Thursday, July 20, 2017

Finding its market | 2017 Acura RDX

Whenever I go with my parents anywhere we take my dad’s car, an Acura TSX. Inevitably when we arrive at our destination, my mom attempts to get out the car.

“You know how much I hate getting out of your car.” She’ll grumble my dad as she tries to hoist herself up from the low low seats. It’s a little amusing if I’m honest. The grumbling that is.

Now, my dad is a Honda faithful, as it’s the only brand that hasn’t burned him with a bad car. His last was a V-6 Accord which he adored for its power. And so seeing my poor mother try to get out of his car and hearing him long for his V6 days back it always gets me thinking, “why doesn’t my dad just get an Acura RDX?”

Certainly many other people have bought the RDX, because month after month it tops Acura’s sales charts. And it should, crossovers are all the rage now. You’d be weird not to buy one. And looking at the RDX it seems to check all the boxes.

The closest we got to a Jason sighting (Source: Acura)
The car was originally launched about 11 years ago for the 2007 model year. Back then crossovers were still a new concept in the automotive lexicon, if you can remember that. And the RDX came out with few competitors; Which was basically just the BMW X3. And you can tell that Acura didn’t know who really wanted these not-quite SUV not-quite cars. Because they aimed their first generation RDX at the wrong market. I recall reading about some fictional guy named “Jason”, who is a young active urbanite in a good paying profession and a little bit of sophistication. And so to appease him this new small luxury crossover came to market with Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive, a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and firm suspension. That, however, was all wrong.

And Acura quickly figured it out. So in 2013 they released a new model that appealed to a more mature crowd. And it’s the RDX I’m writing about here. The one I think my parents should consider. Because in many ways it’s perfect for them.

Source: Acura
My dad will certainly like the engine. One thing he misses in his TSX is a potent V6 engine. Which is exactly what the RDX has. It’s a 3.5 Litre and on the spec sheet it’s not all the notable. It produces 279 hp but doesn’t even have direct injection. But on the road it’s wonderful. It’s smooth, refined and yet quick enough to keep pace with some popular hot-hatches. 0-100 times are in the mid-sixes.

But unlike the hot-hatches the RDX doesn’t like being pushed. Around corners, I don’t expect much from a top heavy crossover like this. But in an attempt to test the limits on some switchbacks, the RDX squealed it’s tires in agony. It really didn’t like that.

Source: Acura
It’s a much more relaxed ride. The six-speed automatic wants to always shift to the highest gear possible as early as possible, even if you try controlling it yourself. The suspension muffles out all the bumps and potholes created after a horrible west coast winter. And the steering is nicely weighted and direct, while possessing a creamy quality. It’s just so much happier tootling around town and cruising on the highway.

And as for my mom? Well, if you avoid spending the extra money on the very strange and useless running boards, it’s very easy to get in and out of, you know. She actually smiled getting out of the RDX. As well, if you are a shorter person, you’ll really appreciate just how high the power front seats will go.

After taking it on a quick test drive my parents came back quite pleased. The way it drove, the practicality, the comfort and the features all appealed to them. So perfect! it’s my Dad’s next car. Well...

Source: Acura
There’s an Elephant in the driveway. And that’s the RDX itself. Okay, it’s not massive, but it is gray. And though I’d say that elephants are beautiful creatures. RDXs? not so much. It’s not ugly. There’s a strange paradox to the styling that I’ve been trying to wrap my head around. And that’s that it’s both plain and over styled. Lots of lines here and there. But they don’t really do anything to compliment the slightly bloated shape. Some people I showed it to compared it to a minivan.

And that’s the problem my dad has with it. “I can’t live with the looks.”

That’s tough, because the RDX has some other pluses to consider. Like value. When comparing it on price you find that even though the old Infiniti QX50 starts cheaper it’s ultra bare bones. Whereas the RDX comes standard with the AcuraWatch driver’s assistance package and even a power liftgate. All for around $44,000. Getting those features in any of the competitors you’d have to pay more than $50,000. Which incidentally is where the RDX maxes out before you add accessories.

After a week of driving the RDX I realized that Acura really figured out the demographic of people that would be interested in its luxury crossover. It’s absolutely perfect for anyone over 40. And that’s sort of where crossovers are heading to these days. It seems that all people wanted all this time is something that is higher off the ground and can handle a snow day or two. And they want no compromises to luxury, refinement or looks. Well, maybe that last one still needs to be addressed.

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