The Golden Boy Returns – In Silver

2014 Acura RDX
2014 Acura RDX AWD. All photos by Randy Stern

What a difference a year made for Acura.

After a generation of being a turbocharged small luxury crossover, the luxury division of American Honda reimagined the RDX for a wider audience. The turbocharged four became a V6, while its lines were given some different shapes. It made it softer, more accessible, roomier and nicer than before.

In July of last year, I was fortunate to welcome the Ohio-built RDX for review. It was riding a huge wave of success against higher priced competitors, namely the BMW X3, the Audi Q5 and the Mercedes-Benz GLK. The RDX impressed me so much; I concluded that Acura "has struck gold in this sub-segment."

That conclusion has resonated even further. As of the end of May of 2013, the RDX has become Acura’s best selling product. From a new generation model start of over 3,000 units last June, May’s tally went up to 4,950 units. In its segment, they are indeed the leaders again – with even wider margins. The mighty X3 only mustered 2,134 units in May of 2013.

Last year, the RDX was a serious competitor in the Vehicle of The Year Award running. Though the Acura TL went through onto the Short List, the RDX simply missed the cut by a hair.

It came as a surprise that the RDX came back to V&R's care recently. The reason for this requires a long story – which we will skip at this time. Let us just say I am glad to see the Acura crossover again. This example came in silver instead of that deep red from a year ago? Even more different is the model year designation – 2014.

As a rule, if a vehicle has already been reviewed in its current state it is not given a full evaluation again. But, it does not exclude any vehicle from being revisited, even if it for another reason.

Then again, we are talking about a pretty good luxury small crossover – one I highly recommend ay anyone in the $40,000 bracket. Perhaps it is time to revisit the RDX again.

What has changed for the new model year? Upon query with Acura, I found there were no changes to the RDX. Perhaps some subtle ones, if you dig deeper into the vehicle. But, why change anything if it was such a success?

The RDX is indeed a handsome devil. Last year, I said that the crossover was designed "to entertain the eye, not polarize it." It remains true. Sometimes at my day job, I just look at it parked in the lot across from the office entrance and nod my head. You cannot ignore its looks.

Acura design is truly coming into focus with the ILX, RLX and the new 2014 MDX. It certainly began with the RDX establishing a "floating" shield and some upgraded luxury touches for the small crossover. It also helps to give the RDX big enough doors for adults to settle into its two rows of seating and a huge hatch to swallow more than enough bags for four off to an extended holiday somewhere.

2014 Acura RDX

When driving the 2014 RDX, I began to familiarize myself again with the controls, the vehicle's behaviors and such. A year ago, I was quite puzzled by the layout of the TL and RDX. Now, it is just like picking up the guitar or riding a bike after a few years. It became a matter of what I learned the last time and getting set up with the presets and phone pairing rather quickly.

With last year’s Basque Red model, it came with a great creamy beige leather interior. This example had the Ebony leather environment. To be honest, I would call it "business black" – a hue that evokes either a men's scent or a high-end liquor ads. Though I liked the contrast of the lighter color interior, I have to admit loving the black interior. It does bring out the RDX's sporty aspirations. It brings everything down to business.

Everything else is exactly how I remembered it. The powerful 273-horsepower 3.5litre V6 that motives the RDX, the smooth shifting six-speed automatic and the all-wheel drive system underneath the cabin. It comes down to trust when you commute every day. This is a driveline you can trust.

I did mention how "soft" the RDX drove overall last year. I would not call it soft, as it is more "sure of itself." There is one example that stood out to confirm this conclusion.

Outside of my day job site is a road that has seen better days. The road not only leads to where I work – a corrugated box plant – but as access onto a huge train yard behind the plant.

The main form of transportation that rolls on this short piece of pockmarked tarmac is the eighteen-wheelers with truckloads full of the plant's goods – corrugated boxes. You can tell by the number of trailers parked alongside of it, and in the yard before you get to my office. This winter truly made a mess of it with deep potholes and lumpy surfaces around each one.

For most vehicles, I would have to tip toe around the potholes. Potholes do damage to suspension parts, tires, wheels…even frames. The RDX had no problem getting around these ruts, but I was being extremely careful not to find myself caught in one.

Finally, the City of Minneapolis came by and filled those holes. Still, the access road was a huge mess. It would be costly to everyone if they had to repave the road. After the potholes were filled, the RDX found the road even more manageable. It absorbed every uneven surface with ease.

During this week, I had two vehicles in for review – the other being a sports car. For my work commute – I preferred the RDX over the sports car. It seems like an obvious case, if not more logical. In all, the Acura kept me more grown-up and responsible than I would in the sports car.

In light of responsibility, there are two numbers to throw out here: 19.7MPG and $40,515. The former number represents the drop in fuel economy in comparison to the RDX last year. Yet, it is just near the expected range for the RDX – 20-22MPG on the average. These are somewhat livable numbers, but you can get better economy out on the highway over sustained distances.

2014 Acura RDX

The second is just as expected – perhaps the reason why the RDX selling very well in its class. If you play in the realm of the premium brands, a similarly equipped small crossover will run you from $42,000 and beyond. It has everything you really need – including the Acura/ELS surround system audio system and satellite navigation. Again, the package alone helps make this Acura one of the best values out there in the marketplace.

It is always good to revisit a vehicle that left a good impression in the past. It is not just to see what has changed or whether the same impressions continued onto the next one, but also to see if the same results are still relevant.

Throughout its 2013 model year run, the RDX "struck gold" and yielded sub-segment sales leadership throughout the year. In its 2014 guise, the formula was not messed with. I am certainly glad that is the case on the RDX.

DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

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