The Car Connection Acura RDX Overview
The Acura RDX is a luxury compact crossover SUV that commits no sins.
Smaller than the seven-seat Acura MDX, the 2019 RDX rides on a new Acura-exclusive platform, instead of sharing the Honda CR-V architecture.
With the RDX, Acura has a rival for vehicles like the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, and Volvo XC60.
MORE: Read our 2019 Acura RDX review
The new Acura RDX
Not only does the RDX get a new platform for 2019, but the redesign marks the return of turbo-4 power and Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive. The new 2.0-liter turbo-4 makes 272 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. A dual-overhead-cam engine and a variant of the engine found in the Civic Type R, it has 40 percent more low-rpm torque, according to Acura. The lone transmission is now a 10-speed automatic.
The AWD system offers torque vectoring. Up to 70 percent of the torque can go to the rear axle and all of that power can flow to the outside wheel in a turn to improve handling. Customers can also choose front-wheel drive.
The new platform employs more than 50 percent high-strength steel for improved rigidity, and the wheelbase grows by 2.6 inches. Adaptive dampers join the options list for the first time, and an NSX-inspired dial offers five drive modes.
The longer wheelbase promises improved cargo space and rear-seat comfort, while the cabin benefits from higher-end materials. New sport seats come with 12-or 16-way power adjustments and use high-strength steel frames.
A new True Touchpad interface controls the infotainment system. It uses a touchpad on the center console and a 10.2-inch screen set high. Each position on the touchpad is mapped to a position on the screen, and drivers simply click to activate the functions they want.
Standard equipment includes the infotainment system, Apple CarPlay, keyless ignition, in-car wi-fi, 12-way heated front sport seats, a panoramic sunroof, a power height-adjustable tailgate, and 19-inch alloy wheels.
A new A-Spec model tops the lineup with 20-inch wheels, gloss black accents, and an optional two-tone red and black interior.
Standard safety items consist of forward collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warnings, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control.
Acura RDX history
The RDX hasn't changed its mission at all since it was new in the 2007 model year.
From its introduction in 2007 through the 2009 model year, the RDX was offered with one powertrain setup only: a turbo-4 with standard AWD. The 2.3-liter engine had relatively high output, with horsepower at 240 and a fat 260 pound-feet of torque. The turbocharger made it a bit peaky and supplied a typical turbo soundtrack, which put off some potential buyers. A paddle-shifted 5-speed automatic provided more sporty character, while a taut suspension gave it a handling edge over competitors at the expense of some ride comfort.
That first RDX also shared the "Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive" system that put power to all four wheels in the larger Acura MDX, and featured torque vectoring. For the 2010 model year, Acura added a front-drive RDX to the order sheet, significantly boosting its fuel-economy numbers (at 19/24 mpg, versus 17/22 mpg) though it was still as thirsty as vehicles like the massive Lincoln MKT.
With its 2013 redesign, the RDX took on a series of updates that were meant to give it a more distinctive place in the market, versus the related CR-V.
Just when other makers began replacing large V-6 engines with smaller turbocharged inline-4s, the RDX adopted a new drivetrain—a 273-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The new powertrain maintained the prodigious power of the earlier model while making it easier to drive.
It also delivered better fuel efficiency, with a combined EPA rating of 23 mpg for front-wheel drive models and 22 mpg for all-wheel drive versions—both improvements on the prior model.
Also, the earlier model's all-wheel-drive system was replaced in 2013 and later models by a more ordinary front-biased AWD system. The change helped to reduce weight and improve efficiency.
The V-6 provided plenty of power without the lag the original's turbo-4 had. The longer wheelbase helped provide a smoother ride, opening up the RDX to a wider audience. The interior was still relatively small, especially for second-row occupants, although Acura improved cabin materials and design, with good differentiation between the RDX and its Honda kin.
The rear seat folded forward to create a 60-cubic-foot cargo area, and the RDX had about 27 cubic feet of space with the seat raised.
Safety scores made the RDX one of the best in its segment, and the IIHS repeatedly named it a Top Safety Pick.
The focus shifted toward families from sporting enthusiastic drivers. Leather seating, heated/power front seats, a power moonroof, and a 360-watt audio system were on the standard-features list, while the top Tech Package included navigation with real-time traffic and rerouting; a power rear tailgate; and an Acura/ELS surround sound system.
The Acura RDX carried over from the 2013 model year into 2014 and 2015 with no significant changes.
Acura refreshed the RDX for the 2016 model year with an improved 3.5-liter V-6 that provided slightly more power and torque as well as fuel-economy ratings that improved by one mpg in both city and highway testing. The available AWD system was retuned to provide a greater rearward torque bias for improved handling. Acura added new active-safety features, and gathered them under the AcuraWatch banner.
The RDX also received a mild refresh that included LED headlights and some tweaks to the front and rear fascias, while the interior received some minor trim changes.
The RDX was largely unchanged for 2017 and 2018.