When Acura said that they were bringing back a performance focus to their lineup, I hoped that would translate to SUVs. The Precision Concept alluded to a future sexy car but instead, Acura went bold delivering a SUV as the first realization of the concept.
The best-selling Acura model, the RDX, features a muscular exterior with sculpted lines that exude a performance focus. It was designed around the front fascia of the Precision Concept, and contains strong accent lines that draw the eye to the rear from the aggressive grille. It looks like it’s ready to pounce on the road rather than just drive on it.
The 2019 RDX is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine that is mated to the same 10-speed automatic transmission. The same transmission is used in the Honda Odyssey but Acura has tuned it differently for the SUV.
Working together, the engine and transmission generate 272 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque with more torque available right off the line than in the previous model. The configuration works delivering the acceleration you want to make the SUV fun to drive, but it won’t be mistaken for a Porsche Cayenne Turbo anytime soon.
Four drive modes are available via a large knob in the center stack, making your experience behind the wheel more customizable. Drivers can choose from Snow, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ dynamic drive systems.
The RDX is available in front-wheel drive or Acura’s hallmark Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) with dynamic torque vectoring. The automaker estimates front-wheel drive models will achieve 22 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway while all-wheel drive models will see a slight slip to 21 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.
In more traditional driving situations, the RDX handles the road well, delivering a smooth ride with little body lean. The winding roads of Whistler, British Columbia, Canada were no match for the RDX during my test drive, with the RDX feeling comfortably planted even around the tightest turns at speeds a bit faster than the average driver may take them.
Bumpy roads, grocery store parking lot speed humps, and dirt roads are also no match for the RDX’s suspension, which delivers a smooth ride to the vehicle’s passengers. Hardly any road noise is passed along either, a marked improvement from the last generation RDX.
The cabin materials choices that Acura was questioned about in the last generation RDX have been upgraded for the new model, solidly placing it in the midlevel luxury category. The SUV’s cabin is not as sleek and doesn’t features materials that are as supple as some BMW or Mercedes-Benz models but what it does offer is exceptional for the vehicle’s price point.
The RDX’s seats are comfortable, if a tad sporty thanks to their Acura NSX design heritage. The SUV easily seats four adults and surrounds them with premium, authentic materials like brushed aluminum, olive ash wood, and full-grain leather. Unlike in other SUVs, Acura has given the same seat to the driver as they have the front passenger. Seating adjustments aren’t very intuitive but once you get the hang of it (hint: look at the display screen as you touch the buttons), it’s easy to find a comfortable position.
The 2019 RDX offers best-in-class cargo space behind the rear seats, second row legroom, second row knee clearance, front row shoulder room, and front row head clearance, according to materials provided by Acura.
An underfloor cargo storage space under the floor of the rear cargo area allows owners to hide and secure purchases they wished to have out of sight. This does not come at the expense of a spare tire, thanks to some innovative engineering. All-wheel drive models only have a flat cargo floor.
The big news with the RDX’s interior is its new True Touchpad Interface, which is a new way to interact with a display screen while in a vehicle. Using a touchpad on the center console, a driver or front seat passenger can control the 10.2-inch high-definition display screen, which is located high on the center stack, right in the line of sight of the driver. The touchpad works like a tablet, allowing the user to touch a spot on the pad and immediately get to the selection without having to trace a touch as you would if the touchpad operated more like a mouse.
The interface is extremely intuitive to use. The biggest challenge you’ll encounter is eliminating your desire to drag your finger to a selection rather than just touch and go. I did find the deep press required to select a portion of the screen rather cumbersome. I would have preferred a lighter touch, like the weight used on a traditional tablet, but it did work as advertised.
Apple CarPlay comes standard in the RDX but Android Auto is not available because Google has not yet developed a touchpad interface for their program. Rest assured, one is in the works.
Current RDX owners will be happy to see that Acura has put hard climate control and seat warmer buttons in the new generation RDX. They are easily reachable and perform their designated functions as advertised.
A new head-up display is customizable, allowing drivers to determine what they see projected on the road ahead.
The RDX comes with only one powertrain but three packages. Acura estimates that most buyers will purchase the RDX with the Tech package, which includes navigation, an upgraded audio system, high tech safety equipment, and full-grain leather seats among other features. The A-Spec model adds a sporty appearance package to the well-equipped RDX. The RDX with the Advance package is the top-of-the-line model and checks every box.
How much for the RDX? Compared to the BMW X3, Audi Q5, and Mercedes-Benz GLC, it’s cheap. The 2019 RDX starts at $37,300 (all-wheel drive adds $2,000). Fully equipped it’s $47,400 (all-wheel drive is an additional $2,000). Most of the Germans run upwards of $9,000 more for similarly equipped models. The RDX also comes with more standard safety equipment.
The American-made 2019 Acura RDX is assembled at Honda’s East Liberty Auto Plant in Ohio.
The RDX offers plenty of what you need and a lot of what you want. Acura will likely sell oodles of them, as they well should. If you’re thinking about updating the compact SUV in your garage and want something nicer than your average mass market crossover that offers many luxury appointments in a budget-friendly package, the RDX is worth a test drive.