2020 Acura RDX Review

2020 Acura RDX - Acura RDX stands upon its own merits

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The RDX represents Acura's two-row, compact luxury-tinged crossover available with front wheel or road-hugging all-wheel drive. It represents one of two crossover-type Acuras, joining the larger, mid-sized three-row MDX.

Both qualify as on-road-intended, uni-body crossovers rather than truck-specific, body-on-frame heavier-duty Sport Utility Vehicles built for adventures off the beaten path.

The five-door crossover represents today's most-popular segment, surpassing the once mighty mid-size sedan. The RDX enjoys plenty of competition from other luxury brands (Lexus NX, all-new Lincoln Corsair, Infiniti QX50) and historically, has sold briskly boasting solid resale value.

Honda launched its upstart, stand-alone Acura brand back in 1986 with Integra and Legend models, the first Asian luxury nameplate out of the gate. Toyota and Nissan followed soon thereafter, introducing Lexus and Infiniti respectively.  The RDX debuted in the 2007 model year.

In the 2019 model year, Acura unveiled an all-new, dedicated, third-generation RDX with a stiffer chassis and more girth.  Wheelbase (distance between front and rear axles) grew by two-and-a-half inches, contributing to a smoother ride. Overall length grew by similar dimensions, adding more cargo capacity. A standard turbo engine entered the picture as well as a higher-quality interior. Expect minimal changes for 2020.

This new RDX 3G (third generation) also signifies a shift away from Honda's compact CR-V. During the first two generations, both shared similar compact platforms.  Now, each boasts unique underpinnings and powertrains creating starker contrasts with RDX prominent as the luxury alternative.

Front-wheel drive comes standard with Acura's in-house, well-tested torque vectoring SH (Super Handling)- all-wheel drive optional for an extra two grand, providing a more agile driving experience and recommended for upper Midwest travel. Acura, an early adaptor, debuted this automated safety/performance system 15 years earlier.

It's a rear-biased system, sending up to 70 percent of torque rearward if needed while up to 100 percent may distribute left or right wheel-wise, increasing traction and agility notable during turns.

One engine (not shared with CR-V) takes some guesswork out of the purchasing equation.  Acura's peppy 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder cranks out 272 horses and connects with a 10-speed automatic transmission.  The previous-generation RDX offered an underperforming, naturally aspirated (non turbo) V-6 generating 279 horses and connecting to a six-speed automatic. This new turbo four prioritizes performance, not necessarily fuel economy.

Turbochargers run off of recycled exhaust gases spinning a pinwheel-inspired turbine to pump concentrated air into the engine, increasing horsepower without adding undue weight. The RDX follows an industry trend of switching out larger V-6 engines with smaller, yet comparably-powered turbo fours.

This turbo includes stop-start technology, quieting the engine at prolonged stops before springing back to life when releasing the brake pedal.  This technology may be over ridden via a dashboard area button, but Acura's remains relatively unobtrusive when compared to others.

Front-wheel drive models deliver 22 miles per gallon city and 28 m.p.g. highway, increasing city fuel mileage by one when compared to the outgoing V-6. If opting for all-wheel drive, subtract one mile per gallon in both categories with A-Spec delivering 26 mpg highway.

Premium, 91-octane fuel is recommended to fill the generous 17.1-gallon tank. A convenient cap-less fuel filter allows direct access of the filling nozzle to the left-side fuel lead. When complete, a self-sealing plate closes when disengaging the nozzle.

Rather than selecting from multiple trim levels, RDX conveniently offers a single trim with three option packages: Technology, Advanced and A-Spec. Each package builds upon the previous one.  For example, when ordering the Advance package, one automatically absorbs Technology package equipment.

Our A-Spec tester started at $45,800 with a $47,195 bottom line when factoring a $995 destination charge and $400 premium exterior color. Acura estimates 34 percent of A-Spec buyers are under the age of 45.

Technology packaging adds front and rear parking sensors, rear cross traffic monitor, blind-spot detection, leather trimmed sport seats and Navigation.  Advanced Packaging ups the ante with a hands-free power lift gate, LED fog lights, heated and ventilated front seats, burl wood trim and rain sensing wipers.

The well-stocked A-Spec brings forth prominent 20-inch alloy wheels. Inside upgrades included black headliners, leather-trimmed sports seats with ultra-suede inserts, ventilated seats, and premium 16-speaker audio. All-wheel drive comes standard.   

Standard in all trims, an impressive, long panoramic moon roof with tilt and slide function and a long list of new-age radar safety nuances including  forward collision warning, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, multi-view rear camera, lane departure warning and collision mitigating braking system.

Inside, electronic push-button start comes standard, as do dual zone climate zones. Unlike a mechanical transmission with conventional grab handle, RDX opts for well-marked in-line electronic designates (PRND) bridging the center dash and the in-line cup holder region with sliding privacy cover. Engineers purposely dedicated specific finger motions for each choice and easy learning. For example, Park requires a down push of a rectangular button while Reverse necessitates a tactile tab push.  

Nestled within  the transmission shifter's chrome faming, a large dynamic mode push dial for selecting one of four drive modes (snow, comfort, sport and sport+). Below the narrow, thin transmission bridge resides an airy nook for stowing small purses or the once trendy fanny pack.

A 10.2-inch multi-function flat screen prominently stands above the center dash, rather than in the dash. Apple Car Play comes standard, allowing seamless screen interaction with Apple iPhones and downloaded Apps. Android Auto has yet to arrive.

This non-touch screen sets back, out of reach.  Selecting options requires a flat, customizable, pressure- sensitive 'True Touchpad Interface' flat surface between front bucket seats.  It's not dissimilar to the somewhat frustrating design Lexus employees within their vehicles.

As a finger (sometimes two) skates around the pad, a corresponding on-screen cursor moves in sync. Once the desired on-screen command highlights via the curser, a simple downward push selects the command. Quick-select push buttons north of the square pad help speed along the process and shortcuts may be programed in screen. Provide ample practice time as these skate-a-thons along with clicks and flicks necessitate steep learning curves.

Our top-level A-Spec also included hot red accents contrasting artfully with silver backdrops within the instrument panel's two circular analog gauges.

For those prioritizing cargo volume, RDX enjoys some of the largest luxury compact class dimensions. Behind the second row, expect 29.5 cubic feet.  That number balloons to 58.9 when manually folding second-row 60-40 split backrests.

Seven bejeweled LED headlights align inside narrow, eagle-eye housing wrapping around and smooching side fenders.  Diamond-shaped inserts fill the pentagon front grille. When viewed at a distance, a galactic-type starry universe portrait becomes visible. Acura's letter 'A" logo centers the galaxy. Tail light housing utilizes wraparound, boomerang-type outlines.

Narrow side windows work in tandem with high belt lines.  Several side horizontal character lines provide depth as a pair extends forward from the tail light housing to frame the rear door's strap-like handle with the top line projecting onward through the front door strap and finishing up-front near the circular wheel well.  

Acura assembles RDX in East Liberty, Ohio near the state capital of Columbus, the same facility churning out the three-row MDX.  

2020 Acura RDX

Price as Tested:  $47,195

Wheelbase:  108.3 inches

Length:   186.8 inches

Width:   74.8 inches

Engine:  2.0-liter turbo

Horsepower: 272

Curb weight:   4,019 pounds

Fuel Economy:   21 mpg city/26 mpg highway

Powertrain warranty: Six year/70,000 miles

Assembly: East Liberty, Ohio


Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.