One of the most popular models in the highly-contested premium compact crossover market, the Acura RDX is completely new for the 2019 model year. More than simply a refresh, RDX becomes the first in a complete update of the entire model lineup. With improved styling, an all-new interior design and a brand-new Acura-exclusive platform (not shared with the Honda brand), the RDX looks to continue its success in this hot segment.
The vehicle tested was the 2019 Acura RDX outfitted with the A-Spec package and Technology package. Our tester also featured Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive for a total MSRP of $46,495. The RDX plays in a crowded sandbox, so many competitors to the RDX include the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Cadillac XT5, Lexus NX, Lincoln MKC, Jaguar E-Pace and Volvo XC40 — to name a few. The RDX is built in East Liberty, Ohio, and began arriving in showrooms in June.
The 2019 RDX’s new look is a welcome change. In 2010 the SUV was redesigned and featured a chrome grille inset that we considered unattractive. Unfortunately, that presentation remained until this all-new 2019 model, which looks much more appealing. The bold grille features a large Acura logo and gives the appearance of moving quickly through wind. Acura claims this RDX represents a new design direction for future Acura models, which is certainly welcome news.
Acura calls these “Jewel Eye” LED headlights — an apt name since each light appears to contain jewels or diamonds, surrounded by signature LED running lights. The new lights integrate seamlessly with the updated grille, providing the RDX with a premium look. Thanks to a longer wheelbase, shortened overhangs and a wider track, the new RDX has a more aggressive stance than the outgoing version.
Our test model was fitted with the A-Spec package, which works well with its White Diamond Pearl paint. Gloss black exterior accents along with dark gray 20-inch alloy wheels add a level of sportiness to the overall look. The darkened B-and C-pillars contribute to an appearance of a floating roof.
The RDX is completely new inside, featuring updated seats as well as a new interface, display screen and instrument panel. The red leather seats of the A-Spec package may be a bit too bold for some, although the contrast with dark interior trim provides a sporting look. A suede dashboard insert and contrasting stitching throughout give the RDX a premium feel. A large panoramic sunroof also contributes a more spacious ambience to the cabin.
Seats are power-adjustable in 16 directions; they’re also heated and cooled, which can be controlled manually or left to adjust automatically — a nice added feature. We spent several hundred miles in the RDX and found the seats quite comfortable during the long trip.
Space for Stuff
Acura redesigned the RDX cockpit to provide a decent amount of storage space up front. The bottom of the center stack has room for multiple devices or whatever else needs to come along for the ride. Other stash locations include two cupholders and a covered central storage area beneath the sliding armrest.
Anyone driving a car with a touchscreen knows that fingerprints are a constant problem. With the 2019 RDX, Acura takes a different approach to the dash interface — rather than use a touchscreen, commands get executed via a touchpad in the center console. We were ready to dismiss the method, but it works better than expected. The pad acts as a proxy for the display screen, so anywhere on the pad the driver touches highlights that spot on the screen. A touch of the fingertip selects an item, but it does not execute until pressure gets applied to the pad. Additional buttons help with returns to the main screen or to swap screens.
We like the large display, which is easy to read and navigate. Acura has set up the screen to be split and easily configurable. For example, the map can be shown on the main screen, while current audio appears on the small screen. The screens are easily swapped so audio can be accessed and then swapped back.
All the climate control settings on the 2019 Acura RDX are individual buttons, so access is easy. There’s no need to dig through multiple menus to adjust cabin temperature or airflow.
Unlike many compact crossovers, the rear seats in the 2019 RDX are surprisingly spacious, thanks in part to the new model’s longer wheelbase. While it would be a bit cramped for three people, two enjoy plenty of headroom and legroom. Two USB ports are available to power devices for rear-seat passengers.
The RDX offers a decent amount of cargo space, since it is larger than the outgoing model. Destined to be a favorite feature is a storage space under the cargo floor. Large enough to hold a backpack or briefcase, the space stays completely hidden from view. For additional space, rear seats can be folded flat.
The new Acura RDX is powered by VTEC Turbo 2.0-liter direct-injection engine that produces 272 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, teamed with a 10-speed automatic transmission. The 10-speed transmission shifts quickly and smoothly, although during conservative driving the transmission quickly shifts to the highest gear possible for maximum efficiency, which takes away from any performance feel. Changing the drive mode helps correct this.
Four drive modes are available on the RDX: Snow, Comfort, Sport and Sport +. According to Acura, the modes change throttle response, gear changes, power steering feel, torque vectoring, traction control and Active Sound Control for a completely different driving experience. Comfort worked fine for cruising at highway speeds; however, we prefer the quick shifting and more engaging throttle response of Sport + mode.
Since our time in the 2019 RDX was spent on pavement, we did not get a chance to experience the all-wheel drive system; that said, the RDX can be quite fun on winding roads. The Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive system includes a new rear differential that can deliver up to 70 percent of torque to the rear axle, which can help during fast cornering. Steering response is good and the RDX feels more agile than expected.
According to the U.S. EPA, the new RDX is rated at 21 mpg city / 26 mpg hwy / 23 mpg combined. After 200 miles of freeway driving, the fuel economy only registered 23 mpg; however, the 70-mph speed limit might have affected overall economy. Further driving in the city yielded an overall real-world experience of 22 mpg — close to the expected combined figure.
Red Gauge Numbers
One of our least-favorite touches for the new RDX A-Spec are red-colored numbers against black-background gauges. At first glance they look cool and sporty, but under driving conditions the numbers become tough to read on the black background — retaining standard white-on-black gauges even for the A-Spec package would be a better choice.
No Android Auto
Although the RDX does feature Apple CarPlay, Android phones are not supported. We were also a bit disappointed with the power output of the USB in the center console. While using Google Maps on our Android Phone, the power continued to drop even while plugged into the USB port.
Acura scores a win with the new RDX, and even more so since the highlighted changes will find their way into the rest of the Acura lineup. With greatly-improved styling inside and out as well as the latest in performance, entertainment and safety technology, this new RDX is certainly worth consideration. Based on the record sales the new RDX posted during its first month in showrooms, it seems this new model is destined to be successful and will continue its popularity as the best-selling model in the Acura lineup.