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The Acura RDX combines engineering technology and efficiency with responsive handling, a traditional silky powertrain with 3.5-liter V6 and 6-speed automatic, clear gauges, classy leather, class-leading interior volume, and rear seats that easily flop for cargo. The RDX competes most closely with the BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLK.
Nothing significant has changed for the 2015 model year. RDX was completely redesigned for the 2013 model year. The 2016 RDX receives refreshed styling and upgrades to the powertrain and structure.
The 2015 Acura RDX comes with a 3.5-liter V6 rated at 273 horsepower and a 6-speed automatic transmission that incorporates manual control. The engine and transmission are both so smooth, they feel flawless. Fuel mileage is an EPA-estimated 20/28 mpg City/Highway, for an EPA Combined 23 miles per gallon with front-wheel drive.
All-wheel drive is available. Simpler and lighter than Acura's SH-AWD setup, which is used in other models, the RDX's AWD system is designed for greater fuel mileage. In about 400 miles of driving in our RDX AWD, mostly at 72 mph on the freeway but with some hilly city runs, we averaged 21.6 mpg. The EPA rates the 2015 RDX AWD at 19/27 mpg City/Highway (22 mpg Combined).
Handling is taut and precise. The steering employs what Acura calls Motion Adaptive Electric Power Steering. Reaching beyond speed-sensitive power steering, it increases or reduces the amount of effort needed to turn the wheel in either direction, based on the same sort of traction measurements that stability-control sensors receive. By instantaneously weighting the steering wheel, the system makes it harder for the driver to over-correct.
The Acura RDX suspension features Amplitude Reactive Dampers, sophisticated shock absorbers designed to offer the best of all worlds. During our test drive, we found the dampers transmitted too many sharp bumps to our spine.
The 2015 Acura RDX interior has sweeping lines and uses rich materials. It's very quiet in the cabin. Over harsh freeway surfaces, in particular, you can't hear any tire buzz, thanks to ample sound-deadening materials. Door openings are large, and the rear seats fold down with one touch.
Leather seating surfaces are standard, along with heated front seats, a power moonroof, 360-watt audio system, and Multi-Angle rearview camera. Keyless Access with pushbutton start also is standard, along with an Active Noise Control system. An optional Technology Package has all the tricks, including a power liftgate, HID (high-intensity-discharge) headlamps, and an SMS text messaging feature. Also in the Technology group is an automatic climate control system, which considers the position of the sun when adjusting the interior temperature.
The Acura RDX is manufactured in Ohio.
Standard equipment includes leather-trimmed sport seats, satellite radio, driver's 10-way power seat, heated front seats and sideview mirrors, 7-speaker 360-watt audio system, Bluetooth, remote entry, pushbutton start, power moonroof, and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Technology Package ($38,795 with front-drive, $40,195 with AWD) adds navigation with voice recognition, real-time traffic with rerouting, solar-sensing dual-zone climate control, ELS premium Surround Sound system with 410-watt amplifier, power liftgate, projector beam HID headlamps, and foglamps.
Safety equipment on all models includes six airbags, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes with brake distribution and brake assist, and tire pressure monitor. Optional all-wheel drive can improve handling stability in slippery conditions.
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We found the Acura RDX smooth, stable and comfortable 99 percent of the time, but when you hit sharp bumps they're transmitted through that nice bucket seat. It's a shame the ride delivers jolts, because otherwise it's all good. We also tested a larger Acura MDX, which was better, but still had traces of the jolt.
The V6 that comes on all RDX models makes 273 horsepower and produces plenty of smooth acceleration. It's rated at an EPA-estimated 20/28 mpg with front-wheel drive, 19/27 mpg with all-wheel-drive. The Acura V6 a 60-degree single-overhead-camshaft design with 24 valves, actuated by iVTEC, or intelligent Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control. The engine has an aluminum block and heads, with iron cylinder liners.
The 6-speed automatic transmission is as smooth as the engine. There are two automatic modes, plus Sequential SportShift with well-designed paddles. The first five gears are relatively short, for sharp acceleration; sixth gear is tall, for lower rpm at freeway speeds and thus better highway fuel mileage. The transmission has all the latest technology, including a multi-clutch lock-up torque converter, Grade Logic Control, Shift Hold Control and Cornering G Shift Control. None of those little brains in the transmission intruded, during the time we had the car. Fuel economy is boosted by a tall sixth gear and the Variable Cylinder Management system, which uses 3, 4, or 6 cylinders depending on need. It's totally invisible; we never once felt it.
The RDX handles really well. The all-wheel drive enhances cornering by moving torque to the rear wheels when needed, although it's not Acura's SH-AWD (super handling all-wheel drive), as used in other models.
Motion Adaptive Electric Power Steering uses sensors to detect understeer (front tires sliding) or oversteer (rear tires sliding), and the stability control does its thing by applying the brakes to an appropriate wheel. But next, if the driver is turning the steering wheel too much in one direction or the other, the weight of the steering is increased by reducing the electric assist to the power steering, making it harder for the driver to continue his or her imperfect pursuit of control.
For Acura lovers, the V6 RDX is perfect. It combines Acura's best engineering technology and efficiency with responsive handling, a traditional silky powertrain with 6-speed automatic, clear gauges, classy leather, class-leading interior volume, and easy seat flop for cargo. Fuel mileage is so-so, the price is relatively high, and sharp bumps are felt.
Sam Moses filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after his test drive of the Acura RDX in the Pacific Northwest.