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- Highs Great value, all-wheel drive improves athleticism, no shortage of standard features.
- Lows A-Spec package is largely cosmetic, transmission is hesitant to downshift, finicky touchpad controller.
- Verdict What the RDX lacks in status and sportiness it makes up for with style and value.
The 2021 Acura RDX doesn't have the same luxury cachet as its classmates, but it's stylish and more affordable. Acura acts as Honda's classier counterpart, which earns it some points in reliability, but not so much for its prestige, especially compared with rivals such as the Porsche Macan and Mercedes-Benz GLC-class. Although both those vehicles are better to drive and offer more performance options than this Acura, the RDX does have a peppy turbocharged engine and an available all-wheel-drive system that elevates its athleticism. While its automatic transmission can be a bit passive and the A-Spec package is largely cosmetic, we appreciate the crossover's generous luggage capacity and standard features. The 2021 RDX isn't particularly premium or especially sporty, but it is a really good value for what it is.
What's New for 2021?
Acura gives the RDX the PMC treatment for 2021. This limited edition is hand-built alongside the company's NSX supercar at its Performance Manufacturing Center in Ohio, hence the PMC acronym. While this all-wheel-drive model comes loaded with all the features from the A-Spec and Advanced packages, it also wears exclusive Thermal Orange Pearl paint and has matching contrast stitching inside. The PMC Edition boasts black 20-inch wheels, a grille surround that matches the body color, black chrome exhaust tips, and some gloss-black exterior accents.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
Acura offers the RDX in one trim but provides several distinct packages to jazz it up. Front-wheel drive is standard but all-wheel drive is available for $2000. Since the A-Spec version is pricey and lacks any legitimate performance improvements, we'd forgo that. But we would recommend adding the Technology package that brings a better audio system, navigation, fancier leather-trimmed seats, and more. Those who want adaptive dampers and a head-up display will have to spring for the Advance package, but that significantly increases the bottom line.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Every RDX is powered by a 272-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that pairs with a 10-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive (or "SH-AWD" in Acura-speak). The A-Spec version we tested had a responsive gas pedal at low speeds, and it pulled away from stoplights with authority. The transmission could be quicker to downshift, especially when the driver uses the steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. The turbocharged engine makes the RDX sound a bit like the NSX, with a high-pitched roar during hard acceleration, but much of that noise is artificial and piped into the cabin through the audio system's speakers. The RDX we drove had large 20-inch wheels that are included with the A-Spec package and the standard suspension setup. Models with the Advance package have adaptive dampers that allow you to adjust the ride quality. While our test vehicle failed to isolate the cabin from harsh impacts on the roughest roads, it was never punishing or noisy. The torque-vectoring SH-AWD system also helped the RDX change directions quickly and was backed by precise-feeling steering. The RDX leaned only when we attacked a highway on-ramp, but otherwise, it was wonderfully balanced. Unfortunately, the brake pedal diminished the experience, due to its inconsistent firmness and responsiveness.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The RDX has competitive EPA fuel-economy ratings that approach the mid-20s, with the front-drive model getting slightly higher city and highway estimates than the all-wheel-drive one. The former is rated at 22 mpg city and 28 mpg highway; both those numbers drop by 1 mpg when you select all-wheel drive. Opting for the A-Spec package will reduce both highway estimates by 1 mpg, for 27 mpg with the front-driver and 26 mpg for the SH-AWD car. We tested an RDX A-Spec SH-AWD on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy route, which is part of our extensive testing regimen, and achieved 25 mpg—1 mpg shy of its EPA rating.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Inside, the center stack is a little busy, with a lot of buttons, a touchpad, and a large rotary drive-mode selector sitting front and center. The version we tested had the A-Spec package's flashy red seats and several other exclusive styling bits. While the cabin's notable build quality and desirable standard features (ambient lighting; power-adjustable, heated front seats; dual-zone climate control) were appreciated, the RDX fails to feel luxurious. The Acura delivers a sportier experience than something like the Honda CR-V could ever provide. Nothing feels cheap or chintzy, and the driving position is high enough to satisfy SUV fans and flexible enough to appease driving enthusiasts. A handle on the outboard seats will release the back row so you can fold it flat. Or you can lower the seatbacks from the cargo hold using the secondary releases. We managed to fit eight carry-on bags with the seats up and 22 with them folded. The RDX has a large passthrough storage tray beneath its floating center console, too.
Infotainment and Connectivity
Every RDX has a 10.2-inch touchscreen perched high on the dashboard. It can also be operated via a touchpad on the center console. Acura calls the controller intuitive, but it took us a while to get accustomed to it. The RDX comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability and a Wi-Fi hotspot. The optional Technology package adds built-in navigation, rear-seat USB ports, a 12-speaker ELS Studio audio system, and more.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
Overall Safety Rating (NHTSA)
The 2021 RDX earned a five-star crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) named the last version a Top Safety Pick+. Every model includes a host of standard driver-assistance technology, but several other assists are available with the Technology package. These include front and rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, and rear-cross-traffic alert. Key safety features include:
- Standard forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking
- Standard lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist
- Standard adaptive cruise control
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Acura provides a warranty plan on the RDX that aligns with its luxury competitors. However, it doesn't include complimentary scheduled maintenance as some do, such as the BMW X3 and the Jaguar F-Pace.
- Limited warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers six years or 70,000 miles
- No complimentary scheduled maintenance
2019 Acura RDX A-Spec SH-AWD
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback
PRICE AS TESTED: $46,495 (base price: $46,495)
ENGINE TYPE: turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 122 cu in, 1996 cc
Power: 272 hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 280 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 10-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
Suspension (F/R): struts/multilink
Brakes (F/R): 12.4-in vented disc/12.2-in disc
Tires: Goodyear Eagle RS-A, 255/45R-20 101V M+S
Wheelbase: 108.3 in
Length: 186.8 in
Width: 74.8 in Height: 65.7 in
Passenger volume: 104 cu ft
Cargo volume: 30 cu ft
Curb weight: 3997 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS:
Zero to 60 mph: 6.6 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 18.1 sec
Zero to 110 mph: 23.3 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 7.0 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 3.9 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 5.2 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 15.2 sec @ 93 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 113 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 177 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad*: 0.81 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY:
Observed: 20 mpg
EPA FUEL ECONOMY:
Combined/city/highway: 23/21/26 mpg