Critics’ Notebook: 2016 Acura RDX

The six-cylinder CR-V is a great CR-V.

Acura RDX
Ben Keeshin/TheDrive.com

Despite being a lifelong wagon and hatchback enthusiast/apologist, I’ve concluded that one needs an SUV in New York City. What changed my mind? The world’s best Honda CR-V, which is the 2016 Acura RDX. This car maintains all the qualities that make Honda’s best-selling mini-SUV popular—attractive pricing, capability, reliability and the promise of a decent resale value—while adding a singy V-6 and smidge of luxury. Live a little; lace that muesli with cream.

Yes, in New York, you’ll want all-wheel drive, so that you can trundle through snowy streets to the liquor store, or bowling in Staten Island. What is a snowy weekend if spent entirely sober without four pair of ersatz axles strapped to the bottom of one’s feet? You want the RDX’s increased ride height, so when you inevitably crash through one of Brooklyn’s pothole trenches, none of the brightwork bites pavement. (Leave that to the borough’s curb-eating pros: stool pigeons without enough sense to flee the country.) Plus, the “commanding” seating position helps identify errant snow-covered nylon lumps as children, unsuitable for driving over. How about the roomy trunk and powered hatch? Once a month, the city’s corners fill will barely-used furniture, discarded in the heat of a move. That green fainting couch probably doesn’t have bed-bugs; throw it in the back.

Because it’s an Acura, and thus has aspirations of luxury, the RDX does all the things its fancier peers—the BMW X3, Audi Q5, and Mercedes GLC—do, as well. The cruise control is radar-assisted, the seats are heated and cooled, and the there are way too many screens. Even blasting Missy Elliott’s “Pass That Dutch” through the premium sound system and cooling my buns into two pleasantly frosty brioches, I never felt overly indulgent. Because, hey, it’s just a Honda, right?

The engine, too, offers guiltless thrills. Every other competing premium SUV comes standard with a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder; Honda, after complaints about its turbo lump in the old RDX, swapped in a meaty, 3.5-liter V-6. As someone who tormented the six-cylinder in a Honda Odyssey throughout college, I can attest that this is a very sweet engine. It’s powerful (in the RDX, 60 mph comes in 5.8 seconds) and linear and harmonious in a way that none of the German four-bangers can manage.

Are there caveats? Yes. The all-wheel drive is fine, but Acura withheld its stellar, torque-vectoring SH-AWD. The interior is well-assembled and solid, but plastics are cheap for the segment. The wheels looks like Cuisinart blades. And, maybe to overcome a dearth of down-low torque, throttle tip-in is too sensitive, making for jerky getaways. Still, $36k for the world’s tastiest CR-V is excellent economics. You need a little truck, city slicker; make it a great little Honda.

--

2016 Acura RDX
PRICE AS TESTED: $43,520
MPG: 22 mpg combined
POWERTRAIN: 3.6-liter V-6; 279 horsepower, 252 lb-ft torque; all-wheel-drive, six-speed automatic transmission
Unpretentious Honda Goodness: To the brim.