The unique A-Spec trim gives the RDX a look that matches its athletic capabilities.
The first-generation Acura RDX, while it did not set the world on fire when it debuted back in 2007, was an interesting vehicle. It proved to the world there is demand for a sporty Japanese compact SUV that mainly focused in its on-road capabilities. It offered a four-cylinder turbocharged engine with i-VTEC, and Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) technology, a combination that was uncommon back then, making it one of the sportier SUVs in the market.
Curiously, Acura went away from using either of these technologies when they redesigned the second generation RDX, resulting in a car that was more like every other crossover on the street. Good news for driving enthusiasts is that the turbocharged four-cylinder engine and the SH-AWD system are back for the third generation. We had a chance to evaluate the top trim RDX Platinum Elite (reviewed here), and this is the more athletic A-Spec model.
This 2019 Acura RDX A-is painted in a gorgeous White Diamond Pearl. It features A-Spec dedicated front and rear styling, including gloss black exterior trim pieces that replace all of the chrome found in other trims, larger diameter dual exhaust with chrome finishers, 20” A-Spec design wheels, and A-Spec badging. Along with the Acura signature “Jewel-Eye” LED headlights and front grille, the RDX A-Spec carries a lot of curb appeal and looks the part as the handsome and athletic cousin of the Honda CR-V (reviewed here).
Power is delivered using a direct injected 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 272 horsepower at 6,500 RPM. The torque figure is particularly impressive, with peak 280 lb-ft. of torque from 1,600 to 4,500 RPM. Throttle response is quick and power comes on strong to get the RDX moving quickly in any situation. There is little turbo lag and power goes on without skipping a beat throughout the rev range. The RDX’s 10-speed automatic transmission puts power down to all four wheels smoothly, and it shifts gears without much hesitation.
Handling is a strong suit for the RDX, especially in corners, thanks to the SH-AWD system that has the ability to transfer power between front and rear wheels, and between the left and right rear wheels if needed. During hard acceleration out of corners, the SH-AWD system can direct all of its torque to the outer rear wheel to help the car rotate through the turn, and as a result we observed excellent agility with minimal understeer in spirited driving. Steering feel is good, there is a bit more play in the steering than we have come to expect from Acura, but we would still consider it to be above-average in the segment.
The RDX is equipped with Acura’s Integrated Dynamic System, which allows drivers to switch between four driving modes (Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Snow) by turning the silver Dynamic Mode dial on the centre console. The computer automatically adjusts steering assist and throttle response, and to our delight, you can alter the transmission response separately by pressing the D/S button on the gear selector.
Unfortunately, even though the A-Spec is the sportiest looking trim in the RDX lineup, it does not come with the Adaptive Damper System, which allows the RDX to be adjusted to its firmest setting for maximum cornering stability. That system is reserved for the top of line Platinum Elite trim, and it would be nice to see it available as optional equipment for the A-Spec in the future. This trim offers fixed sport damping, which is firmer than the standard setup.
Fuel economy is rated at 11.0L/100km city, 8.6L/100km highway, and 9.9L/100km combined. We spent the week with this RDX mainly on city streets, and we observed an average of 11.6L/100km. Premium fuel is recommended, and the 65L fuel tank gives it meaningful drive range for any road trips you plan to take with it.
Moving inside the cabin, the RDX A-Spec features an attractive layout that is looks modern and feels sporty with the help of Alcantara and leather materials, decorated by contrast stitching and seat piping that is dedicated to the A-Spec trim. Our tester is equipped with a pair of 12-way power adjustable, heated and ventilated front seats that are supportive and comfortable, and I especially enjoyed the way its four-way adjustable headrests complement the front seats to allow for the perfect driving position. Rear head and legroom are sufficient for most and cargo capacity is 881L behind the rear seats.
Before we picked up the RDX A-Spec, we took part in a deep dive session with the one of the members from their product team to ensure we understand the infotainment system and its True Touchpad Interface. The presentation allowed us to get familiar quickly with this system’s unique operation. Honda mentioned they also make sure each of their dealerships would go through a similar training to properly prepare the staff for client demos, a service that is particularly important on this vehicle to ensure customer satisfaction.
The idea of the infotainment is rather simple in theory, you place your finger on the touchpad on the spot that corresponds to the location of the “button” you want to press on the 10.2-inch colour centre display. Operation of the home screen is not too difficult; it works as advertised and the tiles are large and spaced far enough that you can enter commands rather quickly on the fly. It is when you get into the submenus where command prompts are in precise locations that make the interaction a bit laggy and distracting.
Apple CarPlay is supported, but unfortunately the input method is not the same as Acura’s native apps. Rather than placing your finger on the corresponding location, you have to drag across the touchpad to select the appropriate button. This inconsistency makes for a confusing user experience. The saving grace of the infotainment system is that once you have set your tunes, the A-Spec and Platinum Elite trim specific ELS Studio 3D Premium Audio System with 16 speakers is brilliant.
The 2019 Acura RDX A-Spec starts at $50,290. This model adds $500 for the White Diamond Peral colour for an as-tested price of $50,790. It comes with the full suite of the AcuraWatch safety systems, minus the Adaptive front headlight system found on the Platinum Elite trim. The RDX is a good value against its archenemy, the Lexus NX 300 F-Sport (reviewed here). They both feature sporty looks with upscale interior appointments, and coincidentally, frustrating infotainment interface. We expect both to be volume sellers in this competitive segment.
The 2019 Acura RDX A-Spec has definitely returned to its roots as a sporty compact crossover, and the unique A-Spec trim gives it a look that matches its athletic capabilities. The RDX nameplate has become more popular with the help of the nerdier second generation, and we expect this third-generation to be the best of both worlds when it comes to its performance on a winding road as well as on a sales chart.