Search

The Review Garage

Rating the best and worst in cars, SUVs, trucks, motorcycles, tools and accessories.

Category

Acura

Don’t Ignore the 2020 Acura RDX

by Jason Fogelson

Ignoring Acura is a mistake. While the brand has had its ups and downs in terms of awareness and popularity, its cars have never lacked in quality and passion. As the luxury brand of the Honda universe, Acura has a tall order to fulfil. Honda’s reputation for dependability, efficiency and competence is well-established, and Acura shares in that regard. If Honda and Acura share a deficit, it might be excitement. Even when the brands come up with an exciting vehicle, like the Honda Civic Type R or the Acura NSX, the limelight seems to fade quickly after launch. Blame a fickle audience; blame the marketing department; blame the shock of the new; it doesn’t matter. The fact is that most of us buy or lease our vehicles for a long-term relationship, and we’d be wise to consider factors beyond popularity and infatuation before making a commitment.

Advance Action

If you’re in the market for a compact luxury crossover, I’m going to point you in the direction of the 2020 Acura RDX SH-AWD Advance. I might be behind the curve on this, as RDX has sold over 450,000 examples over three generations since its launch in 2006.

RDX was all-new for 2019, the first Acura vehicle to be designed and engineered in the United States. It rides on an Acura platform, rather than a shared Honda platform as previous generations did. RDX is built in East Liberty, Ohio.

In a sea of automotive sameness, there are a few cool features that help RDX stand out in the crowd of compact luxury crossover SUVs.

Advance Beauty & Details

For drivers, there’s a completely transparent feature called “Torque Vectoring Super Handling All-Wheel Drive.” Torque vectoring is not new, but when properly executed (as it is on RDX), it can be a revelation. Simply explained, torque vectoring directs the twisting force on the wheels to the outside wheels on a turn, which can enhance control and turn-in. You probably realize that the inside and outside wheels rotate at different speeds during a turning maneuver. This is managed by a differential, which allows the wheels to spin as needed. A torque vectoring system takes this one step further – pushing the power toward the outside wheels during a turn. This can be done passively, by applying brake pressure to the inside wheel, or actively. RDX’s SH-AWD system can send up to 70% of the available power to the rear wheels, and up to 100% of that power to the side that needs it. In practical terms, what that means is that when you mash the throttle from a standstill while turning the front wheel, perhaps trying to make a right turn at a red light and merging into cross-traffic, RDX simply bites in, applying the power just how you need it, and you get a smooth, powerful merge, not a scary, out-of-control power slide. It’s very impressive, and compelling enough that you’ll want to try it over and over again. Torque vectoring is usually very challenging to explain and demonstrate – not in the RDX. The benefits are apparent at every corner.

Advance Interior

In another cool feature, Acura has taken an evolutionary approach to its infotainment system with the True Touchpad Interface. Everything operates intuitively, and as expected. The cool evolution is how easy it is to customize the system, and how it expands the widely used concept of favorites from the confines of individual apps to the whole system operation. There are eight primary “tiles” on the home screen that can be moved around to the user’s preference, and programmed individually with a firm press for specific actions across multiple functions. For instance, you can program a tile to start navigation to your home; another to dial a frequently called phone number; another to play music from a favorite SiriusXM channel; another to set climate control to your preferred function. Place the tiles so that your most frequently used functions are at the corners, and you’ve got quick, no-look access. It’s smart, easy to use, and best of all, easy to set up – no programming degree required.

Advance Beauty & Details

Not everything is perfect in the RDX. While I liked the character of its turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder direct-injected gasoline engine (272 hp/280 lb-ft of torque), I found that I needed to select Sport mode in order to wake up its lagging acceleration. Left in “D” mode, the ten-speed automatic transmission simply took too long to respond to an insistent application of throttle.

I had no complaints about the comfort or fit and finish of the RDX, which I found to be exemplary all around. Acura’s paint quality is always great, and my test car’s Fathom Blue Pearl was particularly stunning.

Advance Beauty & Details

The 2020 Acura RDX SH-AWD Advance carried a list price of $47,700. Including a Destination and Handling fee of $995, my test vehicle had an as-tested price of $47,695, right in line with its stated competitive set of BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class, Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60. Tough to make a bad decision in that group. The only mistake would be to leave RDX out of consideration before making your decision.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Advance Beauty & Details

Photos (c) Acura

2020 Acura MDX AWD A-Spec: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

To paraphrase Erasmus: in the land of multiplying bitty crossovers, the luxury 2020 Acura MDX still reigns.

Desiderius Erasmus, in the 15th or 16th century, famously wrote, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”

The maxim is interpreted to mean that even someone with limited abilities or opportunities can be dominant over and considered special by those who have fewer abilities and opportunities.

Front 3q Left WhiteIt is apt when considering the new MDX, and other luxury crossover SUVs, awash in a flood of subcompact, compact and midsize crossovers.

Many of the newer small crossovers have much to recommend them: low prices, practicality over any four-door sedan, good performance and handling, and decent fuel economy.

They are named Kicks, Corsair, GLA, C-HR, Venue, Enclave, QX-30, HR-V, Niro, Kona, X1, Renegade, Seltos, CX-3 and Trax, among others. Some are luxury; most are popular priced.

Front 3q Right RedAs good as most of them are, many buyers aspire to something bigger, more luxurious and comfortable, with better performance and, important to some, reputation and presence. Those sentiments are what gave rise to luxury crossovers — at a time when truck-based SUVs like the Ford Explorer and Jeep Wagoneer of the last century dominated what then was a tiny slice of the market.

Mercedes-Benz was the first to introduce a luxury SUV, the ML-320 in 1998, though then it was not a crossover but a proper body-on-frame hauler built like a truck. It was followed in short order by the Lexus RX and the Acura MDX, both built with unit-body construction like automobiles, which the ML-320 also morphed into. The MDX distinguished itself by starting out as the first three-row, seven-passenger crossover SUV.

DashIt remains that way in 2020 and fits the interpretation of the famed Erasmus admonition. It is not a perfect vehicle, meaning it has some limitations, but it has been dominant in the marketplace.

Acura brags that it was the retail sales champ among three-row luxury competitors in 2019, beating Lexus, Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Infiniti, Tesla and Volvo then and in every year since 2010. The claim gets some argument because it counts only sales to individual buyers and ignores fleet sales.

Nevertheless, Acura also says the MDX is the best selling three-row luxury SUV of all time, and has completed its eighth straight year of sales higher than 50,000.

Center ConsoleNo vehicle is perfect and the MDX A-Spec tested for this review is no exception, fitting the Erasmus definition of limited capabilities in some areas. The most obvious: It seats seven passengers, but only four of them comfortably.

The front bucket seats, done up in suede-like Alcantara cloth with leather trim, are supportive and comfortable for both long-distance cruising and challenging mountain curves. The same goes for the outboard rear seats.

Unaccountably, however, the center-rear seat, despite a flat floor, has a hard, uncompromising cushion that would be torture on a long trip. The second-row seats can be adjusted as much as five inches fore and aft, but there’s no way to divide the knee room to prove space for second- and third-row passengers.

2020 Acura MDX A-Spec

The third row is tiny, difficult to access for all but athletic youngsters, and without decent space for adults. So it’s best to think of the MDX as a two-row crossover with the third row folded to open a giant cargo area, usable mainly for extra passengers in emergencies.

So much for the MDX’s limited capabilities. In other respects, especially the driving experience, it is a superb performer despite its two-ton heft and length of 16 feet 4 inches.

WheelThere’s an old adage that says small vehicles should drive big and big vehicles drive small. The MDX, for all of its bulk, drives small. On curving roads, the MDX feels soft and flexible while also clipping corners with the composure of a smaller vehicle tuned for sporty handling.

Buttressing the handling is Acura’s integrated Dynamics System, which provides driver-adjustable settings for steering effort, throttle responses and, with SH-AWD (super-handling all-wheel drive), torque vectoring to tighten cornering. Settings are Comfort, Normal and Sport, but the differences are small and handling remains confident.

Under the hood lies Acura’s 3.5-liter V6 engine, as smooth a power plant as you can find anywhere. It makes 290 hp with 267 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force, delivered to Acura’s SH-AWD through a nine-speed automatic transmission with a manual shifting mode. It’s a personality any driver would embrace.

RearSpecifications

  • Model: 2020 Acura MDX AWD A-Spec four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.5-liter V6; 290 hp, 267 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 4 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 138/16 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,303 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 5,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/25/21 mpg. Premium fuel.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $55,895.
  • Price as tested: $55,895.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Rear 3q Left WhitePhotos (c) Acura

2019 Acura RDX A-Spec: A DriveWays Review…

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.

Advance Action

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.

Advance Action

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.

Advance Interior

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.

Advance Interior

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.

Advance Beauty & Details

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.

Advance Action

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.

Advance Action

Photos (c) Acura.

2018 Acura TLX A-Spec AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

They call it a “major refresh,” but the 2018 Acura TLX looks and feels more like a comprehensive makeover of the sport/luxury sedan.

Although it carries over engines, transmissions and other components from the previous TLX, the new car has been re-sculpted from the windshield forward. A handsome “diamond pentagon” grille replaces the earlier face, which some critics likened to a dental overbite.

There also are new rear styling touches as well as an upgraded model, the A-Spec, which features state-of-the art suspension modifications, quicker steering, 19-inch alloy wheels and premium sport-tuned Michelin tires that combine to muffle road noise and improve the ride, response and feel. Engine sounds are enhanced to make music for enthusiasts’ ears.

2018 Acura TLX

The musicality extends to the to the rhythm and tone of the driving experience, in which the TLX — particularly in the models with the V6 engine and all-wheel drive — evokes tactile sensations and emotional driver responses. Overall, the feel is of heft and substance.

The first TLX was designed to replace two Acura models: The acclaimed TL sedan, produced from 1996 to 2014, and the slightly smaller 2004-2014 TSX sedan. A TSX station wagon also was sold for a few years.

There are six versions of the new TLX, all with front-wheel drive, starting with the standard model at $33,950. It comes equipped with a 206-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and an eight-speed automated manual transmission that incorporates a torque converter for smoother starts off the line.

2018 Acura TLX

Basic equipment is extensive, including the AcuraWatch suite of safety features: autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and road departure mitigation.

Also standard are Apple Car Play or Android Auto infotainment systems, XM satellite and HD radio, dual-zone climate control, motorized sunroof, power and heated front seats, and pushbutton starting. A 2.4 TLX with the Tech package, at $37,650, adds navigation, premium ELS audio system, perforated leather upholstery, blind-spot warning and rear cross traffic monitoring.

There also are four versions of the TLX with Acura’s 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engine and nine-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. They range from the standard model at $37,150 with equipment similar to that of the standard 2.4-liter version, ranging up to the Advance trim level. That carries a price tag of $44,700 but includes a full load of equipment, including wireless cell phone charging, surround-view camera, heated steering wheel and rear seats, and a heated windshield.

2018 Acura TLX

Off by itself is the slightly less expensive but more engaging A-Spec model, which lists at $43,750. It was the version tested for this review and is aimed at customers who appreciate the nuances of sharper, more responsive handling as well as raspier exhaust notes.

The tested TLX was equipped with Acura’s state-of-the-art super handling all-wheel drive (SH-AWD in Acura-speak). It is available on any V6 TLX model for $2,000, and not only delivers confidence in foul weather conditions but enhances the driving experience even in fair weather climates.

Sure, almost anyone would be perfectly happy driving a TLX with front-wheel drive. But aficionados will appreciate the SH-AWD for the precise way it contributes to rapid lane changes and high-speed handling stability on curving roads. The torque vectoring system, housed in the rear differential, apportions power to the rear wheels automatically depending on conditions. In a high-speed corner, it slows the inside wheel slightly and increases power to the outside rear wheel to follow the driver’s chosen line. It also modifies the steering angle. The principle is the same as that used on the Acura NSX super car and the new Acura MDX Sport Hybrid crossover sport utility vehicle.

Although the A-Spec with SH-AWD still has the TLX feeling a bit as if it is under-steering — that is, pushing forward in a straight line — it obeys the driver’s wishes if you trust it.

2018 Acura TLX

Interior appointments, ergonomics and front-seat comfort are first-rate. But the outboard rear seats are barely adequate for average-sized adults. The center-rear position should be reserved for purses and small backpacks.

Though the TLX is marketed as a midsize sedan, its interior volume of 107.6 cubic feet (including the trunk) places it in the EPA’s compact class. To get a midsize designation, a sedan must have 110 to 119 cubic feet inside.

The 2018 TLX competes in the entry premium segment of the market against the Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C300, BMW 330i, Lexus IS and Infiniti Q50. It doesn’t bow to any of them.

2018 Acura TLX

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Acura TLX A-Spec four-door sedan.
  • Engine:5-liter V6, 290 hp, 267 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and SH-AWD all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 93/14 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,616 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 21/31/25 mpg. Premium required.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $45,700.
  • Price as tested: $45,700.

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

2018 Acura TLX
2018 Acura TLX V6 A-Spec

Photos (c) Acura.

2017 Acura NSX: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Long awaited, the 2017 Acura NSX doesn’t disappoint. Its unique design and supercar persona attracts superlatives like metal filings to a magnet.

It has a top speed of 191 mph, according to Acura, with a 0-60 mph time of about three seconds. By the way, it’s a mostly mid-engine hybrid.

Driving all four wheels are a 3.5-liter V6 engine with twin turbochargers, along with three electric motors. Two of them are packaged together to drive the front wheels and the third connects with the gasoline engine mounted behind the driver and forward of the rear wheels. It also functions as the starter motor. All together, the system delivers 573 hp and 476 lb-ft of torque.

The transmission is a nine-speed dual clutch automatic with paddle shifters on the steering wheel for manual operation. Even the steering wheel, with a flat top and bottom, is custom designed to frame the instruments and enhance outward visibility.

Though the paddles accommodate drivers who want to shift for themselves, they are not needed. The onboard computer reads a multitude of inputs and shifts more accurately than any human can.

This is only the second NSX. The first was introduced in 1990 and was so good it continued almost unchanged for15 years until 2005. Since then, Acura has tantalized enthusiasts with concept cars, including one which would have had a V10 engine. It died in the 2008 recession.

Now, the new NSX might puzzle some observers because of its hybrid design, which is associated in popular culture with enhanced fuel economy.

But it makes sense for a supercar because of those three electric motors. The main performance characteristic of an electric motor is that it produces maximum torque—or twisting force—immediately. Internal combustion engines attain maximum torque as engine revolutions increase.

Electric torque gives the NSX an instant jump off the line and then combines with the rpms of the gasoline engine to maintain steady power. It’s stunningly apparent if you use the NSX’s launch control to rocket away from a standing start.

Select track mode, hold your left foot tightly on the brake pedal, then floor the accelerator pedal and release the brakes. There’s no burning rubber because there’s no wheel spin. All four tires grab the pavement and the NSX snaps off the line like a ball bearing from a slingshot. Seconds later you’re up to three digit speeds.

Of course, any number of drag racers can rapidly reach high speeds. But in this era of high tech motoring, a supercar has to excel not only at acceleration but braking and handling as well.

2017 Acura NSX
2017 Acura NSX.

The tested NSX came with carbon ceramic brakes (a $10,600 option) that felt powerful enough to stop a runaway steam locomotive. They included a regenerative function that produced electricity and contributed to acceleration and handling.

The NSX incorporates a custom version of Acura’s super handling all-wheel drive (SH-AWD), which delivers yaw control and torque vectoring that enable a driver maintain a tight line around curves.

There are four driver selectable dynamic systems: quiet, sport, sport plus and track. They adjust torque vectoring, steering assist, transmission shift points, electric brake assist and suspension damping. Though it may come across as frivolous, they even control the exhaust sounds that are piped into the cabin.

The electric quiet mode enables an owner to sneak home late at night. At the other extreme, the track mode attunes systems for all-out racetrack driving, though it does not allow the driver to fully disable the safety of automatic stability control.

Inside, the NSX coddles the driver and one passenger as comfortably as if they were infants in a car seat. Bolsters hold the lower torso in place but also allow free movement of shoulders and arms.

As a supercar with Japanese reliability and U.S. build quality, the NSX doesn’t come cheap. It starts at $157,800, including destination and handling, and the heavily optioned test car came to $204,700.

The overwhelming recollection of the original NSX in 1990 was of a car that performed so perfectly that it felt invincible. You sensed that nobody, in whatever vehicle, could catch you. A brief drive in a 2005 model brought back those memories.

Yet that first NSX felt old fashioned next to its 2017 descendant, which should be labeled as invincible to the nth power.

2017 Acura NSX
2017 Acura NSX.

Specifications             

  • Model: 2017 Acura NSX two-door coupe.
  • Engines: 5-liter V6 gasoline, twin turbochargers, with one direct drive electric motor for the rear wheels. Two independent electric motors packaged together for the front wheels. Total system power: 573 hp, 476 lb-ft. torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed dual clutch automatic with manual shift mode.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 8 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 44/4.4 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,803 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 21/22/21 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $157,800.
  • Price as tested: $204,700.

Photos (c) Acura

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑