The small luxury SUV category is filled with turbocharged four cylinder engines. The RDX is an exception, featuring a 279 hp variant of the stellar Honda J series 3.5L V6 engine. This means you get a significantly higher performing engine than the competing brands. Of course, there is a tradeoff. The RDX has a fuel efficiency rating of 20 mpg city and 28 mpg highway, a few miles per gallon less than some of its competitors. We believe the RDX has a much more usable powerband due to the V6 having much more torque than a turbocharged four banger. In other words, you would have to drive the competition much harder to get similar performance out of their underclassed engines thereby removing any perceived advantage in fuel economy. We believe this main difference puts the RDX in a class of its own. In addition, Acura has the strongest resale value of any luxury brand according to Kelley Blue Book.
Performance is where the RDX shines. Dollar for dollar, we think you would be hard pressed to find a better performing, small luxury SUV at this price point. The RDX handles very well for an SUV. It has little understeer and precise power steering. The 279 hp, 252 lb-ft torque V6 pushes the RDX from 0-60 mph in just 6.2 seconds, nearly a second quicker than all competitors. These factors combine to make the RDX an absolute gem for the driver looking for a little fun from their little SUV.
The RDX comfortably seats five and has above average cargo-capacity for the segment with 26.1 cubic feet of cargo space with second row up and 77 cubic feet with second row down. There is a lot of plastic in the interior which reminds the passenger of the RDX’s Honda parentage. Remember this is an Acura, not a Porsche, the interior is pragmatic and free of ostentation. The fit and finish are quality and functional, but do not expect the plushest of interiors. Power and heated seats are standard. A multi-angle rearview camera is standard to help you navigate crowded parking lots. The cabin is incredibly quiet, even quieter than the Lexus NX, despite Lexus’ reputation for technologically advanced sound dampening.
Besides a few new color options like “Lunar Silver Metallic” and “Modern Steel Metallic,” the exterior of the RDX remains unchanged. The model was refreshed in 2016 and presents Acura’s distinctive jeweled headlight design and prominent chrome “beak.” The exterior embodies Acura’s Philosophy: Design with Purpose. Nothing seems out of place. Nothing seems unnecessary. The RDX has 6 additional color options: Basque Red Pearl II, Crystal Black Pearl, Kona Coffee Metallic, White Diamond Pearl, and Fathom Blue Pearl, which requires an additional package upgrade. There are 4 different wheel options. They are all alloy 18in, which have little difference in performance but enhance the appearance of your RDX. Acura would also be delighted to sell you accessories like a bike or kayak attachment for all the outdoor fun to be had in your new SUV.
The base model arrives incredibly well equipped at $35,800 with a plethora of packages available that bring the fully loaded total to $43,820. Acura eschews traditional trim levels in favor of a single trim level with available option packages. The standard trim level is well equipped with jeweled LED headlights, heated front seats, and a multi-view rear camera. Unfortunately, unlike the MDX, the AcuraWatch suite is not standard and will set you back an additional $1,300. This sum is not an inordinate amount of money considering it provides a collision mitigation braking system, lane keeping assist, a color multi-information display, and adaptive cruise control. The Technology Package runs $3,700 and includes the stellar 10 speaker ELS premium audio system, intuitive navigation, GPS-linked, solar-sensing climate control, voice recognition system for nav and climate control, Acura Navigation system with 3D view, AcuraLink real-time traffic with rerouting, AcuraLink satellite communication, HD radio, Siri eyes free, rear cross traffic monitor, and blind spot information system. The Advance Package costs $1,650 and includes a host of technological goodies, as well as upgraded 18in wheels. Heated and ventilated seats replace the Technology Package sports seats. Remote engine start, front and rear parking sensors, fog lights, rain sensing wipers, and auto-dimming side mirrors complete the package.
The Acura RDX receives a JD power reliability rating of 3.5 which places it firmly between “About Average” and “Better than Most.” This is much higher than bigger brother MDX’s rating. We believe this is due to the simple six speed transmission in lieu of the MDX’s overly complex ZF 9 speed transmission. The only issues we know of is a sometimes faulty navigation system and complaints of the bluetooth system not functioning properly.
Like the larger MDX, the RDX receives top ratings from both the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety as well as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The top marks can be attributed to the host of advanced safety features from Acura. While they may not perform as well as similar features in some competitors, they come significantly cheaper in Acura form. The main complaint about the adaptive cruise control is an overeagerness to brake and a reluctance to accelerate, which are both preferable to the alternative.
There are many similarly priced SUVs you may want to consider in this price range like the Audi Q3, the BMW X1, or the Mercedes GLA. The RDX outperforms all its German competitors in nearly every category with the exception of interior and exterior design, which is largely a matter of taste. These models sell well because of their badge and do not provide the performance for the dollar that the Acura provides. However, we recognize the value added by a premium badge. If you seek that sex appeal and want an Audi for Acura money, we won’t stop you!
The strongest competitor to the RDX is the Lexus NX. The base NX and RDX are priced within a few hundred dollars of each other. The NX is beautifully designed inside and out and looks and feels much more expensive than the RDX. If a plush interior, less confusing infotainment system and a more comfortable ride appeal to you, give the NX a look. Performance wise, the NX lags far behind the RDX. The handling is not near as sharp. The NX is a whole second slower to 60 mph at 7.2 seconds. If driving matters to you, we recommend the RDX. If you’re looking for a beautiful, very reliable luxury SUV and could care less about spirited driving, the Lexus NX is the best alternative.
The Acura RDX is all you really need. The beauty of the Acura Brand is its simplicity. Everything functions as it should. Acura has positioned itself as the reliable, practical luxury brand providing excellent value for the dollar and the RDX is no exception. If you’re looking for a practical, well-rounded small luxury SUV, look no further.