2019 Acura RDX First Drive Review: Third-gen’s a charm – Roadshow
It’s taken some getting used to, but the 2019 Acura RDX’s Precision Concept design language has grown on me. All-new for the third-generation, this Ohio-built compact SUV is wider and longer, and rides atop a longer wheelbase. All of this makes the RDX look lower and more planted, despite its overall height being unchanged. The model’s front end balances large, seven-element “Jewel LED” headlamps with what must be the largest Acura badge in the brand’s history. It’s huge, but it works somehow.
The larger body and all-new platform open up a more spacious cabin, which Acura has trimmed with improved materials and a design that’s as attractive as the new exterior. I’m also pleased to see a new True Touchpad infotainment system interface replacing the brand’s very dated old tech.
Perhaps most importantly, I was most impressed with how much smaller and more nimble this SUV felt on the twisty and scenic Canadian mountain roads around Whistler, British Columbia. Thanks to its performance-oriented all-wheel drive system and well-sorted chassis, this bigger, more comfortable RDX still managed to be a very fun romp when chucked at fast sweeper or two.
Ooh-wee, that’s a big ‘ol badge!
Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow Turbo power and SH-AWD
Behind that massive “A” badge spins a standard 2.0-liter turbocharged VTEC four-cylinder engine. Output is stated at 273 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. That’s a pretty big torque bump over the old 3.5-liter V6, particularly at low engine speeds, where the RDX sees a 40-percent increase, helping it to feel significantly more responsive.
The engine and its 10-speed automatic transmission make a great pair with smooth and quiet operation around town and fuel economy that’s up a single combined mile per gallon over the V6. Base front-drive RDX models net 22 mpg city, 28 highway and 24 combined, standard AWD models take a single mpg hit in each category, and the new A-Spec styling package drops a further single mpg on the highway due to its more aggressive aerodynamics.
In Sport mode, the gearbox is not shy about downshifting when passing and cornering, which makes for really strong, responsive acceleration. The shift logic is so good, I found that I didn’t really need to use the paddle shifters in most situations.
Front-wheel drive is standard, but you definitely want Acura’s fourth-generation Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) upgrade. SH-AWD can send up to 70 percent of the engine’s available torque to the rear wheels on demand (the old system could only manage a 50/50 split) and now features 100-percent torque vectoring on the rear axle to aid in cornering stability. This new generation can shuffle power around 30-percent quicker, which I noticed also makes the torque transfer feel more seamless on the road.
Normally, I only really recommend all-wheel drive for areas that get a lot of rain or snow, but SH-AWD is also a performance upgrade that makes it useful and fun even when the roads are dry most of the year. However, all-wheel drive is $500 more expensive this year, adding $2,000 to the