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2018 Acura RDX Review

2018 Acura RDX Review
Consider the 2018 Acura RDX if you’re after a budget-conscious crossover that rides and drives well.

The 2018 Acura RDX is a compact crossover SUV that's an equal blend of value and sophistication. As a result, it's relatively understated among competitors, and a new version is on the way soon.


This RDX dates back to the 2013 model year, albeit with a few updates to keep it fresh. Today’s RDX is available in three basic flavors—base, Technology, and Advance—with further choices in terms of front- or all-wheel drive and the brand’s AcuraWatch collision avoidance tech. All in, the spendiest RDX still runs under $45,000, which is about where some of its rivals like the BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class start. True, the RDX doesn’t match them in terms of features, style, or refinement, but its value is noteworthy.

Acura bucks the turbo-4 trend by fitting a 3.5-liter, naturally aspirated V-6 to all RDXs. At 279 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque, the V-6 is no slouch and it returns fuel economy figures that aren’t far off of less-powerful turbo-4s. Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is $1,500 extra for those who need more grip.

Though the RDX isn’t the sexiest thing on the market—it’s far from it—the crossover’s basic two-box shape wears the brand’s beak nose better than its sedans. Its interior is busy and not quite as upmarket feeling as some swankier rivals—but, again, there’s that low price. Considered as the bridge between mainstream crossovers like the Honda CR-V and true luxury models from German competitors, the RDX begins to make sense.

Those buyers looking for a semi-luxury ride will find that RDX’s interior is spacious and well-packaged, at least for front-seat occupants. Rear seat riders will find a low bench and limited room, but the cargo area is shaped nicely for larger objects.

Despite its age, the RDX performs well in crash tests. The IIHS and the NHTSA give it high marks and Acura offers features such as adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, and lane departure warnings for a reasonable $1,300 on base and Technology models (the tech is standard on the range-topping, $43,495 RDX Advance).

Styling
If flashy is your thing, the 2018 Acura RDX may not be the crossover for you.

There’s a lot going on with the 2018 Acura RDX, but it’s all reasonably harmonious and inoffensive. We’ve given it a perfectly average score of 5 out of 10, a reflection of its modesty.

Acura has gone through several iterations of its “beak” front fascia, none of which have really worked. The RDX wears the look better than the brand’s sedans have and we like the way its five-square LED headlights are integrated. It’s not a double-take kind of look, but the RDX is largely inoffensive.

The 17-inch alloy wheels found on base models live up to their entry-level name. If you want a little more flash, opt for the Technology Package with its machine-finished 18s.

Inside, the RDX shows its age more with a design that’s busy and not terribly upmarket, especially in the available gray shade. Bits of matte silver trim don’t help much—they look more like something you’d see in a modestly optioned Honda CR-V than in something purporting to be a luxury car.

In short: If you want flash, be prepared to spend more for something from a different brand.

Performance
With its nice good handling and refined V-6 the Acura RDX drives suitably upmarket.

The 2018 Acura RDX is pleasant to drive, aided by its strong and refined V-6 engine and handling that’s accurate, if not overly sporty. We’ve given it points above average for its surprisingly direct steering and for the grunt offered by its sole engine choice, which elevates it to a 7 out of 10.

Unlike rivals, the RDX is available with only one engine—but it’s a good one. Acura’s 3.5-liter V-6 is rated here at 279 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque. It shuttles power to either the front or all four wheels via a slick-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission that comes standard with paddle shifters.

Those flappy paddles hint at sportiness that simply isn’t there with the RDX, however. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because this crossover’s suspension absorbs pavement imperfections with aplomb and it tracks well on wide open stretches of road. A thickly rimmed three-spoke steering wheel again suggests more cornering tenacity than you’ll find in the RDX, but credit is due to Acura for tuning the electric power steering to deliver up a directness lacking in, say, the Lexus RX.

Comfort & Quality
The 2018 Acura RDX is quiet and has comfortable front seats, but it’s a little tight in the second row.

Consider Acura as a stepping stone between mass-market brands such as Honda and full-line luxury such as Mercedes-Benz—the RDX starts to make a lot of sense. We’ve given it points above average for its comfy front seats, good cargo space, and upscale feel, but we’d like to see classier interior appointments. As a result, it’s a 7 out of 10.

The RDX’s front seats provide good comfort for those who like a little more lumbar support. One disappointment is that the base RDX’s passenger seat isn’t height-adjustable, but at least the Technology Package subs in real leather (in place of synthetic leather) and fully adjustable seats.

Row two provides adequate room for average-size adults but three abreast isn’t something we’d suggest. Behind the second row there are 26.1 cubic feet of available cargo space. That second row folds not-quite flat, another demerit, but the RDX’s low cargo floor and 61.3 cubic foot cargo capacity are nice for a crossover of this size. One surprise is all the space hidden under the cargo floor—another 15 cubes, bringing the maximum available space for stuff to 76.9 cubic feet.
Interior storage is top notch up front with a big center console and lots of space to tuck away (and hopefully not lose) smaller items in the door panels.

With its solidity and quiet interior, the RDX does a good job imitating crossovers that cost way more—at least in a blind test. Further inspection of the cabin will reveal nice available leather upholstery that doesn’t quite mask the painted silver plastic trim that feels out of place at half the price.

Safety
Excellent crash test scores and a host of collision avoidance tech make the Acura RDX a safe bet.

Though its basic design may be among the oldest among premium crossovers, the 2018 Acura RDX has performed well in crash tests. Good scores from the IIHS and the NHTSA, as well as widespread availability of its collision avoidance tech, earn it an 8 out of 10 here.

The RDX comes standard with a full complement of airbags, ABS, and stability control, and it offers buyers a choice between front- or all-wheel drive.

Its safety structure held up well in crash testing, according to the NHTSA, which awarded it five stars overall and five stars in every category except for rollover, where it earned four. The IIHS agreed, granting it the top “Good” score in all crash tests this year.

The IIHS also said that the RDX’s standard LED headlights earn an “Acceptable” rating, and that its optional automatic emergency braking system scores “Superior.” It earned a Top Safety Pick award this year.

That advanced safety system is grouped in the AcuraWatch Plus package, which also includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, lane departure warnings, and active lane control. At $1,300 extra on base and Technology package RDXs, it seems like reasonably priced and worthwhile tech to us. AcuraWatch is standard on the range-topping RDX Advance.

Features
The Acura RDX isn't really missing much, but it's only available in a limited number of flavors.

The 2018 Acura RDX is available in just a few combinations, which should make your ideal model easy to find on a dealer’s lot. All are well-equipped for the money and come with a high-tech infotainment, but we lament the limited customizability seen in most rivals.

That brings the RDX to a 7 out of 10 here with points added for standard equipment, high-tech optional extras, and a big infotainment system, and minus one for the limited custom-tailoring potential.

At $36,795, base RDXs are fitted with the expected power features and dual-zone automatic climate control, plus some niceties such as a moonroof, a power liftgate, a proximity key with keyless ignition, LED high- and low-beam headlights, a rearview camera, and heated front seats. However, their seats are upholstered in synthetic leather instead of the real deal and while the driver’s seat has 10-way power adjustability, the passenger’s is only four-way.

The $40,495 RDX with the Technology package remedies these complaints with leather upholstery, eight-way power for the passenger’s seat, an upgraded infotainment system with an 8.0-inch display and ELS-branded audio, navigation, and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Go full-boat and you’ll be in for the $43,495 Advance package: ventilated front seats, fog lights, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, remote start, and parking sensors.

Advance models come standard with AcuraWatch, which is the brand’s trademark for a suite of safety tech: adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, forward collision warnings, lane departure warnings, and active lane control. AcuraWatch is an option on other models and at $1,300, it’s worth every penny in our eyes.

All-wheel drive adds a further $1,500 and is available on every RDX iteration.

Loaded up, an RDX Advance costs $44,995, including a mandatory $995 destination charge.

The infotainment system fitted to Technology and Advance RDXs isn’t among our favorites for a variety of reasons. Its complicated menus, made even more frustrating thanks to two screens, can take some time to sort through. It’s also not fitted with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, increasingly common on new cars.

Fuel Economy
The Acura RDX's big V-6 is refined, but a little thirstier than some rivals' turbo-4s.

With a V-6 under its hood, you might not expect the 2018 Acura RDX to be a fuel-sipper.

That’s accurate, but it’s also not as thirsty as that powerful engine suggests. With front-wheel drive, the 2018 RDX scores 20 mpg city, 28 highway, 23 combined according to the EPA, enough to merit a 6 out of 10.

Go for all-wheel drive and those figures drop just 1 mpg: 19/27/22 mpg.

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