April 19, 2020 at 4:53 pm EDT | by Joe Phillips
Revved-up rides
Acura RDX A-Spec

With all the uncertainty from the COVID-19 pandemic, is anyone even thinking about buying a new car? After all, most states have implemented stay-at-home orders. Yet for drivers who really needs a new vehicle now or in the near future, automakers have begun offering loans with zero percent financing that can stretch for several years. And depending on the region, you can buy a vehicle online from a dealership and have it delivered — clean and sanitized — to your home. For many of us, though, just talking about cars has been a welcome distraction from the coronavirus. That said, here are three revved-up rides to help keep your mind preoccupied.

ACURA RDX A-SPEC
$44,000
MPG: 22 city/28 highway
Zero-60 mph: 6.4 seconds

Completely redesigned last year, the midsize Acura RDX combines the severe angles of a Lexus NX and adds the massive, slanted roofline of an Audi A7. Think origami meets Teutonic brutalism. Yet somehow it all works, with a look that’s both showy and sporty. 

The same is true inside, with a steeply arched dash for the instrument cluster, a large pop-up infotainment screen and a V-shaped center console that’s as tapered as Chris Evan’s abs. Yes, it’s that sexy. As I slipped behind the wheel, I thought this must be what it feels like to sit in the cockpit of a fighter jet. 

The $39,000 price tag for the base-model RDX belies how much luxury is here, with standard rearview camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, Wi-Fi hotspot, panoramic moonroof and more. You can also lock, unlock, start and stop the vehicle from your smartphone and even track the RDX if it’s stolen. The engine is ample enough, though not as zesty as more expensive competitors. But acceleration is definitely solid, as is the braking and handling. 

There’s only one trim level, with numerous extras available. I tested an RDX with the A-Spec package, which added ventilated front seats, 16-speaker premium stereo and numerous styling frills. These included jazzy red seats, special trim and bigger and wider tires. If that’s not enough, you can always add other doodads like a hands-free liftgate, head-up display and acoustic front glass for a quieter cabin. 

BMW X3 M COMPETITION
$77,000
MPG: 14 city/19 highway
Zero-60 mph: 3.3 seconds

Tired of going stir crazy? Then fantasize about a BMW X3 M Competition. The base X3 crossover already was one of the best haulers on the market. This year adds two new dynamic trim levels, including the high-performance M version. But while the M is good, the more exciting M Competition really takes my breath away. Press the ignition button, mash the accelerator and — whoosh! — this finely crafted crossover transforms into an Indy 500 racer. 

With a zero-60 time of just 3.3 seconds, the X3 M Competition is actually faster than many race cars. That’s because the 503-hp engine is the most powerful production six-cylinder that BMW has ever made. With this much va-va-vroom, fuel efficiency is bound to suffer. Luckily there’s an automatic stop/start feature to help save on gas.

Along with wicked power and handling, there’s plenty of attitude. This includes large 21-inch wheels, bright-blue calipers and a cacophony of pops and crackles emanating from the twin set of dual exhaust pipes. The bravado carries over to the cabin with deeply bolstered seats, an illuminated M logo on the headrest and a thick steering wheel with two red buttons — labeled M1 and M2 — for preselected driving modes. 

There’s also a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, along with a high-resolution touchscreen for the impressive iDrive infotainment system. BMW audio systems are now some of the best, and the 16-speaker Harman Kardon stereo was a blessing during my weeklong stint with this test vehicle. Stuck at home, I couldn’t barrel down as many roads as I would have liked. But as the car sat forlornly in my driveway, at least I could snuggle into the driver’s seat and blast some music for hours.  

BMW X3 M Competition

MERCEDES GLC 300 COUPE
$50,000
MPG: 21 city/28 highway
Zero-60 mph: 5.4 seconds

When is a coupe not a coupe? When it’s a four-door crossover, as with the Mercedes GLC 300 Coupe. This spiffy hauler has a classy grille, flared fenders and sporty liftgate spoiler. Yet the dramatically sloped roof means very little headroom for tall backseat passengers. That can be a bummer for some buyers. But then, not everyone needs to ferry friends, family or co-workers to and fro. 

Plus, if you simply want to exclude certain people in your travel plans, you now have a good excuse. The GLC Coupe has been popular ever since it was introduced in 2017, thanks to the elegant ride, high-quality cabin and abundant features. Those attributes are enhanced this year with updated exterior styling, more powerful engines and a larger 10.3-inch touchscreen with a stunning, crystal-clear resolution. 

There’s also the MBUX voice-command system, which can control the phone, navigation and other functions. Don’t ask why, but it can even tell you jokes. While the GLC Coupe oozes luxury, it’s more rugged than it looks. On a trip across Virginia during a string of heavy thunderstorms, I could raise and lower the chassis and easily navigate some unexpected off-roading. It was no laughing matter, but in the CLS Coupe I felt safe and secure. 

Mercedes GLC 300 Coupe
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