We've often been disappointed by Acura because we feel it hasn't distanced itself enough from parent Honda to truly be seen as a luxury brand. But sometimes, less is more. Such is the case with the RDX, the compact SUV, which gets a mid-cycle refresh. So is Acura making progress? Slowly.
Appearance: It leans toward the classic, without any of the more flowing lines of its luxury SUV competition. There's nothing wrong with that; after all, we've always felt that Acura suffered from an identity crisis, so maybe the RDX's clean character lines and elegant profile is a step toward a design aesthetic. After all, it resembles its big sibling, the MDX, and now has standard "Jewel Eye" LED headlights that debuted on the RLX luxury sedan. The RDX, and other Acuras, still sport the chevron shield grille, but it's smaller and more subtle. Our RDX came in rich Fathom Pearl Blue, which added to its sophisticated appearance, as does 18-inch alloy wheels.
Performance: A tweaked 3.5-liter 279-horsepower V-6 is paired to a disappointing 6-speed automatic with sequential sport shift. Why not the 9-speed available in other vehicles in the Honda/Acura line? Lyra still prefers the turbocharged 4-cylinder in the first-generation RDX with SH-AWD, which she owns, and thinks the V-6 is lifeless by comparison. Peter, who also is a fan of the lively first-gen RDX, disagrees. The V-6 has more than enough acceleration when merging and passing in highway driving. Bottom line: The RDX is tuned for comfort — unlike some of the competition — and the optional All-Wheel Drive with Intelligent Control ($1,500) helps out when you need more traction.
Options: Our RDX was loaded with all the available packages: Tech, Advance, AcuraWatch Plus. The Tech Package ($3,700) adds navigation, multi-angle rearview camera, surround-sound system with 10 speakers, blind-spot monitor and GPS-linked dual-zone automatic climate control with air filter. The Advance Package ($1,650) adds remote engine start, parking sensors, ventilated front seats, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming side mirrors and fog lights. AcuraWatch Plus ($1,300) adds tech safety features: lane-keep assist, collision-mitigation braking, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and lane-departure warning.
Interior: Our RDX's graystone — almost white — made for a bright and attractive and quiet cabin, with only the bright-red engine start button not matching the color scheme. The front seats — 10-way controls for the driver — are plush and well-padded. The second row has surprisingly good legroom and is slightly elevated. The attractive dash is fashioned in a dual cockpit style and holds Honda/Acura's two-screen infotainment system, which we have never have liked — finding it confusing and redundant. On the console is a covered bin for gadgets that contains USB, auxiliary and power ports. Cargo space is 26.1 cubic feet, which translates into enough room to handle a large grocery run. If you need more space, you can tip forward the backs of the split-fold seats with an easy pull of a lever in the cargo area.
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Our 3 favorites
Simplicity: A simple, but elegant inside and out. Maybe Acura has finally found its aesthetic sweet spot?
Cabin: It's spacious, even for rear passengers, which is a plus for a compact SUV.
AcuraWatch Plus: Lots of high-tech safety features
The bottom line: The RDX often seems to be overlooked for more flashy offerings, but the 5-seater is a very capable and handsome SUV, especially for those who don't want or need a third row.