking lot, where a larger turning circle hurts its maneuverability.
 
- BT
 
Being such an isolated vehicle may have hurt the Volvo in terms of driver involvement, but the opposite is true for driver comfort. It does really well on deteriorating road surfaces, keeping the occupants nicely padded from bumps and ripples in the road.
 
While one is getting used to the eager throttle, the XC60 may jostle passengers who aren’t expecting such an abrupt start. It gets easier to manage over time, but the other cars in this comparison don’t have the learning curve that this Polestar-tuned Volvo does.
 
- JBS
 
Acoustics:
 
Stereo is good (not quite as good as the system in the Evoque) with plenty of bass and crisp sound for a variety of music. Mechanical noise is well controlled, although you’ll still hear a healthy hint of engine note when the Volvo is pushed hard.
 
Road noise isn’t bad, but I did notice more wind noise than I’d experienced on other cars.
 
- BT
 
It’s nice and quiet inside the cabin of the XC60. The suspension doesn’t make a lot of noise, nor do the tires. As you speed up, though, wind noise increases a bit on the highway. Still, you’re not going to have problems carrying on a conversation in the XC60.
 
This audio system sounds generally solid. There was no tinny sound, no low-end distortion, no strange reverberations. Turning up the volume doesn’t change this.
 
- JBS
 
Controls:
 
Volvo’s navigation system remains overly complex. There’s a steep learning curve on the radio and navigation controls, although the HVAC is more intuitive.
 
Overall level of in-cabin technology is just average—a bit better than the Infiniti, but lower than the other two. The cabin is full of nice materials, and with the exception of the lower dash, there aren’t many bad touch points.
 
- BT
 
We definitely like the look of the layout, with things like climate control within easy reach, and audio controls mounted on the steering wheel. Nearly minimalist design, save for the telephone keypad in the center stack.
 
Unfortunately, there is no touchscreen in this Volvo. There simply isn’t an easy way to navigate the infotainment system. The controls for “Nav,” “Radio,” “Media,” “Tel,” “My Car,” and “Cam” are all on the center stack with the rest of the buttons. A wheel, joystick, or touchscreen would allow one to get more out of this system.
 
- JBS
 
infiniti ex30 volvo xc60 r-design bmw x3 range rover evoque exterior picture photo
 
Verdict
 
With first-place ranking for both driving involvement and driving comfort, the BMW X3 was comfortably selected as the best all-around crossover in our test. Overall, the Range Rover Evoque managed second of our group of four, though strong scores for comfort meant that the Volvo XC60 was only a short distance behind in in the minds of our crew. The Infiniti EX35, while the second-most stirring vehicle to drive aggressively, proved too coarse for this newer, smoother, and more comfortable competitive set, and finished in fourth place overall.
 
2012 BMW X3 xDrive35i
Engine: Biturbocharged inline-6, 3.0 liters, 24v
Output: 300 hp/300 lb-ft
0-60 MPH: 5.5 sec
Weight: 4222 lb
Fuel Economy, City/Hwy: 19/26 mpg
Base Price: $43,600
 
2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Prestige Five-Door
Engine: Turbocharged inline-4, 2.0 liters, 16v
Output: 240 hp/251 lb-ft
0-60 MPH: 7.1 sec
Weight: 3902 lb
Fuel Economy, City/Hwy: 18/28 mpg
Base Price: $43,995
 
2012 Volvo XC60 R-Design
Engine: Turbocharged inline-6, 3.0 liters, 24v
Output: 325 hp/354 lb-ft
0-60 MPH: 5.3 sec (est)
Weight: 4236 lb
Fuel Economy, City/Hwy: 17/23 mpg
Base Price: $43,700
 
2012 Infiniti EX35 AWD Journey
Engine: V-6, 3.5 liters, 24v
Output: 297 hp/253 lb-ft
0-60 MPH: 5.7 sec (est)
Weight: 3980 lb
Fuel Economy, City/Hwy: 17/24 mpg
Base Price: $39,500