The Acura RDX is agile and quick, with strong V6 power, yet it rides smoothly and is practical, a good combination for a premium compact crossover SUV.
Redesigned for the 2013 model year, the RDX gained a V6 engine to replace the original turbo four. Freshening for 2016 brought new features and styling touch-ups. Nothing has changed for the 2017 model year, apart from several new body colors.
Overall, styling is sleek, with an attractive profile and pronounced fender arches. Headlights consist of a row of five LEDs. The front end is still a bit odd, but not quite as beak-like as previous versions.
The 3.5-liter V6 engine delivers 279 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque.
Sharing its basic structure with the Honda CR-V, the RDX is considered compact by the EPA’s definition. Adults sitting in the second row are likely to agree on its compact status.
In terms of safety, the RDX has been among the best-performing models in its class, offering laudable occupant protection. A rearview camera is standard.
Although the basic RDX is equipped reasonably well, many prominent technical features are missing. The AcuraWatch Plus package adds active-safety features, including collision mitigation, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control, as well as a color multi-information display.
Crash-test ratings by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have included top Good scores in all categories, with a Top Safety Pick+ award. The IIHS rated Acura’s forward-collision warning system Superior in frontal crash prevention. That system is particularly sensitive to potential dangers, tending to issue annoying warnings.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave RDX five stars overall, and the same number for frontal- and side-impact protection. The four-star rollover rating is common for many SUVs.
The 2017 Acura RDX ($35,370) comes with dual-zone automatic climate control, a seven-speaker sound system; Bluetooth hands-free calling, heated power front seats, and a power liftgate. RDX with Acura Watch Plus ($36,670) includes a trio of active-safety features.
RDX with Technology Package ($39,070) adds blind-spot monitoring, HD Radio, 10-speaker audio, perforated leather-trimmed upholstery, a multi-rearview camera, and a dual-screen infotainment display with real buttons. Navigation with real-time traffic information is included in the Technology and Advance packages. RDX with Advance Package ($42,020) includes special 18-inch alloy wheels, remote start, front/rear parking sensors, and ventilated front seats.
All-wheel drive adds $1,500. Front-wheel drive is standard. (All prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
Nothing about the Acura RDX is daring or brash. Yet, it’s a good-looking crossover, inside and out.
Viewed from the side, the RDX resembles other compact crossovers. Taken as a whole, though, it presents a tasteful blend of smooth contours and crisp detail work, topped by a low, arched roofline to accentuate its fashionable stance. LED lighting, at front and rear, adds to the delicate, understated nature of the design, which is just elegant enough to warrant its luxury designation.
The front view is still the most distinctive. Not everyone appreciates the bright, beak-like grille, though it’s been toned down recently.
Successful crossovers need to provide both form and function. Those attributes are nicely balanced within the RDX. Largely symmetric, the dashboard design focuses on a central control pod, bracketed by a horizontal beltline. Central controls are angled slightly toward the driver. All are easy to locate and use.
Handsome and comfortable, the sophisticated, mostly quiet cabin would be ideal for two adults, accompanied by a duo of smaller passengers in the rear. Otherwise, back-seat space is a bit cramped, and those seats do not fold completely flat. Carefully trimmed, the cabin melds appropriate amounts of elegance and formality with a dash of sportiness.
Seats are comfortable all around. Front seats have ample bolstering, with eight-way power adjustment for the driver, who faces a tilt/telescopic steering column. Even large and tall occupants should have plenty of space up front, but head clearance and knee room are somewhat limited in the rear.
Cargo space totals 26.1 cubic feet behind the rear seats, expanding to 61.3 cubic feet if those seats are folded. An additional 15.6 cubic feet are available in under-floor storage.
Getting in and out of an RDX is especially easy, and the low cargo floor is helpful. Small-item storage is abundant, including a small shelf within the center console that can hold a cell phone, with a power outlet nearby.
An RDX might not come across as specifically sporty, but responsive handling talents and strong V6 power make Acura’s crossover an appealing performer.
Most contemporary compact crossovers use turbocharged four-cylinder engines. So did the original RDX. However, a strong V6 allows the RDX to respond sharply and swiftly to each push on the gas pedal, regardless of engine speed.
Smoothly refined, the V6 cooperates effectively with the 6-speed automatic transmission, whether cruising or when mired in commuter traffic. Abundant torque means the transmission doesn’t necessarily need to downshift when accelerating.
Constructed like a passenger car, the RDX drives like one, too, handling much like a nicely-tuned sedan. Compact dimensions make it quite maneuverable in tight areas, as well as easy to park. Even on twisty roads, it’s a nicely-balanced vehicle, enjoyable to drive, while exuding a premium feel.
Optional all-wheel drive can send additional power to the rear wheels while accelerating, helping to improve stability.
Our main gripe is the beeping sounds that emanate from the audio system and forward-collision warning. Both can be annoying.
In real-world driving, fuel-efficiency isn’t bad. The RDX is EPA-rated at 20/28 mpg City/Highway, or 23 mpg Combined, With all-wheel drive, it’s rated at 19/27 mpg City/Highway, or 22 mpg Combined. Cylinder-deactivation technology can shut off half of the engine cylinder under light load, to save fuel, and barely discernible to the driver when it occurs.
Acura RDX benefits from a strong powertrain, quiet cabin, and impressive safety scores. Add a versatile interior, and it ranks among the most balanced choices in the smaller crossover category.
Driving impressions by Bengt Halvorson, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.