2020 Ford Explorer vs. 2020 Acura RDX

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Both the Explorer and RDX have child safety locks to prevent children from opening the rear doors. The Explorer has power child safety locks, allowing the driver to activate and deactivate them from the driver's seat and to know when they're engaged. The RDX’s child locks have to be individually engaged at each rear door with a manual switch. The driver can’t know the status of the locks without opening the doors and checking them.

The Explorer has standard Post Collision Braking, which automatically apply the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The RDX doesn’t offer a post collision braking system: in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, more collisions are possible without the protection of airbags that may have already deployed.

Over 200 people are killed each year when backed over by motor vehicles. The Explorer ST/Platinum has standard Reverse Brake Assist that uses rear sensors to monitor and automatically apply the brakes to prevent a rear collision. The RDX doesn’t offer backup collision prevention brakes.

The Explorer’s driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The RDX doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the Explorer and the RDX have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, height adjustable front shoulder belts, 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 and around view monitors.


There are over 11 times as many Ford dealers as there are Acura dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Explorer’s warranty.


The Explorer has a standard “limp home system” to keep drivers from being stranded if most or all of the engine’s coolant is lost. The engine will run on only half of its cylinders at a time, reduce its power and light a warning lamp on the dashboard so the driver can get to a service station for repairs. The RDX doesn’t offer a lost coolant limp home mode, so a coolant leak could strand you or seriously damage the truck’s engine.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Ford vehicles are better in initial quality than Acura vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Ford fourth in initial quality, above the industry average. With 27 more problems per 100 vehicles, Acura is ranked 24th, below the industry average.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Ford vehicles are more reliable than Acura vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Ford 16th in reliability. With 25 more problems per 100 vehicles, Acura is ranked 26th.


The Explorer’s standard 2.3 turbo 4 cyl. produces 28 more horsepower (300 vs. 272) and 30 lbs.-ft. more torque (310 vs. 280) than the RDX’s 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. The Explorer’s optional 3.3 DOHC V6 hybrid produces 46 more horsepower (318 vs. 272) and 42 lbs.-ft. more torque (322 vs. 280) than the RDX’s 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. The Explorer Platinum’s standard 3.0 turbo V6 produces 93 more horsepower (365 vs. 272) and 100 lbs.-ft. more torque (380 vs. 280) than the RDX’s 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. The Explorer ST’s standard 3.0 turbo V6 produces 128 more horsepower (400 vs. 272) and 135 lbs.-ft. more torque (415 vs. 280) than the RDX’s 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

Fuel Economy and Range

Regenerative brakes improve the Explorer Hybrid’s fuel efficiency by converting inertia back into energy instead of wasting it. The RDX doesn’t offer a regenerative braking system.

The Explorer Hybrid’s standard fuel tank has almost a gallon more fuel capacity than the RDX (18 vs. 17.1 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups. The Explorer V6 Turbo’s standard fuel tank has 3.1 gallons more fuel capacity than the RDX (20.2 vs. 17.1 gallons).

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the Explorer’s brake rotors are larger than those on the RDX:


Explorer ST

Explorer ST opt.


Front Rotors

13.6 inches

13.6 inches

14.3 inches

12.4 inches

Rear Rotors

12.4 inches

12.8 inches

13.8 inches

12.2 inches

The Explorer ST’s optional front and rear disc brakes are vented to help dissipate heat for shorter stops with less fading. The rear discs on the RDX are solid, not vented.

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the Explorer has larger standard tires than the RDX (255/65R18 vs. 235/55R19). The Explorer ST/Platinum’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the RDX (275/45R21 vs. 255/40R20).

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Explorer ST/Platinum offers optional 21-inch wheels. The RDX’s largest wheels are only 20-inches.

Having a flat tire is dangerous, inconvenient and expensive. The self-sealing tires available on the Explorer can automatically seal most punctures up to 3/16 of an inch, effectively preventing most flat tires. The RDX doesn’t offer self-sealing tires.

Suspension and Handling

The Explorer’s drift compensation steering can automatically compensate for road conditions which would cause the vehicle to drift from side to side, helping the driver to keep the vehicle straight more easily. The RDX doesn’t offer drift compensation steering.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Explorer’s wheelbase is 10.8 inches longer than on the RDX (119.1 inches vs. 108.3 inches).

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the Explorer is 2.7 inches wider in the front and 2.2 inches wider in the rear than on the RDX.


The front grille of the Explorer (except 3.3 V6 non-Hybrid) uses electronically controlled shutters to close off airflow and reduce drag when less engine cooling is needed. This helps improve highway fuel economy. The RDX doesn’t offer active grille shutters.

Passenger Space

The Explorer has standard seating for 7 passengers; the RDX can only carry 5.

The Explorer has 48.7 cubic feet more passenger volume than the RDX (152.7 vs. 104).

The Explorer has 1.1 inches more front headroom, 1.4 inches more front legroom, 4.2 inches more front hip room, 2.1 inches more front shoulder room, 2.2 inches more rear headroom, .6 inches more rear legroom, 9.2 inches more rear hip room and 5.3 inches more rear shoulder room than the RDX.

For enhanced passenger comfort on long trips the Explorer’s middle row seats recline. The RDX’s rear seats don’t recline.

Cargo Capacity

The Explorer’s cargo area provides more volume than the RDX.



Third Seat Folded

47.9 cubic feet


Third Seat Removed


31.1 cubic feet

Second Seat Folded

87.8 cubic feet

79.8 cubic feet


The Explorer’s standard towing capacity is much higher than the RDX’s (3000 vs. 1500 pounds). Maximum trailer towing in the Acura RDX is only 1500 pounds. The Explorer offers up to a 5600 lbs. towing capacity.

Servicing Ease

The engine in the Explorer is mounted longitudinally (North-South), instead of sideways, as in the RDX. This makes it easier to service and maintain, because the accessory belts are in front.


In case you lock your keys in your vehicle, or don’t have them with you, you can let yourself in using the Explorer’s exterior PIN entry system. The RDX doesn’t offer an exterior PIN entry system, and its AcuraLink can’t unlock the doors if the vehicle doesn’t have cell phone reception or the driver can’t contact the service.

To help drivers see further while navigating curves, the Explorer Platinum has standard adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle. The RDX doesn’t offer cornering lights.

To quickly and conveniently keep personal devices charged without cables tangling and wearing out, the Ford Explorer Limited/ST/Platinum has a standard wireless phone charging system (Qi) in the center console. The RDX doesn’t offer wireless personal charging.

The Explorer Limited/ST/Platinum has a 115-volt a/c outlet on the center console, allowing you to recharge a laptop or run small household appliances without special adapters that can break or get misplaced. The RDX doesn’t offer a house-current electrical outlet.

The Explorer ST/Platinum’s Active Park Assist 2.0 can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, starting, stopping and changing direction automatically. The RDX doesn’t offer an automated parking system.


The Ford Explorer outsold the Acura RDX by over four to one during 2018.

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

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