by Tony West and Daryl Payne
Acura takes its midsize SUV in a different direction restyling the 2016 RDX with sporty efficiency and a spacious youthful interior.
The $35k 2016 Acura RDX tries to attack a segment dominated by the Audi Q5 and the BMW X3 by offering aggressive acceleration, responsive steering and an amazing four-wheel drive. The RDX adds more tech and ditches the premium lux interior. Yet its price is on par with luxury SUVs like the Mercedes Benz GLC, the Lincoln MKC and the Volvo XC60.
A powerful 3.5 liter iVTEC V6 engine boasts 279 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque. Efficiency is boosted to 19 mpg city and 28 mpg highway – a great feat thanks to Variable Cylinder Management, cylinder deactivation technology.
The All-Wheel Drive system with Intelligent Control has been retuned for greater rear torque. I could feel it readjusting immediately as I slid on ice patches, helping the RDX’s High Performance all-season tires grip the road with precision.
A new top-of-the line Advance Package features unique machined-alloy wheels with painted gray inserts.
Updates to its ACE structure boosts frontal collision performance and gives the RDX a top safety rating.
Easy on the Eyes – Heavy on the Street
The 2016 Acura RDX has a sweet new body low and sloped with a long 105 inch wheelbase. It’s planted on the ground with 18 inch aluminum alloy wheels with high performance P235/60 R18 all-season tires.
The new RDX comes standard with Jewel-eye LED projector headlamps and LED tail lights with a light pipe design. The cool headlights have a thin blue strip in outside the looks like a wink. The front fascia is restyled and sharper at the new 3D grille.
A cool aluminum-like trim sets off the pillars, front air intakes, windows, decklid, and dual exhausts. And a subtle crease runs along the rear deck to aid aerodynamics. The 2016 Acura RDX also has a rear spoiler and a sunroof. A power tailgate is standard.
My only issue with the new RDX is that it has features from everywhere- so its identity is lost. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing yet. The RDX is a sexy CUV, more spacious than some, but not a raging sports car like the ZDX. And it has features shared in the Honda Accord so it’s not top-of-the-line. Acura is not just a great highway whip with a sexy body. It’s supposed to have an ultra-luxurious interior.
The reemergence of the NSX and the great response to the Acura Precision Concept this year will hopefully help Acura push the boundaries even further with their future SUVs.
Outstanding AWD and Nimble Road Character
The 2016 Acura RDX AWD scores major points with its 3.5 liter SOHC iVTEC engine. The RDX is a big cat attacking the road. Variable Cylinder Management gives mpg’s a boost by deactivating 3 of the engine’s 6 cylinders during light cruising.
The RDX has an impressive 279 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque. Driving refinement is enhanced by new active front and rear engine mounts, updates to the steering control system, and increased suspension mount stiffness.
Acceleration is awesome in the RDX, with it getting up and staying way up on the highway. Refinement is what sets this SUV apart from its Honda relatives. The RDX is pristine and dynamic at high speeds with responsive fluid steering and dynamic grip from the high performance tires.
The 6 speed automatic transmission, which features sequential sport shift paddle shifters is sluggish in 2nd and 3rd gears.
Start Stop technology and Variable Cylinder Management help the RDX achieve great efficiency for an SUV. But start/stop can create a lag and was sometimes jerky. It shuts the engine off a few seconds after I take my foot off of the gas, which is why Daryl said it felt like a pepped-up 4-cylinder.
One of the best attributes of the 2016 Acura RDX is its amazing all-wheel drive. Acura’s all-wheel drive with intelligence has been tuned for greater rear torque bias to further enhance dynamic stability and all-weather performance. All-wheel drive performed beautifully in the dead of winter in Chicago. The whip grips the ice and snow and tires spit it out as torque is sent to each wheel at will.
The RDX’s MacPherson strut front suspension and Multi Link rear suspension along with amplitude reactive dampers give the RDX sports car stability. But they’re still choppy, typical of a short wheelbase SUV. Electric power-assisted rack and pinion steering is smooth, reacting with torque distribution in a millisecond. And ventilated 12 inch front and solid 12 inch rear disc brakes stop on a dime.
All models can now be equipped with AcuraWatch technology, a suite of advanced safety technology that includes Lane Departure Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Mitigation Braking, Lane Keeping Assist, and a Multi-view rear camera.
Many of the safety functions can be adjusted with the steering wheel. The 2016 Acura RDX also has Vehicle Stability Assist with Traction Control and Motion Adaptive Steering along with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution. Remote Start is available with the Advance Package.
What’s missing are dynamic driving controls or a drive mode select. While I can’t deny the RDX is very agile with turbo-like aggression, I want a sport mode and a snow mode. Also missing is a comfort and eco mode that can shut off the start/stop tech and tighten suspension.
The Acura RDX performance is great, but where’s its identity. Is it the MDX’s rebellious little sister. I thought it was going to be more capable of terrain management with controls to vary throttle, steering handling, suspension, etc. I expected it to be more functional, but it’s more like a high-end CR-V.
Tech-Advanced Interior Loses Lux
The 2016 Acura RDX has an interior very similar to the MDX. It seems like Acura luxury was traded for comfort and functionality. The RDX has 42 inches of front legroom and 38 inches of rear legroom, plenty to stretch out. Drivers have 10-way power adjustable seat. Daryl is a fan of the comfortable headrests. Standard are sporty leatherette seats. Leather perforated seats are available with the Technology Package and the Advance Package. Front seats are heated and ventilated in the RDX AWD and the rear seats are 60/40 split folding.
The 2016 Acura RDX also has a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The steering wheel has controls for cruise control, audio, and the dash’s multi information display as well as the forward collision alert.
If it weren’t for the cool dual screens, the dash would be uneventful. The whip also has cool ambient lighting, automatic dimming rearview mirrors and auto dimming side mirrors with reverse gear tilt-down.
Rain sensing wipers are standard with the Advance Package. The multi information display, driver’s semi-customizable digital dash shows a compass, oil life, range, tire pressure, and has adjustments for vehicle settings like ambient lighting, sounds and door locks. The MID also has adjustments for the lane keeping assist and the blind spot monitor.
The coolest part of the interior is the dual screens in the center. Similar to Acura’s MDX and the Honda Accord, the top screen, the on demand multi-use display shows the backup camera, plus Acura Navigation, and audio. The lower screens has audio controls and climate settings.
Navigation is cool in the RDX featuring available real-time traffic with traffic rerouting. Siri, Bluetooth, and a 12-volt outlet is standard along with a 7 speaker Acura Premium audio system with Sirius XM Satellite radio and HD Radio. A 10 speaker Acura ESL Studio Premium Audio System is available.
GPS-linked Climate Control is an option with both the Advanced Packaged and the Technology Package. Keyless entry and push-button start is also standard.
The 2016 Acura RDX’s cool interior has less amenities but higher functionality and stability. Supple leather with a heated steering wheel is replaced with dual digital screens and a digital dash.
The rear passengers have tons of legroom but no climate controls, reclining seats, or options for add-ons.
The audio system is missing more preset stations options, but dope speakers on the door bang tunes. And the minimalist dash is raked to add spaciousness. I also like the large mirrors and cool sunroof.
Storage is also great with a large center console, large glove box, large trunk, cup holders in the doors compartments, and lots of small shelves.
The 2016 Acura RDX has a MSRP of about $35k, the same price as the 2016 Lexus NX, Infiniti QX50, and the Volvo XC60. The Acura has many of the great features a CUV needs to be a top contender in its segment. It currently ranks in the top 5 two-row lux SUVs.
But to beat the BMW X3 and the Mercedes GLC, all-wheel drive and dual screens can’t be its main bragging point. Acura needs to revive its luxury interior, especially with Toyota, Mazda, and Kia doing quality for a lot less. These days, a $35k SUV should have standard heated rear seats, a drive mode select, leather seats, and Wi-Fi to leap to the future.
Still the 2016 Acura RDX is still a beautiful SUV with a great performance.