2019 Acura RDX

PHOENIX — RDX is Acura’s premium compact to mid-sized crossover utility vehicle that first arrived for 2007. With its turbo-powered engine and upscale appointments, it was an enjoyable vehicle to drive but, unfortunately, didn’t catch on with the car-buying public. Later, the second-generation RDX added more luxury and a standard 279-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 engine. But it was predominantly a gussied up Honda CR-V, sharing the same basic chassis architecture.

This second-generation RDX (2013-2018) vied for attention in a crowded market segment that included luxury-premium compact crossovers like the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Mercedes GLC and Lexus NX. While it sold much better, becoming Acura’s best-selling model, it still didn’t achieve the success Acura had hoped for.

Now, for 2019, Acura has launched a fully redesigned third-generation RDX that’s being heralded as a new beginning for Honda’s luxury division. For the first time, it doesn’t share a platform with the CR-V. It’s lighter and stiffer, also wider, longer, with what Acura claims is class-leading cabin and cargo space.

But a few things carryover from the last generation RDX, like the SH-AWD (Super Handling All Wheel Drive) that was discontinued for 2013, and
the original turbocharged engine — this time a 2.0-liter connected to a 10-speed automatic transmission. We were not fans of the push/pull gear selector on the center console because of the confusing reverse-drive gyrations that require the driver to look at the gear selections before making a selection. This equally disappointing set up is found on most other Honda/Acura vehicles.

Our test RDX was the racier A-Spec equipped model featuring larger 20-inch alloy wheels, gloss black accents and ventilated UltraSuede-Trimmed Red leather interior that looked simply fantastic with the Apex Blue Pearl exterior finish. The front bucket seats are another high point and are as close to a perfect fit as any recent vehicle that comes to mind. There’s ample head, shoulder, hip and legroom even for my too tall height. But not so much so in the rear seat where tall occupants will lament the headroom taken up by the panoramic sunroof.

Our RDXSH-AWD with A-Spec Package came loaded, including power tailgate, Acura ELS Studio 3D premium audio system with 16 speakers, panoramic moonroof, navigation and a full complement of advanced safety features.

While the overall look and layout of the interior, instrument panel and center console felt somewhat premium, it did not look or feel luxurious as competitors like the Q5, X3, GLC or others.

By far our biggest disappointment was Acura’s True Touchpad Interface that has two small touch pads on the center console for operating and negotiating the infotainment, navigation and phone functions. Nothing about the system is intuitive and there’s definitely a steep learning curve to adequately get the knack of the numerous swipes, pushes, double-clicking, taps and joystick operating that make the system operable.

The True Touchpad Interface is about half the size of a standard Smartphone screen, positioned with a padded hand rest for support. The touchpad is intended to mimic a miniaturized likeness of the 10-inch display screen that sits atop the center of the dashboard. The movements on the display screen are lightning fast as you slide/swipe your finger across the touchpad, rendering it nearly impossible to land on the intended highlighted area on the display screen. I never acquired nor mastered the desired pressure touch for the interface pad being either to light, to heavy, holding my finger down too long or lifting it when I should not have.

Once I abandoned that, I resorted to the voice recognition system that again proved frustrating. It had difficulty recognizing what it is I was asking it to do like “tune to SiriusXM channel 32” which took me to FM 94.5, or “that is not located in your contacts” or any other number of erroneous responses.

So that led me to the usual failsafe operational method – the steering wheel redundant audio and other operational controls. However, that frustratingly wasn’t anymore intuitive then the other options. I was convinced the ridged scrolling button left center on the steering wheel would adjust most of the audio functions. However it not only scrolled, I also discovered it toggled left and right but couldn’t figure out why or what that controlled. And of course, the 1000 plus pages of the operating manual provided no relief.

My recommendation is, should you purchase the new RDX, you allow plenty of time for one-on-one tutorial of the entire system from a dealership expert prior to allowing the taillights to pass over the dealers curb. When attempting to master the system I continually had to remind myself of the lyrics to The Beatles hit song “When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me… There will be an answer. Let it be, let it be.”

The most rewarding experience comes via time spent behind the wheel, with tour de force unequaled by any vehicle to previously don an Acura moniker. I was expecting the RDX to handle similarly to other premium crossovers with some compromise, given it isn’t a sports sedan. However it makes quick work out of carving twisty mountain roads with solidity and precision thanks to the SH-AWD, making it easy to forget I was driving a crossover utility vehicle

After spending a week with the new RDX, I am convinced the new RDX is not only a significant improvement over the previous generation, but also a solid contender in the premium/luxury compact crossover utility vehicle segment.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $45,500
Price as Tested: $46,495
Powerplant: 2.0-liter 272-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and 10-speed automatic transmission.
EPA Fuel Economy: 21-MPG City – 26-MPG Highway – 23-MPG Combined with recommended premium fuel
Seating: 5

Crash Test Ratings: Highest possible Top Safety Pick+ from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Built In: East Liberty, Ohio

Competes With:
Alfa Romeo Stelvio
Audi Q5
Cadillac XT5
Lexus NX
Lincoln MKC
Mercedes-Benz GLC
Volvo XC60

Fab Features
Sharp new styling
Excellent handling and engine performance
Supportive seats, roomy interior
Loaded with advanced tech and safety features

— Jim Prueter