2021 Acura RDX A-Spec

It’s great to see that Acura has chosen to bring the RDX back to its glory.
It’s great to see that Acura has chosen to bring the RDX back to its glory.

by Nelson Chong | November 11, 2021


The 2021 Acura RDX A-Spec is the adrenaline pumping sport crossover for all the Integra and RSX lovers who have now grown up. The RDX has now established itself as one of the most important cars in Acura’s lineup. The RDX started out as Acura engineers’ play project, pioneering turbo technology and mating it with SH-AWD. The result was finally a family crossover which grabs the interest of those who refused to grow out of their VTEC-powered sport coupe.

It was the first sport oriented crossover offered by Acura, and the formula proved to be a success. However in its second generation, the RDX changed tune completely and became a luxury crossover with a more simplistic platform. Gone was the turbocharged engine that turned out to be a gas guzzler and in came a smooth V6 engine. Gone was the Super-Handling-All-Wheel-Drive system which gave the RDX so much character and handling prowess, replaced with a traditional front biased slip and grip system. The RDX was obviously still trying to find its identity.

Now in its third generation, Acura has decided to bring the RDX back as the sporty crossover it began life as. All the magical goodies removed from the RDX are now back. The first key ingredient Acura has brought back is the turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine. This time around the engine is much more potent and reliable since Acura is able to nab the power plant from a Honda’s extensively engineered and tested engine.

Before you get too excited, know that it is indeed the same K20C1 from the Civic Type R but it’s a detuned version of the engine keeping the same 2.0-liter block and architecture. The engine produces 272 horsepower and 280 lb-ft. of torque with the help of i-VTEC technology; peak torque is achieved as low as 1,600RPM. The engine is mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission with all the right ratios to effectively use all the power from the engine.

The combined result is power on-demand with seamless shifts. My only complaint is that the transmission still feels sluggish when looking for more spirited response, and the paddle shifters still operate with notable lag. If you leave the gearbox in auto mode to do its thing, it’ll be just fine for most settings.

The second key to the new RDX is the return of Super-Handling-All-Wheel-Drive and boy, is this system special. It transforms this tall and front heavy crossover into a balanced and fun handling machine. Steering is quick very and direct, reminding drivers of the racing pedigree Acura has under its belt. The ability to push power to the rear outer wheel in turns makes a huge difference to its capability and inspires a ton of confidence.

Suspension tuning is firm side but still extremely usable in all conditions. We do wish that the adaptive dampers were available on models other than just the Platinum Elite, since the A-Spec has fixed damping. The powerful drivetrain and impeccable chassis tuning make the RDX a unique offering in the small luxury crossover game, because most of its competitors are more comfort oriented.

All the performance is also backed up with aggressive exterior features. A large diamond grille with LED jewel headlights looks both aggressive and sophisticated at the same time. The tapering C-pillar into a floating roof line creates the illusion of a slung back profile. Specific to our A-Spec tester are large twin tailpipes with blacked out grilles for a much sportier look. The 20-inch dark chrome wheels make the RDX look smaller than it really is, creating a hot wagon vibe to the RDX‘s looks.

Acura has always had great interiors with excellent quality and feel and the RDX is an excellent example. The right amount of brushed aluminum gives a luxurious vibe and balances out the leather laden interior. All the touch points are leather wrapped with contrast red stitching and even the raised transmission tunnel is wrapped with leather to give your knees a nice supple bolster.

The steering wheel is wrapped in perforated leather at the nine-and-three positions with contoured grip making it feel like a true racing wheel. Combined with the raised center console, it feels like you are in a racing cockpit. The silver gauges with red backlighting further put drivers in the mood to drive spiritedly. The details of the interior all add to the sportiness of the RDX while the material choice and ergonomics still provide that upscale premium crossover vibe.

Even though the RDX has the tech today’s drivers need to stay connected, the interface can be frustrating. The touchpad interface has a steep learning curve and was distracting to use in motion. Luckily Acura has kept the volume knob and physical HVAC controls, otherwise living with the RDX would become truly infuriating. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration is a welcome addition as well. A digital display between the analog gauges is easily customized with controls at your fingertips on the steering wheel.

What’s great is the RDX does the mundane things very well. Passenger comfort is excellent, with great leg and headroom. Cargo space is a very healthy 835-liters and expands to 1,668-liters with the rear seats folded. Fuel economy is rated at 11.0L/100km city and 8.6L/100km highway, for a combined 9.9L/100km. It’s well within range for the class, but drive more spiritedly and these numbers quickly worsen. We averaged 11.8L/100km using premium fuel and mainly city driving.

Acura prices the RDX from a base price of $44,505. Our tester is the A-Spec model priced at $50,305, and adds features such as unique exterior trim and 20-inch wheels. Interior features such as premium audio, ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel are all included in this package. This model is the sweet spot of the range, since it includes all the key creature comforts and the sharper looks. Competition on the market comes in the form of the Infiniti QX50 starting at $45,495 and the Lexus NX starting at $44,600.

It’s great to see that Acura has chosen to bring the RDX back to its glory. Being able to draw from better developed technology and race pedigree, the RDX is tuned to perfection and draws an excellent balance between fun and comfort. It is unfair to fault it considering how well the RDX works as an overall package. The 2021 Acura RDX A-Spec is highly recommended in our books.

See Also:

2020 Infiniti QX50 Sensory AWD

2021 Lexus NX 300 F-Sport

2020 Acura RDX A-Spec

Vehicle Specs
Engine Size
Horsepower (at RPM)
Torque (lb-ft.)
Fuel Efficiency (L/100km, City/Highway/Combined)
Observed Fuel Efficiency (L/100km)
Cargo Capacity (in L)
Base Price (CAD)
As-Tested Price (CAD)
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About Nelson Chong

Staff Writer

A father, husband, and photographer, Nelson is a genuine car nut through and through. When not out and about testing the latest in the industry, he can be found behind the lens or the wheel of one of his Japanese icons.

Current Toys: ’04 S2000, ’18 Civic Type R, ’23 Model Y