The 2019 Acura RDX charges to the front of the pack
The 2019 Acura RDX is a welcome step back to the future.
When Honda's luxury brand introduced the compact crossover RDX in 2012, it was driven by a powerful turbocharged four cylinder engine and could be ordered with the company's excellent Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) system. The combination made it both fun to drive and capable of handling moderate mud and snow with ease.
At the time, there was little else to compete against it. Most other compact crossovers were relatively simple, utilitarian vehicles.
But when Acura redesigned the RDX for 2013, it went more mainstream. The turbo engine was dropped in favor of the company's reliable but unexciting V6, and the SH-AWD system was replaced with the less sophisticated Intelligent All-Wheel-Drive system. The RDX also got a little bigger, which made it feel less sporty.
The redesigned RDX sold very well, however, which proves the Acura marketing department knew what it was doing, even if enthusiasts were disappointed. But surprisingly, when Acura redesigned the RDX for 2019, it replaced with V6 with a torquey turbocharged 2.0-liter four and returned SH-AWD as the optional all-wheel-drive system. It also made the Sport mode the default drive mode, meaning drivers had to choose Comfort if they wanted a softer ride and less responsive throttle and steering. The two other modes are Snow, a good option for the Pacific Northwest, and the customizable Sport+ choice.
The result is an Acura RDX that's once again fun to drive and more capable of handling wet weather and off-road driving than the previous generation. It also competes better against other compact crossovers that have gotten increasingly sporty in recent years, which should prompt enthusiasts to reconsider it now.
Acura has also upgrade the tech in the 2019 RDX, most noticably with the new True Touchpad Interface that now controls the infotainment system. Although some other manufacturers offer touchpads, the one in the RDX is unique because it is not designed to scroll though the choices on the screen. Instead, operators touch the specific spot on the pad that matches the icon on the screen they want.
There are also swipe, handwriting and voice control functions, all of which takes some time to master. They all work — and the home screen can be customized — but practice them in the driveway, not on the road. They will come naturally after a while.
The exterior styling has also been tweaked to give the RDX a more aggressive look, beginning with a large front end and continue with more deeply scuplted sides. The interior has also been revised with the screen now rising up from the dash, which flows into the center console. The shift lever has been replaced with the compact button-and-switch arrangement also features on some Hondas. Although unconvnetional, it saves space and makes sense after awhile.
Out test RDX was the A-Spec version that includes SH-AWD, special trim, unique leather-trimmed sport seats, 20-inch allow wheels and what Acura calls a 3D premium audio system, which sounded great. Even with an additional Tech Package and the AcuraWatch safety system, it was less than $47,000, which is a good price for so much performance and technology.
Returning the 2019 RDX to its roots was a good move by Acura. It is once again raising the bar in the compact crossover market.
2019 Acura RDX A-Spec
Base price: $37,300 (FWD)
Price as tested: $46,495
Type: Compact crossover SUV
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-liter 4 (272 hp, 280 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 10-speed with paddle shifters
Drive modes: Comfort, Snow, Sport and Sport+
EPA estimated mileage: 22/28; 21/26 (as tested)
Overall length: 186.8 inches
Curb weight: 3,783 to 4,068
Final assembly: East Liberty, Ohio