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2015 vs. 2016 Acura RDX: What's the Difference?

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Doug DeMuro May 2015

The Acura RDX has quickly taken the compact luxury SUV world by storm, earning amazing sales success and considerable praise since its second-generation model went on sale for the 2013 model year. And now, it's been updated: The 2016 Acura RDX offers some major changes compared to last year's model. This should help the crossover stay current in the face of increasing competition, but are the changes enough to justify waiting until the 2016 model reaches dealers? Or should you go for a leftover 2015 model or a certified pre-owned 2014 version? We've rounded up all the information you'll need in order to make that decision.

Exterior

Changes to the latest RDX are slim, but they're noticeable if you know what to look for. Yes, the overall shape and profile remain the same, but the RDX boasts new wheel designs, a new front bumper, a revised front grille, new headlights, and an updated rear end with new taillights and a new bumper. Updates to the new RDX stop short of a full redesign, and they're probably not drastic enough to justify springing for the all-new model, but the new look does add a more modern flair.

Interior

The RDX retains its general shape and dimensions, so interior room, comfort and visibility remain the same as last year. The only big changes to the cabin -- aside from a few new features, which we'll cover below -- relate to the revised center control stack, which adopts Honda's dual-screen design instead of Acura's previous button-filled setup. Climate controls and the gauge cluster are revised, too, and the air vents are reshaped for a new look. The dual-screen center stack is what previous RDX fans will immediately notice when they climb behind the wheel of the 2016 model.

Mechanicals

The RDX is essentially unchanged under the hood from 2015 to 2016. The 3.5-liter V6 engine is carried over, now boasting 279 horsepower -- compared to 273 hp in last year's model -- and 252 lb-ft of torque, a small increase of 1 lb-ft from the 2015 model. A 6-speed automatic remains the sole transmission, though a new cylinder deactivation system has added 1 mile per gallon to the RDX's highway fuel economy rating for a total of 29 mpg on the highway.

Although we generally like more power and more gears, the RDX's engine and transmission combo are well designed, and we see no major need to change them. Acceleration is brisk, the transmission is good, and the engine is quiet. You won't be able to feel the RDX's additional 6 hp or notice the extra 1 mpg hwy, so don't let the mechanical updates factor into your buying decision.

Features & Technology

Although the RDX offers only minor revisions to its powertrain, exterior styling and interior, the luxury crossover's options list has some serious updates for 2016. Specifically, the new model boasts the latest safety features and gadgets that the RDX didn't offer last year, including a blind spot monitoring system, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert and a forward collision-mitigation system. There are also a few other upgrades, including LED lights, a multiview camera and the brand's AcuraWatch blind spot monitoring system.

These changes are major, and from a technological standpoint, they bring the RDX to the front of the pack. If you're interested in gadgets or looking for the latest safety features, last year's RDX simply won't cut it. You'll instead want the new model, which is loaded with all the latest equipment that its predecessor didn't offer.

Driving Experience

While we haven't driven the 2016 RDX, we'd be surprised if it offered any major driving experience updates compared to last year's model. Acura hasn't announced any real changes under the skin, save for the 6 extra hp and the extra 1 lb-ft of torque.

In other words, the latest RDX should drive exactly like the last one: You can expect strong acceleration and composed handling, but not especially sporty road manners. It also has a comfortable ride, a smooth transmission and a quiet cabin experience. You shouldn't, however, expect to see much of difference whether you buy a 2015 RDX or the updated 2016 model.

Safety

In terms of crash-test ratings, we expect the 2016 Acura RDX to perform similarly to last year's model. That's a good thing because it generally had strong results in testing carried out by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and it scored a perfect 5-star rating in the federal government's crash tests.

If you go beyond crashworthiness, the 2016 RDX offers far more benefits for shoppers who prioritize safety. As mentioned above, the 2016 RDX touts an impressive array of newly optional safety equipment, including LED lighting, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision alert with frontal crash mitigation, and rear cross-traffic alert. Quite simply, the RDX has managed to go from "zero" to "hero" in the world of safety gadget-filled luxury SUVs, and while the 2015 model offered only meager equipment levels, the new RDX is a major upgrade.

If safety is especially important to you, it may be enough to decide on a 2016 RDX rather than last year's model. If not, it may be a good negotiating point to help you score a deal on a 2015 RDX or a certified pre-owned 2013 or 2014 version.

Conclusions

For 2016, the Acura RDX receives minor updates in most areas, including its styling, interior design and powertrain. It also takes a big step forward in terms of safety features. With the RDX's latest facelift, Acura has left what we've always liked untouched, and improved the only thing the RDX was really lacking.

So is it worth waiting for a 2016 model, or should you save some money and buy a 2014 or 2015 RDX? The answer to that question depends on exactly how much you value the RDX's latest safety upgrades. For some families who want as much safety equipment as possible, this decision may be a no-brainer, while other drivers who don't need the latest in gadgets and equipment may instead choose to buy last year's RDX and save some money in the process.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 vs. 2016 Acura RDX: What's the Difference? - Autotrader