The 2021 Acura RDX doesn’t have the same luxury cachet as its classmates, but it’s stylish and more affordable. Acura acts as Honda’s classier counterpart, which earns it some points in reliability, but not so much for its prestige, especially compared with rivals such as the Porsche Macan and Mercedes-Benz GLC-class. Although both those vehicles are better to drive and offer more performance options than this Acura, the RDX does have a peppy turbocharged engine and an available all-wheel-drive system that elevates its athleticism. While its automatic transmission can be a bit passive and the A-Spec package is largely cosmetic, we appreciate the crossover’s generous luggage capacity and standard features. The 2021 RDX isn’t particularly premium or especially sporty, but it is a really good value for what it is.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Every RDX is powered by a 272-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that pairs with a 10-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive (or “SH-AWD” in Acura-speak). The A-Spec version we tested had a responsive gas pedal at low speeds, and it pulled away from stoplights with authority. The transmission could be quicker to downshift, especially when the driver uses the steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. The turbocharged engine makes the RDX sound a bit like the NSX, with a high-pitched roar during hard acceleration, but much of that noise is artificial and piped into the cabin through the audio system’s speakers. The RDX we drove had large 20-inch wheels that are included with the A-Spec package and the standard suspension setup. Models with the Advance package have adaptive dampers that allow you to adjust the ride quality. While our test vehicle failed to isolate the cabin from harsh impacts on the roughest roads, it was never punishing or noisy. The torque-vectoring SH-AWD system also helped the RDX change directions quickly and was backed by precise-feeling steering. The RDX leaned only when we attacked a highway on-ramp, but otherwise, it was wonderfully balanced. Unfortunately, the brake pedal diminished the experience, due to its inconsistent firmness and responsiveness.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Inside, the center stack is a little busy, with a lot of buttons, a touchpad, and a large rotary drive-mode selector sitting front and center. The version we tested had the A-Spec package’s flashy red seats and several other exclusive styling bits. While the cabin’s notable build quality and desirable standard features (ambient lighting; power-adjustable, heated front seats; dual-zone climate control) were appreciated, the RDX fails to feel luxurious. The Acura delivers a sportier experience than something like the Honda CR-V could ever provide. Nothing feels cheap or chintzy, and the driving position is high enough to satisfy SUV fans and flexible enough to appease driving enthusiasts. A handle on the outboard seats will release the back row so you can fold it flat. Or you can lower the seatbacks from the cargo hold using the secondary releases. We managed to fit eight carry-on bags with the seats up and 22 with them folded. The RDX has a large passthrough storage tray beneath its floating center console, too.