Review: 2022 Acura RDX A-Spec
The Road Beat tests Acura's RDX entry-luxury crossover
What is it?
The RDX, the somewhat compact, luxury crossover from Acura. Set to compete against the likes of the BMW X3, Genesis GV70, Lexus NX, Audi Q5, and/or Mercedes GLC, it's a crowded, but popular segment for these entry-luxury rivals. I liked Acura's MDX from earlier in 2021, and the smaller RDX could bring a sportier edge due to its smaller footprint. At 187" long and 75" wide, it isn't compact, but it is when compared to the current MDX with its three-row seating arrangement. Interestingly, it's only an inch shorter than the original, hugely popular MDX from back when Gore was temporarily President.
Modern cars are getting so big. As inflation of our currency seems to see no end, so does the general size of all new vehicles. The RDX might be the small offering from Acura, but you'd never know it. For me, not ever needing three rows of seats, it's the perfect size for a crossover SUV. I never once had a doubt for interior space in either the seating nor cargo area, blending a nice balance for physical volume. I like this class of vehicle in general, because how often really are you going to utilize the third-row in your MDX? Mormons, maybe, I guess.
I also like the way the RDX looks, especially in the magnetic blue paint and A Spec package that adorns this example. Sharp, yet not offensive, whereas Lexus models are too far in one direction for many. The Acura badge on the nose might be large enough to trap you in its orbit, and/or puritans might mistake you for an adulterer if it were red, but it's a nice looking machine. If you are considering an RDX, you'd be doing yourself a severe disservice by getting one in boring white; Get the blue.
The interior is a lovely place for any occasion and is convincingly luxurious, with myself spending half a day in one on a trip to San Francisco and back. The seats are supportive and comfortable, though I reckon the white leather will not stay clean forever. Beautiful when new, but I'd have reservations about maintaining its luster long term. It's also quiet on the motorway at speed, but that's expected from a more prestigious luxury offering. This is an Acura, remember, not a Honda, so there are expectations. On the whole, everything inside from the doors to the switchgear feels wonderfully screwed-together, signifying this Acura's famous Japanese quality.
On a sunny Saturday, I decided to venture from Placerville, CA up to Loon Lake for a hike, an Alpine setting in the El Dorado National Forest. Arriving there meant taking some of the best driving roads on the planet, with snaking tarmac winding and flowing its way to well over 6,000 feet above sea level via Wentworth Springs and Ice House Roads. Unfortunately, a vast amount of this driving heaven was thwarted by snow and ice, but luckily the AWD system (Acura calls it, literally, Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive, or SH-AWD for short) in the RDX handled standing inches of snow quite nonchalantly. Instead of powering through corners with the suspension loaded and leaning, a modest 15-20 MPH was enough in these conditions. But yeah, the snow was absolutely no problem nor concern, and that was before realizing there was a dedicated snow mode to select from. I guess you could it's...snow problem.
Luckily, before I reached the wintry conditions, I did get a chance to attack some corners. Unlike many mass-appealing 'normal cars,' the RDX gets better the quicker you drive it. Maintaining a consistently fun (and still safe) 7-8/10ths on this well-known road, the RDX handles brilliantly, with a desire to change direction quickly and distinctly and with a surprising amount of shear in turns. The front-end bites hard and resists understeer well, and the AWD lends its hand in creating traction at all times. Dare I say it, it's actually decently fun to hoon around. The turbocharged engine doesn't have much down low, but once the revs are up, there's a decent thrust to satisfy even if it does leave more to be desired. Overall, very impressed with how well behaved and engaging the RDX can be, leaving a lasting impression.
I did hope for more from the 270 horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder. It's fine in terms of culture and civility as far as four-bangers go, but there just needs to be more punch to match the obviously sporting intentions of its chassis. A BMW X3, with less 'claimed' horsepower, is a smidge quicker, and so is the Genesis GV70. And it's not just outright firepower where it's lacking, but the low-range power, where it can feel lethargic at times, this despite the presence of its 10-speed automatic that ought to always keep the engine boiling. Just a little more oomph in the most commonly driven and utilized engine ranges would be welcome.
To go along with the powertrain, I was also discouraged by the fuel economy of the RDX, with the onboard computer showing 26 MPG on the highway and achieving an overall average of 23. 30 on the highway would be a real treat and, honestly, an expectation at this point. Others can do it, so should Acura.
So, you know how I said the RDX handles rather well on those back roads? In completely sedated, normal driving, I was disappointed by the steering. With zero feedback and a lack of consistency, I found accuracy to be missing, as the rate of response just didn't seem right as if there was a disconnect. When you bring up the pace, these concerns nearly all disappeared, but just popping around at 45 MPH through town, the steering could be unnerving. Most will likely never notice it, but it did stick out to me as I felt a missing connection between me turning the wheel and what the front tires were actually doing.
The interior might be well-made and with a distinct quality, but the infotainment failed to win me over. I was hesitant about it after first trying it in the MDX, and that sentiment remains here in this RDX. Using a little mousepad with supposed, alleged accuracy (each spot on the pad represents a corresponding place on the screen, apparently to allow muscle memory and keep your eyes on the road better), it's just too awkward. And I didn't like how far you have to move your finger sometimes. Say you're going from the far left to the far right, you have to drag your finger all the way across the pad. If you accidently pick your finger up, which is natural to do, you have to restart in the center. I get the intention and idea, but in the real world it's just frustrating and weird. On a laptop, it's common to move your cursor a little, pick-up your finger, and then move more to get to screen's corner, which allows you to keep your finger always in the center of the pad, but in Acura's vision, you have to do one full, uninterrupted motion of moving your finger all over the pad. I don't like it, but maybe it'll be better after a couple months? Oh, and one more thing, I didn't like how I was stuck with always a split-screen display, not finding a way to make it full screen.
Sometimes the things that should be so simple and obvious are what get so commonly overlooked, distracted by endless, meaningless drivel instead of giving all attention to what really matters. It can drive really well and succeeds in other areas, too, but it's disappointing to see these other parts bring it down.
The RDX is a well-made, well-priced, good-looking, and (at times) fun to drive luxury crossover. In normal driving, like what 99.5% of buyers will actually do, it misses on the goods, though, not being the most fuel efficient nor the best to drive. The new GV70 from Genesis really is a disrupter, being great to drive at all times and having a Sheik-worthy interior; The RDX needs to improve in a few areas to better compete. I love the fact that it drives as good as it does when you push it, better and more engaging than a BMW X3 even, but it doesn't stand out nearly as much when used as an everyday vehicle.
2022 Acura RDX A-Spec AWD Advanced
As-tested price: $52,845