The original RDX was an interesting vehicle. Acura fitted it with a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, Acura’s torque vectoring Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive system, and tuned it with a sporty but stiff ride. While this was great from a driving enthusiast’s standpoint, it arguably missed its mark for its intended target customers.
It turns out that most compact luxury buyers didn’t care about performance. They just wanted more room for their stuff, some tech features to brag about, and enough traction for the winter months.
Whereas the first generation RDX was developed for young couples who were looking for a small sporty crossover to get out of the city and onto the ski slopes, the second generation RDX is more for the been there, done there crowd. It offers up itself as a compact and versatile package that has more refinement than a CR-V.
Now with V6 power
The RDX now has Honda/Acura’s corporate 3.5-litre V6 production producing 273 hp and 251 ft-lbs of torque. With many manufacturers downsizing to smaller four-cylinder turbocharged engines these days, it seems backwards that Acura has a big V6 in the RDX.
With V6 power, Acura thinks that the RDX can offer these DINKs (dual income no kids) or empty nesters the same feel and performance that they’re used to in bigger SUVs but with a smaller environmental and physical footprint.
The good news is that the RDX has plenty of power and passing manoeuvres get executed with ease. Mated to this mill is a smooth shifting 6 speed automatic transmission. Despite having one or two gears less than its competitors, the overall package still delivers decent fuel consumption ratings.
Transport Canada officially rates the 2015 RDX’s fuel consumption at 12.1L/100 kms in the city and 8.7L/100 kms on the highway. I managed 11.7L/100 kms in mixed city and highway driving with the help of Acura’s cylinder deactivation system.
Alas, all-wheel-drive with less wizardry
What’s not so impressive is the simpler all-wheel-drive system that Acura has fitted to this second generation vehicle. Gone is the advanced Super Handling torque shifting all-wheel-drive system.
It’s now a simpler system, derived from Honda CR-V’s all-wheel-drive with Intelligent Control. It is really more for on-road driving and trips to the ski slopes than going off-road. On wet surfaces, I found that a lot of front wheel spin could be invoked before power is transferred to the rear wheels. In short, the RDX feels like its front wheel drive most of the time.
The RDX’s Macpherson strut front suspension and trailing arm multi-link rear suspension with the amplitude reactive dampeners have been tuned for comfort rather than handling and performance. The RDX is definitely not a BMW X3 or Mercedes-Benz GLK in the twisties, preferring a more relaxed driving style and similar roads.
Another shining star is Acura’s electronic power steering system. It’s surprisingly precise and turn-in is direct and relatively sharp.
Acuras and Hondas have traditionally not been known for really hushed interiors, however the RDX has a pretty silent interior with road noise mostly punching through only on rough road surfaces.
The perforated leather seats look nice and add to the spacious driving position. Even tall drivers have plenty of room, with a good blend of cushiness and support. However I did wish for more lateral side bolstering.
As far as safety, there is a lot of glass area and frontal and side visibility is good. However, the C-pillars are quite thick. Luckily the rearview camera solves most of the rearward visibility issue pretty adequately.
The satellite navigation system is Acura’s typical setup, mounted high up on the dash where it’s nice and visible. Although I have complained about Acura’s control dial knob before, there were less buttons in the RDX and perhaps due to better familiarity with the system now, I found it easier to use.
Frustratingly though, some simple functions, such as the navigation volume adjustment and Bluetooth pairing, are hard to find and multi-stepped processes. The infotainment font and map graphics could also be more detailed as they look a little dated, circa 2005.
The RDX certainly feels more mid-sized than compact and blurs the lines between the categories.
Ultimately the RDX does a lot of things right. The roomy interior has a lot of features for the price. There is plenty of power combined with decent fuel economy. However the RDX isn’t your pick if you want a sporty handling compact SUV.
Many luxury features that mid-sized crossover buyers have come to expect such as push button start, 18-inch wheels, and HID Xenon headlights, are standard or available on the RDX. But towing capacity is only 1,500 lbs ,so keep that in mind if you have to tow anything large.
Perhaps one of the main issues I have with the RDX is a subjective one. It just doesn’t seem to have a standout personality. While it is nice inside and out, it’s also a bit conservative and borderline bland, especially with the subdued Acura shield grille. However if you don’t mind the sterile look, and many people don’t judging from the RDXs in Vancouver, it’s probably a design that will age well.
And so the second generation RDX exceeds in its new mission of providing high tech luxury and four season traction in a smaller but still ample sized package. It’s a nice vehicle, but no longer a standout like the first generation vehicle.
But still, that’s what most small luxury crossover buyers seem to be looking for and the new RDX is a fine answer for their craving.