- The Acura RDX is a solid luxury crossover that’s been recently revamped.
- The CadillacXT5 was the brand’s first – and quite successful – effort at launching a new lineup of crossovers.
- The vehicles don’t match up exactly, but they are quite similar, and consumers are likely to be comparing them with each other and with SUVs from Audi, BMW, and Lexus.
- The Acura RDX takes the prize in this comparison because it’s both fun to drive and priced to perfection.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
We live in the golden age of the luxury crossover SUV. Automakers have been launching them at a furious pace to capture customers who have abandoned sedans and wagons in droves.
The major players are Mercedes, BMW, Audi, and Lexus. But don’t forget about Acura, which has been selling a pair of superb SUVs, the MDX and the RDX, for some time. And don’t overlook Cadillac, which in the past few years has added a total of three crossovers to its lineup.
The first was the XT5. I like this SUV, but I’ve always been an Acura fan. So I thought I’d compare the XT5 with the RDX. Obviously, there are some segmentation questions that arise from such a matchup: The RDX covers both the compact and midsize segments, while the XT5 is intended to be Caddy’s midsize warrior (the XT4 covers the compact/subcompact space, and the XT6 handles three-row midsize duties).
The RDX is also priced significantly lower than the XT5. But segmentation is kind of shaggy these days, as some automakers stick with their smaller lineups and others add new vehicles to dice and slice markets.
Ultimately, I think it’s valid to cross-shop the XT5 with the RDX, thus this comparison. Read on to find out how it went down:
We checked out the all-wheel-drive Cadillac XT5 in 2017, not long after the SUV was rolled out in 2016.
We also tested the XT5 in both the Northeast and in Florida: the black SUV in the Sunshine State and the white version in the New York metro area.
Transportation reporter Ben Zhang tried the black XT5, which came with a slightly higher-level trim package and tipped the price scales at about $US64,000, while the senior correspondent Matt DeBord investigated a $US58,000 “crystal white” XT5.
The new XT5 is undeniably sharp, but it proves that Caddy is shifting away from its at-time divisive “art-and-science” stealth-fighter design vocabulary toward a more globally appealing approach.
There’s a smooth sweep of lines from front to back, with an integrated spoiler completing the roof line, and a bold – but not too bold – chrome-trimmed angle on the rear windows picked up and extended by the large rear tail lights. A pair of chromed exhaust ports deliver a sporty vibe.
The XT5 was the first new crossover from Caddy to join the stalwart full-size Escalade in the lineup. Cadillac has since unveiled a small XT4 and larger XT6.
There’s more than enough cargo space to use the XT5 as an upscale weekend utility vehicle, send it to the mall to load up on threads and flat-screen TVs, or take it on a weeklong road trip with a family of five.
We didn’t enjoy the combination of a 310-horsepower 3.6-litre V6 engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission, not even when we put it into manual mode and used the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel and pepped up the driving mode. This bugged us. A premium crossover with a decent-size V6 should have been oomphier.
We asked Cadillac to explain. A spokesperson told us that Cadillac’s engineering “team was aiming to get the best real-world fuel economy and day-to-day usability for buyers in the market segment,” adding that fuel economy ranks really high in owner surveys.
This confirmed our theory. We didn’t think there was anything wrong with the engine, but we figured that Caddy had gone for MPGs – 18 city/26 highway/21 combined – over performance.
The eight-speed shifts tidily, and the XT5 hauls you from 0 to 60 mph in a Caddy-claimed 6.6 seconds, and it had a reasonably competent all-wheel-drive system that should be able to handle the worst the suburbs throw at it.
The interior of the XT5 is, in a word, fantastic. It’s roomy. It’s luxurious without being too much. It isn’t an orgy of topstitching and bright chrome. The materials are all excellent, premium, and supple. The leather feels really good.
The XT5’s panoramic moonroof is a stunner.
The instrument panel is sort of old-school, but the steering wheel — leather-wrapped and wood-trimmed — is thoroughly modern, with buttons to control just about every function on the XT5.
The infotainment system is a standout feature for the XT5.
What makes it so effective is that the touchscreen interface is simple and intuitive, both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available, voice commands work well, the navigation is excellent and well-integrated with OnStar, and wireless 4G LTE connectivity means that an entire car full of people can use their devices on the road. That’s an amazing package.
The Bose audio system is wonderful.
We’ve sampled all the premium audio systems on the auto market, and while some are more dynamically interesting than Bose, and some really make you feel as if you’re in a rolling concert hall, Bose surround sound will please almost any driver or passenger and can handle any type of music, from heavy metal to new age, pumping it all blissfully through 14 speakers.
It hits a sweet spot. You just can’t find anything to complain about. That’s why it was our Business Insider Car Audio System of the Year in 2017.
On to the Acura RDX, which I tested in an Advance trim level. Sticker price: $US47,800 (the base is $US37,000, but that’s front-wheel-drive instead of the all-wheel-drive for my tester).
For many, many Americans, the RDX is their version of a premium wagon, and it’s dedicated to upscale family duty. But it also promises zesty performance and plenty of technology, given the typical needs and wants of an Acura enthusiast.
This new-gen RDX is also taking some design cues from the Acura halo supercar, the NSX, which took home Business Insider’s Car of the Year trophy in 2016.
SUV rear ends are usually a weak point aesthetically, and the RDX’s is no exception. There’s a lot going on back there, what with all the swoops and indents and those crab-pincer tail lights. Bonus: Dual exhaust!
Our RDX was of the “Super Handling” all-wheel-drive variety, with torque vectoring that sends traction to the wheel that needs it most. This helps the RDX with stable handling in bad weather and on poor roads.
There’s no third row of seats, and thanks to the RDX’s larger overall dimensions relative to the previous gen, the cargo space is now a considerable 30 cubic feet. There’s also a power liftgate.
The four-cylinder 272-horsepower turbocharged motor is demonstrably torque-happy with 280 pound-feet of pull on tap. It is also not torque-steer-y in any way.
The RDX can serve up a 0 to 60 mph dash in about six seconds. Fuel economy is about what you’d expect: 21 mpg city/27 highway/23 combined. I drove around for a week on single tank.
The 10-speed automatic transmission, which has four driving modes (Comfort, Snow, Sport plus, and a default Sport), along with paddle shifters behind the steering wheel.
The leather interior is “Parchment” and almost but not quite as nice as the XT5’s.
The 2019 RDX is bigger than its ancestors. The subtle size increase makes the rear seats notably more comfy for passengers. On a side note, getting in and out of the RDX is a breeze – not something one can say about every luxe SUV.
Both SUVs have panoramic moonroofs.
I always find the Acura’s driver’s view to be soothing. That’s weird because you’re presented with all kinds of buttons and thumbwheels, and a switch on the RDX’s steering wheel. And although the analogue instrument gauges are old-school, the somewhat complicated center display isn’t.
Acura’s new infotainment system is called “True Touchpad,” and it uses a high-res center screen that juts from the dashboard and displays a host of apps, along with the map, which is nearly always on view.
Here’s where the magic happens. This touchpad can be used like a trackpad on a laptop, and there are several hard inputs. But you can also simply drop a fingertip to an area of the pad that corresponds to the screen.
Apple CarPlay is available, but Android Auto isn’t yet.
The ELS Studio 3D audio system is all Acura — specially designed for the brand and outfitted with 16 speakers in the RDX.
The system is spectacular – it won our Business Insider Car Audio System of the Year award for 2018.
And the winner is the Acura RDX!
When I reviewed the RDX last year, I swooned. “I’d buy one,” I wrote.
“Seriously, I enjoyed the RDX immensely in the week that I drove it around the Jersey ‘burbs and the mean streets of New York City. But I tend to respond quite favourably to Acuras. For whatever reason, I think they combine a high level of luxury and value with legendary reliability and fun motoring that isn’t too demanding.”
A key differentiator for me between the XT5 and the RDX was the engine. The underpowered V6 on the XT5 that we tested was trumped by the overpowered turbo four on the RDX. The RDX’s power was snappier, and the fuel economy was superior.
The driving dynamics, however, were neck and neck. If I had to, I’d give the RDX a slight edge, but around corners, both crossovers are fun to handle.
Acura’s updated infotainment system is a notable improvement over the old setup, but the XT5 has an industry-leading system, so the RDX has a ways to go before it even thinks about knocking off the Caddy on this score.
In terms of interior appointments, the Caddy edges out a victory – but a slight one.
Overall, the Acura RDX wins this comparison because it simply feels more like a well-engineered, premium crossover that makes good on its brand promise. The XT5 is a dandy SUV, and it has sold quite well since its introduction, giving Caddy an all-important crossover to pit against BMW and Audi.
But the new RDX continues to more than hold its own. It’s also extremely well-priced. My tester was more than $US10,000 less than the pricier and cheaper XT5 trims that we sampled. OK, yes – the XT5 could be classified as more of a midsize luxury crossover, and perhaps we should see how the RDX stacks up against the Caddy XT4 that recently impressed us. But the Acura MDX has three rows, while the XT5 doesn’t (the new XT6 does). The vehicles are also almost exactly the same size (the XT5 is 3 inches longer).
The bottom line is that the RDX is and has been one of the most appealing offerings in the luxury market, both as an extreme value and as a capable crossover that’s a joy to drive. It’s one of those vehicles that I can recommend almost without reservations.