The RDX puts the old generation firmly in the rear-view mirror.
Words by: Adam Allen
The new RDX, eh? Pretty snazzy!
We feel secure in saying that Acura’s third generation RDX is more striking then the others to come before it and we’d feel comfortable to throw it into the mix as one of the more handsome luxury crossovers you’ll find plying your local roadways. That we’re saying this about a company who once decided their design language would be an alien bird-like appendage at the front they called the “Power Plenum” but most just called it plenum ugly-is remarkable. It’s certainly no wallflower like the previous generation, which was kind of unremarkable until you realize that there are a ton of them out there- it’s one of Acura’s best selling models. The new RDX nods towards the the first generation of RDX, a car that was ground-breaking when it burst onto the scene with a turbo engine, a trick AWD system and a cockpit that looked like the spiritual successor to the Honda Prelude while taking little from its predecessor. Clearly, our tester picks up after its ancestor left of- allowing, no, encouraging the driver to have fun. Not many crossovers doing that these days, are there?
It’s pretty snazzed up inside, too.
As with the exterior styling, the Acura guys and gals made sure the interior could keep up. If the last RDX was a hospital- functional but antiseptic- the new one is more like those trendy, modern designed boutiques where you’d expect to find hi tech audio equipment. Which is fitting, because the ELS stereo on our Platinum Elite tester positively rocks, even making the underwhelming, tinny sound quality typical of Sirius XM radio sound full and rich. That stereo is bundled into the newest generation if infotainment systems we can expect from Acura over the next few years called True Touch Interface (TTI) which, aside from the wholly welcomed volume knob (and physical controls for the climate control system) had has cursing a blue streak. At first blush, you might think you’ve stumbled into an interface actually worse than the old stacked two screen unit and we began to fear that TTI had plumbed new depths of awful. That was a knee jerk judgement- after spending time in the RDX and getting to know TTI more intimately we swung to the other side of the spectrum and became big fans. Once you get used to the cursorless selections and that it intuitively picks up where your finger is relative to the command you want to execute, it was like the cliché lightbulb above our heads becoming illuminated. It is a MUCH better system than before- just give yourself time to learn the way it works and you’ll be good. The interior as a whole is a rewarding place to spend time- front and rear passengers alike will feel like Acura paid equal attention to their respective comfort levels. In drawing on the know-how of parent company Honda and their expertise in packaging- everyone has room to make themselves comfortable, and the space in the cargo hold is maximized for carrying capacity. Our fully loaded Platinum Elite tester was carrying a serious amount of standard kit- think every active and passive safety feature you can think of, plus other goodies like adaptive dampers, and were you to spec some of its German competition in similar fashion you’d find the asking price would swell to much higher than what Acura is asking. Overall, despite the nod to an inherently sporting disposition, the RDX with its laminated glass (standard on every trim level) proved itself a hushed and composed companion on long distance drives which folks will appreciate when not exploiting the newfound friskiness of the updated chassis.
We’re guessing this RDX is fun to drive.
Even those not proficient at reading between the lines would glean that we had a good time flogging the RDX. Despite the lack of the sportiest A-Spec trim, our RDX proved itself to be a willing dance partner when we showed it some corners, leaving its predecessor firmly on the sidelines when the odd tarmac boogie is in order. As we eluded to earlier, this RDX doesn’t shy away when you want to have a little fun, admirable for any crossover. Select Sport Plus- and only do that if your willing to accept frenetic, full attack mode- the RDX seems to relish picking apart your favourite stretch of road. The segment first 10-speed automatic is best left to its own devices in shuffling amongst its many ratios; the steering wheel mounted paddles are fleetingly fun before you grow tired of their take-it-easy response to moving up or down through the gearbox. By comparisons sake, the engine never feels as though you’ve caught it resting- only a small amount of turbo lag exists just off idle before the power curve becomes pleasingly flat and linear, delivering a pleasing soundtrack as it winds it way to redline that we can get behind, even if a good deal of its noise is broadcast through the speakers. When you call for the suspension to enter red mist mode, the RDX moves with a pleasing grace without shaking your fillings loose. The 19” snow tire package dulled its eagerness to follow the helm somewhat, but most folks won’t notice the negligible loss in precision and instead will appreciate the fact the RDX remains taut but never uncomfortable. With that in mind, the RDX suddenly finds itself amongst the class leaders in terms of driver engagement and fun-to-drive factor; something that would have been inconceivable to put in the same sentence as it the model that preceded it. Acura’s marketing bumf portrays the RDX as a fun to driver luxury crossover- there’s no denying it’s the genuine article.
What might go wrong?
Our gripes towards the RDX are few, and if we’re finding it hard to find things that irk us we can conclude that Acura has done a good job. There are some minor nits to pick. The transmission seems spoiled for choice with 10 ratios to choose from, and perhaps that is why you can catch it off guard in low speed driving as it determines which gear is best for the situation. Similarly, the paddle shifters could use a jolt of caffeine to make their responses to your inputs more alert. We wanted to use them more but grew tired of trying to compensate for their somewhat sluggish obedience. We might wish for a drive mode setting that slots in between Sport and Sport Plus, as we found the latter to be a little too frenzied for our tastes in any situation other than a proper race track; so, basically any situation. And with a chassis that finds itself back amongst the class’s best and coupled to Acura’s excellent Super Handling all-wheel drive system, during a freak snow storm we thumbed the stability control button to turn off the electronic nannies hoping to enjoy a responsible amount of oversteer when the situation warranted. Sadly, we discovered that the safety net cannot fully be relaxed and will step in rather abruptly if it recognizes the slip angles you’ve asked for might be too hairy. With all the effort Acura employed to make the RDX so frisky, a fully defeatible option seems reasonable.
Should I buy an Acura RDX?
If you bought the first generation and followed it up with the outgoing model, you need to give this version a try- it successfully captures the playful nature of the first RDX but also the refined, luxurious feel of the outgoing generation making it the best of both worlds. It also offers a compelling value proposition- our fully loaded Platinum Elite model rang in just shy of $58,000- were you to option say, an Audi Q5 to a similar spec you can expect to be given an invoice totaling almost $3,000 more. The last generation RDX was good but forgettable- this one is good and memorable, too. For that reason alone, it’s worth a test drive.
2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite– Specifications
- Price as tested: $57,696
- Body Type: 5-door, 5 passenger crossover
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
- Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged inline 4, DOHC, 16 valves
- Horsepower: 272 @ 6,500 rpm
- Torque (lb-ft.): 280 @ 1,600 rpm
- Transmission: 10-speed automatic
- Curb weight: 1,848 kg (4,074 lbs)
- Observed Fuel consumption: 12.6L/100km (19 mpg)