2017 Acura RDX Review

Consumer Reviews
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The Car Connection
2019
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Senior Editor, Green Vehicles
May 30, 2017

The 2017 Acura RDX is one of the smoothest, most responsive-driving compact crossover SUVs—even though it prioritizes practicality.

Acura may be the underdog today in luxury sedans, yet it's giving shoppers exactly what they want with the 2017 Acura RDX and the larger MDX.

That includes strong powertrains, quiet cabins, and impressive safety—as well as just the right amount of versatility and practicality to make it one of the best-balanced picks in the segment, for those who are balancing the usual mix of sometimes-conflicting priorities.

The RDX was designed as a more pragmatic model for 2013, then refreshed just last year with a few new features and some styling nips and tucks, and we rate it a 7.2 overall. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

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Style and performance

Overall, the styling is sleek, with an attractive profile and pronounced fender arches. The headlights are now a string of five LEDs, lined up in a row like diamonds on a wedding ring. The front-end appearance has become a little less beak-like, and LED front and rear lighting help give this design the right finer touches. For 2017, a couple of new colors are the most significant change in the lineup.

Last year, the 3.5-liter V-6 engine in the RDX got a slight power boost—to 279 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque—and tuning for more immediate response at all engine speeds and better drivability around town. Most of the RDX's rivals now come with a turbocharged inline-4, and versus those models the RDX's V-6 is strong and responsive. It's great for cruising around town, and works well in stop-and-go traffic. Strong torque from the V-6 means it doesn't have to downshift to accelerate.

The RDX handles like a well-tuned sedan; its small size makes it maneuverable in tight quarters and easy to park. Handling on winding roads is balanced, and the RDX enjoyable to drive, though it isn't sporty in the German-'ute vein. The optional all-wheel-drive system, called AWD with Intelligent Control, can send more power to the rear wheels under acceleration for improved stability, and in some situations it can add to the balanced handling characteristics of this model.

Comfort, safety, and features

The cabin is comfortable, handsome, and controls and features are easy to find and operate. In terms of space, the RDX is best for a pair of adults and another pair of smaller passengers. The RDX shares its basic structure with the Honda CR-V, which means it’s a compact by the EPA definition. To big adults, it's really a compact—especially if they’re seated in the second row.

The cabin of the 2017 RDX is just the right mix of elegant and formal fused with sporty; and that pretty much describes the mixed priorities you'll find in this crossover. Seats are comfortable, and the cabin is generally very quiet—although a somewhat tight back seat and rear seats that don't quite fold flat add up to a vehicle that definitely makes some compromises for its compact footprint and arching roofline. And the low cargo floor allows easier loading of cargo into the RDX. Hidden, underfloor storage accepts an additional 15 cubic feet of cargo.

In safety, the 2017 Acura RDX continues to be one of the best-performing models in this class. Front, side-impact, and side-curtain airbags come standard, along with anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control and traction control, a rearview camera, and a rollover sensor to trigger the curtain airbags.

The IIHS called the 2017 RDX a Top Safety Pick+.

The 2017 Acura RDX comes in 10 different builds, yet few other options. Base, Technology, and Advance models set the stage for increasing levels of luxury and tech features, while a suite of AcuraWatch active-safety items are included at the Advance level but optional on other models. At the top Advance level, the RDX includes special 18-inch alloy wheels; remote start; front and rear parking sensors; and ventilated front seats.

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2017 Acura RDX

Styling

The 2017 Acura RDX remains inoffensive and understated—with just enough elegance to be in step with its luxury badge.

The 2017 Acura RDX is hardly brash, daring, or overtly sexy, but it's an attractive vehicle inside and out, and definitely worthy of its luxury nameplate, coming in at a 7 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

In side profile, the RDX isn't dramatically different than other compact crossovers, with its tasteful combination of smooth contours and crisp detailing. The roofline is low and arched, for a smart stance. And last year's revamp brought some of the details—especially in front—a little more in line with the rest of the Acura lineup.

The most distinctive view is still from the front, though with distinction comes with a catch. Some don't like the bright grille that resembles a beak, though it looks better on the SUVs than on the sedans.

Last year the look was given a minor update, with new wheels, a new (somewhat less beak-like) grille, and new LED headlights. In back, LEDs brought a light-pipe design.

Form and function are pretty well balanced inside, with two-tone designs that arcs slightly around the driver and passenger, with a central pod of controls that drops down in between, over a horizontal beltline that runs across the middle. Center controls are positioned out a bit toward the driver, but otherwise the design is mostly symmetric. If anything, the look hinges a little too much on brightwork—it might feel a little on the drab side without all the chrome bezels.

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2017 Acura RDX

Performance

Although the very strong V-6 and responsive handling bring some great first impressions, the RDX isn't overtly sporty.

While most compact crossovers are now powered exclusively by turbocharged 4-cylinder engines, the 2017 Acura RDX does things quite differently. It comes standard with a new 3.5-liter V-6 engine that we like enough to give it an 8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The engine makes 279 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque, and the RDX to responds sharply and swiftly to a prod of the accelerator. It’s a smooth and refined piece, working together quite well with the 6-speed automatic transmission, and it's very responsive at all engine speeds—though it hesitated occasionally when cold in one test car.

Don't think of this as an SUV. The RDX is built like a car, and it drives like a car in virtually all conditions. Its small size makes it maneuverable in tight quarters and easy to park. Handling on winding roads is a balanced vehicle, making the RDX enjoyable to drive, though it isn't sporty in the German-'ute vein.

Driving refinement last year was enhanced by new active front and rear engine mounts, updated steering control system and increased suspension mount stiffness. These tweaks reduce the amount of vibration the driver and passengers feel on rough roads. All of those add to the feeling of a premium vehicle.

You can get an RDX in front- or all-wheel-drive form. The latter has been tuned for more rear bias; it sends more power to the rear wheels under optimal conditions, which can aid stability and traction on slippery conditions ranging from snow and ice to mud.

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2017 Acura RDX

Comfort & Quality

Back-seat space isn't all that impressive, yet the RDX's cabin is sophisticated, versatile, and comfortable.

The cabin of the 2017 RDX is just the right mix of elegant and formal fused with sporty; and that pretty much describes the mixed priorities you'll find in this crossover. It's nicely trimmed inside, with controls that are easy to operate and don't annoy. Seats are comfortable, and the cabin is generally very quiet—although a somewhat tight back seat and rear seats that don't quite fold flat add up to a vehicle that definitely makes some compromises for its compact footprint and arching roofline.

There are some compromises, but overall the RDX is pretty capacious and comfortable—enough to merit a 7 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Front seats in the RDX have rich bolsters and are eight-way adjustable for the driver. The steering column tilts and telescopes to adjust to different size drivers, and there's plenty of room for the big and/or tall.

The limiting factor for the RDX is its compact-car footprint—and perhaps most appropriately, its compact-car width. We’ve found taller passengers don’t quite have enough knee or head room to be comfortable for long distances in the back of the RDX, but average-size teenagers and children should be fine. If you need space for five adults from time to time, which means wedging three across the rear bench seat, the larger MDX might be a better pick.

There is 26.1 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, 61.3 cubic feet with the rear seats folded, and 76.9 cubic feet including under-floor storage. That storage capacity makes it roughly the equal of the BMW X3. However, in the RDX, the rear seats don't fold down fully flat, and the RDX doesn't have the clever second-row Magic Seat found in the (related) Honda HR-V.

On the other hand, the RDX has a low cargo floor, which makes it easy to pile groceries and cargo in back. And it's also, by the way, exceptionally easy to get in or out of the RDX as a driver or passenger, as pretty much all the seats are at a nice high hip point.

The cabin offers plenty of small-item storage in cubbies and bins. There's in-door storage, and the center console can hold 23 CD cases—if that still means anything—and there’s a little shelf above it perfect for a cell phone with a power outlet inside the center console for charging. A smaller covered storage space in front of the shifter can also hold a cell phone and includes a USB port, an audio input port, and a power outlet. There's a tray in the glove box, and the rear of the center console has a small shelf for back-seat riders.

Last year the RDX was updated with more silver and black trim, heated front seats and second-row air-conditioning vents.

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2017 Acura RDX

Safety

A great set of active-safety features complements solid occupant protection.

All 2017 Acura RDX models can be equipped with the AcuraWatch suite of active-safety technologies. It's included with the Advance Package and optional on other models, and it wraps together adaptive cruise control; forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking; lane-keep and lane-departure warning systems; and an expanded-view driver-side mirror.

The RDX is hard to beat for safety, scoring a near perfect 9. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The IIHS rates Acura's forward-collision warning system "Superior" in its front crash prevention tests, noting that almost braked itself to a complete stop from 12 mph and cut speed down to 9 mph at the point of impact with a 25-mph closing speed. Like other forward-collision warning systems, the one here is good, but not perfect. It’s designed to detect objects that could prove dangerous—but those objects aren’t always easy to sort out in real life, and it includes an especially strong and scolding warning system that can effectively cry sheep in daily gridlock.

There are no significant changes to the vehicles structure or occupant protection for 2017, which is a good thing. The IIHS called the 2017 RDX a Top Safety Pick+.

The RDX managed five stars overall, including five stars for front and side impact protection, but a four-star rollover rating, which is common for many SUVs.

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2017 Acura RDX

Features

Many of the class-best tech features are missing here, although the 2017 RDX is reasonably well-equipped.

The 2017 Acura RDX comes in 10 different builds. And before you rush to conclusions about the overwhelming number of choices, keep in mind that this is a very streamlined lineup for a luxury vehicle, and that there's an almost non-existent options list.

What you need to decide, primarily, is whether you want the base, Technology, or Advance model. And then consider the importance of AcuraWatch active-safety items, which are included at the Advance level but optional on other models. Given this lack of customizability, the RDX comes in at a 6 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The base 2017 RDX comes loaded with power features; dual-zone climate control; cruise control; keyless ignition; ambient lighting; a seven-speaker sound system with USB/MP3 support; and Bluetooth hands-free calling.

The Technology Package includes blind-spot monitors; HD Radio; a multi-rearview camera; and a dual-screen infotainment display. We commend Acura for giving this system real buttons for volume and for switching the system on and off, a vastly superior setup to the sliders and on-screen controls found on some Honda models.

Navigation is optional, included in the Advance and Technology packages, and it comes with voice recognition.

The Advance Package includes special 18-inch alloy wheels; remote start; front and rear parking sensors; and ventilated front seats.

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2017 Acura RDX

Fuel Economy

Fuel efficiency is hardly the priority here—although in real-world driving the V-6 isn't as thirsty as you might think.

The 2017 Acura RDX only comes with a V-6 engine. And while that might scare some efficiency-minded shoppers away from this compact crossover, there's no reason to avoid the RDX for this reason and it rates a 6. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The RDX is rated at 20 mpg city, 28 highway, 23 combined, according to the EPA. And with all-wheel drive, it's rated at 19/27/22 mpg.

The Volvo XC60 beats that with 23/31/26 mpg with front-wheel drive, while with rear-wheel-drive, the BMW X3 sDrive 28i is rated 21/28/24 mpg, beating the front-wheel-drive versions of the RDX by 1 mpg.

The V-6 engine in the 2017 Acura RDX has cylinder-deactivation technology, which means it can shut off half its engine under light loads, to save fuel. It's barely detectable by the driver, and something that you actually might hear more than you feel—with a slight change in exhaust tone.


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December 7, 2016
For 2017 Acura RDX

Great fit and finish.

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Replaced a 2015 Lexus RX with the Acura RDX because my wife felt the Lexus was a tad to big. The Acura RDX is the perfect size and she loves it. Great safety features (we have the Advance package) above... + More »
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September 26, 2016
2017 Acura RDX AWD w/Technology Pkg

Excellent automobile

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A great bargain for the money.Great luxury car at a reasonable price.
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July 29, 2016
2017 Acura RDX AWD w/Technology Pkg

Fantastic Vehicle- Very Satisfied

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This vehicle is fantastic! I test drove a Ford Explorer, Nissan Murano, Hyundai Santa Fe and I bought the RDX with the tech package. The reliability reviews over the others was one of the main points but after... + More »
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7.2
Overall
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Styling 7
Performance 8
Comfort & Quality 7
Safety 9
Features 6
Fuel Economy 6
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