Odometer (Legend): 542,120
Odometer (ILX): 155,439
Odometer (RDX); 8,397
Trip Distance: 144 Miles
Just 33 miles up State Route 87, my road trip companions and I found ourselves veering off the beaten path to explore a trail called Forest Road 626 that would take us on a dramatic ride to over 7,300 feet in elevation. While only six miles in length, the road offered up a sample of rugged terrain in the Tonto National Forest including patches of snow, rocky ground, ruts, and steep climbs. Sounds like the perfect environment for a crossover vehicle looking to prove itself as a capable, go-anywhere (and do it in style) rig. Enter the RDX.
The Acura RDX, now in its second generation, first debuted 10 years ago at the New York International Auto Show as a 2007 model year vehicle (pictured above). It was a compact answer to the surging demand for sport utility vehicles and it was born as the little brother to the larger 3-row Acura MDX crossover. Today, that little brother has matured, going from its turbo 4-cylinder engine to a larger V6 powertrain when the 2013 model year hit. The RDX also grown dimensionally both inside & out, and with this latest iteration promises to be more refined and luxurious than its predecessor.
For the last several days, I put a Basque Red Pearl RDX “Advance” through its paces to see just how it stacks up. On paper, the RDX is the clear frontrunner of its class. Powering the RDX is a 3.5 liter single-overhead-cam “i-VTEC” V6 engine with Variable Cylinder Management. It delivers a horsepower rating of 279 with a respectable MPG rating of 22 combined.
Acura has packaged its RDX so that it provides a lot of bang for the buck. And it needs to, because the segment in which it competes has some impressive contenders like the Audi Q5, BMW X3, and Lexus NX. My test model came equipped with the line-topping “Advance” trim with 18-inch wheels, remote engine start, parking sensors, heated & cooled front seats, fog lamps and rain-sensing wipers for those 3 months of the year when we actually get moisture in Phoenix.
Has the RDX hit a home run? According to US News & World Reports, Consumer Guide, Edmunds.com, and Kelley Blue Book, it absolutely has, since each of these respected entities has given the RDX a recent award. But this is my review, so I’ll see if I agree with their assessment.
Right off the bat, the RDX wooed me with its Jewel Eye headlights and sexy lines, but I discovered that this is one runway model that isn’t afraid to put on hiking shoes. Demeanor is collected and precise on the highway. From my place in south Scottsdale to Fountain Hills where we made a Starbucks stop, the RDX tracked straight, quietly, and with more than ample passing power at 65-75 miles per hour on the Beeline Highway. Driving aids like the Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane-Keeping Assist System (LKAS), when enabled, make the RDX feel almost autonomous when desired.
The good news for the folks who will take their RDX camping or off-roading is that the composure stays intact when the going gets rough. There is good feedback from the steering & suspension but never a loss of control. I found the OEM Michelin tires to be grippy even in the loose gravel as we made our climb. And when faced with a deep section of slushy snow on a north-facing (shaded) section of the trail, I admit I thought about turning back but we pressed onward and the RDX maintained its footing. We used the paddle shifters to downshift when descending the grades so we could stay off the brakes. All said, the driving experience was refined and confidence-inspiring.
From the top of Mount Ord, my friend Chandler waved the “magic key” and granted us access to the small cabin at the base of an 8-story-tall fire watch tower. Chandler works for the Forest Service and his team staffs the cabin and tower every year starting in April which is considered the beginning of fire season. It was incredible to climb a few flights of stairs and catch a 360-degree view of the beautiful Tonto National Forest that surrounded us.
We’d worked up an appetite and made one last stop before heading home to Scottsdale: Lunch at “Jake’s Corner” off Highway 188, a place that’s been a waypoint for travelers since it started as a stagecoach stop exactly 100 years ago. It was perfect weather outside for enjoying a burger and homemade beans with the gang.
So is the RDX a winner? Coming at $44k including destination & handling in fully loaded trim, it’s still $13k cheaper than its big brother Acura MDX that I tested last year, and (as far as I’m concerned) offers just as many creature comforts without sacrificing anything except the 3rd row seat. I consider it a near-perfect solution for someone needing all-weather / all-terrain capability with luxurious amenities and just the right size.
Likes: Style (except for the wheels), performance, handling, packaging (use of space). Dislikes: Touch-screen infotainment, interior color (too light, shows dirt easily), phone pairing disabled while in motion (even for a passenger). I also think the adaptive cruise control should allow for a closer following distance. Even when adjusted to the shortest distance it felt like the vehicle was holding me back too far.
The 2016 RDX delivers unmatched value where it counts the most. Give one a whirl if you haven’t yet! Below are the rest of the photos and a short video from our adventure. Thanks as always for coming along for the ride, and to Acura for letting me put a few miles on a new RDX!
Northbound Highway 87
Starting our climb up Forest Road 626
Narrow trail made for some challenges when encountering oncoming traffic
Right at home in the woods
Now with a nice layer of dust
Taking in the scenery
Hiking up the final stretch to the watch tower
Lunch spot at Jake’s Corner
Dollar bills on the ceiling. This seems to be a “thing” at most western-themed bars around here
Those baked beans were delicious!
And a few beauty shots with the Formula Red NSX & Basque Red RDX. Just because. Enjoy!