Car reviews always talk about sporty handling, but I’m a normal driver and, as long as I can pass cars on the highway when I need to, I’m not looking for a sports car. I would like leather and as many bells and whistles as I can get for $25,000 or less. My buddy says I should look for an older BMW X3, but I’m worried about reliability. – Suresh, Winnipeg
The average luxury SUV will spend more time in the parking lot at Loblaws than on the track at Le Mans.
So, if you don’t want sporty, a good bet is the 2014 Acura RDX (an average asking price of $21,190, according to Canadian Black Book). It’s capable, well-equipped for the price and reliable.
Sure, the BMW X3 is more athletic – but to find a loaded version, you’ll likely have to look at 2013 or earlier.
2014 Acura RDX
- Second generation: 2013-2018 (facelift for 2016)
- Average asking price for base: $21,190
- Original MSRP for base: $41,190
- Engine: 3.5-litre V-6 (273 hp)
- Transmission/Drive: Six-speed automatic/All-wheel
- Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 12.1 city, 8.7 highway, 10.6 combined; premium gas
The 2014 RDX wasn’t an SUV that would wow you on the road – but it wasn’t meant to be.
“Some have knocked the… RDX's somewhat less-sporty driving persona,” Globe Drive said. “But let's not forget this is a crossover SUV, so who really cares as long as it's pleasant to operate and competent.”
Redesigned for 2013, the RDX had just one trim. That came with pretty much everything you’d expect with a luxury SUV – except a power-lift gate and navigation. For those, you needed the optional tech package ($3,000 when new – and about $2,000 over the base price for used).
But, while the RDX came standard with a backup camera, it was missing some safety tech – including blind-spot warning and rear-collision sensors – that you could find in other 2014 rivals.
Consumer Reports liked that the five-seater RDX was inexpensive for a luxury SUV. It also praised the RDX’s “strong and smooth powertrain, good fuel economy given the amount of power, very comfortable front seats and a roomy rear seat.”
It griped about Acura’s “infuriating” dual-screen infotainment system, its stiff ride for a luxury SUV and the small rear window that hurt visibility.
“While the RDX doesn't push the envelope in styling, handling or interior quality, it is benign, comfortable and easy to live with,” Consumer Reports said.
Consumer Reports recommended the 2014 RDX and gave it four out of five for reliability.
There was one recall to replace Takata driver’s-side airbags.
2013 BMW X3 xDrive28i
- Second generation: 2011-2017 (facelift for 2015)
- Average asking price for base: $19,637 (Canadian Black Book)
- Original MSRP: $42,450
- Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder (240 hp)
- Transmission/drive: Eight-speed automatic/all-wheel
- Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 10.9 city, 8.3 highway, 9.7 combined; premium gas
The X3 didn’t require much compromise – but it could get pricey as you added more stuff.
“The BMW X3 emphasizes driving fun and melds luxury car attributes with the traditional utility of an SUV,” Consumer Reports said. “Cabin finish is impeccable and passengers benefit from supportive seats and a hushed interior.”
For 2013, the X3’s base 28i lost the 240-hp in-line six and gained a less-thirsty 240-hp turbo four-cylinder. The turbo got 9.7 litres/100 km instead of the six cylinder’s 11 litres/100 km.
There was a long list of options and an executive package, premium package and technology packages. Blind-spot warning wasn’t available – but parking sensors and a backup camera were options.
Review site Edmunds praised the X3’s “crisp handling,” high-quality cabin, generous passenger and cargo room and comfortable rear seat. But it griped that it was priced higher than similarly equipped rivals.
And Consumer Reports said the controls could “take some getting used to.”
Consumer Reports gave the 2013 X3 one out of five for reliability. In 2014, that started to improve (to three out of five) – and by 2016 reliability was five out of five.
There were four recalls, including a defect that could potentially cause the brakes to lose power assist while driving.
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