My TL had to spend a couple of nights at the Acura dealer to have a vibration in the sunroof fixed and a front-end alignment issue addressed. While it was away from home I got to borrow a loaner – a 2015 Acura RDX with about 2,000 miles. The RDX is Acura’s “entry-level” crossover slotted below its flagship MDX. Clad in White Diamond Pearl paint, my RDX was the AWD model with the Technology package listing for $40k.
Feature-wise it is very similar to my TL. The sculpting of the dashboard is slightly different but everything save for the climate controls are in the same places and use the same styling. I felt at home very quickly. It doesn’t have the ventilated seats or blind spot monitoring system of my TL, but matches its other features and adds a few of its own – a power lift gate (which makes no sense in a car anyway), tinted rear windows (an SUV staple), and the multi-view backup camera that appears on other current models. The multi-view camera is pretty nice, providing the standard view that I’m used to as well as a wider angle view and a top-down view that allows me to line it up with the back of a parking space or a curb. Interior materials are all leather or soft-touch, so much that parts of the dashboard are literally squishy. It doesn’t offer the Umber of my TL, but the parchment color scheme didn’t look too bad. I’d probably opt for black on this model anyway.
Power is provided from a modified version of the 3.5L V6 used in the front-wheel-drive TL tuned to make 273 hp vs the 280 hp in the TL. The RDX’s engine includes Variable Cylinder Management that will shut down up to three of the cylinders depending on the situation. It basically runs on four cylinders during highway cruising, three cylinders during moderate city driving, and six during spirited driving. Combined with its new all-wheel-drive system, the RDX makes 19/27/22 MPG, only 1 MPG less in all scenarios than the front-wheel-drive model. For reference my all-wheel-drive TL gets 18/26/21 with its 3.7L engine producing 305 hp.
The deactivation of cylinders is supposed to be transparent to the driver, and from what I can tell it is. If I turned off the stereo and tried really hard I could barely notice a bit more vibration and grunt from the engine on the highway, indicating it was running on 4 cylinders. I didn’t notice anything while sitting in traffic where it was potentially running on 3 cylinders. The entire operation is computer-controlled, which reduces vibration and cancels noise when activated. There was no noticeable lag when I hit the accelerator either; it felt as if all six cylinders were ready to go.
The other half of the RDX’s fuel economy equation, in the AWD model at least, lies within its implementation of AWD technology. All of Acura’s other AWD models include “Super Handling” AWD, which pushes more power to the rear wheels during acceleration and to the outside wheels during cornering. At least 10% of the available torque is always distributed to the rear wheels and increases significantly during acceleration and cornering. It also engages if there is wheel-slippage of course, but the “SH” is related to the fact that it shifts torque around even when there isn’t any slippage. This allows the AWD system to add sporty handling to the vehicle in addition to increased traction.
The AWD system on the RDX, however, is not of the “SH” variety. Dubbed “All-Wheel Drive with Intelligent Control”, it is a standard system that directs 100% of the torque to the front wheels during cruising, up to 25% to the rear wheels during acceleration, and up to 50% when slippage is detected. The SH-AWD TL can direct up to 45% to the rear wheels during acceleration and up to 70% to one rear wheel during cornering. The result is a vehicle that does not exhibit torque steer common to FWD vehicles. Since it has a less-active AWD system, the RDX feels different. In fact, I was convinced it was an FWD model until I read the dealer tag. It certainly has torque steer and doesn’t have the same power as my TL. That being said, it’s not bad, it’s just less sporty.
Speaking of power and sport, while the RDX doesn’t have as much power as my TL, it actually has more pep. The engine is tuned differently and the transmission is programmed differently, resulting in very quick and smooth pickup. I just need to tap the gas to start racing forward while the transmission smoothly and quietly shifts through its gears. It feels as if the engine has more low-end torque than mine, which translates to quicker pickup.
Overall I like the RDX. As I said before, it is very similar to my TL in layout and is easy to get comfortable in. Though it was redesigned in 2013, it doesn’t include Acura’s dual level touch screen interface. It seems that this is reserved for the premium models – the RLX, MDX, and upcoming TLX. The RDX and ILX get the last-gen interior. It’s still a completely serviceable design but there is something funny about hopping into a 2015 vehicle where 90% of the dashboard layout was introduced on vehicles in 2009. Oh, and the heated seat button is the same one I had in my 2007 TSX, whose design dates back to 2004. Talk about getting value out of a design!
From a size perspective, the RDX is a bit smaller than Sally’s Sorrento, with less depth in the cargo area and less width due to more intrusive tire wells. There is also a bit less room in the back as well. I’m not interested in getting an SUV, however I would probably be interested in this size if I did. No need to have two large SUVs in the family*. Despite its lack of SH-AWD, it drives pretty well.
Complaints are few, but somewhat important. The steering feels really, really loose, and floaty. There is just too much electronic assistance there. I barely tap the wheel and I feel as if the car is moving all over the place. It’s great for a parking lot but not the highway. I prefer the tighter steering of my TL. The suspension is also much softer with more bounce that is easily felt when cornering. Again I prefer the stiff suspension of my TL. My other complaint is minor. The nav/audio screen is angled differently than on my TL – it isn’t as deep and it isn’t covered by curved plastic to reduce glare. This requires it to be mounted at an angle that cuts off the upper right hand corner a bit unless I learn forward. Not a huge deal but kind of annoying since I can’t see the entire screen all the time.
My TL is now back in the garage, sunroof and alignment issues gone. It was fun to drive a different Acura for a little bit, but I missed my own car. Sally had a lot of fun with it while we had it. Potentially an option for the future…
* The term “large” used here is relative. I know the Sorrento is not a large SUV, but it’s the largest one we would be considering for the next few years.