Used Vehicle Round-up: Entry-level Luxury SUVs

And now for something completely different: a luxury ute. The Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class has a much more commanding presence than the other vehicles on this list, but shares many of the same traits that recommend the others: clear sightlines, composed ride, good feedback. That last quality is an aberration in the luxury segment – most other vehicles at this price point simply glide over surface imperfections – but is a positive for drivers who don't want a vague and floaty road-feel. Though drivers have to complete their road test without the use of electronic aids, in day-to-day driving, its 360-degree parking camera system is simply genius, giving a complete picture of the vehicle's surroundings compared with conventional single-camera systems.

Compact luxury crossovers are big business in Canada’s new-car marketplace, and with the growing popularity of the segment – as well as a slew of owners trading in their few-year-old posh-utes for the latest model – selection and pricing in the used market is strong, too.

Whatever your need for a luxurious ride, upscale feature content, performance, advanced safety, all-season confidence or flexibility, today’s used compact luxury crossover marketplace has you covered nicely.

Affordable used compact luxury crossovers are a thing that exists. Many look to make solid used-vehicle investments too, provided you find one that’s not hiding major issues away under its sheet-metal skin.

And that, ladies and gents, is where your writer comes in.

Below, let’s take a look at five of the market’s most popular used entry-luxury crossover models, and how to shop smart for the one that interests you. Each of the models listed below makes a great used-vehicle gateway into the world of luxury utility motoring.

2010 to 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLK

In more Mercedes news, the GLK-Class proved it still has the chops, pulling in 1,065 sales so far this year and earning a place in the top five. Both the 2.3L turbo diesel and aggressive shape help lots here. The GLK will be renamed the GLC come the end of the year to reflect its relative position. But I’d bet it will arrive as an all-new vehicle using the award-winning C-Class as its base.

The Gist

Benz’s distinctive compact sports-ute got standard 4MATIC AWD, a handsome and tidy cabin, great ride quality, and no shortage of features and systems fitting of a world-class product. Look for GLK 350 with a 3.5L gasoline V6, packing up to 304 hp, and GLK 250 Bluetec with a four-cylinder turbodiesel. Feature content specifics included a 120-volt power outlet, panoramic sunroof, memory seating, navigation and much more. Stand-out attributes on this machine are its unique looks, excellent ride quality and above-average headroom and outward visibility.

The Test Drive

Be on the lookout for clumsy or harsh shifting from the transmission, which can likely (but not always) be fixed with updated transmission software. Run the COMAND central command system through its paces, confirming that the knob-controller and all on-screen functions operate as expected. If not, be sure to determine why before agreeing to purchase. Up-to-date software updates are vital to trouble-free COMAND system operation. A rough idle, poor performance, check engine lights, squeaky brakes and non-functional back-up camera systems have all been reported, infrequently, with most issues being inexpensive and simple to address. Have a mechanic inspect the front axle seals for signs of a rare fluid leak just to be safe and confirm the parking radar system, if equipped, works as expected.

2007 to 2012 Acura RDX Turbo

2010 Acura RDX

The Gist

The last generation of Acura’s entry crossover model is popping up in the used market for reasonable money, and offers generous feature content, sports-car-like handling and braking, a torque-rich turbo engine, and a discreet look that makes it a bit of a sleeper. With suspension and chassis calibrations intended for driving pleasure over all-out comfort, the RDX was a machine that intended to connect with the enthusiast driver. Ditto the engine: a 2.3L turbo VTEC unit with 240 hp and even more torque. All units got SH-AWD for sharpened handling and all-weather confidence. Though RDX was on the compact side of the luxury ute sizing equation, it was loved aplenty for flexible utility, overall value, and driving pleasure galore.

The Test Drive

Confirm proper operation from the air-conditioning system, the climate controlled seats, the Bluetooth phone system, and the xenon headlamps, which can be pricey to replace if they burn out. A Honda or Acura mechanic should inspect the model in question for signs of leakage from the transmission and rear differential, possibly caused by worn seals. Have a mechanic inspect the turbocharger for signs of excessive wear too, as well as the presence of excessive oil coating in the charge piping. Though some owners have reported worn turbochargers on higher mileage units, this component should last the life of the vehicle if frequent, quality oil changes are administered. Any transmission-related issues with jerkiness, rough shifting or slippage could be caused by a poorly charged battery or bad sensor.

2008 to 2014 Infiniti EX / QX50

2009 Infiniti EX37

The Gist

Part wagon and part crossover, the popular EX was renamed ‘QX50’ partway through its life when Infiniti adopted a new model-naming strategy. All units seated five, powered all four wheels, and packed six-cylinder power. Feature content included all luxury brand must-haves, including navigation, climate-controlled seats, BOSE audio, xenon lighting and more. Noted for performance aplenty, Infiniti’s entry-grade luxury crossover stands out with its low ride height, easy entry and exit of people and gear, and high-performance V6.

The Test Drive

Focus on the stereo system, confirming that all speakers work properly, and that the subwoofer isn’t cutting in and out– since some owners say the BOSE subwoofer calls it quits earlier than expected. Door locks that fail to operate, operate slowly, or make excessive noise could be suffering from actuators that are failing, and will require replacement. Scrutinize the seat surfaces, removing seat covers if needed, to confirm that the leather isn’t worn or ripped. Other checks should include a good listen for a groan or vibration at engine start-up, which could indicate a bad fuel pump, or leaky valve cover gaskets on an earlier model with the 3.5L engine.

2012 to 2015 BMW X1

2013 BMW X1 xDrive35i

The Gist

Performance and luxury buffs, rejoice! The last generation BMW X1 offered up standard turbocharged power, an available 3.0L straight six with 300 horses, xDrive AWD, iDrive command console, and premium feature content including xenon lighting, dynamic radar cruise, panoramic sunroof, push-button start, and more. Compact and agile, the X1 is easy to enter and exit, while folding seats and a relatively generous cargo hold should prove ideal for small families and busy couples. Favourite features include the heated steering wheel, beefed-up stereo, and steerable projector lights. With discreet styling, good mileage and 300 available horsepower, the X1 is a compelling choice where flexibility, performance and luxury are priorities. For lower running costs, a healthy four-cylinder unit with a mechanical thumbs-up is likely your best bet.

The Test Drive

Confirm proper operation of the door locks, keyfobs, the sunroof, and the tailgate release. Note that some earlier units suffered low-mileage transfer case failure, often preceded by a grinding or scrubbing sound while turning tightly at low speeds. Have a mechanic investigate any such unwelcome sounds if detected, or move to another unit. Note that clumsy or harsh shifting is likely caused by issues in the software, rather than hardware, though a BMW technician should confirm. Subject a used unit with the turbocharged straight-six to a full inspection of the High Pressure Fuel Pump, a check of its entire fuel delivery system, and a check of its cooling system. Finally, if the iDrive system on the unit you’re considering is slow to respond to input, a hard reset usually fixes the problem, though pricey replacement parts may be in your future if that’s not the case.

2008 to 2015 Land Rover LR2

2014 Land Rover LR2

The Gist

Land Rover’s entry model, the LR2, launched for 2008 with an eye for rugged looks, off-road capability, city-friendly sizing and maneuverability. Distinctively styled and fitted with the Terrain Response system, this model looked the part of a competent off-roader, and had the capability to back it up. The HSE model variant is top-of-the-line, and feature content included parking assist, rain-sensing wipers, a Meridian audio system, automatic climate control, heated leather, and more. Earlier models got a 3.2L straight six engine with 230 hp, and an updated 2.0L turbo four-cylinder made it 240 hp, while improving mileage. Uniqueness and overall value in a small and capable luxury utility vehicle helped attract many shoppers to the LR2, so give this one a close look if you’re after a luxury crossover that’s equal parts capable and comfortable.

The Test Drive

Have a mechanic inspect the underside of your LR2 candidate for signs of excessive rust, off-road related damage, and fluid leaks. A full check of the integrity and condition of all suspension components, especially bushings, is also a good idea. Have the cooling system inspected on all LR2 models, checking for fluid levels, leaks, proper fan and fan control module operation, and the integrity of the water pump. A check of the alternator, possibly for signs of damage from a nearby coolant leak, should be considered mandatory, too. Switch the air conditioner on and off numerous times during your test drive, ensuring it engages as expected each time. Finally, remember that software updates to the central infotainment system are important, and may even remedy a common problem with battery drain while the vehicle is parked.

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Justin Pritchard
Justin Pritchard is a native of Windsor, Ontario – though he’s called Sudbury his home for the past 20 years. Justin is a full-time auto writer, consultant and presenter of EastLink TV’s AutoPilot. His work can be seen weekly in numerous outlets across the country. When not writing about the latest new models and industry trends, you’ll probably find him fixing his 1993 Toyota MR2 GTS.
Justin Pritchard

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