Acura's new, third-generation RDX impressed us on our test track and on the road. It has agile handling, a powerful turbocharged engine, a modern interior, and standard advanced safety features.
But Acura missed the mark with the RDX’s annoyingly complex controls. In addition, we are not enthusiastic about the luxury compact SUV's fuel economy.
The first thing drivers encounter is the RDX’s gear selector, which requires them to either push a button or pull a switch to choose a gear. It’s very frustrating to use.
Acura’s infotainment system is worse, and comes with a steep learning curve. It has a dash-mounted screen that drivers can only interact with by using the touch pad that sits between the front seats. This is how users perform most audio, phone, and navigation functions.
The system is confusing to use even when the RDX is parked, and it’s very distracting for drivers when the car is moving. For example, they’re forced to look at the screen to execute common audio tasks, and some adjustments are buried deep in submenus. We think it requires too much concentration, multiple steps and extended time with eyes off the road and hand off the wheel. It’s one of the worst systems that we’ve encountered recently.
Driving the RDX is a much more satisfying experience. It’s lively and engaging, and feels planted when taking sharp turns. Braking performance is strong but the brake pedal has a spongy feel. The suspension quashes most bumps, but we found the ride to be rather firm and choppy. The cabin is quiet, barring a somewhat grainy engine noise.
The RDX uses an new 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbo engine, like most of its competitors. We enjoyed the energetic engine’s quick acceleration once it got past an initial delay, and the new 10-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. We got 22 mpg overall in our tests, which is average for the category, and no better than what we measured with the V6 in the previous-generation RDX. This figure also trails the performance from competitors’ small turbo engines, such as Audi, BMW, and Lexus.
It’s very easy to climb in and out of the cabin. We found the interior appealing, and the firm front seats stand out for their comfort and support, even over long drives.
The RDX’s rear-seat room and comfort is on par with its competitors. There is plenty of room in the well-finished cargo area. We like that the AcuraWatch suite of advanced safety systems comes standard. It includes forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and lane-departure warning, and also has driver-assist convenience features including lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control. All trims except the base versions get standard blind-spot warning and a rear-cross traffic warning.