Unlike many other automakers, Acura’s lineup isn’t overwhelmed by a confusing smattering of crossovers.
The Japanese premium brand has just two to choose from: the compact RDX and the mid-size MDX. This makes choosing which Acura crossover is right for you fairly straightforward, but you still may not know what exactly makes these two similar-looking crossovers different.
In this post, we’ll compare the Acura RDX and the Acura MDX across a variety of categories including design, interior space, technology, fuel efficiency and more, hopefully leaving you with a better understanding of what sets these two apart from each other.
Scroll down to learn more about the Acura RDX and Acura MDX.
Acura RDX vs MDX
Acura RDX: The RDX is a compact crossover with seating for five. It’s actually all-new for 2019 and looks very current thanks to its sharp, contemporary styling. It also places a large emphasis on sportiness with many sharp, angular lines and a massive version of the automaker’s diamond-shaped shield grille.
SEE ALSO: Acura MDX Sport Hybrid Review
Acura MDX: The MDX, by comparison, is a mid-size three-row crossover with seating for seven. Its styling is much tamer than the RDX, which is appropriate seeing as this is a more expensive vehicle than the RDX and is thus more likely to be purchased by older consumers or those with a family. These two do look fairly similar, though, especially from the front thanks to Acura’s corporate grille design.
Bottom Line: The RDX is sportier with regards to design, while the MDX is more conservative and grown up. The MDX is quite a bit bigger than the RDX and has an extra row of seating, making it better for families. We personally like the tidier proportions and sportier styling of the RDX, though the MDX still looks like a classy crossover.
Acura RDX: Being a compact crossover, the RDX is the smaller of these two vehicles. It has front row headroom of 39.6 inches and front row legroom of 41.6 inches, while rear seat passengers get 38.3 inches of headroom and 38.4 inches of legroom. Total passenger volume is 104 cu-ft. Cargo volume is 29.5 cu-ft behind the second row and grows to 58.9 cu-ft with the second row folded down.
Acura MDX: The MDX, meanwhile, has front row headroom of 38.1 inches and front row legroom of 41.4 inches. Second-row passengers enjoy 38.3 inches of headroom and 36.6 inches of legroom, while space in the third row shrinks to 35.6 inches of headroom and 28.1 inches of legroom. The MDX has a total passenger volume of 132.7 cu-ft. Cargo volume behind the third row and second rows stands at 15 cu-ft and 38.4 cu-ft, respectively, while folding all three rows down nets you 68.4 cu-ft of volume.
Bottom Line: The MDX is quite a bit bigger than the RDX, although the RDX appears to be nicely packaged, managing to offer a bit more space for first and second-row passengers. The MDX is ultimately better for larger families, though, with the ability to carry more passengers (7) and more stuff. It should be noted that the third row in the MDX is meant for occasional use, as it can be pretty tight back there, even for kids.
Acura RDX: The only powertrain offered in the RDX is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, which is rated at 272 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque and is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, while Acura’s ‘Sport Handling’ all-wheel-drive system is available at extra cost.
The FWD RDX is EPA rated at 22 MPG city and 28 MPG highway for a combined rating of 24 MPG. All-wheel drive equipped models return 21 MPG city, 27 MPG highway and a combined rating of 23 MPG.
Acura MDX: The MDX offers more choice in the powertrain department. It has two powertrains on offer, with entry-level models getting a 3.5-liter V6 rated at 290 hp and 276 lb-ft of torque, a nine-speed automatic transmission, and FWD. Like the RDX, all-wheel drive is available on this model at extra cost.
Customers can also step up to the MDX Sport Hybrid, which features a 3.0-liter V6 engine and three electric motors to make a combined 321 hp and 289 lb-ft of torque. One of the electric motors is located in the transmission, with two more mounted on the rear axle, making the MDX Sport Hybrid all-wheel drive.
The 3.5-liter MDX with FWD is rated at 20 MPG city and 27 MPG highway for a combined rating of 23 MPG, while AWD models get 19 MPG city, 26 MPG highway and 22 MPG combined. The Sport Hybrid gets 26 MPG city and 27 MPG highway for a combined rating of 27 MPG.
Bottom Line: Surprisingly, the fuel economy ratings for the two crossovers are not too different from each other, which is interesting considering that the MDX is so much larger, heavier, and runs on a beefier engine. The MDX Sport Hybrid model gets the best fuel economy, but it’s also the most expensive model, so keep this in mind if you’re looking for the best flat-out savings. It’s also suggested that drivers use premium fuel in the RDX and MDX Sport Hybrid, while the regular MDX with the V6 can run on regular fuel. There’s really no clear winner in this category.
Acura RDX: When we drove the 2019 Acura RDX, we said it “accelerates briskly, never wanting for power even while storming up mountain roads,” although we didn’t like the transmission, saying the shifts “aren’t always the smoothest.” As for the steering, it provided “decent weighting and feedback, certainly enough communication with the driver for a crossover vehicle.” We also concluded that “there are no major reasons not to,” buy an RDX and “plenty of good ones why you should if you’re already shopping the compact luxury crossover segment.” In general, we quite enjoy the driving dynamics of the RDX, as it feels nimble and well-sorted, balancing luxury and handling well.
SEE ALSO: 2019 Acura RDX Review
Acura MDX: The MDX drives very differently from the RDX — the crossover is large and drives big, though it does feel comfortable with its size. The MDX feels more like a minivan than a crossover sometimes, which is good because it’s smooth and comfortable with a focus on luxury, not sport. Still, our editor said the MDX “corners fairly flat, with handling that feels slightly tighter than its competitors,” and noted that “some of that can also be chalked up to the SH-AWD system, which can send different amounts of torque to individual wheels to help the MDX rotate and stay nimble.” Furthermore, we said it was also “nice and quiet in the cabin,” despite the engine’s pleasant V6 growl infiltrating it when you get into on the gas.
Bottom Line: As you would expect from Honda, both these crossovers are pretty buttoned-up. They aren’t the last word in performance or refinement, but they are certainly doing enough to warrant their premium status.
If you’re looking for sportier driving dynamics, the RDX is definitely the better pick. Its agile handling and refined engine are an excellent combination and the driving dynamics are well-sorted. We do wish the RDX was available as a Sport Hybrid model, but that would drive up the cost significantly.
The MDX is the better pick if you’re looking for better all-around comfort because it focuses on luxury more than sport. It irons out rough roads better than the RDX and although it doesn’t drive as nicely, we don’t mind the cushy and quiet ride.
Acura RDX: The RDX has a 10.2-inch infotainment screen as standard, which is controlled with an awkward touchpad interface. Although it’s not that intuitive to use and requires a big learning curve to operate comfortably, you’ll eventually get used to it.
The crossover does have a ton of standard features, though, including Apple CarPlay (Android Auto is coming soon, apparently), a panoramic sunroof and a nine-speaker audio system. Extras include available 12- and 16-speaker audio systems, Milano leather upholstery, GPS-linked climate control and more. The RDX also has an available A-Spec package, which offers sport seats, an A-Spec steering wheel, red leather interior upholstery, and other sporty touches.
Standard safety features include lane departure warning with lane-keep assist, forward-collision warning with front automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control with low-speed traffic follow. Customers have to opt for the Technology Package to get front and rear parking sensors, blind spot information and rear cross-traffic monitoring. We appreciate the safety features, but sometimes they act erratically and are too sensitive, meaning the car’s jarring warnings go off all the time even though we don’t feel they’re warranted. We wish they would tone it down a bit.
Acura MDX: Honda has kept the MDX fairly up-to-date with regard to technology. It has a standard dual-screen display with a 7.0-inch touchscreen sitting front-and-center, which offers standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Optional features, many of which are available via the Technology or Rear Seat Entertainment Packages, include real-time traffic updates, 3D navigation, auto high-beams, a power tailgate, a rear seat entertainment system, fast-charging USB ports, a 110V outlet and more. There are 8, 10, 11 and 12 speaker audio systems offered as well, depending on the trim and package you choose.
Standard safety features include lane keeping assist, collision mitigation braking and adaptive cruise control. Optional safety nannies include a blind spot information camera system, a surround view camera system and a rear cross view traffic monitoring system — very similar to the RDX.
Acura RDX: The cheapest RDX starts at $37,400, with the most expensive model, the MDX Advance Package, starting at $45,500. Adding all-wheel drive adds $2,000 to the price of any RDX.
Acura MDX: The cheapest model MDX starts at $44,300, while the range-topper will cost $60,050 to start. Adding all-wheel drive to any version of the MDX adds $2,000 to the price.
The Verdict: Acura RDX vs MDX
The Acura RDX is newer and more youthful in appearance and ethos than the MDX. It’s also less expensive, has better driving dynamics, and is likely cheaper to run, making it better suited to younger buyers or those with a small or no family.
The MDX, meanwhile, is a bonafide family SUV that would be perfect for those with a family of five or six. It will be more expensive to buy and run, though, so it won’t be worth upgrading to the bigger vehicle unless you know you will use that extra passenger and cargo capacity.