By Christopher A. Randazzo
For the 2019 model year, Acura released their all-new 3rd-generation RDX – the brands entry in the compact luxury crossover SUV market. The RDX first appeared in 2006, built on the same platform as the Honda CR-V, but this all-new RDX strays away from the Honda underpinnings and takes on an identity all of its own.
Recently I had an opportunity to drive a white diamond pearl 2020 Acura RDX which is essentially a carryover from the 2019 model year, with no significant changes.
This new RDX, which is slightly larger than the model it replaced, is the first to be entirely designed and constructed here in the US. It’s bold, angular look strikes a nice balance between sporty and luxurious. The biggest styling difference is the absence of the “beak” in the grille – where the RDX now adopts Acura’s new “diamond pentagon” grille.
Under the hood, the new RDX goes back to its roots – to some degree. The first RDXs were powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder. For the last generation, Acura ditched it in favor of a smoother, more powerful V6. Now, as the trend turns to small turbo engines, so does this third gen RDX. Using a 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder, the RDX make 272 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. Compared to the V6 – horsepower is down by 7, but torque is up a good amount, from 252 to 280 – so this new RDX should feel more powerful. A ten-speed automatic is the sole transmission, and the RDX is available in both front- and all-wheel-drive configurations; the latter sees the return of Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system (SH-AWD).
Inside, the RDX features an advance and complicated cabin that technogeeks will appreciate. The centerpiece is the infotainment system which uses Acura’s new “True Touchpad Interface”. Using a 10.2-inch high-mounted screen, a console-mounted touchpad positioned ahead of the armrest is used to control your movements. While it does sound similar to Lexus’s Remote Touch, in the Acura, there is no cursor to follow, rather your movement on the touchpad correlates to the movement on the screen. The idea here is your eyes remain on the road instead of looking at a cursor.
The rest of the interior of the RDX is very accommodating. It seats five comfortably and every RDX comes equipped with a leather interior, heated front seats, a sunroof, and a dual-zone climate control system. Up front, the seats are nicely supported while back seat passengers have plenty of elbow and knee room. As in all RDXs before this one, rear headroom is still tight.
A first for RDX is the availability of Acura’s A-Spec package. Typically, a performance trim package, on the RDX the A-Spec gives the RDX unique 20-inch wheels, slightly different exterior styling and special badging. Inside there is a different steering wheel and sport seats with UltraSuede inserts. Unfortunately, there are no performance gains with the A-Spec.
Other packages available for the RDX include the Technology package (navigation, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic systems) and the Advance package (upgraded seats, 360-degree camera, heads-up display, etc).
Hitting the road in the RDX reveals a sportier driving experience than what is normally expected from Acura. One reason for this is that the RDX’s Integrated Dynamics driving-mode system defaults to a Sport mode – rather than to Comfort mode as prior RDXs have been. Power from the small turbo-four is smooth and instantaneous – there is no missing the V6 engine here, and it’s sent to all four wheels via Acura’s SH-AWD system. This system not only distributes power between front and rear axles, but also between the left and right wheels. This allows the RDX to be taken through corners fast – with minimal body lean.
The rest of the RDX is typically Acura. There is no gear selector – the driver uses buttons on the center console. The gauges are all easy to read and the controls, well, that True Touchpad Interface does take some getting used to. My first few hours behind the wheel of the RDX, I felt I had about a fifty percent success rate in terms of getting the right action to occur. After a few days, that improved – slightly. Thankfully the HVAC are hard button controls and don’t require use of the touchpad.
I always thought the first generation RDX as being sporty to drive, but a little rough around the edges. When the second generation came out, the RDX no doubt became a better vehicle, but lost some of its sporty flare. Now with this new generation, the RDX is very much refined, and that sport feel has returned. There should be no doubt that this third generation RDX is the best yet.
By The Numbers:
2020 Acura RDX SH-AWD A-Spec
Base Price: $45,800.00
Price as Tested: $46,795.00
Layout: front-engine / all-wheel drive
Engine: 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder
Transmission: ten-speed automatic
Horsepower: 272 hp
Torque: 280 lb-ft
EPA Fuel Economy: 21 city / 26 highway mpg
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