Acura's entry into the luxury compact SUV category is a strong one. The 2016 Acura RDX is versatile and practical, and can be equipped with enough safety technology to place it at the top of its segment. It may not have the brand cachet of some of its competitors such as the BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class, and Audi Q5, but it certainly has the chops to compete. It's main rival—at least in terms of fuel economy and perceived safety—may be the Volvo XC60, which is another popular pick in the category.
New for the 2013 model year, the RDX gets an update for the 2016 model year that fits a new V-6 engine under the hood, and adds some light styling touches. The headlights are now a string of five LEDs, lined up in a row like diamonds on a wedding ring. The front fascia has been reshaped, along with the rear, which also gets LED taillights. The emphatic, angular grille is still front and center, but it seems to fit better on this vehicle than any other Acura. Overall, the styling is sleek, with an attractive profile and pronounced fender arches.
For 2016, peak power from the V-6 is up slightly, and there’s more torque over a broader range, resulting in more immediate response at all engine speeds and better drivability around town. The 2016 RDX is rated at 279 horsepower (up 6 hp) and 252 pound-feet of torque (up 1).
We found it to be a smooth, responsive engine that delivers strong acceleration performance. It's great for cruising around town, and works well in stop-and-go traffic. Its ability to accelerate from 40 mph to 70 mph makes for comfortable passing on two-lane roads, and it's enjoyable on winding rural roads. Strong torque from the V-6 means it doesn't have to downshift to accelerate.
The RDX is built like a car, drives like a car, and its small size makes it maneuverable in tight quarters and easy to park. Handling on winding roads is a balanced vehicle, making the RDX enjoyable to drive, though it isn't sporty in the German-'ute vein.
The optional all-wheel-drive system, called "AWD with Intelligent Control," has been retuned for 2016 to send more power to the rear wheels under acceleration for improved stability. It helps the RDX feel a bit more like a rear-wheel-drive car, less like a front-wheel-drive car.
The cabin is comfortable, handsome, and controls and features are easy to find and operate. In terms of space, the RDX is best for a pair of adults and another pair of smaller passengers. The RDX shares its basic structure with the Honda CR-V, which means it’s a compact by the EPA definition, and to big adults, it’s really a compact—especially if they’re seated in the second row.
The RDX’s front seats are comfortable. An eight-way adjustable driver's seat and a steering wheel that tilts and telescopes allows for drivers 6 feet tall or shorter. Both our tall testers and those of average height found it comfortable enough that we didn't take much note of it, a good sign. The back seats are comfortable for two smaller passengers, crowded for three.
The RDX offers 61 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded, though the rear seats do not fold perfectly flat. That's comparable to the 2016 BMW X3's 63 cubic feet. A low cargo floor allows easier loading of cargo into the RDX. Hidden, underfloor storage accepts an additional 15 cubic feet of cargo.
Safety ratings are top-drawer with the latest RDX. Front, side-impact, and side-curtain airbags come standard, along with anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control and traction control, a rearview camera, and a rollover sensor to trigger the curtain airbags.
Priced from the low $30,000 range to nearly $40,000, the RDX has standard power features; cruise control; dual-zone climate control; keyless ignition; a seven-speaker sound system with USB/MP3 support; and Bluetooth. Navigation is an option, and it comes with voice recognition.
To improve fuel economy, three of the six cylinders will deactivate under light loads and just go along for the ride, though the driver cannot tell any of this is going on. Fuel economy on the EPA combined cycle is 23 mpg, or 22 mpg with all-wheel drive. That’s not quite as good as the Volvo XC60 with its turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that’s rated 26 mpg combined with front-wheel drive, and the RDX requires premium gasoline, whereas the XC60 uses regular gas.