When my wife was shopping for a new car recently, she literally spent days bouncing back between two choices: the Acura RDX and the Acura MDX. Both are SUVs. Both are built on solid Honda chassis. Both have nearly identical interiors. There is one major difference: size. The RDX is Acura’s compact SUV while the MDX is the mid-sized version.
Of course, you’re thinking, the differences can’t be that simple. In fact, there’s not much more to the comparison. At least on the surface. Any MDX owner would feel right at home sliding behind the wheel of an RDX. About the only thing they would notice is simply that the RDX is smaller, inside and out.
The 2016 Acura RDX is built on the same platform as the Honda CRV. The highly rated CRV is a rock solid SUV that doesn’t do much wrong. The Acura version is just supposed to give it a little more sophistication. The 2016 got a mild refresh that use Acura’s Jewel Eye LED headlights and LED taillights, a new three-dimensional grille treatment. It also has a slightly revised lower look with the lower front and rear bumpers.
The RDX only has a single engine choice. That’s a 3.5 liter V6 that delivers 279 horsepower which is exactly where it needs to be. Less than 250 would be disappointing, and over 300 would be unnecessary (OK, unnecessary for getting around town…). There wasn’t a single time I pushed the accelerator and felt there was something missing. It was mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. I had the all-wheel-drive version that delivers 19 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway with a combined number of 22 mpg, which is very close to what I actually managed during my week.
I read plenty of reviews where people knock the RDX interior as simply not being nice enough. If you’re going to spend a premium, they claim, you should get more. I guess I don’t agree. You could spend more to get additional luxury inside, but it really wouldn’t make much of a difference. The RDX is sufficiently upscale to me. Seats were nice and comfortable. The second row is elevated which is good because it gives passengers a little more room and a little more height. The only downside is that when you fold it down the cargo area isn’t flat. Most of the time that’s not a problem, but it’s always good to note for someone who needs the flatter space.
I can say I’m only moderately satisfied with the Acura display interface. The navigation is mediocre (although that’s true with most cars) and the rest of the controls aren’t especially intuitive. Having said that, there’s nothing wrong with them and most drivers will figure things out pretty quickly. I recently tested the new Honda Pilot which has a much improved interface. I’m hoping that will soon arrive on the Acura line as well.
You buy options in packages with Acura. There is the AcuraWatch Plus package. It includes adaptive cruise control, a forward collision mitigation system that has automatic braking and a lane-departure warning and intervention system. The Technology package gives you sport front seats, leather upholstery, a navigation system, and a blind-spot monitoring. You’ll also get a two displays. An 8-inch on top and an additional 7-inch touchscreen below. Finally, there’s the Advance package that gives you all of the above plus ventilated front seats (nice to have since I live in Phoenix), parking sensors, automatic wipers, remote engine start and foglights.
An obvious competitor for the RDX is going to be the Lexus NX200. While I have yet to drive that Lexus, I have no doubt it will have the same great build quality as it’s RX sibling. There is one distinct advantage that the RDX will have, and that’s cargo space. The numbers I’ve seen show that the RDX has about 20 square feet more than the NX.
My test car had all three option packages and the sticker maxed out at $44,340. While it’s not cheap, it’s a reasonable price for all the technology and safety in the RDX.
Would I buy the RDX? I very nearly did, or rather, my wife came that close. Ultimately, my wife chose the MDX because she wanted to have a third row of seats. As a satisfied MDX owner I have a feeling that the RDX will leave me with the same comfort, although a little less room.