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2019 Acura RDX Review

2019 Acura RDX Review
The 2019 Acura RDX takes a clean-sheet approach to sporty utility, and that makes it the second-best thing in its showroom, apart from the NSX.

It has chiseled lines, turbocharged power, available all-wheel drive, and a luxurious, high-tech interior.

In base, Technology, A-Spec, and Advance trim, the 2019 Acura RDX has what it takes to be the best vehicle in the Acura lineup–aside from the swoopy NSX supercar, that is.

By Acura’s own reckoning, the RDX hasn’t had the styling, performance, and prestige to compete in its pricey bracket, until now.

Styling does the most notable job of cutting through the crossover-SUV clutter: the 2019 RDX has been handsomely reformatted into a bit of a statement piece. The grille frames its huge Acura badge with a starburst of chrome or black diamond-shaped cutouts, the fenders swish air curtains around bigger wheels, and the roof floats thanks to discrete bits of black plastic that cut in at the rear. The cabin dons suave olive ash trim in top trim levels, or bawdy red and black in A-Spec models.

The RDX channels gutsy performance as it dumps its old V-6 and adopts the Honda Civic Type R’s 272-horsepower turbo-4. Teamed with a 10-speed automatic that toggles through gears in near silence, and with all-wheel drive that can hustle torque between its rear wheels, the RDX dances and dives fluidly around corners, with the buzz and jostle of past versions removed. Acura fits the best RDXs with three-mode shocks and depends on firm all-season tires to turn in a composed, pliant ride, and it delivers.

The new RDX rides on a new chassis with 2.6 inches more length between the wheels, which means the old complaints of skimpy rear-seat leg room have washed away. Advance RDXs with 16-way sport seats are cuddle monsters, in the non-creepy way, but the RDX needs a better-formed rear seat bottom to crowd out the best compact-luxury SUVs. Storage space abounds, and trim quality has made gains-along with sound quality, damped in the most expensive RDX by thicker front and side glass.

All RDXs have cutting-edge safety gear, including automatic emergency braking. Most get blind-spot monitors, but only the Advance has surround-view cameras. Each has power features, a panoramic roof, a touchpad infotainment system with a 10.2-inch display, and Apple CarPlay (Android Auto is expected soon). Acura walls off the best seats in the house–and a head-up display and adjustable shocks–on the $47,000 Advance model, but base crossovers lack for little.

Acura has handsomely reformatted the 2019 RDX, and turned its formerly modest crossover into a bit of a statement piece.

Not to be look-ist, but shades of hotness have crept into the RDX’s skin. We see it as a 7 out of 10. 

The RDX has a newfound sense of style this year. It sits lower and wider for 2019, and wears a big five-sided grille that blends in some concept car style. It’s framed by deep lines that direct air around the car and around big LED headlights. It dons big character lines down the side, and some black roof pillar trim to make the roof appear to float. On the A-Spec version, the bright metal trim tones down to black, to match its bigger wheels.

The new interior significantly ups the RDX’s luxury quotient. It mixes touches of ash wood, brushed aluminum, stainless steel, and leather. A-Spec RDX crossovers can put on two-tone black and red upholstery. We’re not thrilled with the vertical dogbone of transmission controls that stamps the center stack with its inefficient shape, but that’s all overcome by the grace notes of luxury that Acura’s long skipped over as it tried to figure out exactly what its “premium” label meant.

With the 2019 RDX, Acura points its dynamic magic wand at Euro crossovers, and nearly hits the target.

Acura calls the 2019 RDX its sportiest compact crossover yet, and claims the X3 and Q5 as its spirit animals. It’s not as firmly sprung as those SUVs, but has a mellow, refined feel that’s far removed from the jitter and buzz it’s had in previous lifetimes.

Its above-average drivetrain and ride/handling tune put it at a 7 out of 10. 

Under the hood, the RDX swaps its 3.5-liter V-6 for a rorty 2.0-liter turbo-4 that makes 272 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, which peaks at 1600 to 4500 rpm. Based on the Honda Civic Type R’s turbo-4, this energetic dual-overhead-cam engine has 40 percent more low-rpm torque than the V-6 did, and it’s teamed with a new 10-speed automatic that can toggle down 4 speeds at a time, if it must. Paddle shift controls on all models turn the driving experience into something akin to a video game, but the transmission’s programmed well enough that most drivers may never realize those switches behind the steering wheel actually do things.

The RDX isn’t particularly light or heavy for its size, with a curb weight of 3,783 pounds in base front-drive trim, or 4,068 lb as an AWD Advance. Acura doesn’t publish acceleration times, but the gutsy sounds and moves of the RDX suggest a 7-second 0-60 mph range. Honda’s been talking future S-Type and turbocharged V-6 models, so we wonder openly about how much power this capable chassis could handle.

All-wheel drive is an option, and it can route 70 percent of the torque to the rear. Torque vectoring across the rear splits power left to right, up to 100 percent, to improve handling even more. While we’re spitting out numbers, the RDX sports 8.2 inches of ground clearance, but clearly isn’t intended for off-roading of the Baja-bounding variety.

Integrated Dynamics Control is one detail lifted from the NSX. It spins the RDX from Comfort to Sport and Sport+ modes, which tells the drivetrain to calm down or get amped up, from steering to throttle to adaptive shocks when they’re fitted. A Snow mode modulates everything down a half-step for more predictable behavior. When it’s tweaked to the more responsive programmed modes, the turbo-4 in the RDX delivers a swift gust of torque, thanks to a transmission with a low first gear and nine more to choose from there.

Ride and handling are one of the RDX’s bright spots, particularly on cars fitted with driver-selectable shocks. The suspension uses front MacPherson struts, and a five-link independent rear. It has a wider track this year, up to 1.3 inches wider at rear, larger wheels and tires (235/55-19 all-seasons on base versions, or 255/40-20 all seasons on all others). Acura also fits hydraulic front bushings to isolate the suspension, as Hodna does on some Civics.
The combination of lighter and stronger pieces, wider track, and a new body gives the 2019 RDX a stronger sense of self. There’s a confidence in its relaxed roadholding that’s very on point, without aping Euro-utes too strongly.

With the available driver-selectable dampers, the RDX is quick-footed without being too firm, even with 20-inch wheels. There’s a rational level of body lean, and it has an absorbent ride. Even on the base suspension, it takes an unruffled set, and only gently thumps over potholes and road seams. Dual-pinion electric power steering doesn’t get too leaden when it’s dialed into Sport+ mode, either, and it tracks well over rough pavement.

The brakes on our early tester had a firm pedal without a lot of travel, though.

Comfort & Quality
The RDX has a more spacious second-row seat, and grippy 16-way chairs in top models, but needs more back-bench support.

The 2019 Acura RDX tackles one of its bigger compact-crossover deficiencies this year. A new architecture gives it more stretch-out room in the back seat, which it delivers.

The rear seats themselves could use a tweak or two. As a result, it’s a 6 out of 10 here. 

With the 2019 RDX, Acura has adopted a new Acura-exclusive architecture (for now, at least) that swells external and internal dimensions. Call it a blessing, since the RDX has long been one of the smaller vehicles in its niche.

The 2019 edition sits 186.8 overall, and rides on a 108.3-inch wheelbase, much closer to its compact European rivals. The wheelbase is up by 2.6 inches, which isn’t as noticeable in the front seats. There, the base chairs come with a dozen or more adjustments, sit relatively high for a good command seating position, and offer swell support, especially at the midsection.

The 16-way seats on top models are well worth their increase. With Audi-style adjustment controls and power-snugging side bolsters, they pocket the upper body like a baseball mitt.

Storage space washes over the cabin, with a big smartphone bin ahead of the shifter, deep pockets molded into the doors, and an iPad-sized bin under the center console. We’re not generally fans of those ankle-level cubbies, since they’re fussy to stuff full from the side, but space is space, and the RDX’s stylish dash earns the pass.

The RDX’s back seat could use more work. It has fine knee room-enough for 6-footers to sit behind 6-footers-and huge toe space, big enough for boots. Head room is ample, too. It’s the flat, low bottom cushion that needs more shape. It’s shy on leg support for bigger passengers, and the seatback doesn’t recline, though its seatback angle proved napworthy on our long driving day.

The rear seats fold flat to expand the 29.5-cubic-foot cargo hold to 58.9 cubic feet. Acura moved the spare tire under the rear of the car, so the RDX has an additional 1.7-cubic-foot compartment below its carpeted deck, enough for a backpack and supplies that should remain hidden from public view, which in our view is any chocolate with more than 72 percent cacao content.

With new body structure cloaked under its new skin, the RDX has quieted and calmed down significantly. The turbo-4 buzz has been damped, but at the same time it’s augmented with pleasant engine sounds filtered and piped into the cabin. Carpet, glass, welds, and seams all are stouter, and Advance-spec RDXs claim Audi levels of cabin quiet, thanks to acoustic side glass.

The RDX may have the swankiest cabin of any Acura crossover, too. Base models wear synthetic leather and metallic trim, and all versions wear a fair amount of gloss black plastic, but A-Specs have tech-y metal and racy color injected into the cabin, while the Advance dons nappa leather and olive ash trim.

The 2019 RDX doesn’t have a data-driven safety score yet.

We’ll hold off on assigning a rating to the 2019 Acura RDX in our safety category, since neither the IIHS nor the NHTSA has crash-tested one yet. 

Acura has high hopes for its crash performance, and befitting a crossover with a $40,000 or more pricetag, the RDX comes standard with forward collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control. All RDXs have 4-way adjustable headrests that address our biggest complaint about Acuras and Hondas of late-that their headrests push too far forward, which translates into an uncomfortable driving position.

Blind-spot monitors come standard on all but the base model. The Advance edition is the only one with surround-view camera system, however.

We’ll update this section when agencies publish their crash-test data.

A well-equipped base 2019 Acura RDX will suit most drivers, but the Advance model packs on the tech gear.

From a well-equipped base price of $38,295, the 2019 Acura RDX offers a few interesting configurations that cover the spectrum of luxury-crossover needs.  

Good standard equipment, a trio of trims, and an at-long-last new infotainment system boost its rating here to 8 out of 10 here

In base form, the 2019 Acura RDX comes with a 10.2-inch center screen, automatic climate control, Apple CarPlay, keyless ignition, in-car high-speed data, 12-way heated front sport seats, a panoramic sunroof, a power height-adjustable tailgate, LED headlights, and 19-inch alloy wheels. The 9-speaker infotainment system comes with USB ports, Bluetooth audio streaming, and satellite and HD radio.

All-wheel drive is $2,000 on any model.

The infotainment system operates through a touchpad input device on the console. The driver can use the touchpad to navigate functions for audio and phone, to tap or press through functions, even to double as a scratchpad for handwritten entry. There’s a side panel for rocker-switch scans when the system goes into a split-screen view. Voice commands on most models understand natural speech, so when you beg for coffee, it’ll find just the place nearby, with no screen-tapping involved at all.

It’s a magnitude easier to use the new system than the old twist-knob setup, but there’s a caveat: the system doesn’t support Android Auto yet, because that interface lacks code to handle the touchpad.

On the $41,495  Technology-package RDX, parking sensors and leather come standard, as does navigation and a 12-speaker audio system.

On the $44,495 RDX A-Spec, Acura adds sueded sport seats with red-and-black or black leather upholstery, blacked-out exterior trim, 16-speaker audio with ceiling-mounted speakers and sublime clean sound, 20-inch wheels, and ventilated front seats.

The top $46,395 2019 RDX Advance tops it all off with a head-up display, a surround-view camera system, 16-way power-adjustable seats, driver-adjustable shocks, a handsfree tailgate, and acoustic side glass.

Fuel Economy
The Acura RDX has turbo-4 power and good EPA fuel-economy ratings.

The 2019 RDX’s official gas mileage ratings are decent in its class, though some X3s and QX50s far surpass its highway numbers.

On our scale, the figures earn the luxury crossover a 4 out of 10. 

Acura pegs 2019 RDX fuel economy at 22 mpg city, 28 highway, and 24 combined for the base model, and 21/26/23 mpg for the AWD A-Spec.

Acura’s own MDX three-row SUV can match some of the RDX’s scores: with AWD, the MDX has a 26-mpg EPA highway rating.

No hybrid models have been confirmed. The RDX runs on premium fuel.


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