All-new, the 2019 Acura RDX is a fresh take on an already excellent crossover.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Pricing: 2019 Acura RDX
Base price (Platinum Elite trim): $54,990
Price as tested: $54,990
Acura’s RDX has had quite a journey. It started out as a performance-oriented crossover. With its outstanding all-wheel drive system and relatively powerful turbo engine, it found fans everywhere – but suffered from a serious lack of interior space and terrible fuel economy. The next generation saw the RDX grow up. With significantly more room inside and a delightful V6 (with better mileage), it seemed that Acura was listening to what the masses wanted. Of course, the fans of the first generation were no fans of the second. Along comes the latest generation RDX which tries to appease both sides.
While I liked the previous RDX’s exterior, it was nothing to get excited about. I’m happy that Acura allowed their designers some freedom again, as the new RDX gets some much-needed boldness and aggressiveness. The front end in particular is stunning, with its wide, gaping openings (sadly, some of these are fake), LED head lights and driving lights and that fantastic Diamond Pentagon grille. The rear end is handsome too although a tad more staid – but I do love those “dragon tail” LED tail lights and the big, beveled exhaust tips.
The fenders, the character line that draws up the side and even the hood – everything seemed to get the benefit of some sculpting. And I like how it turned out. The vehicle has true stance, even more so in the A Spec trim, and the selection of wheels (my review RDX sported 19s with 235/55-sized rubber) is lovely.
The all-new interior is at once more luxurious, comfortable and connected than before. The materials are beautiful – between the textured soft-touch surfaces, authentic wood trim and clean, sculpted lines, it feels like nothing got missed. The fit and finish appeared to be flawless.
The driving position is excellent, and so are the perforated leather seats. They are heated, cooled, ridiculously adjustable (including lumbar, thigh and kidney bolsters), comfortable and supportive. The heated steering wheel feels great in hand. Behind it sits a set of analog gauges – between them is a well thought out digital driver information screen.
Jutting out of the dash is a beautiful 10.2″ display. It handles your vehicle settings, phone and navigation – and controls the stunning 16-speaker ELS Studio 3D sound system, which even has ceiling-mounted speakers. Apple CarPlay works beautifully (apparently Android Auto is coming at some point in the future). The voice recognition is quite good but doesn’t work for everything. And that brings me to two (of the very few) qualms I had with the RDX.
Acura’s new True Touchpad Interface uses absolute positioning. That means wherever you touch the pad is where the action on the display happens. In theory that sounds great, but it’s a learning curve and didn’t feel natural to me. Also, that means that the “cursor” won’t stay there – if you forget to push down when you’ve reached your destination on the screen, the highlighted area just disappears and you’ve got to start over. It’s certainly a new, unique approach and one that I barely got used to during my week using it. I also found the second tall-n-skinny touchpad on the right side irritating – as far as I could tell, it was the only way to interact with the right side of the screen, and thus the RDX’s phone functions. There are no steering wheel based pick-up and hang-up buttons. It seems more complicated than it needs to be – an answer for a question that nobody asked.
While I’m complaining, I was actually shocked to find no wireless charging capability in this top-line RDX. A strange omission, considering this is a brand-new, technologically-advanced vehicle and because Acura already has this feature in other models. Totally weird and something I was not OK with.
My RDX was loaded up with driver assistance tech. A crisp colour heads-up display, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, collision mitigation braking, lane keep assist and lane departure warning, road departure mitigation, blind spot monitoring and a rear cross traffic alert system. There’s a 360-degree surround camera too with guide/trajectory lines as well as parking sensors all around. You even get a rear camera washer nozzle. The remote starter is a nice touch.
The heated rear seats are very comfortable and were quite roomy – at 5’10”, I had numerous inches to spare when it came to head and leg room, while sitting behind my own driving position. Even the middle position works for an adult passenger which is a pleasant surprise in this class. Rear passengers get adjustable air vents with a temperature control, 2 USB charging ports and a centre seatback that folds down to become an armrest with cupholders.
Sitting in the back feels airy and bright thanks to the ultra-wide panoramic sunroof overhead that extends over the rear seats. There are two LATCH anchors for child seats.
I loved the beautiful wood-panelled scrolling lid that covers two cupholders and a storage bin (with a USB plug) in the centre console. Behind that is the armrest – under its lid is another bin. There’s legit storage space underneath the console, accessible from both sides. Here you’ll find another USB plug, a 12V port and the auxiliary input.
The trunk gets a power tailgate and hands-free access. It has a high load floor and feels huge – there’s also notable underfloor storage for a total of 881L. The rear seats split 60/40 and fold flat and that results in a massive 2,260L cargo space.
Under the Hood
There’s plenty of new stuff under the sheet metal too. The RDX gets a new turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder that puts out 272 HP and delivers 280 lb.ft of torque at only 1,600 RPM. All that goodness makes its way to all four corners via a new 10-speed automatic transmission.
Acura rates it at 11/8.6 L/100 km hwy/city. We ended up with an average of 11.2 L/100 km which is quite impressive considering how much power is available, and that we made no effort to conserve fuel.
That new little 4-cylinder provides plenty of motivation – off the line and whenever you need it. I liked that even though it has tremendous power when you step on it (unfortunately it doesn’t sound great when you do that), it’s also just as happy loping around town at slow speeds. The Integrated Dynamics System is a dial-based driving mode selector, allowing you to choose between Snow, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ modes. Each had a distinctive character, and impacted the vehicle’s responsiveness quite a bit. Putting the transmission into Reverse, Drive or Park uses a variety of push buttons and a pull lever. I’m not a big fan, but Honda/Acura seems to have made up their mind to stick with this system. The transmission is smooth, and was mostly in the right gear – occasionally I’d wish for it to stay in a slightly lower cog, but that was rare and easily remedied in sportier drive modes. You can shift with paddles if you like, and there’s a Sport mode for the transmission too.
Handling is the RDX’s trump card. Considering how high the driving position is, it positively carves the corners. It never complained when we would throw it into an urban corner or a curve, even if we were going too fast, and it absolutely devours cloverleaf merges, onto and off of the freeway. Yet the ride always stays comfortable – it is confidently firm, yet supple enough to swallow big hits and dips. This is all thanks to a superbly engineered adaptive suspension – you need to step up to the top-line Elite Platinum trim to get it though.
The torque-vectoring Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) is outstanding. We pushed the RDX hard on some slick, wet surfaces and it was very obviously working hard behind the scenes as the vehicle stayed well-controlled and seemed unflappable.
Visibility out of the RDX is good, and the brakes are very effective. A special shout-out to those 7 LED lamp head lights – they are fantastic for night driving.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was very high. She liked how it looked, how it drove and how the interior felt. She did not appreciate the touchpad interface.
It isn’t cheap – if that’s an issue, you can easily step down from this Platinum Elite to the Elite trim, save thousands and get almost everything I had in this Platinum one.
If the 2019 RDX shows where Acura is headed, the future is bright indeed. I felt more of the original Acura DNA in this vehicle than I have in any other Acura for quite a long time. It felt athletic but comfortable. Fun but safe. Sporty but practical. Modern but familiar. Evocative but reasonable. I loved the balance between all those things – that’s what I want in a crossover. Short of a few minor quibbles, Acura absolutely hit it out of the park here and I would seriously consider the RDX for my family.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Acura Canada.
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