Faceoff Lite: 2007 BMW X3 vs. 2007 Acura RDX

Rdxbmw1

Crossing paths in the Cars.com fleet of cars were two compact luxury SUVs that have an interesting relationship. One, the BMW X3, was meant to take advantage of a gap in the luxury SUV market, and many automotive journalists thought the effort from BMW was a tad rushed. The other SUV, the Acura RDX, was developed with one thought in mind: Beat the X3 in every way. BMW added a few new bells and whistles this year, including some minor plastic surgery inside and out. But can it fight off the newcomer?

Kelsey Mays and I took them both on, and here’s what we made of the new rivalry.

Looks

Rdxbmwrear2

DT: I like me a BMW as much as the next all-American car guy, but the RDX has some attractive angles, especially the rear. Around back, the X3 surrenders the macho look it has from the front and loses the battle for me.

KM: I’m not crazy about either car. The RDX looks sharp until you see the bumpers, which, together with the oversized fenders, make the Acura look bloated. The Bimmer isn’t much better. Its European lines look pieced together, with one panel wedged against another. The rear end, for example, has five separate sections between the window and the lower bumper. Still, I prefer its classic look to the overdone RDX, so I’ll give it a weak nod.

Edge: Tie

Performance

Rdxbmw2

DT: I drove the RDX a lot more than the X3 — some Suburban Dad took it for a night — but the BMW’s 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder felt more muscular at all times, and even in our faux drag racing the jump it got on the RDX was extreme. The RDX’s turbo is still a fun little engine, though, and on its own would actually sell me on the car. I also think it felt the most like a sports car, if that’s possible in an SUV.

KM: While the X3 outruns the RDX, its six-speed automatic could use some work. It consistently shifts into second way too early — possibly an anomaly with our test car, but a concern nonetheless. Ultimately, the X3’s direct steering and nimble chassis response won me over. Despite its cutting-edge all-wheel-drive system — which kept the tires impressively grounded through a series of twisty turns — the RDX’s steering response almost felt sloppy in comparison.

Edge: X3

Interior/Ergonomics

Bmwinterior

DT: The leather in the BMW is far classier than the Acura and gives a better feeling of luxury, but it should. The X3 starts for around $5,000 more than the Acura. I didn’t like either navigation setup, but the Acura won because it actually worked, while we couldn’t get the X3 to cancel a past destination even after reading the instructions in one of the 10 included manualsthe RDX only had six. The seats were comfortable in both, and there was surprising leg and headroom in the second rows of seats as well. BMW lost a point for putting its auxiliary plug behind the center console, making it nearly impossible to reach while driving.

KM: I found the X3’s cabin formal and inviting. Materials quality is flawless, though some of the controls could use better execution. The RDX’s all-black interior is more exciting, but it’s overwhelming in some areas — the stereo, for example, has enough tiny labels to require a new eyeglass prescription. The X3 offers a skosh more legroom in back, while the RDX’s rear seat sits higher for better forward visibility. I wanted to give the X3 the overall nod, as it’s simply in another class for cabin quality. But it’s in another price class, too. For the cash I save, the Acura suits me just fine.

Edge: RDX

Winner

Rdxfront

DT: No question the $32,995 Acura whoops the BMW’s base $38,000 price tag while delivering an exciting driving experience all its own. When you consider the test X3 had so many options its sticker topped $47,000, and the Acura goes fully loaded with navigation for $36,500, it’s clear which car will win over your accountant. Even the most spoiled of car buyers probably would take that $50K elsewhere, even to the larger BMW X5. The Acura is a lot of car for the money, while the BMW is a lot of money for the car.

KM: Our loaded X3 included all the spoils of luxury — heated rear seats, 16-way power adjustment up front, a heated steering wheel and a panoramic moonroof, all of which the RDX lacked. But the Acura provides value in a way the BMW can’t touch: It has most of the goodies one would expect in a sensible luxury SUV, plus a decent engine and plenty of safety features. And it costs $5,000 less than the cheapest X3. Dollar for dollar, Acura wins this one.

You can compare the Acura RDX and BMW X3 to other cars in their class using Cars.com’s new comparison tool. Check it out here.

Related:
The Urban DINK: Acura RDX

By David Thomas | January 26, 2007 | Comments (12)

Comments 

In terms of looks, how is it that both testers give the nod to the RDX but it still manages to be a tie?

segfault

Don't most of BMW's automatics start off in second gear (for fuel economy reasons) unless you really nail the throttle?

The Audis I've driven have a readout for the six-speed automatic (when it's in "D"), but it appears that their readout sometimes lies--saying you're in sixth gear even when the transmission feels like it's downshifted to fifth.

Actually, I gave the X3 the nod for looks.

Segfault, of the BMWs I've driven, some start in second (7 Series, for example) while others begin in first. What's troublesome about the X3 is that while it appears to begin in first, it shifts to second as low as 1,500 rpm. Even under strong acceleration, it won't stay in first past 3,000 rpm unless you put the pedal near the floor -- and just above 3,000 rpm is where the engine's VVT starts to work its magic. So you get comparatively poky acceleration at first, followed by a sudden rush of power as second gear suddenly throws you into the engine's sweet(er) spot. Not the smoothest setup.

Bear in mind this is something that could be an anomaly for our test car. Before the full review goes up next week, rest assured we'll investigate further.

Tor

Reasons for buying an X3 over a 330 wagon:

1. Off-road capability
2. High seating
3. Fashion
4. ???? help me out...residuals maybe?

1 is a useless argument for most people. 3 is all about vanity. That leaves 2 as the rational argument. I can think of many rational arguments in favor of the wagon, which is why in Europe where gas prices matter the X3 loses.

As for styling. Edge: RDX.
The X3 looks like modern art sliced all the wrong ways with a sharp knife. But styling is subjective.

I went out yesterday and looked at these and a few others such as the Volvo V50.

The X3 was ok, but I'm a tech geek and the RDX just made my jaw drop. One note about the comment in the review about small audio controls. My perception is that there are so many ways to control the audio system (the touch screen and i-drive sort of knob on the center console, voice command, and steering wheel buttons) that i think they felt the actual radio controls would not be used that much. Same with the climate.

MikeW

Maybe it is a problem with GM's 6 speed automatic, or just the calibration from being so overly short geared. BMW gave up the near perfect ZF 6hp19 for the not so perfect GM 6L50.

Try the Sport mode setting.

Jake

The X3 starts out in D2. You can view this by switching to the manual mode. The X3 will downshift if you get on the gas from the line, otherwise starting from 2 allows better fuel economy and a smoother acceleration. If starting from 2nd is a big deal, slide the shifter to the left and slide it forward, and in 1st you are.

My one-day drive of the 2007 model revealed that the MDX retains all the positive attributes for which Acuras are known for plus it has improve on its performance aspects like the engine control and the centerforce clutch system works very smoothly.

Jeff

If the 1-2 upshift so early is, it is because of the BMW shift lines, not because of the GM´s 6 speed transmission calibration !

The cars can be reflashed to correct this problem.

jay r

another sample of bmw x3 bashers. i owned mine for almost two years now and all i can say is quality vs. wannabes. i rather go for the quality.

500lbman

If you think the Acura is the better car you are crazy. The RDX is a Honda CR-V. That's right, a $25000 SUV. The rear liftgate and bumper are LITERALLY covers to go over the actual CR-V internals. Have you tried folding the rear seats down in the CR...RDX? The hardware holding the rear seat bottoms together is an absolute joke. The high-tech all-wheel drive system? It's a front wheel drive system that engages the rear wheels when it needs them. The motor? It's the same 2.4L that goes in the Accord, the Element, and the CR-V, just has a small turbo charger added because 166hp doesn't belong in the luxury segment. The Xenon headlights? They are not Bi-Xenons with angle leveling, they are fixed, low-beam Xenons. If you are carrying cargo, you will blind oncomming drivers because the lights will shining towards the sky.

If you want the fake luxury SUV that is built using as many shortcuts as possible, buy a piece of crap Acura. And I'm not even a BMW guy, I'm a Mercedes-Benz guy. The Japanese cannot touch anything the Germans build. Did you know that Acura does not exist outside of the USA. It is a MARKETING ploy to sell Hondas as luxury SUVs. Wake up people!

Marc

To the moron above me, the BMWs are not even durable you when it comes to engines you know why? Because after 90,000k they start giving you problems, those engine are too weak compare to a Honda.That's why rich people buy them and trade them every year for a newer model, they can't keep them for more than a year. Honda engines are built to last longer. And also get your facts straight, the crv, accord and element have different engine they are 2.4 motors compare to the turbo 2.3 that the RDX have. Mercedes are ridiculous cars, you should do your research about it haha.

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