2017 Acura RDX AWD
From the Japanese premium brand’s entry-level ILX sedan to its mid-size seven-occupant MDX utility, good value has long been an Acura trait. You can buy a 2017 RDX for as little as $35,570, which while a couple of hundred more than last year’s base price is still a great deal for what you’re getting. If you require all-wheel drive it’s still just $37,070.
First off the RDX comes standard with a smooth and energetic 3.5-liter V6 that’s good for 279 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque, while additional standard kit includes
18-inch alloys, amplitude reactive dampers, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, ambient cabin lighting, auto on/off headlights, a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone auto climate control, five-inch color infotainment featuring a multi-angle rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and streaming audio, satellite radio, text messaging functionality, 360-watt seven-speaker audio, a 10-way powered driver’s seat with memory that also controls the heatable side mirrors which include auto reverse tilt, a four-way powered front passenger seat, heated front cushions, a powered moonroof, a HomeLink garage door opener, a powered liftgate, active sound control, and more.
For an additional $1,300 you can add a host of AcuraWatch features such as forward collision warning, collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, tire pressure monitoring, and adaptive cruise control, most of which help it achieve a best possible IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus rating, although even the base RDX earns a five-star NHTSA crash test rating.
Configure an RDX next to any of its European competitors and you’ll quickly realize there’s a reason it’s so popular. Seriously, if it weren’t for rapidly rising Lexus NX fortunes the RDX would be number one in the segment as it’s already knocked Audi’s Q5 off its bestselling compact luxury SUV pedestal. After 11 months of 2016 the NX sits in first with 47,509 sales and the RDX is nipping at its radically angled taillights with 46,416 units down the road. Where’s the Q5? Its 43,154 sales total is respectable considering its a first-generation model that’s hardly fresh after eight model years with its mid-cycle update now five years old and an all-new second-gen 2018 model expected next year. While the NX is near new and therefore garnering lots of industry buzz, the RDX is now in the fifth model year of its second generation, although last year’s update added those fabulous trademark Jewel-Eye LED headlamps noted earlier, plus other improvements all-round, so it’s fresher than Ingolstadt’s compact luxury SUV offering.
Now that we’re talking competitors, these two frontrunners are miles ahead of the rest when it comes to popularity. It took BMW’s X3 and the sportier coupe-like X4 to achieve 43,808 deliveries over the same 11 months, whereas Mercedes’ combined GLK and new GLC sales totaled a fractionally stronger 43,938 units over the same period, although the GLC hasn’t been with us very long so we should give it some time to catch up. The also-rans included the new Lincoln MKC with 22,767 year-to-date sales, Volvo needing a replacement for its XC60 but still attracting 17,669 buyers, the segment’s priciest Porsche Macan with 17,536 well-to-do clients, Infiniti’s recently lengthened QX50 finding 14,947 owners, Land Rover’s Discovery Sport making headway with 12,584 new customers, Buick finally in this segment with a Chinese-built Envision that pulled in 10,262 takers (Trump’s not going to like this one), and Jaguar heating up the segment with its new F-Pace that claimed 8,194 new owners since May. There’s a bunch of lifted wagons that also qualify for this class including Volvo’s V60 Cross Country that found 2,485 buyers and Audi’s A4 Allroad that was good for 1,989, but that pretty well sums it up. In other words, for Acura to be near the very top of this impressive heap is something to brag about.
That said it’s not because the well-equipped base RDX is the least expensive in its segment. I mentioned its price has increased by $200 earlier and need to also inform that some of its rivals have hiked their window stickers similarly. That still makes Lincoln’s MKC most affordable at $32,880, with Infiniti’s QX50 next in line at $34,450 and Lexus’ NX the third least expensive at $35,085, after which the RDX slots in at $35,570. Land Rover’s Discovery Sport is significantly pricier at $37,695, Mercedes’ GLC higher still at $39,150, followed by BMW’s X3 at $39,250, Audi’s Q5 at $40,900, Volvo’s XC60 at $40,950, and Jaguar’s F-Pace at $41,990, albeit all less expensive than the new Buick Envision that GM somehow values at $42,070. Still, none are even close to the Porsche Macan’s $47,500 starting price.
It gets even more interesting when we factor in options, my tester in full-load all-wheel drive Advance Package trim and therefore including the $1,500 upgrade to four-wheel propulsion plus everything from $3,700 Technology package such as power-folding side mirrors, a larger eight-inch LED backlit VGA infotainment display dedicated to navigation mapping, trip and traffic incident info, phone messages, voice activation settings, calendar, clock, and more, plus a separate “On-Demand” color touchscreen below that lets you adjust the audio and enhanced GPS-linked and solar-sensing climate control system, the former upgraded to a superb 410-watt, 10-speaker ELS surround sound system with Song By Voice, HD radio and Aha compatibility, while Tech features continue with dynamic guidelines for the rearview camera, Siri Eyes Free, AcuraLink Real-Time Traffic, Traffic Rerouting and telematics services, sport seats with perforated leather upholstery, an eight-way powered front passenger’s seat, and blindspot monitoring with cross-traffic monitoring. Specific features that come with the $1,650 Advance package include fog lamps, sportier looking 18-inch wheels, auto-dimming side mirrors, remote start, rain-sensing wipers, front and rear parking sensors, and ventilated front seats.
The only thing that could’ve made my tester better (although it comes down to personal taste) are all-black diamond-cut alloys, black running boards with rear steps, plus black roof rails and crossbars; a hardwood trim package for the interior, and a number of other accessories your dealer can install.
Life with the RDX starts out with one of the largest proximity key fobs known to man, a quality piece that’s a bit on the bulky side but makes you feel as if you’re carrying something of substance. Both front doors provide keyless access, a push of the black button on the otherwise body-color door handle all that’s needed. No, it’s not as slick as some of its competitors’ flush fully integrated body-color designs but these do the job without issue. Upon opening the driver’s door it’s obvious Acura’s gone to a great deal of trouble distinguishing this RDX from the previous generation Honda CR-V that shares its basic architecture, the two as dissimilar inside as they are from the outside.
Acura has provided a completely new interior with many more soft-touch synthetic surfaces including the entire dash top, much of the instrument panel, plus most of the door uppers and inserts, while the classic looking dual-dial primary instrument cluster flanks a large trip computer at center, and two big screen infotainment displays light up the center stack, the topmost one more of an advanced multi-information display that’s controllable with a large rotating knob and buttons on the lower section of the stack, and the lower one a touchscreen.
The RDX is missing the segment’s usual fabric-wrapped roof pillars, and there’s more hard plastics inside than with the majority of rivals, Acura forgetting to soften much of the lower dash and glove box lid, most of the center console excepting the armrest, and more of the door panels than its competitors. Likewise it seems unusual to see a top-level model without a panoramic sunroof, the regular sized powered glass moonroof above the driver and front passenger better than nothing yet hardly as open and airy as the class average, while heatable rear outboard seats aren’t available either, although you can get them north of the 49th in Canada’s westernmost region where it’s a helluvalot warmer mid-winter than anywhere in the Midwest (think rainy but mostly mild Seattle).
The seats are wonderful, mind you, their adjustability ideal for my medium-build five-foot-eight body’s size and shape and the two-way powered lumbar also a good fit for the small of my back, while their perforated inserts are useful for cooling during summer’s heat and three-way warmers amply hot when winter arrives. Cold in mind there’s no heatable steering wheel despite my tester’s top-line status, plus the steering column is DIY manually adjustable, but all was forgiven when I found a set of paddles behind each spoke.
Lighting up the engine simply requires a push of the red engine start/stop button on the dash, the 24-valve, SOHC V6 purring to life in sensationally smooth near silence. It’s not the most powerful engine among the segment’s six-cylinder entries until you start comparing it to the competition’s base mills that are mostly turbo fours, but it’s still plenty quick off the line with a zero to 60 mph sprint of 5.8 seconds (or at least that’s what I was able to time on my stopwatch) thanks to a comparatively svelte 3,962-lb curb weight. Likewise the six-speed automatic isn’t the most advanced in a class of seven- and eight-speed challengers yet amply responsive to throttle input and plenty positive while shifting when set to Sport mode. The engine’s i-VTEC and Variable Cylinder Management technologies also help it claim a fairly thrifty EPA fuel economy rating of 20 mpg in the city, 28 on the highway and 23 combined with FWD or 19 city, 27 highway and 22 combined with AWD, which only looks thirsty when comparing competitors’ less powerful four-cylinder base engines.
Being that government emissions regulations probably won’t be relaxing anytime soon I expect a turbocharged four-cylinder will return to this model when it gets redesigned, at least in bottom-rung trims, likely with a version of the more efficient eight-speed automatic used in the ILX and TLX, although I think Acura would be making a mistake to completely kill the V6. Instead I’d like to see the larger engine updated with the nine-speed auto from the brand’s MDX, along with that model’s auto start/stop system.
Until then the standard V6 is a big bonus for performance fans, while the RDX balances ride comfort and road-holding as well as its engine manages smooth power delivery with strong acceleration, its standard amplitude reactive dampers making the most of an inherently good suspension setup made up of MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link design at the rear. Acura combines this with standard front-wheel drive or an optional all-wheel drive system that’s only deployed when required so as to minimize fuel usage. It sends up to 40 percent of the engine’s torque to the rear during moderate acceleration in dry conditions or maintains a 50/50 torque-split in slippery conditions, while the usual stability and traction control systems help to improve grip further when needed.
One of the reasons the RDX is so popular is interior roominess, the rear seats comfortable and accommodating and the cargo compartment spacious as well with 26.1 cubic feet behind the 60/40-split rear seatbacks and 76.9 cubic feet when they’re laid flat, which is an ultra-easy process that only requires the tug of separate sidewall-mounted levers. Carpeted flaps automatically fall into place to cover the gap that groceries might otherwise roll into, while the load floor and those sidewalls are also covered in high-grade carpeting. Acura adds chromed tie-down rings to secure heavier items, but it doesn’t spiff up the tailgate ledge with a metal protector plate like some others in the class. I suppose the only real negative in all of this is a load floor that’s not entirely flat due to a steep rise where the seatbacks meet the rear cargo area, which makes stacking boxes or other large items difficult. Obviously this isn’t an issue with buyers.
That the latest RDX is one of the more attractive SUVs in its compact luxury class despite its years doesn’t go against its appeal, its distinctive LED headlights initially catching the eye, its sleek lines enhanced by the Advance package’s stunning multi-spoke wheels, and its sharply angled taillight lenses making quite the statement from the rear.
While the 2017 RDX might not quite catch up to new Lexus NX sales when calendar year 2016 comes to an end, I can’t see it slipping backward in popularity anytime soon. It’s simply too good and offers such great value that it’ll likely continue as a bestseller for years to come.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press Copyright: American Auto Press