There was a point in time where luxury automakers focused all of their attention into sporty coupes and big, looming sedans but with the rapid growth of the midsized luxury SUV segment – vehicles like the Acura RDX have become the next big thing. Those previous sport sedan owners who have gotten older, gotten married and had kids want a vehicle that still packs plenty of luxury prestige with room for the whole family but they also want a vehicle that is fun to drive in all sorts of situations. For a long time, there were lots of SUVs that offered lots of space and the luxury feel but they fell short in the category of fun to drive but the Acura RDX is a clear indication that you can have your interior space and still love driving the vehicle.
Our subject for this review was an Acura RDX AWD with the Technology Package which is the top of the line configuration with a base price including destination of $40,315. While there are some optional items that you can add on via the Acura.com build page, they are almost entirely items like floor mats, roof rails and wood grain interior trim – or in other words they are all non-functional items. Fortunately, the RDX is so well equipped that there isn’t much to want for during the ordering process that isnt included in the RDX AWD with the Technology Package.
Acura has done a great job of applying a very similar face to all of their vehicles and the fact that the RDX shares a front end design with gives this midsized SUV the exterior feel of a high riding sport wagon. In other words, this is not a vehicle that screams “crossover” so those buyers who want the functionality of a crossover/SUV without the large-ish exterior styling should love the RDX.
Across the front end, the familial look that Acura has evolved through the entire model lineup is clear on the RDX with the centerpiece being the big, bold silver grille that carries the Acura crest. As luxury vehicles go, the RDX is pretty scant on chrome but there are some silver accents that offer a sportier luxury look with the grille being the most notable of those features. The sharp, angular projection headlights bolster the luxo-sport feel while the fog lights mounted in the large black vents in the lower fascia lean towards the sport end of design. The extremely low “nose” of the car is created by the swiftly sloping hood and that low nose is what helps the design have such a car-like feel.
From the side, the Acura RDX has a low, slippery shape that starts with the aforementioned low nose, continuing through the gradual windscreen line and a nearly flat roof line that extends towards the end of the vehicle. Even though there is very little rear overhang, the RDX does have the “butt” of a big SUV which allows for lots of cargo area space and a nice big opening to access that space. However, it doesn’t feel like a vehicle with a huge rear end when you are driving it nor does it look awkward from the side.
There was a point in time where the Acura design language was viewed as being super aggressive but those days are long gone. An influx of super aggressive models from the likes of Lexus and Audi have forced the RDX into the calmer end of the design spectrum but that doesn’t make the vehicle is less attractive. This midsized SUV wears the family face very well with a look that is a little bit luxury and a little bit sport.
What impressed me the most about the interior of the Acura RDX is the amount of space from front to rear. There is tons of space for the driver and the front passenger in every direction with enough driver’s seat adjustability to accommodate drivers tall and small. More impressively, with the front seats moved all of the way back, there is a huge amount of leg space for the rear passengers that will allow tall adults to sit comfortably in the back seats – an attribute that can be hard to come across in SUVs of this size. While packing a third person into the middle of the back seat will most certainly cramp up the folks sitting in the outer seats, the flat floor and lack of a protruding console allows leg space for the third passenger as well. That being said, I wouldn’t put an adult in the middle seat but if you have three smaller children, the backseat will comfortably accommodate them. Also, even with tons of space between the front and rear seats, there is still a massive rear cargo area without folding down the back seats. This means that when you are hauling four adults – you still have ample space for additional cargo including golf bags…or multiple strollers and diaper bags. When you do need to fold the back seats down for even more cargo space, there are release handles conveniently located near the rear hatch so that you can fold down either of the back seats without having to walk around to the rear doors to flip down the seats.
Space aside, the Acura RDX offers all of the luxury amenities and comforts that you would expect from a modern midsized luxury SUV. The front and rear seats are wrapped in soft black leather with more padded leather on the door panels, on the center console armrest around the steering wheel and on the shift knob but oddly – the dash board is not padded. This really doesn’t make any functional difference but with the padded leather dash becoming “the thing to do” in the luxury market, I’m surprised that the RDX doesn’t offer that. In fine luxo-sport fashion, the interior also features silver accents along the dash and through the door panels of the predominantly black cabin.
In terms of interior technology, the Acura RDX packs it all thanks to the Technology Package with a bright, high mounted infotainment screen that is easy to read while driving. Along with the shift paddles, the steering wheel has controls for the infotainment system and the cruise control system but the center stack also has full controls for the stereo and navigation setup. In an era where so many companies design their infotainment packages that can prove to be over complicated, the RDX has a system that is easy to use without needing courses at your local dealership. The same is true of the dual zone climate control system that puts everything in a nice small, clean control panel at the bottom of the center stack for the driver and passenger. The front seats are heated with two different temperature settings with those controls mounted down on the shift console and completing the high tech feel is a set of super clean gauges (tachometer, speedometer) with a small driver’s information display in the middle. There is also a bright red metal push to start button that is super sporty…as buttons go.
The Acura RDX has an interior that screams luxury and while I would like a little more emphatic sound system and maybe a big, panoramic sunroof – there is nothing to complain about between the doors of this midsized sport utility vehicle.
The Acura RDX is powered by a 3.5L V6 that delivers 273 horsepower and 251lb-ft of torque to all four wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission that is controlled with a set of steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. The RDX has the basic driving feel of a bigger sedan without the clunky feel of an SUV so it is fitting that this crossover packs so much power and the addition of the shift paddles further the sport sedan feel while driving. Even the seating position, which I found to be lower slung than many other vehicles in the same class as the RDX, gives the driver a more car-like feel. The downside to this is that those SUV buyers who prefer to sit up away from the road may not like how you are positioned relative to the road but I really liked the basic driving position of the RDX.
First things first – the Acura RDX promises fuel economy figures of 19 miles per gallon around town, 27mpg on the highway and a combined number of 22mpg. In my time with the RDX, I found those numbers to be very realistic when driving “reasonably” but when I pushed the RDX hard with lots of higher speeds and hard acceleration tests, fuel economy suffered more than Ive seen in other SUVS…especially those with turbocharged engines. Because I so enjoyed the performance oriented drive of the RDX, I found myself pushing it hard quite a bit and that caused me to post some fairly poor fuel economy figures of just 24.8 miles per gallon over the entire course of my testing period. However, based on the numbers that I saw when driving the RDX more gently (staying within 5-10mph of the speed limit, not seeing how fast I could get to 60 from every stoplight), I was able to hit those EPA figures. In other words, if you have a lead foot you shouldn’t expect to hit the prescribed fuel economy numbers but if you are a more reasonable driver who isn't buying an SUV to go fat – you shouldn’t have a problem hitting the numbers in an area with similar topography to Metro Detroit.
Thanks to the 273 horsepower and 251lb-ft of torque being distributed to all four wheels, the Acura RDX packs a surprising amount of punch – whether you are launching hard from a stop sign or accelerating hard on the highway to merge or get around slower moving traffic. Throttle response is sharp and precise with no real lag (a problem for some other turbocharged crossovers on the market) from the time where you hit the gas pedal to the time when you have all of the available power channeled to the wheels. Under pure straight line acceleration, the weight of the RDX is apparent compared to an actual sport sedan but in comparison to other vehicles in the segment, the RDX provides an impressive level of instant-on acceleration that begins when you hit the pedal and continues from gear to gear – with no real feeling of being underpowered between idle and the vehicle’s top speed. Granted, this is still a luxury SUV so this isn't a vehicle that is going to lay down a bunch of 12 second quarter mile times but when it comes to the midsized SUV segment – I found the RDX to be one of the more entertaining models that I have driven in terms of acceleration overall speed.
In terms of handling, the Acura RDX continues in its sedan like ways with a ride quality that is pleasurable for both passengers and the driver. The steering is sharp and the suspension is stiff enough to provide plenty of confidence when steering through tight turns and long, sweeping turns alike but most importantly for the luxury SUV segment – the suspension isnt stiff enough to make for a rough ride. Some harder core sport SUVs offer great handling at the expense of ride quality or they achieve both comfort and handling with a pricey adjustable suspension setup but the RDX provides a great balance of performance and comfort. This isnt a vehicle that I would try sliding through a sharp turn like I would with some sport sedans but as was the case with the acceleration – the RDX does a great job of leading the segment in handling capabilities without killing the ride quality. Also, the addition of the shift paddles allow you some gear banging fun when accelerating hard along with some assistance in deceleration by downshifting during stints of spirited driving.
In this day and age, every luxury brand SUV offers a smooth, comfortable ride but with the growing emphasis on the sporty aspect of a proper luxury crossover, things like acceleration and confident handling have become far more important – and the Acura RDX checks all of the boxes.
The Final Word
The Acura RDX does what many luxury SUVs aspire to do – offering plenty of fun to drive factor without hurting the ride quality that is a must have for any luxury vehicle. Thanks to vehicles like the RDX, having a true luxury SUV no longer means that you have to drive a clunky, high riding vehicle that gets awful mileage and handles like a lawn mower. The RDX affords a similar drive quality both in terms of handling and acceleration as their popular sport sedans but it does so with a shocking amount of interior space from front to back.
If you want a true luxury SUV that has enough space to comfortably seat 4 adults with gobs of cargo space, the Acura RDX could be your ideal vehicle. The interior would allow a family of four to pack up enough items for a weeklong vacation with an interior that wont have the kids bugging about whether or not you are there yet. Best of all, for the mom or dad who will drive the RDX each day – the acceleration and handling attributes provide tons of fun to drive factor so this vehicle requires far less compromise than the dreaded minivan…or some other SUVs of comparable size.
Patrick Rall is a professional writer and photographer with a passion for all things automotive. Having grown up in his father’s performance shop, he spent extensive time at the oval track and drag strip – both driving and wrenching on various types of vehicles. In addition to working as a writer, Patrick previously worked as an automotive technician before moving on to a business office position with a chain of dealerships, and this broad spectrum of experience in the industry allows him to offer a unique look on the automotive world. Follow Patrick on Twitter, Facebook and on Youtube.