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2017 Acura RDX – Not Just Another Pretty Face

November 19, 2016

Luxury crossovers, for the most part, are designed to be well-appointed people carriers that are great dailies but don’t do anything particularly well. Handling can be un-inspired, braking is mostly spongy and styling is hit or miss. In this saturated segment of high-tech, high-style, low-excitement vehicles, the 2017 Acura RDX shines as an overall great performer and value king.

 

Design:

 

EXT: In keeping true to Acura’s pterodactyl-nose styling, the RDX’s front fascia is both aggressive and classy. From practically every angle, the RDX has sharp presence. Almost zero exterior design changes were made for 2017, which is a testament to the vehicle’s looks. Not overtly leaning in any one particular design direction, other than Acura’s brand language, the RDX is simply and all-around good-looker.

 

Our Acura came equipped with the optional 18-inch Black Diamond Cut wheels, which contrasted nicely with the Lunar Silver Metallic paint. Angles abound, parts of the RDX look and feel like fine jewelry, as was probably intended by Acura’s designers.

 

At the rear, aesthetics flow nicely from the rest of the vehicle. There are no abrupt lines or oddly shaped tail lights, as is the case with some other luxury crossovers. The rear bumper cover is flush the tailgate and rear overhang is minimal, for a tight, sporty appearance. The jewelry-like them continues with the taillight housings. We also liked the incognito tail pipes, which made for a clean look; pun intended.

 

Overall, exterior design is on-point. Although not overly inspired, the RDX’s beautiful exterior will likely appeal to its target audience. Is it any coincidence that the headlights, with their stacked LEDs, are reminiscent of a tennis bracelet? Probably not.

 

INT: The cabin is handsome and comfortable, and there is an overall feel of luxury meets sportiness. However, there is nothing particularly impressive or striking about the RDX’s interior design. It’s very good, but almost sterile in spirit. Controls, buttons and dials all have great feel, but are lacking in excitement. What the RDX’s interior is, with the exception of infotainment but we’ll get to that, is excellence in engineering and lethargy in design.

 

Steering wheel controls are intuitive and easily accessed. However, the infotainment cluster and the system itself, leave plenty to be desired. There are two screens that display information, but navigation always defaults to the top screen. Having to refer to multiple screens diverted our attention away from the road for a bit longer than comfortable. The infotainment cluster, ironically enough, is actually not as intuitive as the steering wheel. Where the driver would expect to find the main power and volume knob is a selector wheel. When adjusting music volume, each one of our passengers initially reached for the controller knob first, before realizing that the tiny knob on the left-right of the cluster is actually volume control. However, purely in terms of connectivity and functionality, the RDX’s infotainment system is competitive with any vehicle in its class.

 

Rear seating is comfortable and spacious enough, for average-sized passengers. However, some of our taller team members (6ft and above) were certainly lacking headroom. The EPA technically categorizes the RDX as a compact crossover –it does share a chassis with the Honda CRV, after all– and that can prove true in the back seat even though, overall, the RDX feels like a mid-size. 60/40 folding rear seats were a breeze to collapse when storing large items in the cargo area. With the exception of the infotainment experience, the RDX’s interior is a very pleasant place to be for drivers and passengers alike. By no means is the car’s infotainment awful, it’s just not on par with the best in-class.

 

Driving: If any new mid-size luxury crossover drives like a sport sedan, it’s the 2017 Acura RDX. That’s not to say that the RDX is overtly sporty but it does respond very well to aggressive inputs. Acceleration, braking and handling were all impressive. Honda’s finely tuned 3.5L V6 and intelligent, smooth shifting 6-speed transmission made us forget we were driving an SUV/crossover during 0-60 tests, which were completed in about 6 seconds. The powertrain is so nicely calibrated that it felt like, as a driver, you are seamlessly tossed in between a pair of professional salsa dancers to become a fluid trio.

 

Braking was also notable; direct and mechanical feel made you want to stop just that much later. The RDX’s brakes actually make stopping fun, as they are so well connected to the driver’s foot. Among the RDX’s safety braking features, is the forward collision warning system, which was never intrusive and always effective enough to slow the vehicle to a near stop until the driver took control. Overall, braking in the RDX is among the best we’ve ever tested in the luxury crossover segment.

 

Acura’s AWD with Intelligent Control kept the RDX just as composed on twisty back roads as on downtown streets. We were surprised by just how alive the RDX became when pushed hard on the rural switchbacks of Washington.

 

Chassis dynamics and handling complimented the superb powertrain and braking. When the desire to push a little harder through corners arrived, both the powertrain and suspension rose to the occasion flawlessly. And when all that speed had to be reigned in, the RDX’s brakes stopped the nearly 4000lb vehicle with commanding force.

 

The 2017 Acura RDX is one of the most bang-for-your-buck luxury crossovers around. Luxury? Check. Safety? Check. Style. Check. Performance? Absolutely. Aside from an infotainment system that seems slightly out of place, and an interior that’s comfortable but un-inspired, the RDX is a joy to experience. We only wish that our test week could somehow transition to ownership. 2017 Acura RDX on our must-buy list? Check.

_

Confusing infotainment

Clinical interior

 

+

Silky smooth V6

6-speed automatic transmission

Handling and chassis dynamics

 

Specs:

Engine – 3.5L, 24 Valve SOHC i-VTEC® V6

Drivetrain – AWD w/Intelligent Control System™

Horsepower – 279 @ 6200 RPM

Torque – 252 @ 4900 RPM

Transmission – 6-speed automatic with Sequential SportShift paddle shifters and Grade Login Control

Weight – 3946 lbs

Starting Price –  $35,570; Tested at $47,920

 

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