The Car Connection Acura RDX Overview
The Acura RDX is a compact crossover SUV that can seat up to five passengers in relatively affordable luxury.
The RDX is Acura's smaller SUV, a companion to the bigger, seven-passenger MDX. Sharing an architecture with the last-generation Honda CR-V, the RDX gets its own styling cues and an exclusive V-6 powertrain not offered on the Honda.
With the RDX, Acura has a rival for vehicles like the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, and Volvo XC60.
The RDX soldiers into 2018 unchanged.
MORE: Read our review of the 2018 Acura RDX
The new Acura RDX
With its 2013 redesign, the RDX took on a series of updates that were meant to give it a more distinctive place in the market, versus the related CR-V.
Just when other makers began replacing large V-6 engines with smaller turbocharged inline-4s, the RDX adopted a new drivetrain—a 273-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The new powertrain maintains the prodigious power of the earlier model while making it easier to drive.
It also delivers better fuel efficiency, with a combined EPA rating of 23 mpg for front-wheel drive models and 22 mpg for all-wheel drive versions—both improvements on the prior model.
Also, the earlier model's sporting SH-AWD system was replaced in 2013 and later models by a more ordinary front-biased all-wheel-drive (AWD) system. Most drivers won't notice the difference, and the change helps to reduce weight and also improve efficiency.
The new RDX's V-6 provides plenty of power without the lag the original's turbo-4 had. The longer wheelbase helps provide a smoother ride, opening up the RDX to a wider audience. The interior is still relatively small, especially for second-row occupants, although Acura has upped its game in regards to cabin materials and design, with good differentiation between the RDX and its Honda kin.
Inside the RDX, the cabin is tight if you aren't one of the front passengers. The back seat is notably small for adults, with leg and head room at a premium. The rear seat folds forward to create a 60-cubic-foot cargo area, and still there's about 27 cubic feet of space with the seat raised.
The RDX doesn't have the sense of luxury applied to other crossovers in the class but the dashboard and console are handsome, with ample electronic goodies. Those include satellite radio, along with Bluetooth and USB connectivity for music players. Its safety scores have made the RDX one of the best in its segment, and the IIHS has repeatedly named it a Top Safety Pick.
The newest RDX aims more toward families than sporting enthusiastic drivers. Leather seating, heated/power front seats, a power moonroof, and a 360-watt audio system are on the standard-features list, while the top Tech Package includes navigation with real-time traffic and rerouting; a power rear tailgate; and an Acura/ELS surround sound system. All that equipment will cost you, though; the top RDX all-wheel-drive model with the Tech Package comes in above $40,000.
The Acura RDX carried over from the 2013 model year into 2014 and 2015 with no significant changes.
Acura refreshed the RDX for the 2016 model year with an improved 3.5-liter V-6 that provided slightly more power and torque as well as fuel-economy ratings that improved by one mpg in both city and highway testing. The available AWD system was retuned to provide a greater rearward torque bias for improved handling. Acura added new active-safety features, and gathered them under the AcuraWatch banner.
The RDX also received a mild refresh that included LED headlights and some tweaks to the front and rear fascias, while the interior received some minor trim changes.
The RDX was largely unchanged for 2017 and 2018.
Acura RDX history
The RDX hasn't changed its mission at all since it was new in the 2007 model year.
From its introduction in 2007 through the 2009 model year, the RDX was offered with one powertrain setup only: a turbocharged 4-cylinder with standard AWD. The 2.3-liter engine had relatively high output, with horsepower at 240 and a fat 260 pound-feet of torque. The turbocharger made it a bit peaky and supplied a typical turbo soundtrack, which put off some potential buyers. A paddle-shifted 5-speed automatic provided more sporty character, while a taut suspension gave it a handling edge over competitors at the expense of some ride comfort.
That first RDX also shared the "Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive" system that put power to all four wheels in the larger Acura MDX, and featured torque vectoring. For the 2010 model year, Acura added a front-drive RDX to the order sheet, significantly boosting its fuel-economy numbers (at 19/24 mpg, versus 17/22 mpg) though it was still as thirsty as vehicles like the massive Lincoln MKT.