2020 Acura RDX vs. 2019 Ford Explorer

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The RDX has a standard Collision Mitigating Braking System, which uses forward mounted sensors to warn the driver of a possible collision ahead. If the driver doesn’t react and the system determines a collision is imminent, it automatically applies the brakes at full-force in order to reduce the force of the crash or avoid it altogether. The Explorer offers an available collision warning system without the automated brake feature that would prevent or reduce the collision if the driver fails to react.

The RDX Advance has a standard Surround-View Camera System to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The Explorer only offers a rear monitor and front and rear parking sensors that beep or flash a light. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the sides.

Both the RDX and the Explorer have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, front wheel drive, height adjustable front shoulder belts, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available all wheel drive, blind spot warning systems and rear cross-path warning.

A significantly tougher test than their original offset frontal crash test, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety does 40 MPH small overlap frontal offset crash tests. In this test, where only 25% of the total width of the vehicle is struck, results indicate that the Acura RDX is safer than the Explorer:

RDX

Explorer

Overall Evaluation

GOOD

MARGINAL

Restraints

GOOD

MARGINAL

Head Neck Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Head injury index

78

93

Peak Head Forces

0 G’s

0 G’s

Steering Column Movement Rearward

0 cm

13 cm

Chest Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Max Chest Compression

23 cm

23 cm

Hip & Thigh Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Femur Force R/L

.6/.3 kN

3.7/2.2 kN

Hip & Thigh Injury Risk R/L

0%/0%

1%/0%

Lower Leg Evaluation

GOOD

ACCEPTABLE

Tibia index R/L

.41/.36

.87/.61

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 Explorer was not even a standard “Top Pick” for 2016.

Warranty

The RDX comes with a full 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, which covers the entire truck and includes 24-hour roadside assistance. The Explorer’s 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty expires 1 year and 14,000 miles sooner.

Acura’s powertrain warranty covers the RDX 1 year and 10,000 miles longer than Ford covers the Explorer. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 6 years or 70,000 miles. Coverage on the Explorer ends after only 5 years or 60,000 miles.

Reliability

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Acura vehicles are more reliable than Ford vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Acura 5 places higher in reliability than Ford.

Engine

As tested in Motor Trend the Acura RDX is faster than the Ford Explorer turbo 4-cyl.:

RDX

Explorer

Zero to 60 MPH

6.4 sec

8.2 sec

Quarter Mile

14.8 sec

16.3 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

94.7 MPH

84.5 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the RDX gets better fuel mileage than the Explorer:

MPG

RDX

FWD

2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

22 city/28 hwy

A-Spec 2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

22 city/27 hwy

AWD

2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

21 city/27 hwy

A-Spec 2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

21 city/26 hwy

Explorer

FWD

2.3 turbo 4-cyl.

19 city/27 hwy

3.5 DOHC V6

17 city/24 hwy

AWD

2.3 turbo 4-cyl.

18 city/25 hwy

3.5 DOHC V6

16 city/22 hwy

In heavy traffic or at stoplights the RDX’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. The engine is automatically restarted when the driver gets ready to move again. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) The Explorer doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.

Environmental Friendliness

In its Green Vehicle Guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the Acura RDX higher (6 out of 10) than the Ford Explorer (3). This means the RDX produces up to 23.4 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the Explorer every 15,000 miles.

Transmission

A 10-speed automatic is standard on the Acura RDX, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a six-speed automatic is available for the Explorer.

Brakes and Stopping

The RDX stops shorter than the Explorer:

RDX

Explorer

60 to 0 MPH

116 feet

123 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

The RDX’s standard tires provide better handling because they have a lower 55 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Explorer Base/XLT’s standard 60 series tires. The RDX A-Spec’s tires have a lower 40 series profile than the Explorer’s optional 50 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the RDX has standard 19-inch wheels. Smaller 18-inch wheels are standard on the Explorer Base/XLT.

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 Explorer doesn’t offer vehicle monitored tire inflation.

Suspension and Handling

The RDX offers an optional driver-adjustable suspension system. It allows the driver to choose between an extra-supple ride, reducing fatigue on long trips, or a sport setting, which allows maximum control for tricky roads or off-road. The Explorer’s suspension doesn’t offer adjustable shock absorbers.

The RDX AWD handles at .81 G’s, while the Explorer Limited 4WD pulls only .80 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

The RDX AWD executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver quicker than the Explorer Limited 4WD (27.2 seconds @ .64 average G’s vs. 27.7 seconds @ .63 average G’s).

For greater off-road capability the RDX has a greater minimum ground clearance than the Explorer (8.2 vs. 7.8 inches), allowing the RDX to travel over rougher terrain without being stopped or damaged.

Chassis

The Acura RDX may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 600 to 850 pounds less than the Ford Explorer.

The RDX is 11.9 inches shorter than the Explorer, making the RDX easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

To almost totally eliminate engine vibration in the passenger area, the RDX has an electronically controlled liquid-filled main engine mount. A computer-controlled electric current in the liquid changes its viscosity, allowing the mount to dampen the engine completely at all RPMs. The Explorer uses conventional solid rubber engine mounts.

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

Servicing Ease

The RDX uses gas struts to support the hood for easier service access. The Explorer uses a prop rod to support its heavy hood. It takes two hands to open the hood and set the prop rod, the prop rod gets in the way during maintenance and service, and the prop rod could be knocked out, causing the heavy hood to fall on the person maintaining or servicing the car.

J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that Acura service is better than Ford. J.D. Power ranks Acura 6th in service department satisfaction (above the industry average). With a 55% lower rating, Ford is ranked 24th.

Ergonomics

The RDX’s standard easy entry system glides the driver’s seat back, making it easier for the driver to get in and out. An easy entry system costs extra on the Explorer, and is not available on all models.

The RDX Advance has a standard heads-up display that projects speed and navigation instruction readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The Explorer doesn’t offer a heads-up display.

The RDX’s front and rear power windows all open or close fully with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside the car. The Explorer’s rear power window switches have to be held the entire time to open or close them fully.

If the windows are left open on the RDX the driver can close them all at the outside door handle or from a distance using the remote. On a hot day the driver can lower the windows from a distance using the keyless remote. The driver of the Explorer can only close the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

The RDX has a standard locking fuel door with a remote release located convenient to the driver. A locking fuel door helps prevent vandalism, such as sugar in the tank and fuel theft. The Explorer doesn’t offer a locking fuel door.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducts detailed tests on headlights for their range both straight ahead and in curves and to be certain they don’t exceed acceptable amounts of glare to oncoming drivers. The RDX’s standard headlights were rated “Good” by the IIHS, while the Explorer’s headlights are rated “Poor.”

When the RDX is put in reverse, both rearview mirrors tilt from their original position. This gives the driver a better view of the curb during parallel parking maneuvers. Shifting out of reverse puts the mirrors into their original positions. The Explorer’s mirrors don’t automatically adjust for backing.

The RDX has a standard dual zone air conditioning allows the driver and front passenger to choose two completely different temperatures so people with different temperature preferences won’t have to compromise. This makes both the driver and front passenger as comfortable as possible. Dual zone air conditioning costs extra on the Explorer and isn’t available on the Explorer Base.

The RDX’s standard automatic temperature control maintains the temperature you set, automatically controlling fan speed, vents and temperature to maintain a consistent, comfortable environment. The Explorer Base doesn’t offer automatic air conditioning.

Economic Advantages

Insurance will cost less for the RDX owner. The Complete Car Cost Guide estimates that insurance for the RDX will cost $1010 to $2390 less than the Explorer over a five-year period.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the RDX is less expensive to operate than the Explorer because typical repairs cost much less on the RDX than the Explorer, including $74 less for a water pump, $319 less for a muffler and $520 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 $2637 to $10570 less than for the Ford Explorer.

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

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