2016 Acura RDX vs. 2015 Range Rover Evoque

What Price Prestige?

Luxury crossovers are all the rage right now; sports sedans are just so over. At least that is what one would think from current sales trends. Regardless, “premium” comes in many flavors and at many price points. Recent, almost concurrent exposure to the revised Acura RDX and the updated Range Rover Evoque suggested a slightly unconventional comparison. What do you really get, besides the more prestigious name, with the English vehicle over the Japanese “near luxury” crossover?

To most eyes, the Evoque certainly looks more upscale; this machine is all about proper stance and really great proportions; add in some thoughtful detailing and it certainly has more presence than the RDX, despite its new fascias, LED lights and wheels. Much of that is down to the Acura’s more humble roots—it shares its basic architecture with the Honda CR-V, while the Range Rover only shares hardware with the just-released Land Rover Discover Sport.

Acura made very solid improvements to the 2016 RDX’s interior: plastic moldings are much nicer than before (and don’t remind of the cheap-feeling Honda), touch-points like the wheel, shifter and metallic trim are pleasing too. But it isn’t close in terms of perceived quality to the Range Rover, whose design coherence, fittings and textures—with the possible exception of the pebble-grained leather seats—soundly beat the Asian crossover’s.

Surprisingly, actual room inside both is quite similar; the RDX’s higher roofline means more headroom, and a more upright seating position. Its cargo hold is also more of a squared off compartment. Yet the Evoque’s is wider and there is plenty of room for average sized people, front and back. Actual seating comfort is comparable, though the Range Rover’s seats are less yielding. While the RDX, tested in top-line Advance trim, has a conventional sliding roof, the Evoque’s fixed, full-length glass roof brings more light into the cockpit, more of the time.

Tech-wise, Acura has an twin screen arrangement that can initially be hard to fathom, yet offers a wide array of features like voice choice for songs, that may or may not be of real value. What can be said with some certainty is that the Range Rover’s single screen is now fast enough acting not to be an annoyance, and more intuitive (if limited) in functionality. Labor-saving devices are a bit of a wash: the RDX has remote start, while all the Evoque’s doors open and lock without needing the key fob, and its driver seat slides fore and aft to ease entry and exit. The Acura in Advance trim does come with a very complete suite of safety aids standard, such as lane keeping assistance, automatic emergency braking and active cruise control, though the Pure Premium Range Rover has all the essentials an aware driver might need, like blind spot monitors and cross path warnings.

    Range Rover Evoque

The biggest differences crop up when the two are driven; while both are pleasing steers, they are very different in character. The Evoque is stiffly suspended and much more bothered by typical urban road blight like manholes and broken pavement. It really never settles completely, even on most highways. In contrast, the RDX is generally smoother, except over really rough stuff like potholes, where its suspension’s more humble origins and its slightly less stiff structure are noticeable. The Acura’s steering paints a much less detailed picture of what is going on with the front tires’ contact patches, and despite a revised, more rear-biased AWD system for 2016, it wouldn’t see which way the Range Rover went down a really twisty piece of pavement—or off the road, for that matter—where Range Rover’s famous heritage insures the comparative indomitability of the Evoque.

Set against that is the Acura’s engine, a sewing-machine smooth 3.5-liter V6, whose 279hp are complemented by a great reserve of low-end torque, which peaks at 252lb-ft. The first generation RDX used a highly boosted turbocharged four cylinder; the limitations of this approach are on clear display in the Range Rover, where there is copious lag before the blower energizes the Ford-sourced 2-liter engine. Despite producing 250lb-ft of torque, this 240hp engine is a gruff, unrewarding companion, whose laggy nature and surges of power are barely tamed by the newer, nine-speed ZF transmission in the Evoque. Thankfully, the company has improved the programming of this gearbox, and this hand-me-down engine is supposed to be replaced by the company’s own, all new “Ingenium” powerplant in the near future. The Acura, at 6.2 seconds, is about a half second quicker than the Range Rover in the 0-60mph dash, though they feel very similar when tested at Denver’s high altitude. They drink about the same amount of fuel in real-world conditions, and brake feel and power seem quite well matched as well.

Objectively, it is hard to argue against the Acura; the RDX is quicker, smoother and more comfortable and has more gizmos than the Range Rover. But once you move into luxury automobiles—whether car or crossover—intangibles such as image take on much more importance (otherwise we would all drive the VW Golf, probably!). The Evoque certainly feels $6,000 more expensive than the Japanese vehicle, with a posher interior, cleaner design inside and out, and certainly has more presence. It is also much more athletic in handling and has real off road cred. While different types of buyers may be more attracted to the image of one company as set against the other, there is no denying the extra cache of the Range Rover name.

EPA ratings: Acura 19/28mpg; 22mpg combined; Range Rover 21/30mpg; 24mpg combined

0-60mph: 6.2 seconds Acura; 6.7 seconds Range Rover

Price as tested: Acura: $44,340; Range Rover: $50,745

Here is what Acura and Range Rover have to say.

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