It’s no surprise that many people cross-shop the Acura RDX and Honda CR-V. After all, Honda/Acura brand loyalty is strong, and both share common virtues of strong reliability and value. The RDX was actually mechanically related to the CR-V, as well.
Note the past tense of that last sentence, however, as the 2019 Acura RDX is a completely redesigned compact SUV that does not share its underlying platform with the 2018 Honda CR-V. The two may still be built in the same manufacturing facility in Ohio and probably share a number of nuts and bolts, but these two members of the Honda family are more like distant cousins now.
Which might be better for you, though? Let’s dig in.
2019 Acura RDX
It has been completely redesigned for 2019. While maintaining or improving upon its predecessor’s value, safety and practicality, it dials up the style, performance and luxury. See the 2019 Acura RDX models for sale near you
Read and watch what’s new about the 2019 RDX here in our first drive review.
2018 Honda CR-V
The CR-V was unchanged for 2018 after being completely redesigned the year before. We don’t foresee substantial changes for the 2019 Honda CR-V, either. See the 2018 Honda CR-V models for sale near you
The 2019 RDX is too new to fairly comment about reliability, but past versions have been some of the most reliable luxury SUVs. This is particularly important, as luxury models tend to be pricier to repair. The current-generation CR-V has received a number of complaints regarding overfilled oil that can cause a smell of gasoline in the cabin. It’s an unusual complaint, but a common one nevertheless. Reliability has otherwise been just as strong so far as past CR-V models.
Simply put, the CR-V is more efficient. It’s not even close. However, as a luxury vehicle, the RDX puts a greater emphasis on performance, and in that regard, acceleration isn’t close, either. It really comes down to your priorities.
Now, the details. We’ll skip the base CR-V LX trim level and its 2.4-liter 4-cylinder — if you’re also considering a 2019 RDX, chances are you’re looking at one of the upper CR-V trims. Those come with a 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder good for 190 horsepower and 179 lb-ft, and paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Fuel economy is among its segment’s best, returning 28 miles per gallon city, 34 mpg highway and 30 mpg combined with front-wheel drive. Opting for all-wheel drive sacrifices one mpg in each cycle.
The RDX previously came with a V6 engine, but that’s been replaced for 2019 with a new, more efficient 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that produces 272 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. That’s better than most competitors. It comes with a 10-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is average for its segment, returning 22 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined with front-wheel drive. Once again, AWD lowers those figures by one mpg.
In terms of annual fuel cost, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that you’d spend $750 more on gas with the RDX. Part of that is fuel consumption, but you also have to fill it with premium gas.
All but the base CR-V comes standard with blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure and forward-collision warning systems, plus automatic emergency braking and lane-departure prevention. This sort of equipment is usually bundled within separate packages and often restricted to the higher trim levels of not only its own compact SUV competitors, but most luxury models as well. And that gives the RDX a leg-up, too, since it comes standard with all of the same advanced safety features except blind spot monitoring and a rear cross-traffic system. Those are optional, but still arrive at a lower price point than those of competitors.
The government gave the 2018 CR-V perfect 5-star ratings for overall, frontal and side crash protection. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named the CR-V a Top Safety Pick for its top scores in all relevant crash and crash-prevention categories. The new RDX has yet to be tested by either third party.
Interior Quality, Design and Space
The 2019 RDX puts greater emphasis on style than the CR-V. Cabin materials were notably improved for 2019, including the use of real wood trim, simulated leather trim on the dash and doors and suedecloth on the sportier A-Spec trim (watch how the regular 2019 RDX and RDX A-Spec differ). In total, the RDX has a more luxurious cabin that’s now consistent with its luxury segment. The current CR-V has one of the finest cabins in its own segments, but it definitely can’t match the Acura for quality, style or overall ambiance.
It does, however, better its space. With more than 75 cu ft. of maximum cargo capacity, the CR-V has more than everything else in its segment and its big, boxy cargo area makes loading things easy. Its back seat is also larger and more welcoming, cementing the CR-V’s status as the more utilitarian vehicle. However, while the RDX is bettered here, it’s the largest and most welcoming of its own segment. Its 29.5 cu ft. of space with the back seats raised is larger than nearly all competitors, while its total volume bests them all. Back seat legroom is also top for its class whether you’re looking at the specs or sitting in them all back-to-back.
So, although the CR-V offers the bigger, more versatile interior, the RDX isn’t too far off.
Again, let’s put the base CR-V aside, because every other trim level comes standard with an impressive array of infotainment tech that includes a 7-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, four USB ports and satellite radio. HD radio and an upgraded 8-speaker sound system arrive on the EX-L trim, while the Touring gets integrated navigation.
The RDX comes standard with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite and HD radios, and two USB ports up front. Its Technology package, a $3,200 option, adds two rear USB ports, integrated navigation, GPS-linked climate control and a 12-speaker Panasonic/ELS premium sound system (plus the blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic warning systems and other non technology-related equipment). An even better ELS sound system, a 10.5-in head-up display and surround view parking camera are among the items included in the Advance package.
Basically, a loaded CR-V has a bit more tech than a base RDX, but from there, the Acura offers things not available on the Honda. It’s also important to keep in mind the means by which those many tech features are controlled. While the CR-V uses a touchscreen with fairly typical functionality, the RDX has Acura’s new True Touchpad Interface, which is a point-and-click system featuring a 10.2-in display mounted high on the dash and a touchpad located on the center console. You can watch our Acura True Touchpad Interface video to see it in action. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, and we would recommend trying them out extensively during test drives.
The fully-loaded CR-V Touring with all-wheel drive costs $34,150. The most basic RDX with front-wheel drive costs $37,300. If you consider “value” to mean “which one is cheaper,” there’s your answer. Their feature content is even pretty similar.
However, there is so much more to consider here. Luxury cars aren’t more expensive just because of a fancy badge, a fancy name and some wood trim on the dash. One must consider interior quality, design, noise, performance, the overall driving experience and the sophistication of certain components.
Take all-wheel drive, for instance, as just one example of many. Although both the CR-V and RDX can be equipped with it, the Honda version is a rather rudimentary system that sends power to the rear wheels only when the car senses the front wheels slipping. The RDX, meanwhile, has Acura’s latest Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive system that’s one of the most advanced of its kind. It, too, shunts power front and rear, but does so on a more active basis. It anticipates as much as it reacts, and benefits dry road handling as much as it does slick road traction. SH-AWD then goes one giant step further by moving power between the left and right wheels, aiding grip around corners and resulting in superior handling. Again, this is just one example, but it shows you need to look deeper than basic descriptions.
The RDX is sharper and more rewarding to drive. It’s considerably quicker. Most people would find its styling more attractive and its interior a plusher, more relaxing place to spend time. It’s also one of the most practical luxury models with comparatively strong value, reliability and fuel economy. However, if you’re looking at this strictly in terms of dollars and sense, the CR-V provides more space, way better fuel economy and many of the same basic features for thousands less. It’s also one of the quickest and most premium vehicles in its own class.