Brrrrrr. Is that a chill in the air? Well, yes, but it’s not the weather.
Instead, my partner and I — in the midst of the renovation from hell — are arguing, er, discussing who is going to make the next run to Home Depot.
Luckily, the test vehicle in the driveway is a crossover, making it easy to haul everything from finishing nails to fertilizer.
To keep up with overwhelming demand, automakers are making crossovers more stylish and comfortable than ever.
Below are three of the best.
Mpg: 17 city/24 highway
0-to-60 mph: 6.8 seconds
Cargo space: 25 cu. ft.
Like David Bromstad, that hunky designer on HGTV, the FX37 is muscular yet modish. With bulging side panels, oversize alloy wheels and a re-sculpted front end, there’s no mistaking this beefy crossover for a station wagon. Or — horrors — a dowdy minivan.
Ditto the dashing interior, with lots of luxe touches: firm yet supple seats, rich wood trim and a classy analog clock like something from Tiffany. But there is at least one form-over-function faux pas: the sloped back-end reduces rear-window visibility (luckily, there’s a backup camera). Choice of two engines: a new, more powerful V6 or, in the high-test FX50 model, a stellar 390-hp V8 (though it costs $15,000 more than the base model). There’s plenty of legroom up front, but not much for rear-seat passengers. Cargo space is also a bit sparse, compared with the competition. Still, the FX is fun to drive with handling that’s almost as butt-jarringly taut as a Nissan Z sportster. But then, anyone driving the FX isn’t looking for a cushy land yacht.
Lexus RX 450h
Mpg: 32 city/28 highway
0-to-60 mph: 7.5 seconds
Cargo space: 40 cu. ft.
Along with a facelift including snazzy new grille, headlights and tail-lights, the RX 450h gets cosmetic changes inside: a redesigned steering wheel and space-age center console, along with contrast stitching on the seats. This isn’t a macho-mobile, but then the RX has always been more button-down chic.
Same goes for the smooth ride, with a solid suspension that turns potholes into minor blips. The cabin is quiet, too — a good reason to upgrade to the 12-speaker audio with HD radio and iTunes song-tagging. There are lots of other add-ons, including 10-way power seats, heated steering wheel and smog-sensing air filter.
And the latest safety gear offers a pre-collision warning system, emergency-assist button and stolen-vehicle locator (braking, though, is slower than the Infiniti M37). The hybrid technology is flawless, with the RX 450h performing just like the regular (and cheaper) RX 350. Ponying up the extra $6,000 for this hybrid may take almost nine years to recoup in gas savings, but your eco cred will be golden.
Mpg: 22 city/27 highway
0-to-60 mph: 8.4 seconds
Cargo space: 24 cu. ft.
From golden to, well, Goldilocks. That’s the best way to describe the refreshed Tiguan, which is not too frumpy but not too glitzy.
The ride is softer than the Infiniti FX37 but sportier than the Lexus RX 450h. Fuel-efficiency, sound insulation and legroom are likewise in-between the Infiniti and the Lexus. And while the FX37 and RX 450h are midsizers, the compact Tiguan has almost as much cargo space as the FX37. There are some downsides: the Tiguan’s four-cylinder is sluggish, especially on the base model, and the premium eight-speaker stereo sounds tinny at times.
Still, the panoramic sunroof is huge and the leatherette vinyl upholstery is comfortable and easy to clean. Oh, and the Tiguan is half the price of the FX37 or the RX 450h — a bargain when saving for the next renovation.