2016 Acura RDX Elite Road Test Review
December 21 2015, Trevor Hofmann
A Winner in Every Respect
One glance is all you'll need to see changes made to the refreshed 2016 RDX. The grille gets a more sculpted shape that adds distinctive character and there's some really nice chiseled detailing around the fog lamps on the lower fascia, but it's the brand's gorgeous trademark Jewel Eye LED headlamps that will probably pull your attention first.
Its profile remains long and sleek with sporty fastback-style rear pillars up top plus a stunning set of machine-finished multi-spoke 18-inch alloys with grey-painted pockets now rolling below, while new red- and clear-lensed LED taillights nearly pull eyeballs as easily as the elements up front. Finally, the redesign is made complete by a restyled rear bumper cap that mimics the chrome trimmed front fascia mentioned a moment ago. From nose to tail the latest RDX is a crowd pleaser, complete with just the right amount of metal brightwork to dazzle passersby without appearing as if it's trying too hard.
That last line really sums up the RDX, it's cool without trying to be. This is even more apparent inside where it combines high-tech features with high quality traditional luxury. The RDX dash top is mostly soft pliable synthetic, while Acura continues the malleable treatment down each side of the redesigned centre stack to the top point of the HVAC interface. The door panels include a black portion made from the same high quality ductile material as the dash top, whereas the rear section is finished with a very upscale, heavily padded French-stitched insert. It's genuine feeling leatherette, lending a rich look and feel, with the same application used for the side and centre armrests.
That centre console features a large covered bin ahead of the shifter for a phone and power cord, the latter notable as there are USB and aux ports plus a 12-volt power outlet hidden within. There are also two cupholders plus three-way buttons for heating and cooling the front seats, or at least this was the case with my top-line Elite trimmed tester.
Those seats were very supportive and comfortable with perforated inserts for the cooling system and ample adjustment for my backside's needs, the latter including powered lumbar support, while the RDX' excellent ergonomics continued with a nicely shaped sport steering wheel featuring paddles at the 9 and 3 o'clock positions, making this SUV a lot more fun to drive than many in this class.
Performance is an RDX hallmark, its standard six-cylinder engine also upgraded by six horsepower and one lb-ft of torque for 2016, with output now at 279 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque, while its six forward gears delivered smooth, positive shifts, especially in Sport mode. To access its most entertaining setting just pull the shift lever to its rearmost "S" position and enjoy, with quicker shift increments and higher revs before gear changes, steering that's also direct and precise, and overall handling that's certainly better than class average. The RDX balances out its great handling with a very compliant ride that made the entire process all the more enjoyable, this complemented by an interior that was quieter than expected.
To help achieve all of the above Acura combines amplitude reactive dampers with the RDX' MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension, whereas traction is aided via AWD that only comes into play when needed in order to achieve the most efficiency possible, redirecting up to 40 percent of torque to the rear wheels during moderate acceleration in dry conditions or maintaining an even 50/50 torque-split in inclement weather, while stability and traction control assist further when required.
The RDX' fuel economy is reasonable as far as V6-powered competitors go at 12.4 L/100km city, 8.7 highway and 10.7 combined, but Acura seems to want us focused more on performance as seen by a bold red engine start/stop button on the dash, plus my tester's cabin was trimmed out with aluminum instead of traditional wood. Always appreciated, the RDX includes padded Ray-Ban storage in an overhead console, this panel also featuring an especially nice array of switchgear for the powered glass sunroof and AcuraLink telematics services.
I mentioned earlier that the centre stack was redesigned, with both Tech and Elite trims now featuring two infotainment screens. The top display is dedicated to navigation duties most of the time, although along with related trip computer and traffic incident info it also includes access to phone messages, voice activation settings, a calendar, the clock, etc, all accessible after pressing the "MENU" button and rotating the large circular controller below the second screen. That lower display is a touchscreen for the audio and GPS-linked solar-sensing dual-zone auto HVAC systems, both ultra-easy to use while the former offers excellent sound quality.
Of note, Elite trim is new for 2016, the previous model only upgradable to a Technology package that included GPS-linked solar-sensing capability to the already standard dual-zone climate control system, a larger eight-inch infotainment display with navigation replacing a smaller and simpler five-inch monitor in the base model, a richer sounding 410-watt 10-speaker stereo improving on the 360-watt seven-speaker system, and a powered liftgate, but now that last item comes standard across the entire line while these other features remain standard on newly positioned mid-grade Tech trim, a model that also includes remote start, power-folding side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, an "On-Demand" colour multi-info display, AcuraLink connectivity, blindspot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, leather upholstery, and heatable rear outboard seats, whereas Elite trim includes these items as well as the 18-inch alloys mentioned before, fog lamps, auto-dimming side mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, and the previously noted ventilated front seats.
All RDX trims get the Jewel Eye LED headlights and LED taillights, powered moonroof, and red ignition button noted earlier, the latter of which includes proximity access, while additional standard equipment includes ambient cabin lighting, a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, colour TFT primary meters, auto on/off headlights, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a HomeLink garage door opener, a multi-angle camera with guidelines, reverse gear tilt-down side mirrors, satellite radio, eight-way powered front seats with two-position driver's side memory, active sound control, and AcuraWatch driver-assist features including active cruise control, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, plus forward collision warning with collision mitigation, all of which contribute to its best possible IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus rating and five-star NHTSA crash test rating.
Also standard is impressive interior space, the RDX surprisingly roomy for a compact, especially in back. Acura finishes the RDX cargo compartment better than most rivals as well, with high quality carpets and chrome metal tie-down rings, but it's the process required to lower the 60/40-split rear seatbacks that won me over. Just tug on each sidewall-mounted lever to instantly add load capacity, Acura even including flaps that automatically fall into place to cover the gap that otherwise might swallow up small items like rolling groceries. Total cargo volume is a very accommodating 2,178 litres (76.9 cubic feet), or alternatively there's 739 litres (26.1 cubic feet) behind the rear seats, the latter slightly more than twice that of the ILX compact sedan's trunk.
What might be the RDX' most appealing asset is a window sticker that starts at just $41,990 plus freight and dealer fees, with the Tech costing $44,990 and as-tested Elite available from $46,590, while there are no additional options other than paint choices, the base model available in five shades/colours and the top two trims in seven, my tester finished in Kona Coffee Metallic, which incidentally is the only colour solely matched to its beautiful Parchment upholstery.
Interesting is how the market has responded to all of the 2016 upgrades. The RDX was already very popular, but within the first four months of the year its combined U.S./Canadian sales made it number one in its segment. In a nutshell it appears we collectively love the new RDX, and after a busy week behind the wheel I fully understand why it's doing as well as it is.
The 2016 Acura RDX looks elegant and refined without being trendy, offers up strong standard performance and excellent dynamics, boasts a luxurious cabin stocked full of useful features, is as safe as the compact SUV segment gets, and more than likely will deliver better than average reliability. It's a winner in every respect.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press
Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.