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How will Acura stoke RDX interest for this generation’s 2017 swan song?

Last Update September 1st, 2016

2017 Acura RDX

2017 Acura RDX

What changes make the 2017 Acura RDX different?

Colors: Two new paint hues — Lunar Silver Metallic and Modern Steel Metallic — and availability of a black interior with the popular White Diamond Pearl exterior. That’s it for the 2017 Acura RDX. Parent-company Honda probably didn’t want to rock the boat on this popular premium-compact-crossover for two reasons: 1) it get a significant refresh with updated styling and new features for 2016, and 2) a fully redesigned RDX is slated for debut during 2017 as a 2018 model.

Those ‘16 changes helped RDX overtake Acura’s more expensive MDX midsize crossover for brand sales leadership. And it’s also the most popular vehicle in a competitive set that includes the Audi Q5, BMW X3, and Mercedes-Benz GLC.

Why should I buy a 2017?

Because 2017 will likely be the last model year in which this vehicle comes with a V-6 engine. Fuel-economy and packaging considerations will almost certainly cause the next-generation RDX to come exclusively with a turbocharged four-cylinder. That’s rich, considering the first-generation 2007-2012 RDX used a turbo four. That engine was loud, thirsty, and unrefined for a premium-class vehicle. As part of its model-year 2013 redesign, Acura replaced it with today’s smoother, more powerful, and more fuel efficient V-6.

Getting a ’17 RDX will also likely leave you eligible for moderate to significant savings off the sticker price as dealers clear space for the redesigned ’18. The 2017 lineup consists of a single “base” trim level that can be optioned with different packages, ascending through AcuraWatch Plus, Technology, Technology and AcuraWatch Plus, and Advance. Each of these packages is priced as a distinct model.

Check out our 2018 Acura RDX Preview for the latest information

Should I wait for the 2018 model instead?

If you don’t mind trading V-6 smoothness for four-cylinder economy. The new RDX’s overall dimensions aren’t likely to change much, so this should still be a roomy, comfortable, and practical premium-compact crossover. Prices are liable to go up, but don’t expect increases to be too drastic. Even if they were to rise more than $1,000, RDX would still be one of the most affordable entries in the segment.

Is the 2017 styling different?

No. It carries over the model-year ’16 updates. They included revamped fasciae front and rear and new wheel designs. Again standard on every RDX are Acura’s “Jewel Eye” LED headlights and 18-inch wheels. Prior to 2016, all models had standard leather upholstery; now it’s only in models equipped with the Technology or Advance package. A leatherette substitute is included with the base and AcuraWatch Plus Package versions. The front seats are heated on all models and ventilated on those equipped with the Advance Package.

Other interior changes continued from the ’16 revamp bring the instrumentation and control scheme in line with other current Acura models, including the larger MDX crossover. Base and AcuraWatch Plus versions have a fairly simple audio and climate control setup with a 5-inch screen mounted atop the center of the dashboard. Technology and Advance versions increase the size of that screen to 8 inches and replace the other models’ pushbutton control scheme with a touchscreen to govern most audio, climate, and navigation functions. We’re not crazy about this setup, as the screen is a fingerprint magnet, often slow to respond to input, and buries some key controls deep within sub-menus.

Interface issues aside, RDX is one of the more comfortable and spacious premium-compact crossovers. Passenger room is very good, and the seats are comfortable. It also boasts one of the segment’s largest cargo compartments, with 26.1 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats and 61.3 with them folded.

Any mechanical changes?

All 2017 Acura RDX models have the same drivetrain as their 2016 counterparts. The sole engine is a 3.5-liter V-6 with 279 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque. It pairs with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The engine is a peach, with plenty of power for any driving situation. It’s also very smooth and sounds great. In a segment where most rivals offer 8- and 9-speed transmissions, the current RDX’s 6-speed feels out of date. Expect Honda to rectify this on the redesigned 2018 model.

Front-wheel drive is standard on every RDX. Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) is a $1,500 option across the board. It’s something we would recommend, as it benefits handling on both dry roads and in the snow.

Does fuel economy improve?

The EPA revised its testing procedures for all model-year 2017 vehicles to better reflect how most people drive every day. As such, most ’17 vehicles will see their city, highway, and/or combined fuel-economy scores change by 1-2 mpg. So the numbers you see on the window sticker might be different, but in practice, your mileage should be consistent.

EPA-estimated fuel-economy ratings for the front-wheel-drive 2017 RDX are 20/28/23 mpg city/highway/combined. AWD lowers those scores to 19/27/22 mpg. These figures are decent for a V-6 engine, but they do trail those of turbo four-cylinder rivals.

Does it have new features?

Aside from the new paint colors, no. Even the base RDX without any option packages is pretty well equipped for the money. Power-adjustable heated front seats are standard, as are dual-zone automatic climate control; keyless entry with pushbutton ignition; active noise cancellation; 7-speaker audio system; integrated garage-door remote; power sunroof; LED headlights and taillights; rearview camera; and Bluetooth connectivity.

The AcuraWatch Plus Package adds radar-based adaptive cruise control; forward-collision warning; pre-collision emergency braking; and lane-departure warning with automatic steering correction to help keep you in your lane.

The Technology Package adds the aforementioned dual-screen control/display interface; a navigation system; Acura’s excellent ELS-brand audio system; blind-spot with rear cross-traffic alert; and the brand’s AcuraLink telematics.

The Advance Package includes everything in the AcuraWatch Plus and Technology groups, along with ventilated front seats; rain-sensing wipers; fog lights; remote engine start; and front- and rear-obstacle detection.

Are 2017 prices different?

Acura is holding the line on 2017 RDX prices. Note that our figures listed here are for front-wheel-drive models and include a $940 destination fee. AWD adds $1,500 to any RDX.

The base version lists for $36,510, making it among the least costly premium-compact crossovers. Some rivals may have lower starting prices, but they don’t have the same level of standard equipment as the RDX.

As previously stated, Acura counts vehicles equipped with the different option packages as separate models. The RDX with AcuraWatch Plus will cost $37,810. The Technology Package bumps the sticker price to $40,210. It’s somewhat disappointing that the company doesn’t include the features of AcuraWatch Plus with the Technology Package. This bundle only comes as a separate trim level that costs $41,510. The range-topping Advance Package carries a $43,160 price tag. Aside from these option packages, the only other extra-cost items are dealer-supplied accessories.

Normally we don’t advocate for a vehicle’s flagship trim level as the best value, but we’re prepared to make an exception for the RDX. The Advance Package includes lots of desirable technology and safety gear for less than $45,000, even with all-wheel drive. To get similar features in an Audi Q5, BMW X3, or even the Lincoln MKC, you’re looking at spending $2,500-$10,000 more. You’ll also have the assurance of buying from a brand with an excellent reputation for reliability, resale value, and customer service.

When will it come out?

The 2017 Acura RDX has been on sale since early March 2016.

The RDX is better than the…

BMW X3, which is not quite as roomy but more fun to drive, and it far more expensive when equipped to the same level as an RDX with Advance Package; Infiniti QX50, suffers engineering that hasn’t fundamentally changed in nearly a decade, and it shows with boorish road manners and a cramped cabin; Lincoln MKC, a polished effort from domestic automaker that falls well short of the RDX for passenger and cargo room.

The RDX is not as good as the…

Audi Q5, the class benchmark for style and overall refinement; Cadillac XT5, a thoroughly modern premium crossover that’s more powerful than the RDX with a more luxurious interior to boot; Porsche Macan, very pricey — some models can cost more than double a loaded RDX — but for pure driving enjoyment, there’s no better SUV of any stripe.

What change would make it better?

Slightly better road manners, a more well-behaved transmission, and a more luxurious interior would be tops on our list. Hopefully Acura will address these points with the RDX’s upcoming 2018 redesign.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at chuck.giametta@carpreview.com