The 2019 Acura RDX takes a clean-sheet approach to sporty utility, and that makes it the second-best thing in its showroom, apart from the NSX. Small things make a big difference. Just a year removed from withering on the automaker’s vine, the new 2019 Acura RDX has a new face, new turbo power, good looks, available all-wheel drive, and an improved interior.
In base, Technology, A-Spec, and Advance trim, the 2019 Acura RDX has what it takes to be the best vehicle in the Acura lineup—aside from the swoopy NSX supercar, that is.
By Acura’s own reckoning, the RDX hasn’t had the styling, performance, and prestige to compete in its pricey bracket, until now.
Styling does the most notable job of cutting through the crossover-SUV clutter: the 2019 RDX has been handsomely reformatted into a bit of a statement piece. The grille frames its huge Acura badge with a starburst of chrome or black diamond-shaped cutouts, the fenders swish air curtains around bigger wheels, and the roof floats thanks to discrete bits of black plastic that cut in at the rear. The cabin dons suave olive ash trim in top trim levels, or bawdy red and black in A-Spec models.
The RDX channels gutsy performance as it dumps its old V-6 and adopts the Honda Civic Type R’s 272-horsepower turbo-4. Teamed with a 10-speed automatic that toggles through gears in near silence, and with all-wheel drive that can hustle torque between its rear wheels, the RDX dances and dives fluidly around corners, with the buzz and jostle of past versions removed. Acura fits the best RDXs with three-mode shocks and depends on firm all-season tires to turn in a composed, pliant ride, and it delivers.
The new RDX rides on a new chassis with 2.6 inches more length between the wheels, which means the old complaints of skimpy rear-seat leg room have washed away. Advance RDXs with 16-way sport seats are cuddle monsters, in the non-creepy way, but the RDX needs a better-formed rear seat bottom to crowd out the best compact-luxury SUVs. Storage space abounds, and trim quality has made gains-along with sound quality, damped in the most expensive RDX by thicker front and side glass.
All RDXs have cutting-edge safety gear, including automatic emergency braking. Most get blind-spot monitors, but only the Advance has surround-view cameras. Each has power features, a panoramic roof, a touchpad infotainment system with a 10.2-inch display, and Apple CarPlay (Android Auto is expected soon). Acura walls off the best seats in the house–and a head-up display and adjustable shocks–on the $47,000 Advance model, but base crossovers lack for little.
Acura has handsomely reformatted the 2019 RDX, and turned its formerly modest crossover into a bit of a statement piece.
The RDX has a newfound sense of style this year. It sits lower and wider for 2019, and wears a big five-sided grille that blends in some concept car style. It’s framed by deep lines that direct air around the car and around big LED headlights. It dons big character lines down the side, and some black roof pillar trim to make the roof appear to float. On the A-Spec version, the bright metal trim tones down to black, to match its bigger wheels.
The new interior significantly ups the RDX’s luxury quotient. It mixes touches of ash wood, brushed aluminum, stainless steel, and leather. A-Spec RDX crossovers can put on two-tone black and red upholstery. We’re not thrilled with the vertical dogbone of transmission controls that stamps the center stack with its inefficient shape, but that’s all overcome by the grace notes of luxury that Acura’s long skipped over as it tried to figure out exactly what its “premium” label meant.
Acura calls the 2019 RDX its sportiest compact crossover yet, and claims the X3 and Q5 as its spirit animals. It’s not as firmly sprung as those SUVs, but has a mellow, refined feel that’s far removed from the jitter and buzz it’s had in previous lifetimes.
Under the hood, the RDX swaps its 3.5-liter V-6 for a rorty 2.0-liter turbo-4 that makes 272 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, which peaks at 1,600 to 4,500 rpm. Based on the Honda Civic Type R’s turbo-4, this energetic dual-overhead-cam engine has 40 percent more low-rpm torque than the V-6 did, and it’s teamed with a new 10-speed automatic that can toggle down 4 speeds at a time, if it must. Paddle shift controls on all models turn the driving experience into something akin to a video game, but the transmission’s programmed well enough that most drivers may never realize those switches behind the steering wheel actually do things.
The RDX isn’t particularly light or heavy for its size, with a curb weight of 3,783 pounds in base front-drive trim, or 4,068 pounds as an AWD Advance. Acura doesn’t publish acceleration times, but the gutsy sounds and moves of the RDX suggest a 7-second 0-60 mph range. Honda’s been talking future S-Type and turbocharged V-6 models, so we wonder openly about how much power this capable chassis could handle.
It spins the RDX from Comfort to Sport and Sport+ modes, which tells the drivetrain to calm down or get amped up, from steering to throttle to adaptive shocks when they’re fitted. A Snow mode modulates everything down a half-step for more predictable behavior. When it’s tweaked to the more responsive programmed modes, the turbo-4 in the RDX delivers a swift gust of torque, thanks to a transmission with a low first gear and nine more to choose from there.