There’s some big powertrain changes for two upscale models of crossover vehicles. The BMW X3 is switching from a V6 to a four-cylinder engine. The Acura RDX is going in the opposite direction, from a four to a six-cylinder engine.

Both changes have resulted in big improvements, according to the latest ratings from Consumer Reports for compact SUVs. In its latest findings, the magazine had glowing things to say about both overhauls.

“The RDX had been a weak spot in the otherwise competent Acura lineup,” said David Champion, senior director of the consumer organization’s consumer test center. “The engine upgrade, along with a roomier, user-friendly cabin and an improved ride, helps it score near the top of its category.”

Here’s a look at the sporty CUVs that Consumer Reports endorsed, the ones that got a thumbs-down and others that got more middling reviews:

BMW X3

BMW X3

MSRP: $38,500 - $43,600
Invoice: $35,600 - $40,290
Fuel economy: 21 city/28 highway

Powered by a six-cylinder engine since its inception eight years ago, the inline six is replaced with a new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that should get 23 miles per gallon combined, one mile better than the original.

According to Consumer Reports, which ranks the X3 at the top of its category, “precision handling and a taut ride make the X3 drive like the best sporty sedans.” Although it grades out as the highest of the ratings, it is too new for the consumer organization to assess its reliability.

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Acura RDX

Acura RDX

MSRP: $34,320 - $35,720
Invoice: $32,245 - $33,541
Fuel economy: 19 city/27 highway

“A weak spot in an otherwise competent Acura lineup.” Ouch. Good thing for Acura that’s a description that’s now passed. The change in powertrain from a turbo four to a 273-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 has paid dividends.

The RDX now grabs a “recommended” status from the magazine. The V6 uses Acura’s Variable Cylinder Management fuel-saving technology. That contributes to its “respectable” combined 22 mpg figure, and CR calls it “smooth” and “responsive.”

The all-new RDX is larger and more functional that its previous iteration, and includes more room for both passengers and cargo.

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Audi Q5

Audi Q5

MSRP: $35,600 - $43,000
Invoice: $33,108 - $39,990
Fuel economy: 20 city/27 highway

The Q5 is powered by either a 211-hp 2.0T four-cylinder or a 3.2-liter FSI V6 engine, the 2.0T gets an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic, while the 3.2 is bolted to a six-speed Tiptronic automatic. Audi's quattro all-wheel drive system provides sure-footedness in all conditions

Consumer Reports calls the Q5 “another good choice,” and lauds it for its “enjoyable handling and well-trimmed interior.” It also earns recommended status.

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Cadillac SRX

Cadillac SRX

MSRP: $35,985 - $49,585
Invoice: $34,006 - $46,858
Fuel economy: 17 city/24 highway

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the Cadillac SRX, which draws less-favorable reviews from Consumer Reports, which notes that its score has dropped because revised suspension tuning hurt its emergency handling performance. It also noted the SRX had demonstrated “below-average reliability.”

For 2012, the Cadillac SRX replaces both 2.8-liter and 3.0-liter V6 engines with one new 3.6-liter V6 engine. Despite the power increase, CR reports that “the heavy SRX still feels sluggish in every day driving,” and also that driver visibility is “problematic.”

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Ford Edge SEL

Ford Edge SEL

MSRP: $27,525 - $39,060
Invoice: $25,942 - $36,424
Fuel economy: 19 city/27 highway

Consumer Reports examined the SEL trims of the Ford Edge and really likes the optional EcoBoost 2.0-liter turbocharged V6, lauding it for is power and lower engine noise. “The four-cylinder turbo actually sounds more than the V6,” the report notes.

You can’t get all-wheel drive with the EcoBoost engine, but fuel economy is improved. On the downside, CR notes “the six-speed transmission lacks refinement and handling comes up short on agility.”

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Kia Sportage SX

Kia Sportage SX

MSRP: $26,900
Invoice: $25,095
Fuel economy: 22 city/29 highway

The Kia Sportage is gaining renown for being an affordable compact SUV, and its improving standing in Consumer Reports ratings is starting to reflect that. CR notes that the design is stylish and stands apart from the crowd, and that its top-level SX with the 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine is “even more fun.” Its handling is noted as “agile and responsive.”

On the downside, CR says the ride, already stiff in the base Sportage, is even worse in the SX model. “There is also quite a bit of wind noise and pronounced road noise,” the report says.

Research the Kia Sportage SX
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