Expert Reviews

[Video] Test Drive: 2016 Acura RDX

AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car

Your writer is feeling a little obsolete in this review, since it’s my job to explain about how a vehicle rides, performs and functions, even though none of that is why most folks buy an Acura RDX.

RDX promises a wholesome, down-to-earth, no B.S. ownership experience.

It’s a little quiet looking, as luxury utes go, but under the discreetly handsome 2016 Acura RDX’s skin, it’s a total sales superstar – and not because of attributes like those mentioned above.

Here, topping the sales charts for both Acura, and for its market segment, comes largely as a result of traits associated with the badge on the hood. As an Acura, RDX has a solid reputation for reliability, sensibility, honest pricing, decent fuel mileage, and all sorts of warm and fuzzy stuff that prudent shoppers like. RDX promises a wholesome, down-to-earth, no B.S. ownership experience, which has helped move many copies while turning many first-time Acura shoppers into repeat Acura buyers. Winning virtually every award there is for safety and residual value doesn’t hurt, either.

Model year 2016 sees the RDX dotted with updates and enhancements. Jewel-eye LED headlamps are applied, the engine is powered up a snudge, numerous exterior elements are restyled to convey Acura’s latest styling language, and a new suite of safety and connectivity features are included. Improvements to ride and handling have been carried out too, the All-Wheel Drive (AWD) system is more assertive in sending power to the rear wheels, and a small price increase nets shoppers a more comprehensive list of feature content.

On board, Acura’s signature dual-screen centre stack sees one display up top, and another just beneath, for quick access to and reference of navigation, entertainment, communications and the like. The dual screens look futuristic, and will make gadget-buffs feel warm and fuzzy inside, though design aficionado types may take issue with the different colours, fonts and layout of each interface. In all, the atmosphere imparted by the tester’s grey and tan-coloured cabin and high-tech readouts is casually luxurious and sophisticated: perhaps not as serious and formal as a comparable BMW or Mercedes, but not lacking for high-tech or a luxurious feel. This is khakis- and-a-golf-shift luxury.

Elsewhere, look for generous at-hand storage, a neat and tidy button control layout, and a great sense of space, relative to RDX’s overall dimensions, which forms the basis for a feeling of just-right sizing that’s apparent in numerous ways. The cargo space is deep, wide, has a largely-square aperture, and gets a low load floor for easy access. The rear seat floor area is virtually flat, free of a central hump to accommodate driveline components beneath, and enhances rear passenger space as a result. You could seat three adults in back with little issue. Headroom in both rows is more than adequate, and up front, entry and exit require no stepping up or down, but rather, a lateral butt-slide sideways and directly into the seats. This is the sort of crossover I could load my elderly grandmother into with no issue, the kind that my dog can jump aboard without hesitation, and the kind your writer could hop in and out of during a full day of errands, without any fatigue.

RDX’s new powertrain is similar in specification to last year’s model: a 3.5L V6, six-speed automatic with paddle shift, and AWD that’s no longer of Acura’s Super Handling variety. This year, the new engine features direct injection for better low-RPM torque response, and a bump in rated horsepower.

On offer is additional creamy and solid output at lower revs, with improved low-end sauce reducing the need for downshifts in city traffic and highway hills, thereby boosting overall efficiency, if slightly. Sporty drivers will appreciate the high-revving power peak, and the nearly 7,000 rpm redline accompanied by a snorty roar and an eager, free-breathing character when opened up.

Paddle-activated gear changes come smoothly, with perfect rev-matching on downshifts and pleasing sound effects, though a slight delay requires drivers to think a half second ahead of the gearbox at full throttle, to avoid engaging the rev-limiter.

In all, here’s an engine that’s remarkably smooth and quiet when driven by the light-footed, though one that works beautifully when having the bejesus driven out of it, should drivers be so inclined.

Ride quality is a mixed bag. Reasonably-sized wheels and chubby tire sidewalls work towards an extra layer of softness between the driver and the road. Highway cruising and driving through town on smooth roads, or even lumpy ones, the result is a slightly-taut smoothness, though rougher surfaces, washboards, and broken pavement can coax plenty of noise and abruptness from the suspension beneath. Your writer hoped the ride quality would stand up better to worst-case-scenario roads. If you frequently travel on poorly-maintained roads, visit one on your test-drive and evaluate the ride quality and noise levels for yourself.

Effective use of the latest high-tech features is demonstrated in two key areas. First, the LED headlights. These can be hit and miss depending on the manufacturer, though the multi-segment LED lamps capping the RDX’s front end provide crisp, saturating and consistently-dispersed light well up the road, and into nearby treelines. Low beam performance is good, and high-beams are fantastic.

Second, the networked array of radar and camera safety systems works well, with lane-departure and rear cross-path traffic alerts engaged with admirable effectiveness. The adaptive cruise control system works nicely too, though it can occasionally feel abrupt and clumsy, depending on the traffic situation.

Mileage on my highway-intensive watch landed at a measured-by-hand 9.8 L/100 km, with the computer readout suggesting the figure to be an even better 9.5. That’s pretty stellar real-life mileage for a generously-sized AWD ute with the better part of 300 horses.

With an impressive standard features list, a trophy rack stuffed with awards, and a proven brand reputation, as well as plenty of space, decent overall comfort and good fuel mileage, the RDX ticks virtually all the right boxes as an attainable and sensible luxury crossover for the masses.

Consider it alongside comparable offerings from Audi, Lexus, Infiniti and others.

RDX starts at $42,000 with this fully-loaded Elite-grade tester coming in a touch under $47,000.

4 years/80,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 4 years/unlimited distance roadside assistance

Audi Q5
Cadillac SRX
Infiniti QX60
Lincoln MKC
Mercedes Benz GLK
Volvo XC60

Model Tested 2016 Acura RDX Elite
Base Price $46,590
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,945
Price as Tested $48,635
Optional Equipment