2016 Acura RDX: Silky V-6 Performance

By Frank A. Aukofer, October 10th, 2015

The year 2013 stands out as a watershed moment for the Acura RDX, the year it emerged as a compelling contender among compact-to-midsize luxury crossover sport utility vehicles.

Before then, the emphasis had been on the sport ingredient. The original 2007 RDX arrived with a 240-horsepower, 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It had plenty of power, though its fuel economy was dismal. Also, because its suspension system tilted toward precise handling, the RDX transmitted a punishing ride on rough roads -- okay with enthusiasts but anathema to the majority.

It changed with a new philosophy for the 2013 model. The turbo was scrapped and a silky V-6 was substituted, linked to an easy-shifting six-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive.

With 273 horsepower from 3.5 liters, the engine employed cylinder deactivation to deliver fuel economy better than its four-cylinder predecessor. Depending on the circumstances, it ran on three, four, or six cylinders. Toggling among the different modes happened unobtrusively.

The RDX's altered personality found favor with customers. From U.S. sales of 29,520 in 2012 (when Acura started selling the 2013 model), the RDX is on a pace to sell around 52,000 units in 2015.

For 2016, it remains fundamentally as it has been but receives new safety and driver convenience enhancements, including a five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

From the outside, the most noticeable change is to the headlights, which now are an array of light emitting diodes, or LEDs, as are the taillights and running lights. New wheel designs and styling tweaks to the front and rear facades don't dramatically affect the overall look.

Big changes emanate from computers and bring the new RDX to the current state of the art. They include collision mitigation braking, blind spot warning, adaptive cruise control, and lane keeping assist.

With the latter two engaged, it is possible to drive with feet off the pedals and hands off the steering wheel. The adaptive cruise control maintains a preset distance from the car ahead and the lane keeping assist reads lines on the highway and steers the RDX back into its lane if the driver allows it to wander.

But you can't do it for long: Sensors detect when the driver's hands leave the steering wheel. A warning sounds and a light flashes, demanding that the driver start steering again.

With all the additional safety and connectivity features, the RDX now offers 10 variants, five with front drive and five with all-wheel drive. Prices start at $36,190 for the base RDX with front drive and range up to $44,430 for the all-wheel-drive RDX Advance, which incorporates all of the available safety and convenience options. Across the board, the price difference between front- and all-wheel-drive versions is $1,500.

The 2016 model, with 279 horsepower and 252 lb.-ft. of torque from its 3.5-liter engine, delivers more than adequate power and exceptional fuel economy for a V-6 engine in a 3,946-pound all-wheel-drive vehicle. Its city/highway/combined fuel consumption is rated by the EPA at 19/28/22 mpg on premium gasoline. A 300-mile trip of mixed but mostly highway driving for this test yielded 27 mpg -- close to the EPA's rating from a controlled test.

With plenty of insulation and a supple suspension system, the tested RDX cruises quietly and comfortably on highways and Interstates with the adaptive cruise control and lane departure correction easing the driving chores. It is, in short, a fine long-distance cruiser.

Up front, the seats are supportive and comfortable with myriad adjustments that combine with the tilt and telescoping steering wheel to make it easy for almost anyone to find an optimum driving position. Out back, there's similar comfort in the outboard seats; way less in the center position despite a nearly flat floor.

Behind the back seats, there's 26 cubic feet of cargo space, or about double what the average midsize sedan offers. Curiously, for a crossover in this class, the RDX does not arrive with a cargo security cover. But the rear windows are tinted to frustrate prying eyes and, if the owner chooses, a cargo cover is available as a dealer-installed option.

A flood of luxury and near-luxury crossover SUVs have spouted in the market. Some offer sportier handling, others a bit more luxury, but most have higher prices. The RDX is the complete package.

Specifications

Base price $ (as tested: $44,430)
Curb weight 3,946 lbs.
Displacement 3.5-liter
Engine type 24-valve iVTEC V-6
Epa mileage rating 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 16 gal.
Horsepower (net) 279 at 6200 rpm
Overall length 184.4 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 252 at 4900 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Vehicle type 5-passenger AWD midsize CUV
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