Acura and Infiniti may not be the competitors one thinks of immediately, but the two luxury brands from long-standing Japanese carmakers (Acura comes from Honda and Infiniti from Nissan) offer crossovers at about the same price point. The vehicles go in dramatically different directions from there.
This week, we'll get to know both crossovers from the inside, and next week get underneath and take them out on the road.
Inside: Both Acura and Infiniti bathe their owners in understated elegance. Buttons and shifters don't "click"; they glide like fancy silver knives through gently whipped butter. Soft leather surfaces abound, and I'm sure the cows were honored to sacrifice their lives for such a worthy afterlife.
The Infiniti's simple elegance won me over. The RDX dashboard and door panels suffer from Acura Overdesign Syndrome. The many curved lines inside the RDX intersect so many times that it ends up looking like a shar-pei.
Perfect temperature: The always roasted Mr. Driver's Seat and the lovely but chilly Mrs. Passenger Seat are the ideal test couple for dual-zone heating.
The Acura heats like most other vehicles, and I could feel her 81-degree sauna seeping into my 69-degree comfort zone. But the Infiniti's graciously dual-curved dash places the heater vents inside the curves, helping keep the temperatures on their own side. (Yes, the seat heater wars devolved; at one point, Sturgis Kids 1.0 through 4.0 had to say, "Don't make us make you turn this car around.")
Friends and family: Perhaps I exaggerate. Surely, no family would put all four versions of its offspring together in the backseat, especially when three are adult children like the Sturgis Kids.
In fact, even three is kind of brutal, especially in the Infiniti. The EX37 begins life as a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, and thus inflicts center humpitis, which is the pain in the ankles and knees one gets from sitting atop Mount Driveshaft.
The Acura also offers more headroom and foot room for passengers. Still, even the Acura is surprisingly tight up above, considering how much taller it is than the EX37.
Cargo: The Acura also carries more people's stuff. Behind the rear seat, it offers 26.1 cubic feet of space, while the Infiniti has just 18.6.
Infotainment: The RDX offers Acura's standard setup, with white-letter stereo readout underneath the LCD display. But the stereo information also shows up on the LCD, if desired. Still, it's light years behind Cadillac's latest offerings - and even Ford's. It's like the difference between my old LG flip phone with the QWERTY keyboard and the iPhone.
Still, Infiniti should be commended for picking the best of olden days. Two knobs positioned just underneath the LCD screen at the left and right were instantly recognizable. I knew the left one was for volume and the right for tuning the radio (or XM, here in the 21st Century). Every stereo system should be this easy.
But the EX37 gets points off for the pretty silver analog clock with hash marks for every five minutes. When your life revolves around traffic on the 2s (or the 1s or the 4s), approximate is not close enough.
Premium sound? Both sound systems were well above average. But I'm never impressed with a "premium" sound system that doesn't have a midrange adjustment, just bass and treble. Neither crossover offers this third adjustment. It really misses out on the full range of sound without it.
Next week: How the vehicles compare on the road.
Contact Scott Sturgis at 215-854-2558 or firstname.lastname@example.org.