DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: I've been hard on Acura lately over their wasted opportunities in the American market -- nonsensical naming, good engineering let down by drab styling, etc. -- but I really enjoyed this new RDX, helped in large part because it represents good value for the money, something that hasn't generally been true of Acura products in the past decade.
Consider: For $40K and change you get the brand's top-notch V6 engine packaged in a luxurious-feeling AWD crossover with excellent interior room and the standard equipment one would expect in the class. Heated seats, rearview camera, comprehensive infotainment—it's all present and accounted for in the Tech trim without requiring multiple $2,000 option packages like those our German friends are so fond of.
The RDX also exemplifies the Honda/Acura fun-to-drive personality that's been present but lightly veiled in many recent Acura products. “In a crossover with an automatic?” you may ask? Yep -- this thing is tight and tossable with good grip, a willing transmission and a very satisfying overall driving experience.
As far as looks go, your mileage may vary. At worst the RDX is vanilla, a lightly creased example of the generic crossover shape so familiar on our roads today. It's an attractive evolution from the earlier RDX and blends sportiness with…technical luxury, if that's a term.
In fact, that might be a good phrase to describe Acura's ethos; if the 2014 RDX is any indication, there's some life left in this brand after all.
ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: Full disclosure: There are two RDXs in my immediate family exactly like our test car with all-wheel drive and the Technology Package.
The first one was purchased more than a year ago for my mother, who was downsizing from a first-generation MDX. She still wanted something with comfort, a higher ride height, and decent fuel economy. The original RDX certainly wouldn't have fit the bill because it had a stiffly sprung chassis dial-in more towards tight handling performance than ride cushiness and the turbocharged four-cylinder engine was a fuel-thirsty beast.When the current RDX debuted, though, it was ideal.
RDX number two arrived last month for my sister-in-law, who chose it for the same reasons as my mother, but also because of all the features packed into it for the price. She came out of a barebones previous-generation Lexus RX 350 and wanted some actual features, like navigation and a backup camera, on her new car. For a new RX 350 with all-wheel drive, that meant thousands of dollars more than a fully loaded all-wheel drive RDX Tech.
Factor in the sales records the RDX has been posting lately along with what I've seen within my family, I have to believe that Acura has done a good job at producing a compelling argument for the small luxury SUV segment.
The 3.5-liter V6 and the six-speed automatic is a buttery smooth union that briskly gets the RDX on its way. It's also respectably fuel efficient with an EPA combined fuel economy rating of 22 mpg, but premium fuel is recommended for maximum performance. As Andy mentioned, it does possess a handling spirit that reminds me of Honda/Acura vehicles of old that feel well-connected to the road with responsive steering and buttoned up suspension tuning that keeps things planted in corners, while delivering a fairly comfortable ride quality. Brakes have a strong initial bite that may startle drivers at first, but it's something that you get used to quickly, and it's preferred over squishy performing brakes.
Getting back to the value aspect, the Technology Package baked into the $40,605 price of our test car adds navigation with voice recognition, rearview camera, real-time traffic and weather, an ELS surround sound system, Song By Voice, GPS-linked, solar-sensing climate control, power tailgate and xenon headlights to our RDX AWD. That's in addition to leather seats, power front seats with heat, dual-zone automatic climate controls, Bluetooth, moonroof and heated outside mirrors. The one option that's missing from that list which I wish Acura would equip on the RDX is blind spot monitoring.
The cabin is comfortable with seats that are supportive enough and constructed with nice materials with good visibility. I appreciated the center stack controls consisting of mostly buttons instead of the touchscreen that new Honda/Acura vehicles are moving to now. In the RDX, everything is logically laid out and clearly marked. I'm sure when the RDX gets a midcycle update; we'll see the touchscreen, which will bum me out.
There's still a ways to go before Acura is a relevant full-line automaker. I personally would love to see the return of a coupe to fill the spot that was once occupied by the Integra/RSX, and I'm hopeful the upcoming TLX will be a solid and fun vehicle when it lands to replace the TSX and TL. But as for its SUV lineup, Acura has a strong one-two punch with the MDX on the larger end and this RDX on the smaller end.
2014 Acura RDX with Technology Package
Base Price: $40,605
As-Tested Price: $40,605
Drivetrain: 3.5-liter V6; AWD, six-speed automatic
Output: 273 hp @ 6,200 rpm, 251 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,852 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 19/27/22 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 22.6 mpg
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