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- Highs More charismatic than its predecessor, can be engaging to drive, good value proposition.
- Lows Interior fails to feel luxurious, clumsy transmission shifts, unpleasant brake-pedal feel.
- Verdict A more affordable and bold-looking alternative to typical compact-luxury crossovers.
The mildly sporty and overtly stylized RDX is often overlooked in the world of compact-luxury crossovers, but it's definitely worthy of your consideration. While the Acura nameplate lacks the respect that Audi, BMW, and other rivals have, it boasts superb build quality at more affordable prices. With its ample cargo space and distinct exterior, the RDX slots between mass-market crossovers including the Honda CR-V and upscale competitors such as the Lexus RX. The cabin trends more toward flashy than luxury, but it creates an intimate experience for the driver. The RDX also has a responsive turbo engine that pairs nicely with the available all-wheel-drive system that improves its agility. Sure, detractors will target its uncoordinated transmission and tricky brake pedal, but the RDX provides plenty of value and throws in a few thrills, too.
What's New for 2019?
Acura completely reinvented the 2019 RDX, with all-new styling and contemporary technology. While the previous-generation RDX was solid but soulless, its replacement marks the return of a snappy turbocharged engine and a torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system (called Super Handling All-Wheel Drive in Acura's marketing speak, or SH-AWD) that improves cornering. A sport-themed A-Spec package is newly available. The RDX also has an updated interior that takes mild design cues from the company's supercar flagship—the Acura NS—and supports a fresh infotainment system with a not-so-intuitive touchpad.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
The RDX is among the most affordable compact-luxury crossovers. However, it lacks the palpable refinement and balanced driving behavior found on pricier alternatives, such as the BMW X3 and the Audi Q5. Still, it outranks some of the sleepier choices out there, including the Cadillac XT5 and the Lincoln MKC. Our ideal RDX would have the $2000 SH-AWD, for its all-weather capability and enhanced agility. We'd also select the Technology package, which includes 19-inch wheels, leather-trimmed seats, a superior audio system, and a full complement of driver-assist technologies.
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Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Likes: Effortless acceleration, default drive mode can be set to Sport, all-wheel drive improves athleticism.
Dislikes: A-Spec package is mostly cosmetic, automatic has lazy gearchanges, erratic brake-pedal feedback.
Every RDX is powered by a 272-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that pairs with a 10-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive (a.k.a. SH-AWD). The A-Spec version we tested had a responsive gas pedal at low speeds, and it pulled away from stoplights with authority. It also zipped from zero to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds at our test track. However, the quickness and pedal response were less noticeable at highway speeds, where the RDX needed 5.2 seconds to get from 50 mph to 70. The transmission could be quicker to downshift with prompt gas-pedal inputs, especially when using the steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. We preferred the transmission's behavior with the S mode selected so the transmission holds gears longer and downshifts quicker. The turbocharged engine did make the RDX sound more like the NSX, with its high-pitched roar during hard acceleration, which is artificially piped into the cabin through the audio system's speakers.
The RDX we drove had large 20-inch wheels that are included with the A-Spec package. It also had the standard suspension setup, unlike models with the Advance package, which adds adaptive dampers that provide adjustable ride quality. While our test vehicle failed to isolate the cabin from harsh impacts on the roughest roads, it was never punishing or noisy. The torque-vectoring SH-AWD also helped it change directions quickly and was backed by precise-feeling steering. The RDX only leaned when we attacked a highway on-ramp, but otherwise, it was wonderfully balanced for those who enjoy driving quickly. Unfortunately, the brake pedal diminished the experience, due to its inconsistent firmness and responsiveness.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The RDX has competitive EPA fuel-economy ratings that approach the mid-20s, with front-drive models getting slightly higher city and highway estimates. The front-drive version is rated at 22 mpg city and 28 highway, but both those numbers drop by 1 mpg with all-wheel drive. Additionally, the A-Spec package reduces each of those EPA highway estimates by another 1 mpg. We have yet to test this RDX on our 200-mile highway loop, but we did observe 20 mpg during mixed driving.
Interior, Infotainment, and Cargo
Likes: Likable driving position, no shortage of standard features, ample luggage space.
Dislikes: Interior fails to feel special, finicky touchpad controller, limited small-item storage.
Inside, the RDX's symmetrical dashboard creates an intimate space for front-seat passengers. The design is dominated by a rotary drive-mode selector that flows into a floating center console. Our test vehicle had the A-Spec package's flashy red seats and several other exclusive styling bits. While the cabin's notable build quality and desirable standard features (ambient lighting, power-adjustable and heated front seats, dual-zone climate control) were appreciated, the RDX fails to feel luxurious. Instead, the Acura delivers a sportier experience than, say, the CR-V could ever provide. Nothing feels cheap or chintzy, and the driving position is high enough to satisfy crossover fans and flexible enough to appease driving enthusiasts.
Every RDX has a 10.2-inch touchscreen that's perched high on the dashboard and can be operated via a touchpad that sits comfortably where the driver's right hand rests on the center console. Acura calls the controller intuitive, but it was a while before we got accustomed to it. At least we were treated to many standard features, such as Apple CarPlay and a 4G LTE mobile hotspot. Surprisingly, the Android-based infotainment system currently doesn't support Android Auto. However, Acura claims it will eventually be available. The optional Technology package adds built-in navigation, rear-seat USB ports, a 12-speaker ELS Studio audio system, and more.
The RDX's back seats easily fold flat via a handle on the upper outboard side of the seats or from release handles in the cargo area. We managed to fit eight carry-on bags with the seats up, and 22 with them folded. While the RDX has a large storage tray beneath its floating center console, the only other useful storage tray is alongside the cupholders in the center console.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
Overall Safety Rating (NHTSA)
The RDX was named a Top Safety Pick+ by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which is the independent crash-test agency's highest honor. Likewise, it also earned a perfect five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Every model includes a host of standard driver-assistance technology; even more assists, such as blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, are optional. Key safety features include:
- Standard forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking
- Standard lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist
- Standard adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Acura covers the RDX with a warranty plan that aligns with its luxury competitors. However, it doesn't include complimentary scheduled maintenance as do some rivals, such as the X3 and the Jaguar F-Pace.
- Limited warranty covers 4 years or 50,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers 6 years or 70,000 miles
- No complimentary scheduled maintenance