For style-conscious families who don’t want such a large utility vehicle but also don’t want to make too many compromises in features, safety, or performance, the Acura RDX is one of the better picks.
Already into its second year since a complete redesign, the RDX last year found—compared to the first-generation RDX that preceded it—a ‘milder’ personality that more shoppers should like. With the first-generation RDX, Acura had been pretty much the first one out the gate among sporty luxury-brand crossovers. It got a few things right—like the just-right size, nimble handling, and attractive design—but it offered plenty of rough spots, too, including a rough ride, laggy power delivery, and surprisingly lackluster gas mileage.
The current RDX bucks the former model’s turbo four in favor of a large, 3.5-liter V-6. And although that might seem an odd decision at a time when a number of rivals are dropping their sixes, Acura says that it’s actually more fuel efficient, slightly more powerful (at peak), and noticeably smoother in its power delivery compared to the former powerplant. Fuel economy ratings benefit, too, with up to 5 mpg compared to the previous engine—a respectable 28 highway with front-wheel drive.
From the driver’s seat, the RDX feels peppy, and although the engine doesn’t quite offer the surge and urge of the pre-2012 model, it’s smooth and strong whenever you need it to be—aided by a transmission that lags sometimes for downshifts but is otherwise responsive. Under full throttle, the RDX willingly merges with speedy freeway traffic and readily passes two-lane slow pokes. It also handles the road well, and thanks to two-stage dampers it stays composed on twisty sections yet absorbs big bumps with ease.
On the outside, the RDX is good looking but hardly extroverted—more mature is what we’d call it next to the previous generation, as well as some other models in this class. Pronounced fender arches help punctuate an otherwise smooth shape and generally attractive profile. The cabin has characteristically Acura form and function, with a tech style and a central pod of dash controls, and there are plenty of soft-touch and matter elements to lend an upscale look and feel. If anything, there are a few too many bright finishes for the dash.
The RDX is closely related to the Honda CR-V, and so it inherits much of the CR-V’s excellent interior packaging sensibilities—including a low cargo floor, well-designed front and rear seats, and good versatility. Front-seat space is ample for even those over six feet tall, yet an eight-way power adjustable seat and tilt/telescoping steering column offer adjustability for most heights and body types. The cabin itself is very quiet, and comfortable from the back seat, too. The RDX is right in the zone for its compact crossover class, with 26.1 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats, 61.3 cubic feet with the seats folded flat, and 76.9 cubic feet including under-floor storage.
In terms of features and value, the 2014 RDX undercuts BMW and Mercedes, and offers even more than Lexus, if you extend a half-size up to the RX 350. Yet you won’t find the high-end goodies that most of those models offer—like adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, and parking assistance. But dual-zone climate control, cruise control, keyless entry with push-button start, ambient lighting, a seven-speaker sound system with USB/MP3/Auxiliary support, Bluetooth handsfree calling, and more are all standard features.
An available Technology Package adds navigation with voice controls, real-time traffic and weather, a GPS-linked climate control, SMS texting support, and Pandora app functionality. Also part of it is a ten-speaker Acura/ELS audio system that produces clear, enveloping sound even at very low volumes. The navigation system is relatively easy to use, but we think it—and the interface itself—looks a bit dated in comparison to the large, wide-aspect screens in rival models.
The only significant change in the 2014 RDX, versus last year, is a new extra-cost exterior hue: Kona Coffee, replacing Amber Brownstone.