Time can certainly pass you by when you’re not paying attention. Case in point is the Acura RDX, which I instantly considered ‘the newer addition to the Acura crossover family.’ The reality is the RDX has been with us since 2007. With the popular MDX growing in size and cost, it was clear Acura needed to fill a gap with a smaller, more affordable alternative. While the first RDX filled that void, most buyers more or less stayed away. Touting a turbocharged four cylinder and Acura’s high-tech Super Handling All Wheel Drive, the first RDX seemed to be positioned as an edgy, sporty crossover, which likely served to limit the RDX’s mass appeal. For 2013, Acura released the second generation RDX. This time around, the turbo four was scrapped for a V-6, the complicated SH-AWD was replaced with a simpler, more conventional all-wheel drive set up. And what do you know? Sales of the RDX practically doubled overnight. Buyers really just wanted a smaller MDX not just in size, but in spirit as well, and when Acura delivered, buyers opened their wallets.
From the front, the RDX is easily identified as an Acura with its trademark grill treatment. From the side profile in size and stature, it’s easily to see the RDX’s Honda CR-V DNA. The pronounced wheel arches and distinctive 18″ alloy wheels, the RDX is thoroughly modern. It’s a clean design overall, and Acura showed incredible restraint as far as bling goes. The RDX was refreshed for 2016. with revised front and rear bumpers, but perhaps the most striking feature are the jeweled eye LED headlights. Simple, elegant and just premium looking enough, the RDX checks off the right boxes for what buyers are looking for.
Inside, the theme of restraint is continued. Of course build quality is superb, but the RDX’s cabin lacked a premium look. A glance around and my overwhelming impression was that I was sitting inside a very nice Honda. That’s not a terrible thing, but when you are gunning for Lexus one expects a slightly more visually interesting place to while away the hours. That aside, what people expect in a premium crossover is comfort, and on that front the RDX absolutely delivers. The RDX is a model of serenity on wheels, boasting a quiet cabin and exceptionally comfortable seating. Rear seat passengers are often an afterthought when it comes compact crossovers, the RDX is the exception. With elevated seating, passengers get an excellent view, but also more legroom than the competition. So, while lacking in visual excitement, the RDX makes up for in superb driver and passenger comfort.
As mentioned earlier, Acura ditched its turbocharged four cylinder in favor of a V-6. All RDX’s share a 3.5L V-6 rated at 279hp, a slight increase from pre-’16 models. This engine is paired to a six-speed automatic, which seems a little antiquated when eight speeds are becoming more the norm. Acura’s decision to move away from a turbo four cylinder is certainly bucking an industry trend, where such a motor is typically the standard engine in other premium subcompact crossovers. Smooth, exceptionally refined while delivering brisk acceleration, the RDX provides a premium driving experience its four cylinder rivals cannot match. RDX buyers have a choice of front or all-wheel drive. Our all-wheel drive test car had an EPA fuel economy rating of 19/27 MPG city/highway. Passengers will find the ride creamy smooth and comfortable. Steering is ultra-light and doesn’t communicate much information however.
The RDX comes in one trim level only, with three option packages available. Our test car was equipped with the top end Advance package. Standard equipment includes leather seats, power driver’s seat, heated front seats, Pandora radio interface, and power tailgate. The Tech Package adds navigation, multi-angle rearview camera, 10 speaker premium audio, HD Radio, Blind Spot information, dual zone auto climate control, passenger power seat and rear cross traffic monitor. The AcuraWatch package includes Lane Keeping Assist, Collision Mitigation Braking, Adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, and lane departure warning, Finally, the Advance Package adds remote engine start, parking sensors, ventilated front seats, auto dimming side mirrors, fog lights and rain sensing wipers. Including destination, our fully loaded, all-wheel drive RDX has an MSRP of $44,460USD. This actually represents a pretty strong value when you consider you will be forced to pay quite a bit more for a similar sized Audi or BMW with similar equipment and a V-6.
While Acura can take credit for introducing North America to the notion of a premium Japanese car, for whatever reason when it comes to SUV’s and crossovers they are constantly playing catch up. In the mid-1990’s they were so ill-prepared for the SUV explosion they rebadged an Isuzu Trooper and called it the Acura SLX, which was a disaster. It wasn’t until 2000 Acura responded with the MDX and finally had something people actually wanted to buy. Seeing a need for a compact crossover, it’s a head scratcher that Acura replied with the first RDX which failed to resonate. With the current RDX however, Acura finally got it right. Your typical premium compact crossover does not want driving excitement. They do however, want comfort, quiet, and a stress-free driving experience and this RDX offers all of that in spades, and the dramatically improved sales numbers confirm that Acura got it right the second time around. With an armada of safety equipment and the latest in the expected equipment for a premium car and standard V-6 power at a price that easily undercuts its German rivals the RDX makes a compelling choice.