2017 Acura RDX AWD Advance review: We got it dusty…and shot it

2017 Acura RDX AWD Advance dusty

2017 Acura RDX AWD Advance, dusty

Usually we at CarBuzzard make sure our test cars are sparkling clean and shiny when we photograph them. Who, after all, wants to see a dirty car? Ew, right?

But this time we were driving the 2017 Acura RDX down some dusty trails exploring the eastern rim of Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon and thought, why not? This is what an RDX can do, better than a sedan that could handle the roads we were on, but the ruts, rocks and bumps, well, we felt more comfortable in the RDX.

It’s not all why the Acura RDX was invented. Acura says the RDX, and we quote, came from a “growing luxury-customer demand for crossover-type vehicles with enhanced cargo- and passenger-carrying utility and flexibility and the sense of security that comes with the higher seating position and ride height of an SUV.”

So it’s not all about dirty roads.

2017 Acura RDX AWD Advance headlights

The 2017 Acura RDX comes standard with LED lighting. (click to enlarge)

The RDX was introduced as a 2007 model and followed up with an all-new edition in 2012 (see review). For 2016, Acura gave the RDX a significant mid-generation update with more power under the hood, new lighting and front end design, and an upgraded interior.

The standard (and only available) engine in the 2016 Acura RDX is a new 3.5-liter SOHC i-VTEC V-6 with improved valve timing. It pushes peak output to 279 horsepower at 6,200 (compared to 273hp at 6,200 rpm for the outgoing model), and maximum torque edges up to 252 lb-ft at 4900 rpm, versus 251lb.-ft. at 5100 rpm in the 2015 Acura RDX. That’s only one more lb-ft, not enough to write home to mother about, but Acura fattened up the curve at lower rpm for easier less-revvy acceleration around town and quicker acceleration overall.

The Acura RDX joins the variable cylinder deactivation crowd with a system that turns off three of the engine’s six cylinders under light engine loads, so that despite the extra power of the revised 3.5-liter V-6, EPA highway fuel-economy ratings improve by one mpg for both front-wheel and all-wheel drive. Unlike most “variable displacement” systems, however, the Acura system allows the engine to run on four cylinders under light acceleration.

Suspension on the Acura RDX is fully independent—as it should be in this class of vehicle—with long-travel MacPherson struts up front and multi-link at the rear. “Amplitude reactive” damping is standard. Dual internal shock valving uses a single valve for softer yet still controlled ride on smooth roads. But rougher surfaces force a second valve to open, providing control while still allowing longer travel. Acura said it works on urban surfaces. We’ll add dirt roads to that as well.

The steering system on the Acura RDX has electric power assist which can also be used to improve handling. Motion-Adaptive EPS (electric power steering) combines with the stability control system to nudge the steering in the proper direction for control during cornering and under braking on slippery surfaces, enhancing the stability control system that typically just uses the braking system to help point the vehicle in the right direction.

More visible to the casual observer is the new face of the Acura RDX. Like the recently tested Acura ILX, the RDX now has “Jewel Eye” LED headlights, as Acura calls it. A headlight array comprised of five separate lenses are aligned horizontally in a single pod (three low beam and two high beam) that merge into the Acura beak-like grille. Combining the headlights with the grille, however, diminishes the beakiness and gives the front end more of an aerodynamic wedge appearance.

2017 Acura RDX AWD Advance cargo

Folding the rear seats forward for additional cargo space in the 2017 Acura RDX AWD Advance doesn’t yield a flat load floor. (click to enlarge)

Our test 2017 Acura RDX with all-wheel drive was equipped with the Tech Package and the Advance Package, the latter including AcuraWatch. Standard on the “base” trim level—if a luxury small crossover priced at $37,070 (or $35,570 with front-wheel drive) can be called “base”—are a multi-view rear camera (providing a selection of views for different purposes), automatic headlights that also turn on when the wipers are used, Siri EyesFree, SMS text messaging, satellite radio with Pandora compatibility, dual zone climate control, keyless access with pushbutton start, ten way power driver’s seat and four-way front passenger seat, heated front seats, auto-dimming rearview mirror and more.

Beyond the base trim level, the Acura RDX is available with the AcuraWatch Plus package, which adds forward collision warning, collision mitigation braking (in case the driver ignores the collision warning), lane departure warning, lane keeping assist (in case the driver ignores the lane departure warning), and adaptive cruise control (in case the driver ignores the car ahead).

The Technology package includes blind spot information, rear cross traffic alert, navigation with traffic/rerouting, and upgraded audio and aps.

The Advance package includes everything in the AcuraWatch and Technology packages and adds front and rear parking sensors, rain sensing wipers, auto-dimming side mirrors, remote engine start, heated/ventilated front seats, and fog lights.

2017 Acura RDX AWD Advance

2017 Acura RDX AWD Advance (click to enlarge)

It’s fair to consider the Acura RDX as a smaller brother to the previously CarBuzzard-tested Acura MDX, Acura’s three-row crossover, smaller in size though not so much in technology. The smaller RDX has a little less horsepower, and the MDX has the new nine-speed automatic while the RDX still has a six-speed—though with paddle shifting and shifter on the console rather than the MDX’s peculiar buttons and switches.