New & Used Acura RDX: In Depth
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The Acura RDX is a rival for vehicles such as the Audi Q5, Volvo XC60, and Land Rover Range Rover Evoque.
Although the RDX is based on the Honda CR-V, the compact Acura gets its own powertrain and unique styling. The RDX, a small five-seat crossover, has just been updated for the 2016 model year, which is starting very early across the Acura brand.
MORE: Read our 2016 Acura RDX review
From its introduction in 2007 through the 2009 model year, the RDX was offered with one powertrain setup only: a turbocharged four-cylinder with standard all-wheel drive. 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 five-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 puts power to all four wheels in the larger Acura MDX and features 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.
Today's Acura RDX
Just when other makers have begun replacing large V-6 engines with smaller turbocharged fours, Acura has taken the RDX in the other direction. The current Acura RDX, which was introduced for the 2013 model year, is powered by a 273-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 paired to a six-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 21 mpg for all-wheel drive versions--both improvements on the prior model.
Also, the earlier model's sporting SH-AWD system has been replaced in 2013 and later models by a more ordinary front-biased all-wheel-drive 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 four 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 CR-V platformmate.
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 headroom 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 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (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 $40k.
The Acura RDX carried over from the 2013 model year into 2014 and 2015 with no significant changes.
Acura has announced a refresh for the 2016 RDX, with the new model going on sale a bit early in spring of 2015. The 2016 model will get an improved 3.5-liter V-6 with slightly more power and torque as well as fuel-economy ratings that improve by 1 mpg in both city and highway testing. The available all-wheel-drive system has been retuned to provide a greater rearward torque bias for improved handling. There are also new active-safety features, and they've all been gathered under the new AcuraWatch banner. The vehicle gets a mild refresh that includes the brand's now-signature jewel-eye LED headlights and some tweaks to the front and rear fascias, while the interior receives some minor trim changes.