2020 Acura RDX vs. 2019 BMW 3 Series Sports Wagon

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

For enhanced safety, the front seat shoulder belts of the Acura RDX are height-adjustable to accommodate a wide variety of driver and passenger heights. A better fit can prevent injuries and the increased comfort also encourages passengers to buckle up. The BMW 3 Series Sports Wagon doesn’t offer height-adjustable seat belts.

Both the RDX and the 3 Series Sports Wagon have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, lane departure warning systems, rearview cameras, available all wheel drive, blind spot warning systems, around view monitors and rear cross-path warning.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Acura RDX is safer than the BMW 3 Series Sports Wagon:

RDX

3 Series Sports Wagon

Driver

STARS

4 Stars

4 Stars

Neck Injury Risk

26%

36%

Neck Stress

262 lbs.

345 lbs.

Neck Compression

23 lbs.

113 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

For its top level performance in IIHS driver and passenger-side small overlap frontal, moderate overlap frontal, side impact, roof strength and head restraint tests, its standard front crash prevention system, and its headlight’s “Good” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the RDX its highest rating: “Top Pick Plus” for 2019, a rating granted to only 46 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The 3 Series Sports Wagon has not been tested, yet.

Warranty

Acura’s powertrain warranty covers the RDX 2 years and 20,000 miles longer than BMW covers the 3 Series Sports Wagon. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 6 years or 70,000 miles. Coverage on the 3 Series Sports Wagon ends after only 4 years or 50,000 miles.

Engine

The RDX’s 2.0 turbo 4-cyl. produces 24 more horsepower (272 vs. 248) and 22 lbs.-ft. more torque (280 vs. 258) than the 3 Series Sports Wagon’s 2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

Fuel Economy and Range

The RDX has 1.3 gallons more fuel capacity than the 3 Series Sports Wagon (17.1 vs. 15.8 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.

The RDX has a standard cap-less fueling system. The fuel filler is automatically opened when the fuel nozzle is inserted and automatically closed when it’s removed. This eliminates the need to unscrew and replace the cap and it reduces fuel evaporation, which causes pollution. The 3 Series Sports Wagon doesn’t offer a cap-less fueling system.

Transmission

A 10-speed automatic is standard on the Acura RDX, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only an eight-speed automatic is available for the 3 Series Sports Wagon.

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the RDX has larger standard tires than the 3 Series Sports Wagon (235/55R19 vs. 225/50R17). The RDX A-Spec’s tires are larger than the largest tires available on the 3 Series Sports Wagon (255/40R20 vs. 225/45R18).

The RDX A-Spec’s tires provide better handling because they have a lower 40 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the 3 Series Sports Wagon’s optional 45 series front tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the RDX has standard 19-inch wheels. Smaller 17-inch wheels are standard on the 3 Series Sports Wagon. The RDX A-Spec’s 20-inch wheels are larger than the 18-inch wheels optional on the 3 Series Sports Wagon.

The RDX has a standard easy tire fill system. When inflating the tires, the vehicle’s integrated tire pressure sensors keep track of the pressure as the tires fill and tell the driver when the tires are inflated to the proper pressure. The 3 Series Sports Wagon doesn’t offer vehicle monitored tire inflation.

The RDX AWD has a standard space-saver spare (not available on A-Spec) so you can replace a flat tire and drive to have the flat repaired or replaced. A spare tire isn’t available on the 3 Series Sports Wagon; it requires you to depend on its run-flat tires, which limits mileage and speed before they are repaired. If a run-flat is damaged beyond repair by a road hazard your vehicle will have to be towed. Some models of the 3 Series Sports Wagon don’t even offer run-flats.

Suspension and Handling

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the RDX is 3.9 inches wider in the front and 2.9 inches wider in the rear than on the 3 Series Sports Wagon.

Chassis

The RDX uses computer-generated active noise cancellation to help remove annoying noise and vibration from the passenger compartment, especially at low frequencies. The 3 Series Sports Wagon doesn’t offer active noise cancellation.

Passenger Space

The RDX has 7.1 cubic feet more passenger volume than the 3 Series Sports Wagon (104 vs. 96.9).

The RDX has 4.6 inches more front shoulder room, 3.4 inches more rear legroom and 1.5 inches more rear shoulder room than the 3 Series Sports Wagon.

Cargo Capacity

The RDX has a much larger cargo volume with its rear seat up than the 3 Series Sports Wagon with its rear seat up (31.1 vs. 27.5 cubic feet). The RDX has a much larger cargo volume with its rear seat folded than the 3 Series Sports Wagon with its rear seat folded (79.8 vs. 61.5 cubic feet).

Pressing a switch automatically lowers the RDX’s rear seats, to make changing between passengers and cargo easier. The 3 Series Sports Wagon doesn’t offer automatic folding seats.

Towing

The RDX has a 1500 lbs. towing capacity. The 3 Series Sports Wagon has no towing capacity.

Servicing Ease

J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that Acura service is better than BMW. J.D. Power ranks Acura 6th in service department satisfaction (above the industry average). With a 19% lower rating, BMW is ranked 11th.

Ergonomics

The RDX has a standard remote vehicle starting system, so the vehicle can be started from inside the driver's house. This allows the driver to comfortably warm up the engine before going out to the vehicle. The climate system will also automatically heat or cool the interior. The 3 Series Sports Wagon doesn’t offer a remote starting system.

The RDX’s standard easy entry system glides the driver’s seat back, making it easier for the driver to get in and out. The 3 Series Sports Wagon doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

To shield the driver and front passenger’s vision over a larger portion of the windshield and side windows, the RDX has standard extendable sun visors. The 3 Series Sports Wagon doesn’t offer extendable visors.

Optional air-conditioned seats in the RDX keep the driver and front passenger comfortable and take the sting out of hot seats in summer. The 3 Series Sports Wagon doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats.

Model Availability

The RDX is available in both front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive configurations. The 3 Series Sports Wagon doesn’t offer a two-wheel drive configuration.

Economic Advantages

Insurance will cost less for the RDX owner. The Complete Car Cost Guide estimates that insurance for the RDX will cost $3785 to $4560 less than the 3 Series Sports Wagon over a five-year period.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the RDX is less expensive to operate than the 3 Series Sports Wagon because it costs $36 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the RDX than the 3 Series Sports Wagon, including $349 less for a water pump, $388 less for a muffler, $85 less for a starter, $237 less for fuel injection, $320 less for front struts and $885 less for a timing belt/chain.

IntelliChoice estimates that five-year ownership costs (depreciation, financing, insurance, fuel, fees, repairs and maintenance) for the Acura RDX will be $2281 to $7772 less than for the BMW 3 Series Sports Wagon.

Recommendations

The Acura RDX outsold the BMW 3 Series by 43% during 2018.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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