2014 Acura RDX, reliable daily runabout: Motoramic Family Drives

After 18 years as an editor at Road & Track, Patrick Hong’s trying a different tack in reviewing cars — letting his whole family weigh in:

Whenever the discussion comes up to consider a new family car, we—or shall I say I—often dream of a speedy, road-carving people hauler. But speaking to the rest of my family, in particular my wife Elise (though also a fervent fan of performance), they would bring me down to earth and ask the important questions to separate the dream from reality: Will the new car have room to handle our ten- and eight-year old sons’ ever increasing sports gear during the week, plus chairs and sun shade on weekends? Of course, the boys would then chime in to make sure all the latest technology is available for their music and movie-watching needs.

What we really need, therefore, is a comfortable and roomy car to carry out our daily routine with minimal fuss. And that’s what we found in the 2014 Acura RDX AWD.

The Acura RDX certainly is no high-powered, sleek sports car nor sport ute; however, it is a step up from a mere box on wheels to shuttle your family around town. After going through a revamp in 2013, maturing from its sportier turbocharged predecessor, it is now a roomier and better-looking car addressing the needs of this crossover family utility segment. Elise comments: “I am able to make a seamless transition from our current car [2003 Mazda MPV] to this one. Definitely feels like I can drive the RDX off the dealer lot and into our garage.”

One of the ways that Acura always makes the driver and passenger feel comfortable is the well-appointed interior and supportive seats. Good all-around outward visibility from the driver's seat inspires confidence when getting in and out of tight parking spaces at soccer practices. “The rear cutout windows really help you see where you are, and they also give the cabin a more open feel,” said Elise in her notes. In the past, Acura has had criticisms for an overly complicated infotainment controls on the center stack; it has since been trying to cut down on the number of dials and buttons needed. Though getting better, it is still not as intuitive as we would of liked.

During a few hot weekend days in SoCal, our boys complained about something that is unusual for a car company like Acura to overlook. And no, it’s not the optional rear seat entertainment system that didn’t come in our test car. It’s the lack of rear seat air vents. After spending time under sun in soccer games, both boys usually look for immediate air conditioning relief. Unfortunately, even with the front air vents all opened and pointed to the back, along with the A/C on full blast, it took awhile for the cabin to cool down. But once at a comfortable temperature, the boys have plenty of room to stretch out. Our eight-year old, who can fall asleep easily under the warm sun, has one more gripe to add: “The seatbelt materials is so rough that you couldn’t lay your neck on it without getting scratched.”

On the road, the Acura RDX’s 3.5-liter V-6, sporting 273 hp and 251 lb.-ft. of torque, powers the 3,852-lb. family car with competence. It’s not super fast, but peppy enough thanks to a responsive 6-speed automatic transmission. The front MacPherson struts and rear multi-link suspension do a good job of soaking up the road imperfections. The ride quality is first rate on the highway. However, conquering slow speed bumps in parking lots will cause the rear to rebound more aggressively than expected. Fortunately for me, I am usually in the front.

With a respectable EPA mpg rating of 19 city and 27 highway, and a starting price of $39,620, the 2014 Acura RDX AWD fits in the near-luxury sport ute category. It offers stylish looks, with a few interior amenities comparable to those seen on pricier models. For the times we spent with the car, it is a good daily runabout that we feel comfortable driving with minimal effort. We’d consider the Acura RDX and put in on our shopping list.

2014 Acura RDX AWD
CLASS 5-Passenger Sport Utility
ENGINE 3.5-liter V-6
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
POWER 273 hp
TORQUE 251 lb.-ft.
WEIGHT 3,852 lbs.
EPA MILEAGE 19 City / 27 Highway
STARTING PRICE $39,620
PROS Comfortable ride, roomy trunk space
CONS Lack of rear air vents, complex infotainment controls