by Frank A. Aukofer

With an all-new vehicle for 2019, the Acura RDX has come full circle in a dozen years.

When it was introduced as a 2007 model, the RDX was the first luxury compact crossover sport utility vehicle, slightly larger than its garage-mate at Honda, the popular-priced CR-V.

That RDX came with a turbocharged 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine. It delivered 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. In 2007, it had modest sales of 23,356, well behind the 58,545 sales of the midsize MDX.

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Though a good first effort, the original RDX was faulted — even by some of its own people at American Honda — for a hard ride and poor fuel economy.

Acura remedied that with the 2013 RDX, substituting a smooth and powerful 3.5-liter V6 engine that delivered better fuel economy as well as 263 hp and 220 lb-ft of torque through a six-speed automatic transmission. It was luxurious and quiet with precise handling and a creamy ride.

By 2017, it was nipping at the tailgate of its bigger MDX sibling, and early in 2018 it had become Acura’s best selling vehicle.

Now, with the all-new 2019 model, the RDX returns to a four-cylinder turbocharged engine. But the four-banger turbo motor of today is more refined and sophisticated than the original 2007 because of computer and software advances.

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The new one is smaller than the original. It is joining an army of 2.0-liter turbo engines that are becoming an auto industry standard, much as V8 and V6 engines were years ago.

With 272 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque, connected to the front wheels or all four wheels through a 10-speed automatic transmission that can be manually shifted with steering-wheel paddles, the new RDX is an exciting performer with an adjustable ride and Acura’s super-handling all-wheel drive, or SH-AWD. The system uses torque vectoring to control side-to-side movements. It can shift 70% of the power to the rear wheels and direct 100% of that to either rear wheel.

There are four selectable drive modes: snow, comfort, sport and sport plus, which adjust transmission shift points and suspension settings to improve ride, handling and overall performance. As might be expected, the handling improves but the ride gets a bit choppy in sport and sport plus.

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The RDX comes in four trim levels: Standard; Technology; A-Spec; and Advanced, with either front-wheel drive or the SH-AWD all-wheel drive. Tested for this review was the A-Spec, which is mechanically the same as the others but adds appearance items to give it a youthful appeal. It includes instruments — tachometer and speedometer — with red numerals on a gray background, which look great at night but are difficult to read in daylight.

Standard equipment on all RDX trims includes automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, road departure mitigation, Acura Watch technology suite, panoramic sunroof with power shade, SXM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay (but no Android Auto yet), dual-zone automatic climate control, LED headlights and taillights, pushbutton starting and stop-start engine idling. Adaptive shock absorbers, rear cross traffic alert and power tailgate are standard on top trim levels.

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The tested all-wheel drive A-Spec model, with a $46,495 price tag, also came with red leather sport front seats with faux suede inserts; black 20-inch alloy wheels; an ELS premium audio system with 16 speakers, including four in the headliner; gloss black body accents; sport steering wheel, four-inch round exhaust tips and A-Spec badging.

The aggressively bolstered front seats are supportive and hold the torso securely in hard cornering. Outboard back seats are comfortable. The RDX has a nearly flat floor to provide foot and knee space for the center-rear passenger, who unfortunately must sit on a narrow, flat and hard cushion.

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Acura’s trademarked True Touchpad Interface is certain to cause some initial consternation, as it requires a good bit of study and practice to operate. It controls all vehicle functions displayed on the elevated center screen. Screen displays correspond exactly to the location of a finger on the touchpad. The touchpad itself can be operated without looking, but the driver’s eyes still must focus on the screen. Best to get things set up while the RDX is parked.

There’s 31 cubic feet for cargo behind the rear seat, which expands to 80 with the seatbacks folded. The area includes three storage tubs, two under the cargo floor. However, the A-Spec has an inflator kit but no spare wheel.

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Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Acura RDX A-Spec four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 272 hp, 280 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 10-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 7 inches. Height: 5 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 104/31 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,019 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 21/26/23 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $46,495.
  • Price as tested: $46,495.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

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Photos (c) Acura.