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

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author photo by Doug DeMuro January 2016

If you're interested in buying a new luxury SUV, you probably have an Acura on your shopping list. After all, the 2016 Acura MDX and the 2016 Acura RDX are two of the most popular new models on the market -- the MDX in the midsize segment and the RDX among compact crossovers. But aside from the obvious size disparity, just how different are these two SUVs? And are their sizes so different that you should take one off your shopping list or possibly add one to it? We've created a close comparison between the MDX and the RDX to help you answer those questions.

Exterior

On the outside, the MDX and the RDX offer some major visual differences. Sure, they both boast Acura's distinctive grille and a window line that tapers off toward the rear, but these two crossovers are quite obviously different in size, with the MDX appearing both wider and longer than its RDX cousin. And that apparent visual difference isn't just a trick of the design: The MDX stands around 193.6 inches long, compared to 184.4 inches for the RDX. In short, these two SUVs have similar styling but major differences in dimensions.

Interior

The MDX and RDX are more similar on the inside than they are on the outside, especially in front, as the two models share switchgear, dashboard designs, steering wheels, gauges, dual-screen infotainment setups and general interior designs. But there are still a few notable differences. Unlike the RDX, the MDX offers a sleek new push-button gear selector in place of the traditional lever. The MDX also offers more interior room and -- perhaps most importantly -- a standard third-row seat. That feature alone will send some drivers straight to the MDX, as you can't get a third row in the RDX.

Mechanicals

Under the hood, the MDX and RDX are virtually identical. Specifically, they both offer the same 3.5-liter V6 engine as standard equipment, though it makes 290 horsepower in the MDX, compared to 280 hp in the RDX. The MDX also includes a standard 9-speed automatic transmission compared to a 6-speed automatic in the RDX. The benefit of those three extra gears is that the MDX's fuel economy is surprisingly similar to the RDX's. The MDX touts 20 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway, compared to up to 20 mpg city/29 mpg hwy in the RDX.

Features & Technology

The MDX and RDX are surprisingly similar in terms of features and technology, though there are a few features that set apart the two SUVs. For instance, only the MDX offers a rear-seat DVD entertainment system. It's not available in the RDX, which is less likely to be hauling around kids. And only the MDX offers fuel-saving start/stop technology, heated rear seats and rear-window sunshades.

But both the MDX and the RDX share most of the big stuff -- a dual-screen infotainment system, an available navigation system and a wide range of modern safety gadgets, including lane-departure warning, forward-collision mitigation with automatic braking, a blind spot monitoring system and more. As a result, we think technophiles will be happy with either model, though we think the MDX's advantages over the RDX mainly benefit parents with kids.

Driving Experience

On the road, the RDX and the MDX offer surprisingly similar driving experiences. By that we mean both models are comfortable, quiet and easy to drive, with strong visibility and a commanding view of the road. Both models also offer a strong, responsive engine that gives off a reassuring roar but doesn't intrude into the cabin.

Although this is where Acura would probably like us to say the RDX is a little more engaging to drive than the MDX, we don't really think that's true. Yes, it's smaller and a bit quicker, but it's still hardly a class leader in terms of driving dynamics. Instead, think of these two SUVs as exactly what they are: luxurious, smooth and comfortable but hardly daring or especially engaging to drive.

Safety

In crash testing carried out by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, both the MDX and the RDX earned perfect 5-star overall ratings. Likewise, both models earned an excellent Top Safety Pick+ score from the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

As for safety equipment, the MDX and RDX are roughly on par, touting a long list of available safety features including forward-collision warning with automatic braking, lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning, a blind spot monitoring system and a standard backup camera. In other words, you won't find any safety differences between these two cars, and both are about the safest new luxury SUVs on the road.

Conclusions

The 2016 Acura MDX and the 2016 Acura RDX are similar in some ways and different in many others. Pricing is one key area of difference. The RDX starts from $36,100 with shipping, while the MDX is noticeably more expensive: $44,000 including destination. Given that the MDX's additional benefits primarily appeal to drivers with kids -- for example, a larger interior, 3-row seating and additional kid-friendly features -- we think the MDX should strictly be on your shopping list if you have children or frequently carry them around. Otherwise, the RDX should suffice for just about any situation.

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Used 2016 Acura MDX SH-AWD w/ Technology Package
Used 2016 Acura MDX
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Used 2016 Acura MDX SH-AWD w/ Technology Package
Used 2016 Acura MDX
$30,950
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
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Used 2016 Acura MDX SH-AWD w/ Technology Package
Used 2016 Acura MDX
$30,450
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
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Used 2016 Acura MDX SH-AWD
Used 2016 Acura MDX
$30,950
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.
2016 Acura MDX vs. 2016 Acura RDX: What's the Difference? - Autotrader