The powerful and refined powertrain pairs well with the sharp steering.
Winter weather has made its first appearance here in Toronto so attentions must to more practical daily drivers, a space where Acura has been performing well. The RDX in particular has been a strong seller for the brand thanks to its sporty driving dynamics, good looks, and value-oriented pricing. For those same reasons, the RDX has consistently been at the top of our list in this market. To find out if time has been kind to it, we spent a week with the 2020 Acura RDX Platinum Elite.
The RDX really is one of the better-looking compact crossovers on the road. The sculpted and sporty lines, Acura’s diamond pentagon grille and exterior LED lighting really set it apart from dreary looking peers. We prefer the more dramatic looks of the A-Spec model, but our top-tier Platinum Elite tester skews toward a more conservative taste with chrome trim, more traditional looking 19-inch wheels, and in our case finished in a tasteful Majestic Black Pearl (a $500 optional color).
The interior of the RDX Platinum Elite also has an upscale yet conservative feeling. The heated and cooled seats are finished in soft perforated leather with contrast stitching and piping, which is complimented by lots of black soft-touch plastics and rubbers, with touches of polished aluminium and nice luxurious chunks of wood. Overall materials are on par with expectations at this price point, but not as overtly luxurious as pricier options on the market, such as the Cadillac XT5.
The sporty bucket seats look great and offer plenty of support for more spirited driving, while adjustable lumbar keeps you comfortable on longer trips. The steering wheel serves as quite a nice centerpiece, with well laid out controls, a thick soft leather wrapped rim, and well executed aluminum accents.
Despite its compact classification the RDX feels quite roomy and airy inside, especially with the full-length panoramic roof letting the sunshine in. The cargo area is also large for the segment, and with the split rear bench folded the RDX handled a surprising volume of renovation materials this week. There is also a slick under-floor storage system in the cargo area for smaller items to be kept out of sight. It’s a similar story in the rear seat area with a surprising amount of leg and headroom, enough to keep two adults in comfort or three in a pinch.
Up front there is plenty of space thanks to one of the best designed center consoles on the market featuring a deep storage bin under the armrest, big cup holders with a side tray, a large storage bin under the elevated console and deep door pockets. It’s easy to find secure places to keep all the daily carry items and more!
My main gripe with the interior, which also happens to be my biggest issue with the RDX in general, is the infotainment system. All RDXs get a large 10.2-inch screen that dominates the dash and is controlled by a touchpad at the front of the console. The intention of keeping controls close to the driver’s natural position is appreciated, but the system is anything but intuitive. The touchpad is overly sensitive and distracting to operate, if not downright dangerous to use while driving.
I found it to be by far one of the most frustrating systems of recent years. This is a shame because it offers lots of features such as Apple CarPlay and a 4G LTE mobile hotspot; oddly though the system is not compatible with Android Auto. The Platinum Elite also came with navigation and a 16-speaker ELS sound system which sounds quite good.
If you can get past the infotainment shortfalls, and appreciate a crossover with sporty driving dynamics, then the RDX should score well. All models are powered by a 272 horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder and a 10-speed automatic transmission feeding power to Acura’s SH-AWD (“Super Handling All Wheel Drive”). The 2.0’s healthy horsepower and 280 lb-ft. of torque from 1,600 to 4,500 RPM give it plenty of punch both in the city and for highway passing.
The turbocharged four is smoother and quieter than similar engines found in competitors, and the RDX makes good use of the power for brisk acceleration. The 10-speed tends to be a bit reluctant to downshift, but running it in Sport mode does remedy that, though the response from the paddle shifters remains slow.
The powerful and refined powertrain pairs well with the sharp steering, which thanks to crisp response and notable road feel, remains the most engaging steering available in the segment. The RDX’s tight, firm chassis and suspension deliver a very car like driving dynamic with a strong sense of control that encourages you to toss the RDX through corners just a little bit faster than you might want to in a comparable compact crossover. Doing so feels great as the RDX hunkers down and takes corners with minimal drama. If it’s a driver’s SUV you’re after, the RDX delivers.
The penalty for these sporty dynamics comes in the form of ride comfort, where I’d score the RDX quite low. Even though our Platinum Elite trim tester came with Acura’s adaptive dampers, and having set them to the softest setting; the RDX still rides quite harsh. Vibrations and imperfection in the road are transferred into the cabin much more than I would have expected for a luxury oriented SUV, and after taking the RDX on a 4 hour highway run, I was wishing for something a bit softer.
Having tested an RDX without the adaptive dampers a while ago, I was hoping that they would be the solution to my ride quality complaints, but that is not the case here. In addition to the ride quality, the cabin is also quite loud with road noise on the highway, both of which distract from the otherwise upscale feeling the RDX provides.
After a week of mixed driving, and a steady four-hour highway run, our average consumption sat right at 11.0L/100km. Acura also recommends premium fuel in the RDX for maximum performance. At the end of the day, a slight fuel penalty is a small price to pay for someone who appreciates the performance, but for those buyers more focused on keeping operating costs down, the RDX doesn’t offer any more efficient engine options – which may be a miss for some.
If your priority is less about saving fuel and more about staying safe, the RDX performs here as all trim levels come standard with the AcuraWatch suite of safety assist technologies including; forward-collision warning, automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control.
Where the RDX has won a lot of market share is by offering a premium experience and feature set, at a palatable price that undercuts the competition. A base model starts at an aggressive $44,390 and at that price comes well equipped with luxuries like a panoramic roof, LED headlamps, power tailgate and remote starting. The volume is the Tech trim with navigation, blind spot and rear cross traffic systems, the 12-speaker stereo, rain sensing wipers and more high-tech gadgetry for $47,690.
Our full-jam Platinum Elite comes in at $54,390 and gets the adaptive dampers and a list of true, and unnecessary, luxury features such as a heads-up display, surround view camera, rear camera washer, 16-way adjustable seats with contrast stitching and an even further upgraded 16-speaker ELS sound system.
The 2020 Acura RDX Platinum Elite isn’t perfect, but it does deliver surprisingly sporty driving dynamics, and a comfortable, practical and upscale interior. If you’re willing to forgive its few shortcomings, it can be a really strong choice. With multiple trim levels coming in below the $50,000 mark, and our fully loaded tester failing to break the $55,000 mark, it’s a good bargain over the majority of similarly equipped competitors.