2020 Acura RDX Review

2020 Acura RDX - Perhaps the best all-around luxury compact crossover, RDX impresses with refinement, tech and price.


The Acura RDX is a 5-passenger compact crossover that was last redesigned in 2019. It is offered with front- or all-wheel drive. Competitors include the Audi A3, Cadillac XT4, Infiniti QX50, Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Lexus NX, Lincoln Corsair nee MKC, Mercedes-Benz GLC and Volvo XC40. There are no significant changes for the 2020 model year.

Previous generations of the RDX had shared chassis with the Honda CR-V. According to Acura, that's not the case with the current RDX, which rides its own platform. Compared to the 2018 model, the current RDX is two inches longer, one inch wider and rides a wheelbase that grows from 105.7 to 108.3 inches. The new model also dumped the old's V6 engine in favor of a turbocharged 4-cylinder.

A single model is offered with three available option packages: Technology, sport-themed A-Spec and Advance. Sole engine offering is a 272-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. It mates to a 10-speed automatic transmission with driver-controlled manual shift mode. Front-wheel drive is standard while Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive is available for $2.000. Maximum towing capacity is 1,500 pounds.

All models include forward-collision warning with automatic braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, road-departure warning and adaptive cruise control. Also standard across the board is support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Blind-spot alert and cross-traffic warning are offered in the Tech, A-Spec or Advance packages. Starting price for the front-drive model is $37,600. The tech package adds navigation, parking sensors, leather, and 12-speaker audio system. A-Spec adds, 20-inch wheels, unique trim, and 16-speaker audio system. Advance adds the features of the other two packages as well as adaptive suspension, hands-free tailgate, heated steering wheel and head-up display.

Swapping out the smooth V6 for a turbo four was a risk for Acura. However, buyers need not worry, the new 272-horsepower 4-cylinder provides ample acceleration from a stop and great passing punch. It mates well to the 10-speed automatic, which provides smooth and timely shifts. When pushed, the powertrain will push the 4,000-pound RDX from 0 to 60 MPH in about 7 seconds. That's quicker than most in the class.

EPA ratings of 21 MPG city and 27 MPG highway for the all-wheel-drive version are smack dab in the middle of the segment. Unfortunately, Acura recommends premium-grade gasoline for best performance. In routine suburban commuting expect to average close to 25 MPG overall, perhaps as high as 30 MPG if you throw in some gentle highway cruising.

Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive is a fancy name for an AWD system that has active torque distribution. That means the system proactively distributes power to the wheels with the best traction in an effort not only to help acceleration but also to improve handling. It does not have a low range and is not intended for extreme off-road use. In reality, the system works quickly to send power to the wheels with the most traction to limit wheelspin.

RDX has always been one of the better handling compact crossovers and the latest edition might just offer the best ride-and-handling compromise yet. It falls a step behind the BMW and Infiniti in overall athleticism, but it makes up for that with a ride that doesn't beat you up over the rough stuff.

The base suspension does a great job on a variety of road surfaces. The body is well-controlled over bumps and expansion joints at highway speeds, and it is adept at shrugging off potholes in the city. There is a slight increase in overall busyness with the A-Spec's 20-inch wheels, so be sure to take a long test drive before deciding on that package.

The brakes have adequate stopping power and the pedal is easy to modulate, no surprise there. However, there is more nosedive than expected in hard braking. The delightful steering is nicely weighted at all speeds and proves to be precise and accurate on the highway. Engine noise is well muted and wind and road noise never intrude.

Thankfully in its 2019 redesign, the RDX eschewed the twin-screen dash setup for a larger single screen. Still, the interior has a stark and modern design that puts the emphasis on the driver and driving ahead of the luxury trappings found in other high-zoot compact crossovers. Materials are appropriate for the price and build quality is excellent.

Drivers face a conventional twin dial setup (no digital cluster here). Speedo numbers are tightly grouped and marked in 20 MPH increments, making it hard to read at a glance. Thankfully a head-up display is offered. The center stack is dominated by a large horizontal display screen and the interior is awash in buttons and knobs. The feeling can be a bit overwhelming at first, but you quickly get accustomed to the setup and will find that most controls fall close to hand.

There are a few exceptions, however. First off, the infotainment screen is controlled by a touch pad that's split with 2/3 of the pad controlling the left side of the screen and 1/3 controlling the right side. At first, it's very confusing and somewhat confounding to use, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes natural and you don't even have to look down. Also, there's a large dial that dominates the center console that is designed to give instant access to different drive modes. It's one of those things that takes up a lot of prime real estate for very limited use.

The front seats are heated and cooled and nicely padded. They provide ample support in spirited driving and great comfort on long trips. Head and leg room are exceptional. Rear-seat passengers are treated to well-appointed seats with generous, for the class, head and leg room. There's even enough width for three abreast adult seating. The door openings are wide and step-in quite modest, making for easy entry and exit. Thicker-than-normal roof pillars and a high belt line provide just average outward visibility.

At almost 80 cubic feet, cargo capacity is quite impressive for the class. Even with the rear seats in use, there's a generous 31.1 cubic feet of storage space. The load floor is low and wide and there's even an underfloor container. Interior storage is great with lots of open and covered bins. One especially nice touch is the open bin below the center console -- sometimes referred to as the handbag holder.

Bottom Line -- RDX is a solid entry into the luxury compact crossover class. With price taken into consideration, many feel it's the overall best value. Highlights include a roomy passenger compartment, ample interior storage, powerful and efficient engine and quiet and comfortable ride. Acura's interior may be a bit busy in comparison to competitors, but at least it's functional. The only true downside is the RDX's meager 1,500-pound towing rating. If you are considering a vehicle in this class, you'd be foolish not to give the RDX a test drive.

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.