The RDX is Acura’s compact crossover, slotting in below the ever-popular MDX in the luxury brand’s lineup. It competes with vehicles like the Infiniti EX37, Audi Q5, BMW X3 and even the Lexus RX. All told it’s a versatile little utility with some impressive features and amenities. But that’s not all! Today’s model is a huge step up, delivering far more than the previous generation ever could.
|1. Pricing starts around $35,500 while our up-level model provided for testing stickers for around $40,500.
2. All RDXs are powered by a 3.5L V6 with 273 hp with 251 lb-ft of torque.
3. The only transmission is a six-speed automatic, while AWD is optional.
4. Fuel economy for our AWD RDX is 19 MPG city and 27 MPG highway, for a combined 22 MPG.
MORE = MOAR!
Downsizing and turbocharging are all the rage these days as automakers struggle to deliver ever-greater fuel economy. If you remember, the first-generation RDX featured a trendsetting four-cylinder turbo engine. It displaced 2.3-liters and put out a healthy 240 horsepower and a strong 280 lb-ft of torque.
In 2013 the RDX received a ground-up redesigned and engineers wasted no time getting busy. They tossed the baby right out with the bathwater, and you know something? They’ve been saving money on diapers and getting a lot more sleep in the process.
Today’s RDX gives customers more of just about everything. They get more horsepower, a more advanced transmission, more satisfying dynamics, more passenger space, more cargo room and, if you can believe it, more miles per gallon.
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This may sound impossible, almost like an interconnected global system of computers facilitating near-instantaneous communication, or aliens, or even Bigfoot, but it is in fact true. It’s like finding a crashed UFO in your backyard or a Sasquatch sleeping in your tool shed, how much proof do you need to believe the ridiculous?
Comparing all-wheel-drive versions the 2014 model provided for evaluation stickers at 19 MPG city and 27 highway according to the tree-humping, sandal-wearing enviro-nazis at the U.S. EPA. The best previous-generation RDXs could muster is a meager 17 city and 22 on the interstate. Interestingly the new model’s combined fuel-economy rating is identical the old model’s highway figure! Now that’s progress, especially since we averaged around 25 MPG in our testing.
SEE ALSO: 2014 Acura MDX Review – Video
Cylinder deactivation helps boost efficiency as does a smaller, lighter gearbox and a completely new all-wheel-drive system, which is no longer of the “Super Handling” variety, and that’s ok. With torque vectoring and other fancy features Acura’s SH-AWD technology was probably overkill in crossover. Not having it means the RDX is now lighter and more fuel efficient.
The 2014 RDX is powered by a familiar friend, Honda’s versatile 3.5-liter V6. In this application it delivers 273 horsepower with 251 lb-ft of liquid-smooth torque. That’s 33 more ponies than the previous turbo four. Additionally it’s paired to a talented six-speed automatic transmission that knows all the right dance moves. It’s a major improvement over the antiquated five-gear unit that just didn’t have enough ratios to play with.
OUT AND ABOUT
They don’t call it the Honda Motor Company for nothing. Like good Chablis and fresh oysters the RDX’s engine and gearbox are perfectly paired; they’re a match made in automotive heaven. The engine is particularly smooth for a large V6, plus it shrieks like a Formula 1 car when you open it up.
The 2013 RDX is deceptively quick with a pleasantly broad powerband, an impression that’s no doubt emphasized by its resourceful gearbox. But as brilliant as those under-hood bits are, the steering is not very impressive. It feels too light and slightly dead on-center. You have no idea what’s going on between the front tires and the road surface.
The rest of the RDX’s drive experience is suitably luxurious, though hardly outstanding. The ride is nicely balanced – smooth when you want it to be and somewhat sporty when the road gets squiggly. The interior is also quiet at speed, though most new vehicles are pretty serene these days.
Overall this Acura’s interior is very nicely done with an abundance of soft, high-quality materials and a cohesive design. Keyless entry and push-button start are standard, though its cockpit is not as luxurious as the Mercedes ML550 we tested a few weeks ago; that was opulence overload. The rich aroma of leather was so strong it practically asphyxiated you… it also cost twice as much.
Still, the RDX’s cabin is really well done and the assembly quality is just about perfect, but there is one absolutely loathsome aspect, and it stares you right in the face every time you get behind the wheel.
How come you can get a beautiful full-color LCD display in the gauge cluster of a Ram 3500 work truck but Acura RDX drivers have to look at pixilated readouts that look like they were ripped off a graphing calculator? If cost-cutting is to blame then an abacus for the odometer might actually look better.
Additionally the RDX’s audio and navigation controls are kind of strange. It’s got a multi-function knob on the dashboard that’s augmented by an array of symmetrically arranged buttons, which can be challenging to use since everything looks so similar (we had an identical complaint about the Honda Pilot).
Additionally, some of the on-screen menus are counterintuitive, which can be more frustrating than trying to spread cold butter; that fluffy croissant you were going to have for breakfast doesn’t stand a chance against arctic-chilled Land O’Lakes.
Food-themed hyperbole aside, the reality is this setup is no worse than other systems on the market today. No car company has really nailed the telematics question yet. On that note it’s worth pointing out that unlike Acura, most luxury automakers seem to prefer console-mounted iDrive-style controls opposed to dashboard knobs. Different strokes for different folks.
Out back this vehicle stays true to its crossover heritage. The rear seat is comfy and pretty spacious plus there’s generous cargo room – nearly 77 cubic feet with the back bench folded. A power-closing tailgate is a handy addition.
DOLLARS AND SENSE
Like what you see so far? Well, you should be happy to know the 2014 Acura RDX is about $35,500 for a front-wheel drive base model. At that price you get all kinds of goodies including leather surfaces, a 10-way power driver’s seat, automatic climate control, a selectable multi-view backup camera and keyless access with a push-button ignition – something the Germans always want to charge you extra for.
COMPARISON: Acura RDX vs Audi Q5
The top-of-the-line all-wheel-drive version with the Technology Package provided for our testing stickered for, well, we have no idea! The car *literally* came with no Monroney, just a blank sheet of paper saying as much. But building one on the Acura website results in a retail price of about $40,500, which is comparable to a four-cylinder Audi Q5 Premium Plus or an all-wheel-drive Infiniti EX37.
It’s a difficult concept to grasp in today’s world of layoffs, cutbacks and financial distress, but more is in fact more, and you get plenty of it with the 2014 Acura RDX. While not a perfect solution to the compact luxury crossover question, it satisfies the mission statement admirably.