Acura RDX and Jaguar F-Pace both do luxury very well.
When both the Acura RDX and Jaguar F-Pace do luxury very well, just how much does the badge matter?
Welcome to Dude Said, Punk Said, a special series devoted to skewering the automotive ramblings of young punk Nick Tragianis with the infinite wisdom of old dude Brian Harper. This week, the duo see if Acura’s all-new RDX can out-luxe the Jaguar F-Pace.
Brian Harper: As much as I have spent many years enjoying the tasty and sporty automotive morsels that inhabit the compact luxury car segment — think Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Cadillac ATS, and a dearly departed personal favourite, the Infiniti G37, among many others — they’re losing the approval of consumers, who are migrating to compact luxury crossovers in increasing numbers. And, admittedly, many of the 15 or so models occupying this segment are doing a fair job of duplicating many of their car siblings’ better attributes, just in wagon-styled, jacked-up form.
Which brings us to two of the better examples, Jaguar’s 2018 F-Pace (in 25t Prestige trim) and the very new, third-generation 2019 Acura RDX (in top-line Platinum Elite trim). The F-Pace has been out for a little more than two years and within months of its debut became the British automaker’s best-selling model. The previous RDX has done very well for Honda’s upscale brand, also establishing itself as a top seller. So, young Nick, a couple of questions for you: Is the 2019 RDX significantly better than its predecessor, and is it sufficiently sporty and luxurious enough to be thought of as equal to the Euro brands — or at least, the F-Pace?
nick Tragianis: It’s certainly sporty enough. For 2019, the RDX ditches the V6 and goes back to a turbo-four. This time, it’s a 2.0-litre pumping out 272 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. That’s sent to all four wheels through a 10-speed automatic transmission. Personally, I don’t miss the V6 and six-speed auto from the previous RDX; the new powertrain is smooth and quite perky, and the transmission operates almost invisibly. Even the growl the engine makes sounds a bit Teutonic, too, though it’s likely synthesized.
The F-Pace, on the other hand, falls a bit short. As equipped, the Jag’s 2.0-L turbo-four puts out 247 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque and is hooked up to an eight-speed automatic. It’s smooth enough, delivers plenty of scoot, and returns excellent fuel economy numbers; I averaged 9.7 L/100 kilometres thanks to plenty of highway mileage. But the engine isn’t well matched to the F-Pace’s mass. Something tells me the up-level, 296-hp turbo-four should be the base engine.
BH: I agree. The last F-Pace I drove was fitted with the 340-hp, supercharged 3.0-L V6, and it had plenty of zip. Dropping 100 horsepower on a crossover weighing 1,760 kilograms — which, admittedly, is fairly light for a vehicle of its size — does tend to dull things, though 6.8 seconds to hit 100 km/h from zero isn’t exactly sluggish. But kudos to Jaguar for offering a comprehensive choice of powertrains, everything from a four-cylinder turbodiesel, the two gas turbo-four engines, boosted V6s in 340- and 380hp configurations, and the screaming, 550-hp supercharged V8 for the overthe-top SVR version.
The downside is that the more powerful the engine, the higher the cost, and the F-Pace we tested — at $63,600 before PDI and taxes — was already over $8,000 more than the RDX.
Now, the RDX’s engine choices begin and end with the new turbocharged 2.0L. That said, it is very well suited to the redesigned crossover, with plenty of power to tap; it goes to 100 km/h from rest in just six seconds. Yet I was less than enthused about the 10-speed automatic transmission. Smooth for the most part, it could stumble or surge if one got on and off the gas too quickly. And really, do we need 10 forward gears in any vehicle short of a long-haul rig? It’s starting to get ridiculous.
What about styling? The F-Pace is clean yet conservative; the RDX is bolder and edgier, especially when compared with its predecessor. Too much?
nT: Nah, I don’t think it’s too much. Certainly edgier, but the RDX isn’t as over-styled as some of its other competitors — here’s looking at you, Lexus. Yes, the grille is huge, and yes, the RDX as a whole has the same basic shape as any other crossover out there. But compared with the previous RDX’s plain-Jane styling, the new model is refreshing. One sticking point, though: maybe it’s just me, but I’m not big on the wheels. There’s something about the darkish grey finish that makes the wheels look permanently dirty and coated in brake dust.
Inside, the RDX impresses with a boatload of tech. Chief among the tech bits is Acura’s new, so-called True Touchpad infotainment system. Rather than using a traditional knob or touch screen, infotainment is handled via a touchpad on the centre stack. It’s a novel system; essentially, anywhere you touch on the touchpad directly correlates to the touch screen, so in theory, there shouldn’t be much swiping and distractions. It takes a bit of time to master, but if you’ve ever used a track pad on a laptop, you’ll be fine.
The rest of the RDX’s cabin is befitting of its price tag. The leather feels excellent, the seats are supremely comfortable, wind and road noise are almost non-existent, visibility is great, and everything is well marked and where it needs to be. A few gripes, though: while the 10.2-inch display on the dash is otherwise sharp, the screen is remarkably low-res when the backup and 360-degree cameras are activated. The push-button shifter also takes some getting used to, and the pianoblack finish on the centre console wasn’t a smart call. You’ll be doing a lot of dusting.
BH: Oh, wah! That’s just your neatfreak side showing. Acura got way more things right than wrong with the RDX’s cabin setup. Most everybody I know who’s driven the F-Pace is disappointed by how uninspired its interior is. OK, expecting Ye Olde England in the form of Connolly leather, wool carpeting and highly polished mahogany trim is pushing it — though they were once a hallmark of Jaguar — but the standard dash layout, though functional, is boringly conventional. On the plus side, the 10-way power and heated front seats did prove to be exceedingly comfortable. And the tester came with the optional ($3,320) Technology package, which added such niceties as a larger TFT instrument cluster, a lovely Meridian surround-sound system, navigation and InControl Pro Services (which enhances the navigation system with real-time traffic reports, etc.). Worth the coin, in my book.
But let’s get down to value for money, shall we? Except for the cachet that comes with the Jaguar name — as opposed to saying “I have an Acura in my garage” — the RDX is the better deal. Newer, sharper styled, quicker (unless you pay more for one of the F-Pace’s optional engines), greater cargo volume (835 L vs. 650) and appreciably less expensive, the RDX is a force to be reckoned with among the players in the premium compact crossover segment. I do like the F-Pace, more so with the V6. I just like the RDX more.
nT: There’s no wrong choice. The F-Pace does many things well. It’s quiet, composed and smooth on the road, it delivers excellent fuel economy and it’s luxurious enough. But yes, the problem is value; the RDX matches the F-Pace on everything, and leaves you with a spare $10,000 in your bank account.
Well, maybe not everything. There’s cachet and choice. If you don’t mind saying “I drive an Acura,” and if a turbocharger and four cylinders are plenty, the RDX is the clear winner here.
2019 Acura RDX (left) vs. 2018 Jaguar F-Pace (right).
2019 Acura RDX.
2018 Jaguar F-Pace.