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Acura’s third-gen RDX luxury-performance crossover hits new highs

When it launched the RDX compact crossover in 2006, Acura paved the way for the coming wave of small luxury CUVs. 

But, while the RDX anticipated the Next Big Thing, its taut suspension and peaky turbocharged four-cylinder engine limited its appeal largely to enthusiasts. 
 
In 2012, Acura softened the RDX’s sharper edges and replaced the four with a silky and economical V-6. Overnight, RDX sales doubled.

Now comes the all-new 2019 RDX, a clean-sheet redesign that reconciles the best qualities of both earlier iterations. It’s roomier, more comfortable and better equipped — and it seriously tweaks the fun meter.

Attractively priced

Best, Acura prices the RDX well below comparably equipped competitors. 

This year’s changes start with the basics. The RDX is planted for the first time on its own purpose-built platform. Made largely of lightweight, high-strength steel, the new unibody is both lighter and stronger than before.

Greater structural rigidity enables precise suspension settings and boosts safety.

An efficient new turbocharged four-cylinder engine makes a robust 272 horsepower and 290 pound-feet of torque across a broad power band. It’s paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. 

Cabin is roomier, quieter

The RDX wheelbase grows by more than 2 inches this year, improving ride quality, and its redesigned cabin is stuffed with casual storage opportunities. Four adults ride comfortably here, though the standard panoramic sunroof reduces rear-seat headroom. 

New sound-deadening measures cut wind and road noise dramatically.

The 2019 RDX is available in a single trim, with four available options packages and a handful of dealer-installed add-ons. 

The base RDX comes standard with the sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power liftgate, keyless ignition and entry, heated and power-adjustable front seats and simulated leather upholstery. Wheels are 19-inchers, with 20s available.

AccuraWatch standard

The AcuraWatch suite of driver aids, also standard, includes forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist and adaptive cruise control.

Tech features include Acura’s new True Touchpad infotainment interface, a 10.2-inch display screen, two USB ports, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, satellite radio and a nine-speaker sound system. 

Our A-Spec tester added the 20-inch wheels and wider tires and unique interior and exterior cosmetic details. The A-Spec package also brings the stunning 16-speaker, 16-channel, 710-watt Acura/ELS Studio 3D premium audio system.

The top-end Advance package adds adaptive dampers; otherwise all RDX models run the same suspension. 

Surefooted, torque-vectoring AWD

The RDX is available in front- and all-wheel-drive. All-wheel drive models get Acura’s profoundly capable, torque-vectoring Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) system. 

SH-AWD can shuttle up to 70 percent of powertrain torque to the rear axle, where it is further distributed side-to-side. By sending as much as 100 percent of the available torque to either rear wheel, the system sharply reduces the vehicle’s tendency to plow when entering a corner and allows the RDX to turn with surpassing sharpness. 

SH-AWD balances the RDX when entering corners and sharply reduces the possibility of traction loss at the rear wheels. 

SH-AWD makes the RDX amazingly surefooted, both in winter conditions and on our winding and hilly two-lane dirt road. It’s not impossible to get the RDX sideways, but it resisted my best attempts.

Four drive modes

Acura's Integrated Dynamics System (IDS) offers four drive modes: Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Snow. Comfort produces easy-going shifts and throttle and steering responses. Sport is the default setting and serves up more aggressive shifts, though the 10-speed gearbox hesitates on downshifts as it works its way through the cogs. For more immediate responses, a console-mounted S button expedites the process.

Sport+ delivers sharper steering, throttle and transmission responses and amps up the digitally enhanced engine note. On the Advance trim, Sport+ heightens the reactions of the adaptive dampers.

Steering responses are direct and linear and the lively, lightly weighted system provides quite good feedback.

True Touchpad employs fingertip gestures to access the RDX’s abundant features and functions, but for the A/C and some audio controls. True Touchpad appears daunting but, once mastered, is quick, intuitive and responsive. The display can be customized to the owner’s preferences and Acura’s natural language voice-activation system is one of the best we’ve sampled. 

Question or comments? Contact Don at don@dadair.com.

2019 Acura RDX SH-AWD A-Spec
Vehicle base price: $37,300
Trim level base price: $45,500
As tested: $46,495 (includes destination and handling)
Options: Our AWD A-Spec test vehicle included no additional options.
Tow rating: 1500 pounds
EPA ratings: 23 combined/21 city/26 highway
Premium unleaded gasoline required



Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.