2021 Acura RDX

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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.

Read in this review:

7.9
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2021 Acura RDX Changes: What’s The Difference vs The 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 2021 Acura RDX

2021 Acura RDX Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

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
See All 2021 Acura RDX Trims and Specs

2021 RDX Exterior

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

  • 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
  • Curb Weight 3,783.0 lbs

Exterior Colors

  • Majestic Black Pearl +$500
  • Platinum White Pearl +$500
  • Gunmetal Metallic +$500
  • Performance Red Pearl +$500
  • Apex Blue Pearl +$500
  • Thermal Orange Pearl
  • Lunar Silver Metallic
  • Modern Steel Metallic
  • Fathom Blue Pearl

2021 RDX Performance

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

Engine and Transmission

  • 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.

2021 RDX Interior

2021 Acura RDX Dashboard CarBuzz
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Seating and Interior Space

  • 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

2021 RDX Trunk and Cargo Space

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

2021 RDX Safety and Reliability

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

US NHTSA Crash Test Result

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

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.

2021 Acura RDX Comparisons

Acura MDX CarBuzz
Honda CR-V CarBuzz
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Acura RDX272 hp22/28 mpg$41,350
Acura MDX 290 hp19/26 mpg$49,550
Honda CR-V 190 hp28/34 mpg$31,110

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

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