2019 Acura RDX SH-AWD Advance Review

The small luxury crossover grows up


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Rakish exterior stands out in the crowd, quiet and comfortable interior, SH-AWD system is optional across the range, premium safety features come standard in higher trims.
Negatives: Serious turbo lag, high infotainment learning curve, too many gear shifts, feels heavy in the turns.
Bottom Line: The Acura RDX's third act is its best, though some things still need ironing out. It drives well but has too much weight, it's powerful but lag is noticeable, and what should be a fresh infotainment system is a bit too complex.
The new RDX looks way different from the one that bowed two generations ago, and it's also a welcomed departure from the rather bland second-generation crossover. The new RDX borrows styling from the larger MDX, but it's edgier and more youthful in its appearance. Gone is the V6 engine, replaced by a torquier turbo four, and the RDX is also longer and taller than the outgoing version. Now, regardless of trim level, you can opt to get Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) for $2000 more. We drove it in SH-AWD Advance trim level for a week to see how good the RDX has become.
 

Driving Experience

7.5

 

The RDX is on the border of feeling athletic in its performance. It's better than the last RDX, but some elements are lacking. We also aren't fans of the engine not being artificially piped into the cabin.

Ride Quality: The RDX's ride is a great balance between comfort and sport. Even when dialed into Sport mode, it doesn't feel harsh.

Acceleration: The torque is noticeable, but there's some real turbo lag off the line. The 10-speed transmission shifts a bit too much for our liking and doesn't hold gears as a good sporty crossover should. You need to switch it to Sport mode to make this happen.

Braking: The brakes are strong, but the nose of the RDX dips under hard braking and makes the experience feel unsettling.

Steering: Steering is numb in terms of feedback, but it's on center and turn-in is responsive.

Handling: The 4,000+ lb RDX is heavy, and you feel it in the corners. It's not dynamic, but at least the suspension manages to keep some of the weight in check.

Technology

6.2

 

Call us old, but the RDX's infotainment system is too complex an the learning curve is overly challenging when it doesn't need to be. Overall, the in-car tech looks and feels overdone. At least the twin screens are gone.

Infotainment System: The 10.2-inch screen is clear but too far to reach, so it gets a True Touchpad Interface (TTI) that rests between the seats in the center console. There's also a split-screen function that divides and conquers. We had trouble figuring out how to play music from our smartphone, and the system isn't very intuitive.

Controls: TTI is responsive, but it's only a benefit when you're finally able to figure out how the system works. We really hate the gear selector buttons, which take too much time to use versus conventional shifters, and the drive mode selector knob is way too large and placed in the center stack, a lousy location.

Styling

8.9

 

The RDX is definitely in its prime in terms of looks. Edgy, stylish, and more attractive than the bigger MDX, it's one of the best-looking small luxury crossovers out there, slotting just under the Jaguar E-PACE and the Porsche Macan.

Front: It's good Acura finally decided to design a grille that looks distinct without being weird. The "diamond pentagon" grille looks great in dark mesh with the "jewel eye" headlights. Too bad the Acura logo is too big, and there's too much chrome trim at the bottom edges of the lower fascia.

Rear: Despite no longer sharing a platform with the Honda CR-V, the RDX's rear end kind of resembles an upscale version of the Honda crossover. It's not as daring as the front end, but it still looks good. It errs on the side of simplicity.

Profile: A muscular and creased body is peppered with too much chrome, in our opinion. Otherwise, it looks good with its sloping roofline and attractive black wheels. Overhangs are properly short.

Cabin: The dark cabin is broken up by white piping on the seats and brushed chrome trim. It's a handsome cabin, but we could do without the faux wood trim that seems a bit out of place.

Comfort

8.7

 

The stretched wheelbase provides a bit more room in the back, a very good thing for passengers. Acura also does a great job with the seat quality and comfort. Aside from questionable ergonomics, it's a well-made cabin that offers a good atmosphere for occupants.

Front Seats: The sport seats have soft leather and great bolstering and cushioning. These are some of the best in the industry. The seating position is also very good.

Rear Seats: Both outboard positions have good seat contouring, and there's more legroom and headroom than in the Jaguar F-PACE.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): Aside from the weird and artificial engine note pumped into the cabin, it's quiet and well-made inside. It was still hushed at highway speeds, too.

Visibility: There was good visibility out the front with easy placement in turns and parking lots. The rear 3/4 view is compromised by thick D-pillars and small rear side windows.

Climate: Despite the overly thin HVAC vents in the center stack, the system works well, as do the heated/ventilated seats.

Safety

9.6

 

Acura did particularly well in crash tests, as well as in overall safety ratings thanks to great tech and standard safety features. It's a vehicle buyers should feel comfortable transporting their loved ones in, and it has one of the best LATCH systems for child seats in the business.

IIHS Rating: It earned the Top Safety Pick+ rating with flying colors. It scored "good" in every crash test, "superior" for accident avoidance tech, and "good" for headlights, as well as "good+" for a great LATCH system with an extra set of latches for the middle position.

NHTSA Rating: The NHTSA gave the RDX a full five stars in crash tests.

Standard Tech: Our Advance trimmed RDX came fully festooned with features such as Blind Spot Information, Rear Cross Traffic Monitor, Front and Rear Parking Sensors, AcuraWatch: Collision Mitigation Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Assist System, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, and Road Departure Mitigation. There's a lot to like here.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

7.8

 

The RDX falls near the top of the small luxury crossover rankings in terms of interior cargo space, and the small item storage isn't bad. Small families should feel good taking a road trip as long as packing is on the mildly conservative side.

Storage Space: The drive mode selector knob and gear selector buttons occupy space where cubby would normally sit, robbing the driver of dedicated small item storage where it's most easily accessible. You'll have to settle for the large cupholders with the retractable sliding door and the medium-sized armrest.

Cargo Room: 29.5 cubic feet lies behind the 2nd row, and 58.9 cubes show up when the 2nd row is folded flat. That's a smidge larger and a couple of cubes smaller than the X3's interior dimensions, respectively.

Fuel Economy

6.9

 

An EPA rating of 27 highway for a turbo four crossover is pretty good, but we had trouble even getting close to the combined 23. That's probably because we drove it in Sport mode most of the, but we expected more.

Observed: 18.3

Distance Driven: 134 miles

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Audio

8.9

 

Our tester came standard with the upgraded ELS system with a booming 16 speakers. The sound quality is top notch, and we enjoyed listening to the system. Music came through clear and crisp with ample bass and no distortion even at higher volumes.



Final Thoughts

We really liked the RDX, and it was about time Acura redid it. Though so much of the crossover is better (style, comfort, space), the sporting intentions of the RDX didn't really shine through. It's better as a handsome long-range cruiser that doesn't have to be pushed through the twisties. The BMW X3, Audi Q5, and the Porsche Macan all handle better, but the RDX is a more attractive whole package thanks to its affordability and premium features.
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