- Smart style
- Strong turbo-4
- Warm, inviting cabin
- Tech-savvy AWD
- Above-par ride and handling
- Infotainment touchpad
- Needs better rear seats
- Meh on the gas mileage
- Cliché-free; cachet-free, too?
features & specs
The 2021 Acura RDX satisfies sport-sedan drivers and crossover needers alike with strong performance and scads of space.
With edgy looks, strong turbo-4 power, and high-tech features, the 2021 Acura RDX scores highly in the TCC Ratings multiverse. Sold in base, Technology, A-Spec, and Advance trims—and up against vehicles like the Benz GLC and Audi Q5—we score it a 6.7 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
With the RDX, Acura delivers its strongest, most polished compact crossover SUV yet. Its looks line up in perfect sync; it’s muscular, with a wide grille and LED headlights that chase the wind along fenders that swell over big wheels toward a roofline that intersects in glass, chrome, and body color. The cabin’s natty, with subtle wood trim and soft leather on our favorite model that swaps out dark trim piped in red on A-Spec versions.
Power pours out from a 2.0-liter turbo-4 paired to a quick-shifting 10-speed automatic transmission. With 272 horsepower, the RDX pulses with strong acceleration that feels more urgent when the drive-mode selector spins to Sport or Sport+. Normally we’d steer clear of all-wheel drive where it’s not needed, but the Acura setup incorporates torque-vectoring at the rear to liven up the RDX’s already lively handling. It’s tenacious and grippy, despite its height and more than eight inches of ground clearance.
The RDX surrounds front passengers in well-bolstered seats with good space and storage, and seats them on synthetic or real leather. The back seat’s wide enough for three adults, but two fit better—if only the RDX had a reclining rear seatback, its comfort would index higher. With 29.5 cubic feet of cargo space (up to 59 cubic feet with the rear seats down), it can afford the feature.
Fine crash-test scores meet standard automatic emergency braking for a good showing in safety, and the RDX comes with all the standard luxury touches we’d want in a crossover at its price of just below $40,000 base. We’d add all-wheel drive and the Technology package for its blind-spot monitors and ELS premium audio, but we’d still be irritated by the touchpad interface that governs its infotainment—with no touchscreen input allowed, it’s an exercise in frustration that’s all the more noticeable, given the RDX’s engaging personality.
2021 Acura RDX
Muscular and handsome, the Acura RDX stands out among crossovers.
With a dowdy past put to rest, the Acura RDX wears a chiseled body and an expressive interior both worthy of a second look. It’s a 7 for style, with an extra point each for the inside and the outside.
The snappy suit buttons at the RDX’s Acura badge in the middle of its five-point grille, which is framed by LED headlights that slice into bulging wheel arches that cap 19-inch wheels on most RDXs. The crossover’s roofline sails in a graceful arc before it ends abruptly on the rear roof pillars in a pinch of glass and chrome and body color, a chef’s-kiss of a design solution that has a startling effect in lighter paint colors.
Inside, the RDX can go about its business quietly, or it can rage inside its own machine. Most versions have handsome dashes of brushed aluminum, sober interior colors, wood trim, and synthetic or buttery real leather interiors with a 10.2-inch display on the dash. Acura saddles the center console with a lot of buttons—the transmission controls among them. Step up into an A-Spec, however, and the wood trim and soft tones flip into a relentlessly black interior piped in red accents, in low-key aggression. We’ll take the more opulent version, thanks.
2021 Acura RDX
Zesty road manners elevate the RDX’s pavement game.
Forget about off-road maneuvers, the Acura RDX has all the feels for pavement. It’s brisk without being buzzy, precise minus the anxiety. It’s a 7 for performance, with extra points for its powertrain and its ride.
The RDX shares a 2.0-liter turbo-4 with the Honda Civic Type R, but it’s slightly more muted here. Rated at 272 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque, the turbo-4 grabs peak torque at 1,600 rpm and rides that plateau across a broad powerband. It delivers brisk acceleration at any speed with a lot of the raspy sounds filtered off with plenty of sound deadening. The 10-speed automatic can downshift through as many as four gears at once, and those changes feel like a snappy salute.
With the spin of a control knob on the console, the driver of the RDX can choose different power and traction drive modes—the usual Comfort, Sport, and Sport+, but tellingly, no Mud or Sand. The RDX wants to rock, not to topple rocks. The drive modes tell it when to hustle, and when to relax and cruise.
It lives its best life somewhere in the middle, with 19-inch wheels gripping the pavement through tightly curved roads, the RDX maintaining a steady composure and threading through esses with fluent responses. The RDX can be upgraded to 20-inch wheels in A-Spec trim, but that does little to change its character. In Advance versions the RDX adopts adaptive shock absorbers that add compliance to its absorbent ride, but they’re not essential by any means.
Acura’s $2,000 all-wheel-drive system can route up to 70 percent of power to the rear wheels. Torque-vectoring splits power between those rear wheels and can vary it side to side, up to 100 percent. That helps initiate corners in what’s really a tall wagon with 8.2 inches of ground clearance. It’s worth the price of admission if the RDX takes the place of a TLX in your garage.
2021 Acura RDX
Comfort & Quality
With better rear seats, the Acura RDX would earn a higher comfort score.
Medium-sized and finished with a cool refinement, the 2021 RDX gets a 7 for comfort and utility. We’d score it higher if the rear seat had more bolsters where it needs them.
On a wheelbase of 108.3 inches, the RDX can seat up to five people comfortably, with room enough left over for lots of stuff. Front passengers have it best, in power-adjustable seats with good shape and synthetic leather upholstery even in base trim; real leather arrives in other versions, and Advance models have thicker side support as well as heated and cooled front seats.
The RDX is relatively broad for its overall length, so three people will fit in the second row. Two will be more comfortable, of course—and the RDX doesn’t have reclining rear seatbacks as some crossovers offer. Its 38 inches of leg room and high roof make up for much of that comfort deficit.
Those rear seats do fold flat, to grow storage space from 29.5 cubic feet to 58.9 cubic feet. Acura hides an additional 2 cubic-foot storage bin under the cargo floor. It’s enough space for a laptop or a snow brush, choose your weapon.
The RDX cruises in a hushed manner at highway speeds thanks to lots of sound deadening, while the Advance adds thicker glass. It’s a classy environment with a sliver of wood trim on the Advance. Acura still crowds the center stack with controls, but it’s finally learning how small touches lend elegance to a cabin.
2021 Acura RDX
Crash safety’s an RDX strong suit.
The RDX gets the nod from both major crash-test agencies, with some nuance. It’s still an 8 for safety.
The NHTSA gives it a five-star overall rating, while its score in front-impact protection checks in at four stars. The IIHS calls it a Top Safety Pick+—but oddly, it favors LED headlights found on base, Technology, and A-Spec models, and not the LED units on the top Advance model.
The RDX has some challenges with rearward vision, thanks to thick roof pillars. Automatic emergency braking comes standard. Blind-spot monitors help, but they’re not available on the base version; a surround-view camera system comes only on the Advance.
2021 Acura RDX
A well-equipped base RDX has almost all we need.
We give the 2021 RDX a 7 for features. In base form it’s well-equipped, and Acura has a relatively long options list. We’re no fans of its balky infotainment touchpad, which costs it an extra point for otherwise strong infotainment.
The base RDX comes in just below $40,000—another $2,000 if you want all-wheel drive. It has power front seats, leather upholstery, 19-inch wheels, power features, a 10.2-inch infotainment display, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
An optional $2,900 Technology Package bundles lots of features, from blind-spot monitors and parking sensors to upgraded audio and navigation. We’d pick this RDX, with or without all-wheel drive, depending on how far north we lived.
For $45,625 the RDX A-Spec brings sporty touches like sueded upholstery, 20-inch wheels, heated and cooled sport front seats, aluminum trim, and 16-speaker premium ELS audio.
The $47,525 RDX Advance brings a cavalcade of luxury touches, from upgraded leather and wood trim, to ELS audio, a head-up display, adaptive dampers, and cooled front seats.
Acura’s menu-intensive, Android-based infotainment works well enough, but it’s saddled with a touchpad interface that we’d consciously avoid through Apple CarPlay and long, long, playlists. Touchscreens are one of life’s compromises; it’s time for this system to adopt one.
The Acura warranty covers the RDX for 4 years or 50,000 miles.
2021 Acura RDX
Turbo power yields decent fuel economy in the RDX.
Without a hybrid or electrified option, the 2021 RDX still does OK in fuel economy. We give it a 4.
Front-drive RDX crossovers earn an EPA rating of 22 mpg city, 28 highway, 24 combined—except in A-Spec trim, which cuts 1 mpg off its highway rating due to bigger wheels. With all-wheel drive, the RDX gets a rating of 21/27/23 mpg, with the same 1-mpg hit for the A-Spec.
Acura recommends premium unleaded in the RDX.