Adding some cachet to America’s favorite body style
If you’ve read any reviews for the Acura RDX compact luxury crossover SUV recently, you’ll know that the latest redesign that hit the USA as a 2019 model is ranked near the top of its class. Compact crossovers are the most popular new vehicles in the USA after trucks, with the Toyota RAV4 being the top seller and the Acura RDX’s mainstream sibling from parent company Honda, the CR-V, close behind.
The RDX is the smallest in the lineup of Acura SUVs but it escapes the main criticism often leveled against compact premium crossovers – that they’re just rebadged and restyled versions of their humdrum mainstream brethren, at an inflated price. Acura claims that the RDX’s platform is all its own, which is refreshing. But is it the best in its class? Let’s find out.
The premium compact crossover class is hotly contested and here are our top five segment leaders:
- BMW X3: The BMW X3 remains uncontested in this class, with an excellent blend of powerful and economical engine choices with up to 473 horsepower on offer, a class-leading iDrive infotainment system, and plenty of back seat and cargo space. In comparison with rivals, it offers truly sharp handling, while maintaining very good comfort levels. It’s not cheap though and starts at nearly $44,000.
- Volvo XC60: Cheaper than the Germans at a starting price of $41,700, the XC60 doesn’t try to be too sporty and instead majors on comfort at the expense of some driving fun. The ride is excellent and the seats are truly sumptuous. On top of that, styling is beautiful both inside and out, safety features lead the class.
- Mercedes-Benz GLC: Another perennial overperformer in this class, the Mercedes GLC might be getting on in life, but it still offers powerful engines topped by a blistering 503-hp flagship and good handling to boot. The interior is upmarket and smartly designed too, and benefits from Mercedes’ excellent new MBUX infotainment system. It starts at an MSRP of just over $43,000.
- Acura RDX: The RDX is not quite as upmarket inside as the Germans but its cabin is surprisingly roomy and its trump card in this company is that it offers most of what premium crossover buyers want at an excellent price, undercutting all its rivals handsomely. From only $38,400, it offers truly exceptional value for money and although only one engine option is offered, even the base model gets the punchy 272-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged powerplant, coupled to a 10-speed automatic transmission.
- Audi Q5: Starting at $44,100, the Q5 is the most expensive of the lot and its cargo capacity is below average, which is why it doesn’t win. It still has many redeeming features, however, such as the superbly constructed and upmarket interior, up-to-date tech and infotainment, and an excellent ride/handling compromise.
The Pros And Cons
Crossovers are America’s favorite cars, for many reasons:
- Their height makes them easier to see out of
- Higher ground clearance makes them suitable for bad roads
- Multiple cargo configurations thanks to folding rear seats
- More passenger and cargo space compared to cars of a similar size
- Achieves nearly the same fuel economy as cars
- Projects a more trendy and adventurous image than a car
However, value for money is important, which is why none of these five luxury contenders are among the US’ top-selling SUVs. The top sellers all wear mainstream brands on the nose and are cheaper, offering more bang for your buck at the expense of premium branding.
Higher-margin premium compact crossovers are good business for automakers, but the real value lies with the mainstream models they’re related to. However, we feel that the Acura RDX strikes a superb balance, one the one side boasting the exclusivity of riding on its own platform and on the other side still being cheaper than all its rivals. The BMX X3 might be the best car in this class, but the RDX is unbeatable if you consider how much you pay for it. To many people, that will make it the winner.