Acura RDX — Worthwhile updates

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Acura has refreshed the second-generation RDX crossover for 2016 bringing updated exterior styling plus additional content including more safety features, a modest uptick in horsepower and torque, and slightly better fuel economy. This has made one of our favorite luxury vehicles — from its rather sexy styling to its classy-looking interior — an even better vehicle for those seeking a just-right-sized upscale hauler with a silky smooth ride, loads of technology, an energetic V-6 and a solid track record of quality and resale value.

The RDX started life in 2007 as a more edgy vehicle with a turbocharged 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine, a sophisticated all-wheel drive system and the corporate catchphrase, "Precision Crafted Performance." The second generation introduced in 2013 developed a more mainstream luxury-oriented SUV powered by a traditional V-6. And the larger six-cylinder engine actually displayed better performance and better gas mileage than the outgoing turbo four.

While the sleek, attractive profile of the RDX remains, the grille and front and rear fascias have been reworked, Jewel Eye LED projector headlights and LED taillights have been added, and all models get new wheel designs. Inside, the RDX has been given a freshened look, and significant upgrades have been made including additional standard features such as heated front seats, second-row air conditioning vents, a power tailgate, and a Multi-View Rearview Camera.

The only engine Acura offers is the 3.5-liter with cylinder-deactivation technology mated to a very capable six-speed automatic transmission. For 2016, Acura has boosted horsepower just a bit from 273 to 279 and torque from 251 pound-feet to 252. At the same time, gas mileage has been improved slightly from 19 city, 28 highway to 20/29 and 23 mpg overall. Opt for all-wheel drive and mileage drops to 19/28. The mileage is helped by the cylinder deactivation system, which allows for the deactivation of three of the six cylinders under light engine loads.

The RDX displays confident performance and handling regardless of the load. There are some impressive numbers to back this up — 0-to-60 in 6.2 seconds and 14.8 seconds at 96 mph in the quarter mile. We were pleased at how seamlessly the power moves through the well-tuned transmission. Steering is on the light side, but you don't expect sports-car-like feel from your family crossover.

The interior feels open and airy, and the surroundings are appealing and comfortable. An attractive dual-cockpit dash design houses relatively easy-to-use switchgear. Wind and road noise are well muted, and a quiet cabin is an excellent way to impart a pleasant luxury ride. Seat comfort is first class both front and rear. The seats in our test vehicle were supportive and restful even after hours on the road.

The RDX's cabin is endowed with more space for passengers and cargo than many vehicles in the segment. At 103.5 cubic feet of total volume, the RDX provides more room than any of its closest competitors including the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Cadillac SRX, and Lexus RX 350. A redesigned cargo opening at 48.8 inches is a substantial 6.5 inches wider than the first generation RDX, making it easier to load large, bulky items into the rear cargo area where there's 26.1 cubic feet of storage with the second row up, and 76.9 cubic feet with it stowed.

Most upscale vehicles are endowed with the latest in safety technology these days and Acura has made its vast array of cutting-edge features available in the 2016 RDX. Most of the technology comes in the AcuraWatch Plus package that includes adaptive cruise control, a forward collision mitigation system with automatic braking, and a lane-departure warning and intervention system.

The RDX is available in a single trim level at $36,190. The base price brings such things as 18-inch wheels, rearview camera, sunroof, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a seven-speaker sound system with satellite radio, a USB interface, Pandora, and Siri Eyes Free. We think the AcuraWatchPlus package is a necessity and it can be added for $1,300. All-wheel drive can be added for $1,500.

In addition to the AcuraWatchPlus package, Technology and Advance packages are available. The Technology package bundles sport front seats, leather upholstery, a navigation system, an eight-inch display screen plus an additional seven-inch touchscreen display on the dashboard, and a 10-speaker Acura/ELS surround-sound system that we found reproduced crystal-clear music.

The top-of-the-line Advance package includes all the content in AcuraWatch Plus and Technology packages and adds ventilated cooled front seats, rear parking sensors, automatic wipers and remote engine start.

Our loaded front-wheel drive test car came with the Advance package and all the associated goodies for $42,840.

Base price: $36,190; as driven, $42,840
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6
Horsepower: 279 @ 6,200 rpm
Torque: 252 foot-pounds @ 4,900 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 105.7 inches
Length: 184.4 inches
Curb weight: 3,781 pounds
Turning circle: 38.9 feet
Luggage capacity: 26.1 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 76.9 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 16 gallons (Premium recommended)
EPA rating: 29 highway, 20 city, 23 combined
0-60: 6.2 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Audi Q5, Volvo XC60, BMW X3

The Good
• Satisfying V-6 performance
• Quiet cabin
• Length list of standard features

The Bad
• Premium gas recommended

The Ugly
• Lacks sporty nature of some competitors