Review: 2019 Acura RDX A-Spec takes us by surprise
Acura's small RDX crossover has been completely revamped for 2019 with a new midpoint sport trim, called A-Spec, and improvements are across the board that add up to make it a much more compelling SUV than its predecessor.
The previous-gen RDX had several problems, not the least of which was a lackluster V6 and mushy drive characteristics. The 2019 Acura RDX sees both of those things change with a pushier turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a more sport-centric A-Spec variant. There are some downsides to the A-Spec, but of the four option packages for the 2019 RDX, it's by far the most fun.
We've had a lot of experience with the new Acura RDX, thanks to spending a week in the vehicle on both dry and wintry roads, and our time in it atop a mountain in Colorado during the summer. The RDX is roomy, fun to drive, and surprisingly workaday for a crossover with so much fun factor.
The A-Spec is the third of four options packages for the 2019 RDX, the others being the base model, the Technology model, and the higher-end Advance. The A-Spec includes a full suite of driver's aids (adaptive cruise, emergency braking, etc.) and navigation, plus interior upholstery in red and black, and blacked-out trim on the outside. Twenty-inch wheels are also standard, along with wider tires to highlight the RDX A-Spec's performance chops. A better 16-speaker ELS Studio 3D surround-sound stereo is also standard in the A-Spec.
Sportiness is the A-Spec model's raison d'être, but with just those larger wheels, fatter tires, and not much else, the package is more about looking and feeling the part than actually being the part. Still, the engine that powers the 2019 RDX in all its formats does go a long way towards delivering that sporty ideal.
The turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder outputs 272 horsepower (203 kW) and 280 pound-feet (380 Nm) of torque. Most of that comes early in the RPM range, thanks to those turbos, and while front-wheel drive through the ten-speed automatic is standard, we very much recommend going to all-wheel drive for better handling and capability. Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) is superb and does a beautiful job of vectoring torque from wheel to wheel and axle to axle. One aspect of that is the overdriven rear axle, which distributes torque through a corner to provide better traction to the inside wheel.
That engine and SH-AWD-equipped transmission are available on all Acura RDX models, but really feel good in the A-Spec. Despite not having a special chassis or suspension, it does feel sportier than the other RDX models thanks to better seat bolstering and the wider tires. Little things like the sometimes too-small brakes and occasionally unenthusiastic throttle response as the turbo lags are downers, but the rig overall feels really good on the road.
Inside, the 2019 Acura RDX A-Spec is a well executed with a nice feel. Comfort is high, especially in the front seats, and very good in the rear outboard seats. The center position is probably best suited to the family dog, but will house an adult in a pinch. Parents will be happy to note that the wide rear seats accommodate a child safety seat well and LATCH anchors are easy to locate and use. We're not fans of the Honda/Acura push-button gear selection gimmick, but the brand's new infotainment system is easy to get used to.
Based on a new interface that uses a crisp display screen and a mousepad-like touchpad below the shift buttons on the console, the Acura's infotainment is either very quickly adopted or very quickly hated. Most will like it, given it's similar to many devices like notebook computers. Moving a finger on the pad moves the selection cursor, pushing down on the pad selects. To the side of the pad is a scrolling meter, and a physical back button and home button finish the deal. Unlike the unfriendly interface of the Lexus family, the new Acura touchpad works intuitively – far easier to understand and very smooth on-screen.
Smartphone integration in the Acura RDX is solid. Apple CarPlay is standard, Bluetooth connectivity is good and there's mobile hotspot capability. There's no Android Auto, but Acura says it will be available soon. Meanwhile, the natural language voice recognition in the RDX A-Spec is very nicely done and easy to use – even for setting navigation points, which is an unusual boon.
Storage in the 2019 RDX is great, with plenty of small item space around the front seats on the tiered center console and a shelf for phones with nearby plugs. Behind the second row is a decent amount of cargo space – 31.1 cubic feet of space (880 liters) with a low loading floor. Underfloor storage is also available, allowing a few bags of groceries to lie unmolested. The rear seats split-fold as standard, adding more cargo space, but don't quite lie all the way flat.
The overall appeal of the 2019 Acura RDX in its A-Spec format is high. It's a good-looking crossover with a sporty exterior and a solid interior design. It proved fun to drive as a daily, can go offroad where no one would expect it to get, and does very well in inclement weather. When the roads are good, it has a great feel and strong cornering for its class. This is an exceptional all round mixture from Acura.
The starting price for the 2019 Acura RDX is US$37,300 with the A-Spec model ringing in at $45,900, delivered, as driven.
Product Page: 2019 Acura RDX
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