The 2023 Acura RDX offers a premium driving experience with a non-premium price tag.
Every manufacturer has several variations of SUVs and Crossovers in their model lineup. 2-rows, 3-rows, small, large, sporty, or luxurious, there is one thing in common. Either they are focusing on the practicality, and missing the driving experience and refinement, or vice versa. Especially when it comes to the premium entries, the prices usually go up quite significantly. Since it is released in 2019, there is only one option that is technically in the premium segment, but it offers a great amount of practicality, and driving dynamics for a reasonable price tag – it’s the 2023 Acura RDX.
With a starting price of just under $50,000 CAD, the 2023 Acura RDX is still our favourite 2-row premium SUV and that includes the looks. Acura updated the RDX last year, but the changes were minimal. The most obvious change is the front fascia, especially the front bumper. Even without the facelift, the RDX looks very modern and sporty with elegant lines. Like the other Acura models, you will get the traditional Acura design language, mainly the diamond-shaped front grille, and sharp angles in the front end.
When we move around to the side and rear, it is even harder to find the differences. The A-Spec trim comes with sportier design details including the wheels. I love the fact that it comes with 100% real exhaust tips on both sides and they make the RDX look much sportier, unlike the other premium entries like the Audi Q5’s fake exhaust tips. Although it technically shares the platform with the CR-V, everything is completely different. At the end of the day, it’s a subjective matter, but I personally think the RDX is one of the better-looking entries from all angles without being too offensive.
The interior design is also uniquely Acura, and you do not find any common parts used in cheaper Honda models. Unlike Acura and Honda models from a decade ago, it is no longer a rebadging operation. However, the interior design will look familiar if you are coming from other modern Acura products. The center stack is located quite high, it gives you the feeling of driving a car rather than an SUV. The fit and finish are not the same levels compared to luxury German entries, but they are significantly more expensive. It does not feel luxurious, but premium. So if you prioritize the interior build quality, the RDX sits in between non-premium entries, and luxury entries like the BMW X3.
You will find more physical buttons and an analog feeling, which is getting rare nowadays. I personally like the interior design and button layout, you do not have to look down to find the right button for fundamental features. It is good If you are not a fan of touch-sensitive buttons or volume sliders. The ELS Premium audio system is very impressive, which comes with 16 speakers located in different places in the interior. The negative part about the interior is the excessive use of piano black, and shifter buttons located right at the center of the dashboard. I think Acura should have updated the shifter design with an elegant-looking small shifter column. It takes up a lot of space, and you do not have a place to put your hand while you are driving.
The problems continue with the infotainment system. It comes with the latest Acura infotainment system and the screen resolution is quite good. However, you have to use the touchpad to control everything, it definitely takes quite a bit of time to get fully used to it. The screen is not touch-sensitive and is placed quite far from the driver. New to 2022, now it comes with wireless smartphone integration, but we were having connection problems constantly, and we had to use a USB cable to continue using Android Auto. For some people, this might be a dealbreaker as it is an important part of the driving experience.
Speaking of the driving experience, let’s start with the drivetrain. It comes with only one engine and transmission option, and it’s a solid platform. It has a 2.0L turbocharged direct injection inline 4-cylinder engine which puts out 272 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. The 2.0L engine doesn’t feel like the most refined option, and it isn’t too fast, but it is definitely more than enough for daily driving and spirited driving to a level. It’s matched with Honda’s 10-speed torque-converted automatic transmission, which is built in-house by Honda. It also comes with the Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive system, which makes the RDX stand out against the competition.
Even if you have the best AWD system in the world, without having the right suspension tune, it will not give you the ultimate driving experience. Our tester is the top Platinum Elite A-Spec trim, which comes with an electronically adjusted suspension system. It does not give you a lot of flexibility, but you can change the suspension tune by choosing a different driving mode. I find the suspension tuning on the firmer side, which is not surprising for an A-Spec trim.
In a market full of boring practical SUVs with affordable price tags, or fun SUVs with an astronomical price range, the RDX continues to be the unicorn. The engine is very similar to the Honda Civic Type-R, which means it has a lot of potential and huge aftermarket support if you are looking for extra fun. The SH-AWD system works quite differently than traditional AWD systems, sending power to the outer wheel every time you maneuver. As a result, the RDX feels much more nimble and sportier. The rear end is quite playful and wants to oversteer almost like rear-biased AWD systems that you would find in premium entries, like the BMW X3, or Porsche Macan.
However, one important thing that premium entries like the X3 or other German SUVs fall behind is the interior space, especially for the rear-seat passengers. The RDX’s 2.0L engine is placed horizontally and it takes much less space under the hood compared to the rear wheel-biased longitudinal engines, therefore it allows much more interior space for all passengers. The rear seats have tons of legroom and headroom even for large adults despite having a thick front seat profile, and a huge panoramic sunroof. It also comes with rear vents, as well as USB ports for the rear seat passengers.
At 6’1″, I was totally comfortable in the front and rear, and I was able to place a rear-facing child seat without having to move the front passenger seat forward. That’s something we cannot see in the luxury segment. More importantly, it comes with a generous cargo space, which is 29.5 cubic feet (836 L) of cargo space behind the rear seats, and 58.9 cubic feet (1668 L)with the second row folded down. As expected, it comes with a power tailgate with a hands-free option.
The 2023 Acura RDX continues to be the brand’s bestseller and it is still our 2-row favourite SUV after driving almost all entries in this segment, and there is a good reason for that. It is not easy to stand out in a wildly competitive segment, but the winning formula puts the RDX in a special place. It is the only option that finds the middle ground and that makes the RDX appealing to both premium and non-premium shoppers. It is not perfect especially when it comes to the infotainment system and weird choices like the shifter buttons, but all of the deficiencies are forgivable if you prioritize having a driver-focused SUV with a great amount of practicality for a reasonable price tag.
|1996cc turbocharged inline-4
|Transmission & Drivetrain
|10-speed torque-converted automatic
|272 hp @ 6500 rpm
|280 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm
|4057 lb – 1840 kg
|Fuel Economy (combined)
|23 MPG – 12.3L / 100 km
|Price (as tested)