Acura MDX ($59,340)
Displays look pretty dated in terms of sharpness and brightness, and screen is too blue. Most displays today are multi-colored.
Audi A4 ($54,275)
Illuminated sill plates, and welcome screen is crisp, clean and inviting. You know it’s something special at startup.
Audi Q7 ($72,875) WINNER
Superb info displays, whether in center stack, instrument cluster or head-up display on windshield. Intelligent enough to slow automatically for navigation turns.
Outrageous price, but it delivers in features, comfort, drivability and wow factor. If you can afford it, you won’t be disappointed. No puddle lamps?
BMW 7-Series ($128,445) WINNER
This car is a sensory delight. Why isn’t it selling better? Most detailed and informative backup and front camera ever. Oddly lacking Apple CarPlay, Android Auto.
Cadillac CT6 ($88,460)
CT6 all about surprise and delight, when rear massaging seats work properly. Huge rear screens make this feel like a movie theater inside.
Chevy Malibu Hybrid ($30,735)
Disappointed not to have onboard navigation, but Android Auto picks up directional slack. Impressive value, combined with in-car WiFi.
Chrysler Pacifica ($48,455) WINNER
Whopping seven USB ports, including two smartly placed for second row in upper seatbacks. Points for big dials and redundant controls.
Fiat 500X ($31,800)
Connects phone quickly but lacks Apple CarPlay. Small screen requires squinting to see maps. Zero advanced driver-assist features.
Ford Escape ($35,370) WINNER
Bonus points for FordPass app, puddle lamps, kick-action tailgate, super-fast connectivity and state-of-the-art infotainment. MyFord What?
From Genesis to Mercedes
Genesis G90 ($71,550)
Truly impressive features but not enough to outgun BMW 750i or Mercedes E-Class. Central controller is fussy, and voice recognition is dated.
GMC Acadia ($52,285) WINNER
Connectivity scores high along with all GM products. Excellent ADAS features, too, with down-to-a-stop-and-creep mode adaptive cruise control.
OK, so there’s no volume knob, but the slider works well, as do steering-wheel controls. Lane-keeping is reliable, and infotainment offerings are stellar.
Hyundai Elantra ($27,710) WINNER
A case of surprise and delight knowing so much advanced technology can be had in an upscale economy car. Buttons, switches properly placed.
Infiniti Q50 ($57,475) WINNER
Two stacked screens work well here, thanks to simple layout, crisp graphics and bright colors. Voice control, ADAS functionality are top-notch.
Jaguar F-Pace ($71,645)
Voice activation disappointing and no cooled seats. But Activity Key is intriguing, lets driver lock key fob inside, then wear wrist strap to unlock it.
Kia Optima ($36,615)
Possible to wirelessly charge smartphone, with proper app loaded. Incredibly slooooow and deliberate voice response.
Lexus RX ($56,845) WINNER
Joystick controller in center console is nicely positioned but takes getting used to. Colorized and information-packed head-up display is next best thing to Pokemon Go.
Mazda CX-9 ($44,915)
Mazda’s first vehicle with active HUD and lane-keep assist. But carrying over controls and interface from other Mazdas leaves experience short of “surprise and delight.”
Mercedes E300 ($72,995) WINNER
Gorgeous trim complements massive screens. Love the steering-wheel multi-directional touch controllers. Would appreciate more visible placement of ACC stalk.
From Mini to Volvo
Mini Clubman ($39,550)
Controls represent huge improvement over previous model. iDrive-type knob in just the right spot and fairly intuitive. Light on ADAS tech.
Nissan Maxima ($42,610)
Slow to link up to Apple CarPlay and load music. Lacks lane-keep assist. Voice commands can’t be used to change climate settings.
Nissan Pathfinder ($46,160)
There are no obvious icons or prompts to link your phone. Process is way too difficult. Had to Google how to pair phone with ’17 Pathfinder.
Porsche 911 Carrera ($111,490)
It’s a 911, so pretty much everything is delightful. But lacks automatic emergency braking, blindspot detection, rear cross-traffic alert.
Toyota Prius ($33,708)
Unique layout with no gauge cluster behind steering wheel. Eye drawn naturally to central display screens. Just one USB port in entire vehicle.
Toyota RAV4 ($35,245)
Bluetooth pairing is quick, and ACC works well and smoothly. But audio interface is clunky, and voice-control system disappointing.
VW Passat ($30,325)
Nearby gas stations and weather, traffic, theater info is easy to call up. Proximity sensing a great feature at speed on rough roads.
Materials, displays create strong and immediate connection to Volvo brand. But touchscreen is complicated, and radio can’t be tuned with voice commands.
Volvo XC90 ($84,005)
Slower-than-expected response to inputs, whether from voice, knobs or touchscreen. Can be tough finding info embedded within touchscreen.