2021 Acura RDX

2021 Acura RDX Test Drive Review: Quality And Style In One Satisfying Package

The sporty luxury crossover space is packed with choice, but the Acura RDX brings a price tag and reputation for reliability that the German brands can't match. Acura's midsize crossover offers a premium level of build quality, a classy cabin, an engaging yet refined ride, plenty of standard features, an overdose of technology, and an MSRP starting at just over $38,000.

The third-generation RDX appeared in 2019 as the first in a salvo of redesigned vehicles aimed at bringing the Acura name back to its former glory. The 2021 RDX is still powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that packs a 272 horsepower punch through Acura's (optional) advanced Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) system. With its strong, chiseled looks, athletic handling, and sophisticated ride, the RDX delivers a strong value proposition and plenty of style in a typically expensive market. We borrowed one for a week from Acura to see how it's holding up against the competition, like the BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class, in its third year.

2021 Acura RDX Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2020 RDX?

Acura hasn't made any major changes to the range for 2021, although the new Acura RDX PMC Edition has been introduced. Hand-built at Acura's Performance Manufacturing Center alongside the NSX, the RDX PMC is mechanically unchanged but introduces a range of bold aesthetic updates. These include Thermal Orange Pearl paint, 20-inch gloss black wheels, Ebony Milano leather sports seats with Ultrasuede inserts, and orange stitching. Only 360 units of the RDX PMC will be produced for the US market.

Pros and Cons

  • Spicy new PMC Edition
  • A lot of car for the money
  • Punchy turbo engine
  • Athletic handling and smooth ride
  • Spacious seating
  • Quiet cabin
  • Only a single engine option
  • Low towing capacity
  • Infotainment system still not the most user-friendly
  • Interior falls just short of the Germans

Best Deals on RDX

2021 Acura RDX Trims

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
Base
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$38,400
Technology Package
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$41,300
A-Spec Package
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$44,300
Advance Package
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$46,200
PMC Edition
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
All-Wheel Drive
$51,000

2021 RDX Exterior

The 2021 Acura RDX is a handsome SUV that doesn't really have a bad angle, and the links to the rest of the Acura family shine through strongly. Some examples of this are the sharp Jewel-Eye headlights and the trapezoidal grille. All versions ship with LED headlights, a panoramic moonroof, LED taillights, and a tailgate spoiler. Dual exhaust outlets are standard, but these are more aggressively styled on the A-Spec, which also has its own bumper design. Wheel sizes range from 19- to 20-inch items. The limited PMC Edition is the looker of the lineup with its gloss black exterior trim and 20-inch wheels in the same finish.

2021 Acura RDX Front View CarBuzz
2021 Acura RDX Rear View CarBuzz
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Dimensions

The RDX is longer, wider, and taller than an Audi Q5. Key dimensions include a length of 186.8 inches, a height of 65.7 inches, and a width of 74.8 inches. The wheelbase stretches to 108.3 inches. The curb weight begins at 3,783 pounds for the base RDX in FWD guise and goes up to 4,068 lbs for AWD models equipped with the Advance Package.

  • Length 186.7 in
  • Wheelbase 108.3 in
  • Height 65.7 in
  • Max Width 74.8 in
  • Front Width 64.2 in
  • Rear Width 64.7 in

Exterior Colors

On the base RDX, Acura has availed a choice of seven colors. Only Fathom Blue Pearl, Lunar Silver Metallic, and Modern Steel Metallic won't cost any extra. For an additional outlay of $500, customers can choose from Platinum White Pearl, Majestic Black Pearl, Performance Red Pearl, and Gunmetal Metallic. By adding the Technology and A-Spec Packages, Apex Blue Pearl becomes available as well. The PMC Edition is uniquely offered in a striking shade called Thermal Orange Pearl, borrowed from the NSX supercar. Together with its gloss black exterior accents, it's the most visually arresting model in the range.

  • Majestic Black Pearl
  • Platinum White Pearl
  • Performance Red Pearl
  • Apex Blue Pearl
  • Lunar Silver Metallic
  • Thermal Orange Pearl
  • Modern Steel Metallic
  • Gunmetal Metallic
  • Fathom Blue Pearl

2021 Acura RDX Performance

Every RDX is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that generates 272 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. Power goes to the front wheels or to all four corners via the brand's Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) system. According to independent tests, the crossover will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in around 6.5 seconds, which feels about right based on our review of the Acura RDX in the real world. This isn't as quick as competitors like the base BMW X3, while more powerful versions of the X3 and Audi Q5 are far quicker, but for what it is, the RDX is fast enough and doesn't feel underpowered at all. However, customers who will be using the RDX for towing will need to keep in mind the towing capacity of just 1,500 lbs, which isn't all that high when the competition can tow in the region of 4,000 lbs.

2021 Acura RDX Aft View CarBuzz
2021 Acura RDX Gauge Cluster CarBuzz
2021 Acura RDX Engine Bay CarBuzz

Engine and Transmission

Although the RDX's 2.0-liter turbo-four is a good power plant with a nice spread of power, it's perhaps a bit disappointing that no other engine is on offer. The VTEC engine produces 272 hp and 280 lb-ft and is exclusively paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission with sequential SportShift paddle shifters. Notably, the engine has 28 lb-ft more torque than the naturally-aspirated V6 engine that used to be fitted to the RDX. The engine is a surprisingly sporty performer once past the initial turbo lag, and it pairs well with the smooth and clever auto 'box. This transmission can manage four-gear direct downshifts which helps to reduce unnecessary hunting.

  • Engine
    2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
  • Transmission
    10-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrains
    AWD, FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

Our test vehicle arrived in A-Spec trim, which means it comes on firmer-tuned suspension rather than the standard RDX's adaptive dampers. Despite the firmness, the suspension is supple enough to soak up bumps and rough roads while keeping the chassis reasonably flat through corners. There is some body lean when chucking the RDX around, but the ratio is well-judged as a balance between performance and comfort. Those looking for a more relaxing ride will need to either stick with the base trim or move up to the Advance package for adaptive dampers.

In regular driving, the RDX is swift, responsive, and assured. The 10-speed transmission is well programmed and smooth for getting around town or traveling on the freeway. Sport mode sharpens up response and has an instant effect on performance, while Sport+ mode prompts a big change in the vehicle's demeanor. The steering gains weight, the throttle response sharpens dramatically, and additional engine noise is fed into the cabin. The SH-AWD system is exceptional when it comes to assisting handling with torque vectoring.

While it's a lot of fun to drive, enthusiasts that want to have fun every day will be frustrated by a chassis that deserves more power from the engine. For everyone else, the engine supplies everything it needs for everyday driving and occasional thrills.

RDX Gas Mileage

In FWD guise, the RDX will return best consumption figures of 22/28/24 mpg across the city/highway/combined cycles, which is around about average for the segment. When equipped with AWD and the A-Spec Package, gas mileage drops to 21/26/23 mpg. With its 17.1-gallon gas tank, the most efficient RDX should be able to manage a cruising range in mixed driving of approximately 410 miles.

Over the course of the week we averaged a little over 21 mpg, but little of that was on the freeway and a lot was either around town or on twisting mountain roads.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    17.1 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 22/28 mpg
* 2021 Acura RDX FWD

RDX Interior

The Acura RDX boasts one of the more sportily styled cabins in this segment, with an unusual control layout featuring a touchpad controller for the infotainment system just below the buttons for the electronic gear selector. It can take a while to get used to this setup. While the build quality is generally solid, reviews of German competitors like the Audi Q5 show these rivals to have denser cabin materials, but then again, the RDX does have a much more wallet-friendly price tag. The base model comes with 12-way power-adjustable front seats with heating, dual-zone climate control, a power moonroof, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keeping assist. Further up in the range, the RDX gets luxuries such as a head-up display, a surround-view camera system, and ventilated rear seats. For the most part, it's an interior that will admirably serve the needs of a family of four.

2021 Acura RDX Dashboard CarBuzz
2021 Acura RDX Central Console CarBuzz
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Seating and Interior Space

The Acura RDX seats five relatively comfortably and four very comfortably. In the back, passengers get 38 inches of legroom and 38 inches of headroom, and there's just a small hump on the floor for the person in the center. Up at the front, there are 42 inches of legroom and 40 inches of headroom to luxuriate in. Up against its closest rivals, people regularly carrying two to four passengers should absolutely cross-shop with the RDX and they'd find it highly appropriate. Being a crossover, tall door openings and a slight step up into the cabin also make climbing in and out an easy task.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater
  • Front Leg Room 42.0 in
  • Front Head Room 40.0 in
  • Rear Leg Room 38.0 in
  • Rear Head Room 38.0 in

Interior Colors and Materials

The base Acura RDX has an Ebony interior with leatherette-upholstered seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. With the Technology Package, the upholstery is upgraded to perforated Milano leather with contrast stitching in colors like Ebony and Espresso. The more sporty A-Spec also has Milano leather seats but with Ultrasuede inserts, along with contrast stitching and piping. Here, the seats can be finished in a bold red shade. Finally, the Advance Package avails a Parchment-colored interior with natural olive ash burl wood trim, which replaces the brushed aluminum inlays on lower trims and the dark brushed aluminum trim on the A-Spec.

RDX Trunk and Cargo Space

Pop open the tailgate and the RDX reveals a well-sized cargo area that measures a good 29.5 cubic feet. That's more than enough for a week's worth of groceries and, with minimal compromises, a family of four should be able to accommodate their luggage for a weekend out of town. The 60/40-split-folding rear seatback can be tumbled to open up a total of 58.9 cubes behind the first row. Underfloor cargo storage is another convenient touch.

In the cabin, the RDX provides sensible solutions for stashing smaller items. Along with the well-sized center console, there are decent door bins and more space beneath the floating center console thanks to the push-button shifter. Map pockets on the front seatbacks and the usual assortment of cupholders round out a versatile interior.

2021 Acura RDX Seat Details CarBuzz
2021 Acura RDX Trunk Floor Storage CarBuzz
2021 Acura RDX Trunk Space with Seat Folded CarBuzz

RDX Infotainment and Features

Features

The RDX is generously specified, as even the base model comes with dual-zone automatic climate control, 12-way power-adjustable front seats with power lumbar support, heated front seats, push-button ignition, keyless access, a power moonroof, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Safety equipment includes a multi-view rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, collision mitigation braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and forward-collision warning. With the Technology Package, the RDX gains GPS-linked climate control, front/rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. The Advance Package variants are the best-equipped with premium features such as a head-up warning, a surround-view camera system, a head-up display, a heated steering wheel, heated rear outboard seats, and ventilated front seats. Many of these features would cost a lot more on competitors.

Infotainment

The center-stack in the RDX is busy, and the infotainment system is controlled by a touchpad that Acura describes as intuitive, but we describe it as frustrating to get used to. It requires dragging the cursor to the desired spot on the 10.2-inch screen and holding your finger there as you click to select. Removing your finger before clicking resets the cursor, which is not intuitive given years of using laptop touchpads. By the end of the week, we were able to get used to it but still don't see the benefit.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on every RDX, as is a nine-speaker audio system. Our test vehicle came equipped with the ELS Studio Premium Audio System, which is now up there with the class leaders in factory in-car audio systems. For onboard navigation, customers need to have the technology package installed.

RDX Problems and Reliability

Although the 2020 Acura RDX has a pretty ordinary 75 out of 100 rating from J.D. Power, it has yet to be recalled for any serious issues by the NHTSA and the same applies to the 2021 version, which bodes well for the crossover's reliability. Let's hope this doesn't change in the future.

All RDX models come with a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty, a six-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty, outer body rust-through coverage for five years, and roadside assistance for four years or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Warranty

  • Basic:
    4 Years \ 50,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    6 Years \ 70,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    5 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    4 Years \ 50,000 Miles

RDX Safety

The official Acura RDX safety rating from the NHTSA is a full five-out-of-five stars for overall safety, although this applies to the 2020 version as the 2021 model has yet to be rated by the agency. In 2020, the range received the highest honor from the IIHS with a Top Safety Pick + award.

US NHTSA crash test result

  • Overall Rating
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
  • Side Crash Rating
  • Rollover Rating

Key Safety Features

The RDX's strong safety rating is no surprise considering its spread of standard active and passive safety features. All versions have a total of eight airbags which includes side curtain airbags and front knee airbags. Added to this are ABS/EBD brakes, traction control, hill start assist, and tire-pressure monitoring. Driver aids encompass a multi-view rear camera with dynamic guidelines, collision mitigation braking, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, lane-keeping assist, road departure mitigation, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and auto high-beam headlights. Further up in the lineup, the RDX offers a surround-view camera system, a head-up display, a head-up warning, front/rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2021 Acura RDX a good car?

The quick and easy answer to this question is yes. As a value proposition, it excels. However, the Acura RDX is more than that. It doesn't feel like a car built to undercut the opposition but was built to its own terms. It's not as technologically rich as an Audi, not as sharp in performance as a BMW, and not as luxurious as a Mercedes. But it's not trying to be. The RDX wants to be your reliable and self-assured all-rounder at the right price. It has the looks, it has the quality, and it comes at a sensible price.

🚘What's the Price of the 2021 Acura RDX?

Compared to German rivals, pricing is one of the RDX's trump cards. A starting MSRP of $38,400 in the USA applies to the base RDX. With the Technology Package, that price increases to $41,300, while the A-Spec Package costs $44,300. The RDX with the Advance Package tops the lineup at $46,200. All models are FWD by default but can be upgraded to AWD for $2,000 more, in which case the Acura RDX will cost $48,200 with both AWD and the Advance Package.

The limited RDX PMC Edition - restricted to just 360 units - will start in the low $50,000 range, although at the time of writing, Acura had yet to indicate an exact price. This model is equipped with AWD by default. A destination charge of $1,025 applies to all models besides the PMC Edition. This version, which is hand-built alongside the NSX at the brand's Performance Manufacturing Center in Ohio, has a higher destination charge of $1,995. Despite a slightly higher MSRP than last year, the Acura RDX price easily undercuts premium-badged competitors from Audi and BMW, despite the many features that come as standard.

New Acura RDX SUV Models

Unlike most other manufacturers, Acura doesn't offer the RDX with traditional standalone trims. Instead, there are five packages that build on top of each other and offer varying levels of features. The RDX range is made up of the base RDX, the RDX with the Technology Package, the RDX with the A-Spec Package, the RDX with the Advance Package, and the RDX PMC Edition.

Every version is equipped with the same 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 272 hp and 280 lb-ft, along with a ten-speed automatic transmission. Both FWD and SH-AWD configurations are available, with the PMC Edition being the only trim to get AWD as standard.

The base Acura RDX SUV is offered with 19-inch alloy wheels, a power panoramic moonroof, Jewel Eye LED headlights, and heated side mirrors. The cabin features leatherette upholstery and 12-way power-adjustable front seats with heating, along with dual-zone climate control, a nine-speaker audio system, a 10.2-inch HD center display, adaptive cruise control, and forward-collision warning.

With the Technology Package, the RDX gets Milano leather-trimmed seats, GPS-linked climate control, an Acura/ELS premium sound system with 12 speakers, and navigation with 3D View.

The A-Spec Package requires the Technology Package and then adds a range of visual enhancements like 20-inch wheels, exclusive bumpers, sport seats with ventilation in front, and Ultrasuede trim inserts.

Like the A-Spec, the Advance Package first requires the Technology Package and then packs in a head-up display, heated rear outboard seats, a surround-view camera system, and adaptive dampers.

Finally, the limited PMC Edition's sporty specs amount to Thermal Orange Pearl paint, gloss black exterior trim, Milano leather seats with Ultrasuede inserts, and orange interior contrast stitching.

See All 2021 Acura RDX Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

As Acura has replaced traditional standalone trims with its Package structure, the RDX doesn't come with regular package upgrades, so additional options are scant. Among these, the most notable upgrade is the all-wheel-drive system on all models besides the PMC Edition, which will add $2,000 to the base price. Other than this, there are minor accessories such as LED fog lights at $654, a hands-free access power tailgate at $402, and parking sensors at $732. These extras are applicable to models not already equipped with these features.

🚗What Acura RDX Model Should I Buy?

When it comes to value, the base model is a fantastic buy for a comfortable and useful everyday family vehicle. However, we would opt for the RDX with the Technology Package to take advantage of the extra styling as well as the Milano leather-trimmed seats and the excellent Acura/ELS sound system. The A-Spec trim is mostly an appearance package that doesn't provide much value but genuinely looks the part.

The Advance spec is where we would go if we knew we would have rear passengers regularly and knew we would be putting many miles on to take advantage of the active dampers.

When it comes to optioning the SH-AWD system, we heartily recommend it. It's not necessary, but it's also not just an option for all-weather drivers. It brings the chassis alive for people who enjoy driving and brings an added layer of response to avoid trouble when it presents itself on the roads.

2021 Acura RDX Comparisons

Honda CR-V CarBuzz
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Acura RDX272 hp22/28 mpg$38,400
Acura MDX 290 hp19/25 mpg$46,900
Honda CR-V 190 hp28/34 mpg$25,350

2021 Acura RDX vs Acura MDX

At the time of writing, Acura had yet to fully reveal the dramatic, all-new MDX. However, the third-generation 2020 model remains a solid crossover with seating for seven in a three-row configuration. This, together with around 15 cubes of additional cargo space behind the second row compared to the RDX, makes the MDX the better option for bigger families. That said, the third-gen MDX has been around for some time and there is evidence of this in the clunky infotainment system, the average interior materials, and the poor automatic transmission. The MDX has a more powerful V6 engine and a far superior maximum towing capacity of up to 5,000 lbs, and it's surprisingly nearly as efficient as the RDX, but we'd still go with the latter in this comparison. The RDX is the fresher SUV with fewer flaws, it starts at over $5,000 less, and it's the better choice unless you really require the MDX's extra space.

See Acura MDX Review

2021 Acura RDX vs Honda CR-V

The Honda CR-V is a slightly smaller yet more affordable vehicle relative to the RDX. Starting at over $10,000 less than the RDX, the CR-V represents a significant saving yet offers a spacious cabin and an even bigger trunk for everyone's stuff. The CR-V isn't as quick as the RDX as it makes do with a 190-hp 1.5-liter turbocharged engine, but it's noticeably more efficient and will return about six mpg more in mixed driving conditions. The RDX is more lavishly specified, with the base CR-V missing out on features like a power-adjustable driver's seat and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, but the Honda doesn't feel cheap at all. Both crossovers are pretty fun to drive, yet remain comfortable on the highway. If you can look past the more mainstream badge, the Honda is a fantastic effort, but the RDX does just enough to justify its more premium positioning in the market.

See Honda CR-V Review

Acura RDX Popular Comparisons

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$38,400 - $51,000
Price Range (MSRP)
Acura RDX