2012 Acura RDX Review

Consumer Reviews
0 Reviews
2018
The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
February 8, 2012

The 2012 Acura RDX satisfies those who want more driving excitement, but it might leave luxury- or tech-hungry shoppers wanting.

The 2012 Acura RDX is a sporty, 'personal sized' crossover utility vehicle that takes aim at younger professionals who aren't yet encumbered by family duties. That said, the RDX can make a pretty good, upscale vehicle for a growing family--one that's a little more exciting to drive than most.

While the RDX remains exciting to drive, it's no longer the market standout for design that it was when first introduced for the 2007 model year. At that time it was also the first turbocharged vehicle for Honda or Acura in the U.S. market.

The RDX remains related to the outgoing (2011) version of the Honda CR-V, but it's a very different vehicle in many ways—styling included. The rakish design has a completely different personality on the outside, while inside it's crisp and focused, though a bit conservative. Purely from a style and design perspective, the instrument panel is beautiful and well sculpted, with a two-tiered look complemented with well-placed brightwork and accents, along with the deep, hooded gauge cluster.

The turbocharged and intercooled 2.3-liter VTEC four-cylinder makes 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It comes teamed with a five-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, and it can seem a little spastic, thanks to turbo lag, and when the turbo does kick in, it comes on strong, making it difficult to modulate the power. The new front-wheel-drive version of the RDX doesn't feel substantially different from the all-wheel-drive model. Steering is quick and light, brakes are strong, and the RDX feels nimble, while ride quality can be on the harsh side.

Review continues below

In the front seats, most adults will be happy; but in back adult knees will likely be mashed up against the hard plastic backs of those front perches. The downward sloping roofline cuts into the cargo area a bit, but fold the back seats forward for larger items and you're golden. On the bright side, the Acura RDX has a plethora of handy storage places for things—and not only the small stuff. Fit and finish in the RDX is excellent, and the RDX's interior spaces are fitted with lots of finely grained and silver-painted plastic--a look that's sharp, but also a little tired. The only consistent disappointment within the cabin--likely to be noticed on longer trips--is that there can be quite a bit of road noise.

Depending on expectations, the 2012 Acura RDX could disappoint. Bluetooth connectivity, a seven-speaker sound system, and a USB/iPod port are on the standard-features list, while XM satellite radio, DVD-Audio capability, and real-time XM traffic info are optional. Overall, while the RDX is very well equipped with traditional comfort-and-convenience features, but on this tech-savvy, luxury-brand vehicle, safety-tech features like a blind-spot system, lane-departure, or active headlamps are lacking, and items like a heated steering wheel or heated rear seats--now offered on much more affordable vehicles--aren't to be found here.

7

2012 Acura RDX

Styling

The rakish and attractive exterior of the 2012 Acura RDX sends one message, but the rather conservative cabin appointments send another.

The 2012 Acura RDX returns for one last year in its present form--even though the Honda CR-V, with which it's closely related, was redesigned this past year, for 2012.

But the RDX has always been a very different vehicle than the CR-V, and you probably wouldn't see the resemblance, inside or out. The current rakish design has a completely different personality on the outside, and it still managed to look fresh, while inside it's crisp and focused, though a bit conservative. With a sportier silhouette and more sloping rear end, it sacrifices some cargo room for a sleek look. Last year, the light touch-up included a new grille, to match the controversial snout that's being phased in throughout the lineup, along with new bumper fascias, slightly different headlight and taillight designs, new exhaust tips, and satin brightwork throughout. It also has adopted new 18-inch wheels, front and rear bumpers, and taillights.

Purely from a style and design perspective, the instrument panel is beautiful and well sculpted, with a two-tiered look complemented with well-placed brightwork and accents, along with the deep, hooded gauge cluster. The look is quite carlike, but it avoids the confining, wrap-around look of other sportier crossover interiors. Trim pieces are if anything the weak point--looking more Honda than Acura in some color combinations, with the RDX so far missing out on the new, more detailed look given to the TL and TSX sedan interiors. 

Review continues below
8

2012 Acura RDX

Performance

The 2012 Acura RDX has the deft steering and braking and lighter, more agile feel that you want in a sporty crossover; but the powertrain doesn't always have its act together.

There's definitely a good and a bad to the performance of the 2012 Acura RDX. The good is that the turbocharged and intercooled 2.3-liter VTEC four-cylinder makes 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque--and that the engine feels like the powertrain of a sport coupe, capable of moving this utility wagon with gusto. The bad is that the spastic character (read: somewhat peaky, with turbo lag) character of the engine has never managed to fit in well with the somewhat slow-witted five-speed automatic transmission. The transmission will make a decision that, it often feels, isn't completely what the engine is ready for.

When the turbo does kick in, it comes on strong, making it difficult to modulate the power; on the other hand, that can be quite fun. It's an interesting engine personality for Honda, and while it can be somewhat coarse-sounding when revved it idles with an isolated, distant luxury-car purr. Also, from Drive, you can manually select a gear with the paddle shifters on the steering wheel, but it will hold that gear for just a few seconds unless you have the selector in 'S' (Sport).

No matter which model you choose--the front-wheel-drive version or the all-wheel drive model--the RDX has excellent handling for a taller wagon, with steering that's quick, light, and well-weighted. But we do recommend the all-wheel-drive models, which don't cost much more. The RDX's SH-AWD system expertly sends more power to the wheels that can use it the most. It's very helpful on wet roads. It's all-weather confidence inspiring, and more fun than you'd expect in a crossover.

In all, the RDX can feel very nimble, ride quality can be on the harsh side. Brakes are perfectly boosted, too, with a nice, firm feel.

Review continues below
8

2012 Acura RDX

Comfort & Quality

The back seat isn't all that large in the 2012 Acura RDX, and road noise can be an issue, but otherwise its cabin is quite comfortable and versatile.

The 2012 Acura RDX might be a sportier-driving alternative to a number of more staid luxury crossovers, but thankfully it doesn't give up much utility of comfort.

In the front seats, most adults will be happy; but in back adult knees will likely be mashed up against the hard plastic backs of those front perches. The downward sloping roofline cuts into the cargo area a bit, but fold the back seats forward for larger items and you're golden.

On the bright side, the Acura RDX has a plethora of handy storage places for things—and not only the small stuff. The doors include compartments for smaller items, and the center console area and dash have several cubbies.

Fit and finish in the RDX is excellent, and the RDX's interior spaces are fitted with lots of finely grained and silver-painted plastic--a look that's sharp, but also a little tired.

Ride quality is on the firm side, relative to other vehicles in this class. It's just comfortable enough most of the time, but it can be busy on some pitchy surfaces; and the only consistent disappointment within the cabin (likely to be noticed on longer trips) is that there can be quite a bit of road noise--way more than there should be in a luxury model.

Review continues below
7

2012 Acura RDX

Safety

Safety-minded shoppers who value agile handling as much as they do other safety attributes should still consider the 2012 Acura RDX.

The 2012 Acura RDX has a good list of safety equipment and a mostly impressive set of safety ratings, although it has one particularly worrisome test score.

The RDX earns top 'good' ratings in frontal and side impact from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), although it achieves only 'marginal' from the agency in the roof strength test, which corresponds to the likelihood of injury in a rollover. The 2012 RDX hasn't been tested in the tougher, revised New Car Assessment Program, the federal government's crash-test program run by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

While the scores aren't perfect, the safety-feature list is pretty respectable. Traction and stability control, anti-lock brakes, active head restraints, and side and curtain airbags and a rearview camera are all included--but you won't find some of the active-safety features, like blind-spot detection or lane-departure warning, that are offered elsewhere in the Acura lineup.

Review continues below
7

2012 Acura RDX

Features

Audio and connectivity are pretty impressive in the 2012 Acura RDX, but its roster of tech and safety-tech extras is surprisingly empty, in a class where the bragging rights count.

The 2012 Acura RDX is a very well-equipped compact crossover--with audio features its forte--although many other high-tech extras are missing from the options list.

Overall, while the RDX is very well equipped with traditional comfort-and-convenience features, but on this tech-savvy, luxury-brand vehicle, safety-tech features like a blind-spot system, lane-departure, or active headlamps are lacking, and items like a heated steering wheel or heated rear seats--now offered on much more affordable vehicles--aren't to be found here.

Bluetooth connectivity, a seven-speaker sound system, and a USB/iPod port are on the standard-features list, while tech and entertainment options do include XM satellite radio, DVD-Audio capability, and real-time XM traffic info.

Last year Acura also broadened the standard-features list to include an electronic compass, automatic headlights, and better cup holders have been added, and ambient footwell lighting, a compass, a pull handle for the hatch, and automatic headlamps are included.

Review continues below
As much as we love the RDX's sound system, we've found that its control layout is cluttered and needlessly complex, and the display doesn't have enough characters to handle satellite radio or media-player song information. The nav system's display screen is also prone to reflections, but we do like its menu system as well as integrated real-time traffic and weather (part of the Tech Package).
6

2012 Acura RDX

Fuel Economy

For green or eco-minded shoppers, the 2012 Acura RDX's gas mileage will probably be a turnoff.

Compared to most other compact crossovers, gas-mileage ratings for the 2012 Acura RDX are unimpressive, and considering its rather small interior, that doesn't make it a very green pick by most accounts.

EPA ratings for the all-wheel-drive RDX stand at 17 mpg city, 22 highway, while the front-wheel-drive model gets 19/24. Pricier premium fuel is strongly recommended, too. And really, these ratings are about on par with many crossover models one size larger.

Review continues below
Our last time in an extended drive of the RDX, we averaged 20 mpg in a mix of driving, in an all-wheel-drive model, so it's possible you might do a bit better than those official numbers.
Continue Reading

The Car Connection Consumer Review

Rate and Review your car for The Car Connection! Tell us your own ratings for a vehicle you own. Rate your car on Performance, Safety, Features and more.
Write a Review
USED PRICE RANGE
$12,887 - $25,900
Browse Used Listings
in your area
7.4
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7
Performance 8
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety 7
Features 7
Fuel Economy 6
Compare the 2012 Acura RDX against the competition
Compare All Cars
Looking for a different year of the Acura RDX?
Read reviews & get prices
Related Used Listings
Browse used listings in your area
See More Used