2017 Acura RDX AWD Road Test Review
November 21 2016, Trevor Hofmann
Strong sales continued proof Acura drives value in compact luxury SUV class
If you want to know what makes a brand tick, drive its most inexpensive models in their most basic trims.
With respect to Acura's SUV lineup, that would be this RDX. The SUV you're looking at has zero options, which means it hits the road at just $42,190 plus freight and dealer fees yet comes packed full of high value features and is loads of fun to drive.
Long List of Standard Features Makes the RDX a Value Leader
A shortlist includes standard V6 power, AWD, Acura's Jewel Eye LED headlights, LED taillights, 18-inch alloys, proximity-sensing keyless entry, pushbutton ignition (that's made from anodized red metal for a sporty touch), ambient cabin lighting, a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, dual-zone auto climate control with large dials at each side for easy operation while wearing winter gloves, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, five-inch colour infotainment, a multi-angle rearview camera with guidelines, Bluetooth phone and streaming audio, a 360-watt seven-speaker stereo, satellite radio, Siri Eyes Free, text messaging functionality, eight-way powered and heated front seats with driver's side memory that also controls the side mirrors which include auto reverse tilt, a powered moonroof, a HomeLink garage door opener, active sound control, a powered liftgate, and one of the best assortments of standard safety equipment in the industry.
That would be the AcuraWatch suite of active driver-assist features, which includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning, and lane keep assist, all helping it achieve a best possible IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus rating and five-star NHTSA crash test rating.
Impressive Active Safety Joins Superb Driving Dynamics
I appreciate Acura's new focus on accident avoidance, because not too long ago the vehicles we drove were only winning such kudos for crash test survival. Of course, it's much better to avoid an accident altogether, but even when all of these active electronics are in place the vehicle in question still needs to be capable of keeping control while braking quickly and turning at the same time if necessary, or in other words, good driving dynamics still need to be part of the package.
Agility has always been an RDX hallmark, the newest model no exception thanks to standard amplitude reactive dampers enhancing an inherently well-sorted suspension setup that consists of MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup in back. Together with standard all-wheel drive that sends up to 40 percent of the engine's torque to the rear wheels in dry conditions or maintains a 50/50 torque-split on slippery surfaces, plus standard electronic stability and traction control, the RDX delivers superb road-holding capability.
Of note, AWD is only applied when necessary so as to minimize fuel consumption, and to that end the RDX' engine employs i-VTEC variable valve timing and Variable Cylinder Management, the latter shutting a bank of cylinders down when cruising or otherwise not exerting as much energy, therefore helping the RDX achieve a five-cycle rating of 12.4 L/100km city, 8.7 highway, and 10.7 combined, which is very good for a powerful V6.
Standard V6 Power Results in Strong Acceleration
Yes, standard six-cylinder performance is just one more RDX bonus, the SUV's 3.5-litre V6 capable of 279 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque, plus most importantly in the luxury class, smooth, quiet operation. Most will agree the low NVH levels of a V6 are preferable over a four-cylinder when refinement is at stake, which is one of the reasons this entry-level RDX feels more upscale than its base competitors.
Put right foot to the floor and the surge of power and wonderful sounds emanating from ahead of the firewall and exhaust behind bespeak performance SUV, the paddles on the steering wheel and aforementioned agile handling combining for a truly sporty experience from the driver's seat. Zero to 100km/h takes a mere 6.2 seconds, the RDX' well-proven six-speed automatic plenty responsive to input when Sport mode is engaged, the entire SUV loads of fun when pushed hard.
Seriously, the biggest challenge is keeping the RDX to the posted limit, as it loves to go no matter if you're zipping around town, hitting the highway, or heading up to the ski hill on a serpentine mountain road. Handling is superb and braking strong, while the ride is firm in the Germanic sense, but never jarring. The body structure feels extremely tight and solid, easily up to the standards of its premium competitors. Dial back the joy meter to normal operation and the RDX returns to its comfortable, relaxed self, a terrific SUV for running errands around town or hitting the road on the weekend.
Comfortable and Accommodating Front to Back
To that end the multi-adjustable front seats are very comfortable, plus two-way heatable in base guise and ventilated in upper trims. I had no problem finding the ideal driving position, the two-way powered lumbar support fitting the small of my back perfectly, while the tilt and telescopic steering column allowed for plenty of rake and enough reach to satisfy most any body type.
I found the rear seating area comfortable and roomy too, the outboard positions particularly supportive thanks to nicely formed lower back cushions. I had about six inches ahead of my knees when the front seat was set for my five-foot-eight frame, and approximately four inches above my head, plus another four inches next to my outside shoulder and hips. It wouldn't be difficult to get three abreast comfortably, although it's nicer for two as the centre armrest is ideally placed for comfort and also includes dual cupholders.
An RDX forte is cargo management, Acura providing a generous 739 litres behind the 60/40-split rear seatbacks and 2,178 litres when they're folded forward, which is extremely easy thanks to standard sidewall-mounted levers. Tug one and that side immediately flips down, followed by a carpeted flap covering the gap between the seat base and cargo floor that would otherwise eat wayward groceries. The cargo area is nicely finished, with high-grade carpeting on the floor, seatbacks and sidewalls, while chromed tie-down rings are placed in each corner to secure large, loose items.
A Refined Interior with Plenty of Standard Convenience
Speaking of interior refinement, the passenger compartment is much nicer since the RDX was updated for the 2016 model year, with more soft, pliable synthetic surfaces including the entire dash top, most of the instrument panel, the door uppers and inserts, etcetera, while the primary instruments feature two highly legible dials bookending a colour multi-information display at centre.
The standard colour infotainment system gets a clear backup camera with guidelines and other useful functions such as display interfaces for audio, Bluetooth phone settings, car feature settings, and you can even set up individual wallpapers. Additionally it includes a brightness meter, and just below is a small LCD screen for temperature functions.
Interior highlights include leather-like door panels and armrests that are a cut above, while the steering wheel is very sporty, with a thick leather-wrapped rim and large nicely fitted switchgear on the spokes. The shift knob gets wrapped in classic baseball-stitched leather, as does the skirt below. Plenty of satin metal and chrome accents can be found throughout, the RDX a great place to wile away the morning commute.
Upgrade to a Fancier RDX If You Want
If this base RDX isn't enough to woo you, Acura makes two additional trims available. The mid-range is occupied by $45,190 Technology trim, which adds remote start, power-folding side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, a larger eight-inch LED backlit VGA infotainment display with navigation and mapping, trip and traffic incident info, phone messages, voice activation settings, a calendar, clock, and more, plus a separate "On-Demand" colour touchscreen just below for adjusting audio, the enhanced GPS-linked and solar-sensing climate control system, and upgraded 410-watt, 10-speaker ELS surround sound system with hard drive media storage. Additionally, the Technology includes an enhanced rearview camera system with dynamic guidelines, AcuraLink telematics services, leather upholstery, heatable rear outboard seats, plus blindspot monitoring with cross-traffic monitoring. As for $46,790 Elite trim, the upgrades include fog lamps, sportier 18-inch alloys, auto-dimming side mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, and ventilated front seats.
No matter how you option it out the RDX is a very good choice in the compact luxury SUV segment, something that hasn't gone unnoticed by Canada's premium buyers. They purchased 8,047 last year, which nearly made it most popular in class.
It's difficult to knock the RDX, as it's strong on styling, performance, quality, refinement, features, safety, and value, all adding up to a major success in the compact SUV segment.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press
Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.