Quick question: How do you overhaul a top-selling model in your product lineup? Short answer: In a way that doesn’t screw things up!
Engine: 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder
Output: 272 hp, 280 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
U.S. Fuel Economy (MPG/A-Spec AWD): 21 city, 26 hwy, 23 combined
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): Not Yet Rated
U.S. As-Tested Price: $46,495 including $995 for delivery
CAN Estimated Price: $65,000
Long query: What did Acura have to do when developing its 2019 RDX compact utility vehicle for it to continue outselling major rivals while simultaneously elevating this Japanese luxury brand in a crowded market rife with excellent competition?
Lengthier rejoinder: Engineers and designers alike added more features and amenities, improved overall performance, further refined the driving dynamics, amplified interior luxury and added more cargo capacity, all while developing a brand-new vehicle architecture that’s exclusive to the brand. Oh, and they didn’t forget about style, either. Basically, they didn’t screw it up!
Dressed to Impress
Phew, that’s no easy task! Alluding to the comprehensive improvements made both underneath and inside, the 2019 RDX can hold its chin high while mingling with rivals like the BMW X3, Volvo XC60, and Audi Q5, thanks to chic new looks. The vehicle’s exterior design is energetic yet mature, offering just enough aggression to be interesting without straying into over-the-top Lexus territory.
This is the Acura brand’s first ground-up implementation of its latest design theme, which was presaged several years ago on its Precision Concept car that debuted at the Detroit Auto Show. The signature element of this new look is that unmistakable diamond pentagon grille, which dominates the vehicle’s front end, flanked by standard LED Jewel Eye headlamps that are comprised of seven individual lighting elements that provide a high-tech look.
The RDX is also available in A-Spec form, making it the first Acura utility vehicle offered with such a sport-appearance package. This gives it an even more aggressive look thanks to the addition of things like Shark Grey 20-inch wheels, dark-tinted lamp housings, gloss black garnish moldings, larger diameter exhaust tips and more.
Heart of (High-Strength) Steel
As it goes with practically every vehicle redesign, the RDX has grown slightly compared to its predecessor. Overall, it’s two inches and change longer (6.1 cm) and 1.1 inches (2.8 cm) wider with a wheelbase that’s been stretched by 2.6 inches (6.6 cm).
Made of more than 50 percent high-strength steel, the brand-new architecture this crossover rides atop is stiffer, safer and better at attenuating undesirable noise and harshness than before. In addition to all that, there’s 3.4 cubic feet (96 liters) of additional storage space behind the rear seats (making for a total of 31.1) along with 1.7 (48 liters) available in an underfloor cubby. Fold those backrests down and you get just shy of 80 cubes (2,260 liters). Honda engineers truly are masters of packaging efficiency.
More Luxury Than Ever
Providing a far more luxurious experience than before, designers have pushed this vehicle’s cabin to new heights, chiefly by including more genuine materials, things like brushed aluminum, open-pore wood trim, and even Ultrasuede accents, but also by adding innovative new technology.
As in other Acura models, the dashboard shape is swooping and futuristic, though I question why the drive-mode selector needed to be so prominent. It dominates the center stack like a silver-painted clown nose, an unusual place for something most owners will probably never fiddle with.
A 16-speaker ELS sound system is also available, providing a premium listening experience. For higher sound quality, four of those speakers are mounted on the headliner where they help provide a rich listening experience.
Dramatically increasing comfort, the front buckets are brand new and can be trimmed with luxurious Milano leather in fancier models. With ultra-high-strength steel frames and up to 16-way adjustability, they should be the most comfortable seats ever installed in an Acura product, at least according to company representatives. After hours of sitting, they were indeed quite soothing.
A panoramic moonroof is standard in every one of the RDX’s four (eight if you count all-wheel-drive variants) core models, a welcome feature. Additionally, there’s plenty of backseat space in all three dimensions, making this vehicle a competent people hauler, though if you’ve got more than four passengers to carry and absolutely must drive an Acura you’ll have to step up to the brand’s larger MDX, which offers a third row.
Along with its fresh design, enhanced amenities, new architecture and updated cabin, the RDX also gains a totally revamped Android-based infotainment system. The company’s advanced True Touchpad Interface features a laptop-like control surface that’s within easy reach on the center console.
The biggest innovation here is the implementation of absolute positioning for the trackpad. This means it’s mapped one-to-one with the display, so if you click on the lower right corner it does the same on the screen, something that makes it feel responsive and natural.
As for the user interface, it comes alive on a crisp and bright 10.2-inch screen perched on top the dashboard, one that’s divided into two sections. The main portion is at left, while on the right there’s a smaller section that’s scrolled vertically by a separate part of the touchpad. This is where various shortcuts reside for things like navigation or date and time.
True Touchpad Interface’s main menu pages are highly customizable. You can pin contacts and radio presets, address and other items there without much fuss, or remove everything if you so desire.
After using it sporadically, I think this system shows promise, though it seemed a little finicky at times. I couldn’t tell if it was being cantankerous of if the operator just didn’t know what he was doing. I’ll reserve official judgment on the True Touchpad Interface until I have more time with it. Simply put, it’s promising.
All RDXs are powered by a 2.0-liter turbo-four that’s rated at 272 horsepower and 280 foot-pounds of torque. This engine is matched exclusively to a 10-speed automatic transmission.
The gearbox does an admirable job keeping that four-banger on a rolling boil when necessary and minimizing fuel burn when you’re just trundling along. Even though shifts are quick, either up or down, they aren’t always the smoothest, which is a shame since the rest of the powertrain is so nicely dialed in.
There’s not much choice under this vehicle’s hood, though you do have one major drivetrain option. Once again, Acura’s torque-vectoring Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive system is available, a $2,000 upcharge on every trim level. It helps the RDX drive better both on road and off, routing up to 70 percent of the engine’s torque to the rear axle and 100 percent of that to either wheel, enhancing agility and control in the process. But perhaps best of all, since this technology is constantly shuffling twist between all four wheels, there’s never any torque steer, a common problem high-power, front-drive-based vehicles.
The RDX accelerates briskly, never wanting for power even while storming up mountain roads. Its engine belts out pleasing mechanical noises under load, though some of its music is synthesized through the sound system’s speakers.
A variable-ratio dual-pinion electric-assisted power steering setup controls the front wheels, providing decent weighting and feedback, certainly enough communication with the driver for a crossover vehicle. The A-Spec Acura RDX’s ride is always taut and well controlled, even with fixed shock absorbers. Versions equipped with the top-of-range Advance Package come fitted with adaptive dampers as standard equipment. They can adjust in a mere two-thousandths of a second to varying road conditions, delivering a controlled ride that’s driver-selectable.
When it comes to efficiency, A-Spec all-wheel-drive models sticker at 21 miles per gallon city, 26 highway and 23 combined. A base, front-driver is slightly more economical, being rated at 22 and 28, with an estimated average of 24.
Pick Your Poison
Helping broaden its appeal, the RDX is offered in a wide array of models. Focusing on front-wheel-drive variants, an entry-level version stickers for $38,295. Sporty A-Spec models sit at the upper end of the midrange and can be had for $44,495. A top-level version with the Advance Package goes for a still-not-unreasonable $45,400. All three of these prices include $995 in destination fees. If you want greater traction and improved handling, SH-AWD is available in every version of the RDX for an additional $2,000.
The Verdict: 2019 Acura RDX Review
Closing question: Should you buy a 2019 Acura RDX?
Final answer: There are no major reasons not to and plenty of good ones why you should if you’re already shopping the compact luxury-crossover segment.