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By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

The Acura RDX shows off what the cheaper, small-sized SUV competitors cannot deliver – which are remarkable performance, refinement and desirable conveniences – largely due to an impressive makeover in 2013 which revived this choice by giving to a whole new drivetrain, exterior design and interior arrangement.

I drove a 2015 Acura RDX with the standard 273-horspower 3.5-liter i-VTEC V6 engine matched to a six-speed automatic transmission with Sequential SportShift and paddle shifters along with all-wheel drive. Available in one model – without or without the Technology Package and all-wheel drive – my RDX test-drive came with the following standard features: leather-trimmed sport seats; XM radio; USB audio interface; push-button start; ten-way driver’s power seat; heated front seats; Bluetooth; steering-wheel mounted controls; moonroof; push-button start; and eighteen-inch alloy wheels. Total price as described without options came to $35,995.

The RDX goes unchanged since its rebuild a couple model years back, remaining a strong contender as a more luxury-oriented small crossover choice. Competitors include impressive nameplates like the BMW X3 and Buick Encore; and also the cheaper models like the Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage, Toyota RAV4 and Hyundai Tucson.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: Sit inside a few of the more frugal small crossovers, and you’ll see what you’re missing when you ease into the RDX’s cabin: finer materials, a more sophisticated center stack, and appreciated extras like a power liftgate and power seating. The optional Tech Package consists of Acura’s voice-recognizing navigation system, a ten-speaker upgrade audio system, a GPS-linked dual-zone climate control, a power tailgate, Xenon headlights and fog lights. The system can be complex but remains user friendly, delivering traffic updates and configuring destination changes in just a few turns and clicks from a magical master dial. The second row could use more bells-and-whistles, such as heated seats, climate dials – even air vents would be appreciated. Also, for its size, the RDX does need to offer such safety technology like rear-cross traffic alert or blind spot warning (the BMW X3 does).

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the RDX the highest ratings of “Good” in all crash-test areas and The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave it a 5-Star rating. Standard safety equipment includes Vehicle Stability Assist, an advanced airbag system, anti-lock brakes, ACE body structure, LATCH for child seats, side-impact door beams.

Cost Issues: Starting price for the RDX starts at $35,095. My test-drive RDX featured the optional Tech Package and all-wheel drive, bringing the price over $40k with destination charges. The Tech Package is always a highlight with any Acura and highly recommended due to practicality of features.

Activity & Performance Ability: The RDX had a bigger feel than I remember, perhaps because I have been test-driving a string of smaller crossovers as of late – it certainly was harder to place in a tighter parking spot than the Hyundai Tucson and Toyota RAV4. The V6 engine is responsive and satisfying in a way turbocharged four-cylinders can’t touch, and doesn’t drop the fuel economy too drastically, as the Variable Cylinder Management feature aids in gas conservation by shutting off cylinders in cruising speeds and using lower-friction pistons rings.

The Green Concern: The RDX retains an EPA-estimated fuel economy (with all-wheel drive) of 19 miles-per-gallon city and 27 highway for 22 combined. While the Honda CR-V and Kia Sportage can deliver a combined 25 miles-per-gallon under their four-cylinders with all-wheel drive systems, the acceleration and overall ride is not as impressive.

The 2015 Acura RDX is an alluring choice for its features, style and performance, but might cause the more frugal shopper to balk as a refined smaller crossover experience does come at a cost. Existing in a class of few competitors, Acura will need to improve the RDX’s second-row features and add safety technology to remain ahead.

2014 Katrina Ramser