2019 Acura RDX First Review
A forerunner forges into the future…
When the first Acura RDX arrived for the 2007 model year, it could count its major rivals on one finger, and that finger pointed to the BMW X3. A little over a decade later, the once-niche segment of compact luxury SUVs is among the most competitive in the automotive industry.
Now, every major luxury brand has a compact SUV battling for the dollars of up-and-comers or those looking to downsize. The Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC (nee, GLK), Volvo XC60, Lexus NX, Infiniti QX50, and Jaguar F-Pace are among those eager for a piece of the action. But the RDX’s early entry firmly established it in the segment. Between that original version and the second generation that arrived in 2013, the RDX has sold more than 370,000 units in the U.S. and is one of the segment’s top sellers.
Now comes an all-new model, with the 2019 RDX marking the third generation of Acura’s premium crossover. Arriving on dealer lots this week, the RDX has fresh technology, enhanced safety features, striking design inside and out, and a few surprises. What hasn’t changed is the RDX’s impressive value for the dollar. We’ll get to that, but first let’s detail what else is new and compelling in the latest RDX.
…While returning to its roots
The all-new RDX is similar to the very first in terms of its power train. That’s because the 2019 RDX has swapped its former 3.5-liter V6 for a new, 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. This is similar to what almost every other rival has also done, and harkens back to the original RDX with its turbo-4. Moving from a V6 to a 4-cylinder enables better efficiency while not sacrificing power thanks to advancements that have made the smaller engines just as or more powerful than a traditional V6.
In the RDX, the new 4-cylinder engine makes nearly the same horsepower as the old V6–272 vs. the outgoing model’s 279–and a lot more torque. The new engine has a stout 280 lb-ft of torque, vs. the 252 in the outgoing model. The fuel efficiency improvement isn’t as drastic, but it’s an improvement nonetheless, increasing 1 mpg combined for both front- and all-wheel drive models.
And that brings us to the Acura’s all-wheel drive system. This latest RDX again boasts Acura’s Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD), which replaces the previous model’s simpler AWD system. SH-AWD differentiates itself with torque vectoring. Now in its fourth generation, Acura’s SH-AWD can send up to 70 percent of power to the rear wheels, and of that power, up to 100 percent can go to either rear wheel. This enables superior traction in wet or slippery environments, plus more of a sports-car feel.
Also new is the transmission. The first-gen RDX used a 5-speed automatic. Just over a decade later, that number has doubled, with the 2019 RDX among the latest new car to use a 10-speed automatic.
A host of other improvements are also part of the package, from Acura’s Integrated Dynamics System that allows you to adjust drive modes on the fly to sound-deadening materials and a host of active safety and driving equipment. Acura invited us to Whistler in British Columbia to get a first impression of the all-new RDX. Following are our first impressions.
Power in spades
As with its rivals, the RDX doesn’t feel as if it’s lost any bite despite losing two cylinders. Today’s turbocharged 4-cylinder powertrains are worthy substitutes for a naturally aspirated V6. And anything they might give up in smoothness they can potentially gain back in efficiency. If there’s one rub, it’s that 91-octane premium unleaded fuel is recommended–but that was also the case with the V6.
We found the RDX’s 272 horsepower plenty capable of getting this SUV up to speed, all with minimal turbo lag. It even sounds good doing it, putting out a throaty little growl. Acceleration and passing power feel right up there with the best of its competition.
As with so many other new cars, the 2019 Acura RDX luxury SUV is fitted with a fuel-saving idle start/stop system that turns off the engine at stop lights and other situations where the vehicle would otherwise idle. Restarts are smooth for the most part, and ultimately the system can be switched off via the press of a button.
This new RDX’s towing capacity is the same as the outgoing one, and at 1,500 pounds is on the light end of the scale among compact luxury SUVs. For comparison, the Audi Q5 is rated to tow up to 4,400 pounds, nearly three times that of the Acura.
Quartet of drive modes
Thanks to the new Integrated Dynamics System, this new RDX’s driving personality can be changed far more than the old one, which simply had either a “Drive” or “Sport” mode. This new one can be switched between Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Snow modes. Toggling between the modes optimizes the powertrain and other systems for the task at hand. For example, in Sport+ mode the new RDX holds gears longer and tweaks the throttle response, while the Snow mode tames them for optimal traction.
We particularly like the steering feel, both in general and in the sportier settings. Acura’s engineers have been able to tune it to feel stiffer and tighter, yet not artificial.
As for the 10-speed automatic transmission, we found it good to very good in our initial test drive. These new transmissions are meant to emphasize fuel efficiency, especially in the higher gears, yet have the ability to kick down several gears when needed. In driving these pre-production models, the 10-speed transmission did indeed work as planned. Perhaps most importantly, the transmission did its job mostly unnoticed. I personally found it smoother than many of the 9-speed setups out there.
If there was one soft spot–literally–in the models we tested, it was initial brake feel. This is not to be confused with function, but feel. When initially pressing the pedal, there is a soft spot before engagement occurs. Over half a day, we tested three different RDX models and all had this to some extent.
Acura reps say the RDX was actually made this way on purpose, and that this new setup was tuned to prioritize pedal force rather than pedal stroke. I and some other car reviewers found it slightly awkward. Others, however, said they didn’t even notice it. If you’re the sort of driver who is hyper-aware of pedal feel–both for throttle tip-in and the linearity of a brake pedal–it’s something to be aware of when you test-drive the new RDX. We are eager to spend more time in an actual production model to see if it’s something that feels normal after a while, as Acura reps say is the case. Ultimately, stopping is secure, and in simulated emergency stops the RDX felt just as good or better than its rivals.
Sporty A-Spec variant
Unlike many of its rivals, the new Acura RDX has only one engine choice. That means no high-performance variant like an Audi SQ5 or Mercedes-AMG GLC 43, nor is there a hybrid option, as with the Volvo XC60 (or the RDX’s MDX big brother).
What the RDX does offer, though, is an A-Spec variant. Available with either front- or all-wheel drive, the new RDX A-Spec isn’t any more powerful than the standard model, but does bolster its sportiness with 20-inch wheels, LED fog lights, blacked-out exterior elements, and larger exhaust finishers.
Safety and driver-assistance features
One of the best attributes about the new RDX is its roster of safety and driving systems, collectively known as AcuraWatch, and standard on every model. The suite bundles forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, road-departure mitigation, and adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow.
Included on Technology trims and higher is a blind-spot monitoring system, along with front and rear parking sensors. Advance models are further enhanced with a surround-view camera system, another first for the RDX.
Newfound exterior styling
This third-generation RDX has grown over the outgoing model, but only modestly. At 186.8 inches, it is 2.4 inches longer than the model it replaces. Even smaller increases are seen in its width and height. At 3,783 pounds, base curb weight has increased by 46 pounds.
Beyond the numbers, the new Acura RDX has a striking new design. As with the larger MDX crossover and the TLX and RLX sedans, this latest RDX begins with Acura’s diamond pentagon grille and finishes with C-shaped taillights and what the brand describes as a “dragon tail flourish.” Between them are plenty of sharp creases, muscular haunches, and distinctive rear D-pillar that makes the roof appear to float.
As mentioned earlier, A-Spec models amp up the attitude with larger wheels, matte black grille, and other darkened aesthetics. All in all, it adds up to the most elegant looking RDX to date.
Arguably even more impressive, especially on upper trims, is the RDX’s new 5-passenger interior. It’s obvious a lot of thought went into making the new RDX’s cabin one of the best in its class. This new RDX looks futuristic with a center console that uses buttons for its transmission and a prominent dial that is used to select drive modes. At the top of the dash is a 10.2-inch high-definition display that is controlled by the new True Touchpad Interface.
The RDX has always had comfortable, supportive seats, and that also has been taken to the next level in this new model. Top-trim Advance models boast 16-way power-adjustable front seats, including side bolsters that allow a variety of body shapes and sizes to be comfortable. All other models have 12-way power seats. The rear seats have good legroom that tops that of rivals like the Audi Q5 and Mercedes GLC.
Unseen yet equally appreciated is plenty of sound-deadening material and an acoustic glass windshield, the latter a first for RDX. Advance models up the ante by using the sound-squashing glass on the front doors. The results are real, with the RDX boasting an impressively quiet cabin that feels a class-above. All models come with an ultra-wide panoramic moonroof, which helps the cabin feel even roomier.
True Touchpad Interface
With this new Acura comes an all-new infotainment system. The True Touchpad Interface may look like others out there, specifically the one used by Lexus, but it acts differently. Like the Lexus interface, the driver uses a finger to trace and tap the surface, akin to a computer track pad. The difference, however, and where the “True Touchpad” part comes in, is simple and ingenious at the same time: Where your finger is on the pad corresponds to the spot on the screen.
For example, if you want to tap a command for an icon in the upper right of the screen, simply tap the upper right of the pad. Same goes for lower left, center, etc. After using it, we marveled that this good idea hadn’t already come.
The new RDX comes with Apple CarPlay integration. Android Auto isn’t available at launch, but Acura reps say that will change down the road when the system is compatible with the touch-pad system. Other impressive aspects of the infotainment system include 4G LTE and Wi-Fi connectivity, a super-sounding 16-speaker ELS audio system (A-Spec and Advance trims) and a giant, 10.5-inch head-up display (Advance trim only).
The RDX is among the tops in its class in not just cargo capacity, but how it uses the space. With the rear seats up, the Acura’s compact luxury crossover has 31.1 cubic feet of space, a 5-foot increase over the outgoing model. With the rear seats folded, there’s 79.8 cubic feet of storage, a 2.9-foot increase.
Under the rear floor, there are several spaces of different sizes to store items you want to hide. Acura created the space by moving the spare tire on AWD models to below the vehicle. Front-drive models, meanwhile, get a tire-inflator kit.
Value and luxury
It’s not often that “value” and “luxury” coincide, but in the 2019 RDX they are happy partners. With a price that starts at $38,295 and spans to $48,395, the new RDX undercuts rivals, notably its European competition, by several thousand dollars
Throw in a history of good resale value and the stellar reliability of Honda, Acura’s mainstream parent, and the new RDX appears ready for even more sales success and buyer satisfaction in its all-new third generation.
2019 Acura RDX Specs
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 272 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 280 lb-ft @ 1,600-4,500 rpm
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive (standard), all-wheel drive (optional)
Towing capacity: 1,500 pounds
Wheelbase: 108.3 in
Length: 186.8 in
Width: 74.8 in
Height: 65.7 in
Ground clearance: 8.2 in
Trims, Specs and Sticker Prices
The 2019 Acura RDX is available in four trims: base, Technology Package, A-Spec Package, and Advance Package. All trims come with front-wheel drive or Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive for $2,000 more.
Starting price: $38,295 (all prices here include the $995 destination charge)
Power tailgate with height adjustment
AcuraWatch active safety and driver-assistance suite
9-speaker/350-watt premium audio system with AM/FM/HD Radio, Sirius XM, Apple CarPlay
10.2-inch high-def center display with True Touchpad Interface
19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels
Dual-zone climate control
12-way power front seats
Heated front seats
Auto-dimming rearview mirror
Automatic high beam
HomeLink universal garage remote
Acura RDX w/ Technology Package
Starting price: $41,495
(Adds to or improves on prior trim)
Navigation system with voice recognition and real-time traffic
Perforated leather-trimmed seats
Front and rear parking sensors
12-speaker Acura ELS Studio audio system
Rear USB charge ports
Acura RDX w/ A-Spec Package
Starting price: $44,495
Darkened exterior trim, front & rear fascia and other elements
20-inch aluminum-alloy wheel
Enlarged exhaust tips
16-speaker Acura ELS Studio 3D audio system
Exclusive leather sports seats with Ultrasuede inserts
Heated and ventilated front seats
LED fog lights
Acura RDX w/ Advance Package
Starting price: $46,495
Active damper system
16-way power front seats
Rear heated seats
Genuine wood trim
Auto-dimming side mirrors
Heated steering wheel
Rain-sensing windshield wipers
More New and Redesigned Models for 2019