2016 Acura RDX AWD Advance Option Package Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO
The 2016 Acura RDX offers a great combination of style, substance, performance, and safety
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS
• SEE ALSO: Acura Research and Buyers Guide.
Introduced for 2007 as a sporty alternative in the luxury compact crossover segment, the Acura RDX got a major revision with the debut of the second generation for 2013. Little besides the name was unchanged, and it became roomier and more powerful -- with improved fuel economy as a bonus. If not quite as sport-focused as the first generation, the second was better-suited to customer needs and desires, offering a more-refined experience.
Rapidly-changing electronic technology and competitive demands mean change, and so the Acura RDX gets a makeover for 2016. More a mid-product cycle freshening than a new generation, it's not trivial. Besides noticeable exterior and interior restyling there is a new engine and a host of revised or new electronic convenience and safety features.
Offered in front- or all-wheel drive trim, in the Acura way, the RDX is available in well-appointed base trim and with Acura Watch Plus (a suite of electronic safety features including the Collision Mitigating Braking System, Adaptive Cruise Control, the Lane-Keeping Assist system, and a color multi-information display, not a timepiece), Technology (navigation, upgraded audio, leather-trimmed sports seats, AcuraLink®, and blind-spot and cross-traffic alert systems), Technology and Acura Watch Plus, and Advance (ventilated front seats, remote engine start, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming outside mirrors, and front and rear parking sensors) option packages. Power for all is a new 3.5-liter V6 with 279 horsepower, up six, and 252 lb-ft of torque, up one. Not a major difference, but torque is now spread over a wider rpm range and the newest version of the Variable Cylinder Management™ cylinder deactivation system deactivates three of the six cylinders under light cruising loads for improved fuel economy. EPA mileage increases from 20/28 to 20/29 with FWD and 19/27 to 19/28 for AWD. A six-speed multi-mode automatic transmission with manual shifting is used.
So multiple small improvements make for a sporty but comfortable right-sized luxury crossover that can fill many needs. My test car for the past week was an AWD RDX with the Advance package. No other options, none needed. It was quiet and comfortable, with good manners on the road and plenty of power. Four adults fit comfortably, although none were overly large. And there was still cargo space. The ventilated seats came in handy during triple-digit temperatures, and even then the climate control system kept the dark blue vehicle refreshingly cool inside, and quickly. Fuel economy, at 20 mpg with minimal highway miles, was comparable to the 21 I got in a 2013 equivalent. Both were significantly better than the 17 from a 2007 with its 2.3-liter turbo power. With its sporty character, distinctive looks, rational and useful technology and good interface, the 2016 RDX shows what Acura does best.
APPEARANCE: Changes to the 2016 RDX bring it into line with changes to Acura's design language since its 2013 debut. Most apparent are the five "Jewel Eye" LED headlamp units on each side of the grille. That grille is of the same basic shape but is a bit more three-dimensional. The faux vents around the foglamps are reshaped and trimmed with chrome, with a revised lower intake and "splitter" between. It's sportier-looking without being silly aggressive. The sides look unchanged, and the rear sees revised taillights -- same shape but with LEDs and detail changes -- and lower reflective panels reprising the look of the front "vents".
COMFORT: As outside, interior changes are mostly evolutionary. Dark, textured soft-touch upper material and light lower panels and upholstery enhance the feeling of spaciousness, and reduce glare. It's stylish and functional, and the instrument layout presents information well and with minimal distraction. A power-adjustable driver's seat and heatable cushions for both front seats are standard across the lineup, with Technology and Advance packages adding power to the passenger seat. A power tailgate is also standard across the lineup. Technology and Advance mean leather sports front seats, which score high on comfort and support. Visibility is enhanced by a multi-view rear camera. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is manually adjustable for both tilt and reach, and has controls for audio, phone, cruise, and information systems. The navigation and audio systems have the usual Acura interface, with hard buttons for systems and a central knob for details. Rear passengers get climate control vents on the rear of the console now. Outboard positions are moderately contoured, with a slightly higher center.
That and the nearly-flat floor improve comfort for the center position. The 60/40 split folding seatback unlatches from the cargo compartment, with springs effortlessly dropping each portion. Rear space is good for a compact crossover, and step-in and cushion height for all positions are not going to cause any difficulties. Cargo space is good with the rear seat in place and great with it down. A space-saver spare is found under the load floor. Unusually for a luxury vehicle, drink bottle holders are found in all doors.
SAFETY: Good handling and response to driver inputs enhance active safety, as do strong four-wheel antilock disc brakes. Acura's Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ frontal crash energy management structure adds passive protection, as do safety belts and airbags. A high-strength steel safety cage surrounds the cabin and adds rollover protection. The Acura Watch suite of safety features combines adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and lane keeping assist systems.
RIDE AND HANDLING: The newest RDX is still sportier than the average compact crossover if not strictly "sport". Meaning that while it's responsive and likes to play on a twisty road, the spring rates are more for comfort than maximum cornering with minimal roll and pitch. Shock damping is a bit firm, so the ride can be thumpy at times, feeling sportier. Over 50 percent of the RDX's unibody structure is high-strength steel, for rigidity without excess mass. Front stiffness has been increased this year, for improvements in handling, safety, and quietness. Suspension is fully-independent, with MacPherson struts in front and a multilink system at the rear. Amplitude Reaction Dampers damp high-amplitude motion, such as large bumps or chuckholes, more firmly than smaller surface variations, and also help reduce body movement at higher speeds. The result is a soft, comfy ride at low speeds, and a firmer experience when going faster. Ground clearance is 8.1 inches, less for off-road use than for clearance of road hazards, curbs, and unpaved but "improved" forest road driving.
PERFORMANCE: Acura says the 3.5-liter V6 in the 2016 RDX is new, but differences between it and the previous one are evolutionary. Displacement is the same, horsepower and torque are up a bit, now 279 hp at 6200 rpm and 252 lb-ft at 4900 rpm vs. 273 hp at 6200 and 251 lb-ft at 5100. Midrange torque -- which is important for everyday driving -- is increased, for quicker response. The aluminum alloy 24-valve engine uses a single overhead camshaft for each bank, with i-VTEC (intelligent Variable valve Timing and lift Electronic Control). The newest version of the Variable Cylinder Management system seamlessly deactivates cylinders for fuel efficiency, with all six firing for maximum acceleration, four for more modest use, and three for steady-state cruising. The result, when combined with the efficient six-speed automatic transmission, is quick acceleration when needed -- 0-60 in a touch over six seconds -- and good fuel economy for a near 300-hp vehicle, especially on the highway. EPA ratings are 19 mpg city, 28 highway. My 20 for the week reflected minimal highway use. The transmission has normal and sport modes, plus Sequential Sport Shift manual shifting via paddles on the steering wheel. Normal D is okay in most use but the RDX felt happier in S, and driven more enthusiastically.
CONCLUSIONS: The 2016 Acura RDX combines style, substance, performance, and safety.
2016 Acura RDX AWD Advance
Base Price $ 43,420
Price As Tested $ 44,340
Engine Type 24 valve aluminum alloy SOHC V6 with i-VTEC valve control
Engine Size 3.5 liters / 212 cu. in.
Horsepower 279 @ 6200 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 252 @ 4900 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length 105.7 in. / 184.4 in.
Curb Weight 3946 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 14.1
Fuel Capacity 16 gal.
Fuel Requirement 91 octane unleaded premium gasoline
Tires P235.60 R18 102V m+s Michelin Primacy MXM4
Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS, EBD, BA, VSA standard
Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent multilink
Ground Clearance 8.1 inches
Drivetrain transverse front engine, all-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 19 / 28 / 20
0 to 60 mph 6.2 sec
Towing Capacity 1500 lbs.
OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Destination Charge $ 920