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A blog about the cars I drive

Acura’s RDX hits its stride in 2nd generation

This review first appeared in The Spokesman-Review.

Acura RDX exterior

The RDX is Acura’s second-best-selling vehicle — and the best value in the luxury compact crossover segment.

Like many of my peers, I sang the praises of Acura’s RDX compact crossover when it launched in 2006.

That first-gen RDX took direct aim at enthusiasts. Its turbocharged four-cylinder engine (240 horsepower/260 pound-feet of torque) made power in pulse-quickening surges. Its rigid, lightweight platform underpinned a firm and pavement-gripping suspension. Its torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system stabilized the RDX in fast corners.

Acura RDX interior

Honda/Acura’s twin-screen control setup eliminates physical buttons and knobs, but is harder to negotiate than it ought to be.

But the RDX’s strengths translated less well to a luxury-minded market. Its ride was stiff and bouncy, its power delivery too peaky and aggressive. Fuel-efficiency — ostensibly the reason for equipping the RDX with four and not a six — registered a so-so 21 mpg combined/19 city/24 highway.

Things changed with the arrival in 2012 of the second-generation RDX. A naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V-6 (279-hp/252 lb-ft) took over engine-room duty, while a lighter and less complex AWD system was developed to hold down weight.

Acceleration remained vigorous — 0-60 comes up in the low 6-second range — and economy improved to 22/19/27. Revised suspension settings calmed the ride.

In sum, the new RDX had evolved into a better, if less engaging, car. It’s now Acura’s second-best-selling vehicle — and the best value in the luxury compact crossover segment.

The 2017 RDX ($36,310, including destination) is available in a single roomy and well-equipped trim. It’s available with front- or all-wheel-drive and with three major options packages. AccuraWatch, a $1,300 suite of safety and driver-assist systems (adaptive cruise, forward-collision warning and mitigation braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist) is standard with the top-level Advance package and can be ordered on all models.

Standard-features include automatic LED headlights, a rearview camera, keyless ignition and entry, power liftgate, sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated and powered front seats, 18-inch wheels, leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, auto-dimming mirror, Bluetooth phone and audio and a decent seven-speaker sound system with satellite radio, et al.

Available tech includes blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems, navigation, traffic information, GPS-linked climate control and a very good 10-speaker Acura/ELS sound system.

A fully loaded RDX falls just shy of $45,000 and fetches rain-sensing wipers, GPS-linked climate control, front fog lights, remote engine start, front and rear parking sensors and ventilated front seats.

Four large adults ride comfortably in the airy, tranquil cabin. Abundant rear-seat legroom accommodates six-footers, and generously sized cushions support our ample American physiques.

The seatbacks fold flat, yielding a cargo area that’s larger than the luxury-class norm.

The electrically assisted, variable-effort steering system is nicely weighted and has good on-center feel, but lacks precision and feedback. The gen-two suspension tweaks that softened the ride also allow body roll in the corners. Transient body motions, all but absent in the original, are present in the new setup, but not egregiously so.

On the tech front, Honda/Acura’s twin-screen control setup eliminates physical buttons and knobs, but is harder to negotiate than it ought to be.

Sounds like a third-gen update in the making.

2017 Acura RDX AWD Advance
Vehicle base price: $35,370
Trim level base price: $43,520
As tested: $44,460
Options included 18-inch black alloy wheels; roof rails; crossbars; running boards; rear bumper appliqué; illuminated door-sill trim; cargo tray
Tow rating: 1,500 pounds
EPA rating: 22 combined/19 city/27 highway
Premium unleaded fuel specified

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