Acura's RDX a lovely thing to drive
By Jim Bray
The 2022 Acura RDX is a mostly terrific mid-sized luxury SUV that goes head-to-head with some pretty high-powered competitors from around the world.
The vehicle, now in its third generation, balances luxury and style with performance, while adding Honda/Acura's usual annoyances that try very hard to suck out any of the joy the driving experience might otherwise bring you.
And that's too bad. I've always liked the RDX – it's more my size of vehicle than its big brother the MDX, for example, more like a Porsche Macan compared to a Cayenne. Not that I want you to think the RDX can go head-to-head with that lovely SUV (well, to be fair, I haven't driven a Macan since the model first came out, so Porsche may have ruined it as well, though I doubt it), I'm just putting it into market perspective.
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Actually, a better comparison might be to Lexus' brand new, second generation NX, which I reviewed here. It's ironic, in a "there's just no pleasing some people" kind of way because I liked driving the RDX better than the Lexus, but I'd rather live with the Lexus.
A big part of the reason is the damn trackpad Acura has decided to inflict upon its owners – just as Lexus starts getting rid of its version of the abomination. Trackpads are finicky and require you to take your eyes off the road far too much.
Oh, sure, there's voice recognition and activation, but I think it's going to take several more years for such systems (not just Acura's, but most – if not all – of them) to really become useful. This issue is undoubtedly exacerbated for people who speak with accents: I've spent decades in broadcasting and so can speak clearly (not, LOL, that that's necessarily a given, given the state of today's broadcasting) and still have a heckuva time getting the voice systems to bend to my commands.
Why not just make things simple?
I know I sound like a Luddite when I (who've been writing about technology since the 1980's) say that, but today's vehicles (not just Acura's), have so much stuff stuffed into them – as nannies, connectivity options, you name it – that the stuff is actually affecting my enjoyment of the drive. I mean, when you have to keep shutting stuff off (or yelling at the vehicle!) just to have a less frustrating time behind the steering wheel, the incentive to buy the latest state of the art shrinks.
I think I may have to do a column on that, in praise of older vehicles.
Anyway, there's plenty to love about the current RDX, so let's concentrate on that.
The original RDX was a turbo-powered four-cylinder engine, a 2.3 liter rated at 240 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 260 lb-ft. of torque at 4500 rpm. The second generation got a normally-aspirated V6, but for this version Acura has gone back to the turbo well, with a two-litre four banger that cranks out a very nice 272-horsepower. The engine is a peach, and it emits glorious noises, and it also moves the RDX along very nicely indeed.
Until it meets its transmission, anyway. It's paired with a 10-speed automatic (with paddles, fortunately, and they work well) that, as does its nine-and-10-speeed competitors, will shift up through the gears quickly if you aren't standing on the gas pedal, as a way to increase fuel mileage. Nothing necessarily wrong with that, until it's time to go up a hill or pull out and pass someone, at which time it has to downshift multiple gears to get into the needed power band.
At least it shifts well – it reminded me very much of a good dual clutch transmission, though apparently it isn't.
All RDX models in Canada come with Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system, which is also a peach and a very handy thing to have when the roads turn crummy.
There's also a really nice Sport mode, though it's kind of confusing because you can access a sport mode via the awful gear selector, and there's also a sport mode in the knob-based dynamic settings. That knob also lets you tweak the vehicle's performance in other ways, too, and Acura says it has updated the integrated Dynamics System to better differentiate between its four driving modes (Normal, Comfort, Sport and Snow), including a more sporty feel for that mode, and better comfort for Comfort as well.
Snow mode uses "a gentle throttle profile" to help keep you moving when things get slippery, while giving you the softer suspension profile that comes with Comfort mode.
The interior is very nice, comfortable and luxurious and, other than the Honda/Acura interfaces I whine about constantly these days, it's a very nice place to be in the driver's seat. Well, the instrument panel is more than a tad busy and I'd have loved to see larger lettering on some of the stuff (hey, I'm old!). Ditto for the centre stack's LCD screen; I had trouble reading song titles and other stuff on it.
Speaking of hard to read, the speedometer and tachometer have red letting on a gray background, and I had real problems with them. Fortunately, you can partake of a digital speedometer on the instrument panel and a good head's up display helps as well.
A handy touch is the steering wheel heater control, which is actually on the steering wheel. On the downside, it has a little LED that lights up when you push it, but it's so small I could hardly tell if it was on or not – especially during daylight hours. Nit picky? Indeed, but it's the little things that help make a vehicle great.
There's quite a bit that's new for 2022, including exterior tweaks meant to emulate its big brother, the MDX. There are also extensive refinements, including an enhanced Adaptive Sound Control (ASC) system, meant to reduce road noise and increase cabin quietness. You also get standard wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa, and you can order Qi-compatible wireless charging.
A nice touch is the new rear camera washer, which is also now standard, and you also get a remote engine start function with expanded range and two-way LED feedback on the key fob.
Acura's sample wore 20-inch wheels (19's are standard).
The Blind Spot Information (BSI) system, which includes a Cross Traffic Monitor, is now standard, and for the first time an Acura vehicle also comes with Lane Change Assist, which Acura says can detect potentially horrid things up to 29.5 metres behind the vehicle, which they say is more than four times as far as before. Four times as annoying, I'd warrant…
Also standard on every RDX is an upgraded AcuraWatch suite of safety and "driver assistive" technologies. A new Traffic Sign Recognition system uses a camera, instead of your GPS location, for more accurate speed limit information. Not only that, but the Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS) with Forward Collision Warning (FCW) has been updated to help prevent you from mowing down pedestrians with wild abandon and it operates at speeds above 10 km/h.
Also standard for 2022 is a new rear seatbelt reminder system, which uses visual and audible cues to notify the driver if rear seat occupants have buckled their seatbelts. Or you could just pay attention to those little tykes you supposedly love.
As you can see, there's plenty to love about the new Acura RDX, but there's also a lot of annoying stuff that might just drive you nuts. Your mileage, of course, may vary – but at the very least the RDX is a very competitive and very compelling vehicle that will probably last you as long as you drive.
Copyright 2022 Jim Bray