Competitive luxury in the 2019 Acura RDX

When a vehicle offers luxury, comfort and performance, you seem to find reasons to run more errands and take short road trips. That was the case during my six days with the 2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite.

First impressions

More than one onlooker commented on this SUV’s athletic good looks. It’s modern and sporty without trying too hard to seem futuristic. An oversized Acura logo lines up with the textured “diamond pentagon” grill. The top edge of the grill meshes with the top of the jewel-eye LED headlights and leads the eye to curves beyond it, including a silver-bottomed scallop running the length of the sides at wheel level. These details and more contribute to Acura’s next-generation Acura Precision Concept design language.

Interior

Acura made no mistakes in its mission to pamper RDX occupants. Luxurious brown leather seats greet passengers front and rear. So do leather and olive ash wood accents throughout the cabin, as well as silver metal speakers that contrast against these other materials.

image courtesy Acura

The front sport seats are adjustable in about any way you can imagine, they’re heated, cooled, and feature solid side bolsters. Before somebody else gets into the driver’s seat, be sure to program your perfect setup into one of the two available seat memories.

For good measure, Acura includes an “Auto” button between the heating and cooling controls so front seat occupants can have the vehicle determine the right setting for their seats. There’s no such setting for the heated steering wheel, but I suspect drivers will appreciate the warmth nonetheless.

Rear seats are equally comfortable. The only downside is they don’t offer as much headroom, which is more than adequate up front.

image courtesy Acura

Rear seat occupants are most likely to appreciate the view out the panoramic moonroof that stretches back to just above their heads.

image courtesy Acura

Hockey bag test

The RDX accepted my bag longitudinally, but I did have to squeeze it in a little to keep the hatch from popping back up as it tried to close. Two bags will fit easily with the rear seats upright.

Hidden under-floor storage easily held my laptop backpack.

image courtesy Acura

And, as I learned, folding down the right seat using the conveniently placed lever near the hatch lets you wedge a box holding a wedding cake between the edge of the seat to the left and the right side of the interior.

In-cabin technology

Acura’s automatic transmission buttons for P, R, N and D contribute to the futuristic look of the centre stack. These buttons reside on an upward-curving platform that travels over an open storage spot underneath.

image courtesy Acura

The dial above the P button lets drivers choose from four drive modes – more on those later.

Acura isn’t stingy with the USB ports, putting two in front and two in back on four of the five RDX trim levels. The latter two reside next to the rear seat heating controls.

The RDX 10.2” screen is NOT a touch screen.

image courtesy Acura

Acura offers a trackpad it calls True Touchpad for screen navigation just below the transmission buttons. You keep your finger on the touchpad, moving it until the right icon gets highlighted on the screen, at which point you press the touchpad. Bonus: you can also “write” on the touchpad, much like you might once have done on a Palm Pilot.

image courtesy Acura

While using the Touchpad:

  • the hand rests on a leather pad resembling that on some mouse pads
  • the elbow on the cover of the centre storage cubby.

I found the positioning natural and comfortable.

Certain system features took some time and reading to get used to. It was worth the effort to access the full complement of infotainment features, from satellite and regular radio to Apple Carplay to navigation and so forth.

Depending on which of the five trim levels you choose, Acura includes a premium audio system. The Platinum Elite I drove features a 16-speaker ELS Studio 3D system channelling 710 watts. I don’t know where they put all the speakers. It doesn’t matter. More than once, I found myself delaying egress after parking the RDX just to soak in the sound.

ahh, there’s one of the 16 speakers – image courtesy Acura

The bigger the vehicle, the more I appreciate a surround view camera system (standard on the Premium Elite I drove). Drivers coming from narrower vehicles will find this system makes it easier to back the RDX into a parking spot.

image courtesy Acura

The instrument cluster sports a 7” multi-information display. This screen shows settings for adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance and other driving functions.

Much of this information appears on the heads-up display (standard on the Platinum Elite trim).

image courtesy Acura

Adjustment of the HUD’s height was as easy as that for the side windows.

Driving

Acura left its 6-cylinder 6-speed designs behind. The replacements are impressive.

On several occasions, I found myself calmly leaving other drivers in the dust when lights turned green. Acura’s 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder can produce 272 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. That was enough to give me room to safely swing over a lane to the left to avoid parked cars 150 metres ahead. Performance is not that of the NSX, Acura’s recently revived sports coupe, but this SUV sure can claim family relations.

That wasn’t how I drove the RDX most of the time. For instance, when transporting the above-mentioned wedding cake, along with two ladies done up for the ceremony (not bridesmaids or the bride herself) on a lengthy highway drive to the venue, I drove as smoothly as I could. The RDX cooperated at all times. The cabin is quiet, the ride smooth. Adaptive cruise control kept us a good distance back from traffic ahead and managed slow-speed following without jumping ahead too quickly when the lane opened up ahead. Needless to say, the wedding cake (carrot cake with cream cheese icing) arrived at the reception hall unblemished and delicious.

Acura includes several drive modes. I dabbled in ”Sport“ and “Sport +” but for the most part left the vehicle in “Comfort“ mode. That’s what I think most drivers will do. I also believe Canadian drivers will use the fourth drive mode. It’s called “Snow” and ought to help many stay out of winter driving trouble.

Steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters let drivers go through the 10 gears. Yes, you read that right – 10 gears in an SUV. I preferred to let the RDX sort out gear changes, including 4‐gear direct downshifts, and enjoy the super-handling all-wheel drive (SH-AWD) whenever I chose to get moving. All the electronic driving systems added up to a package that, for its SUV dimensions and the driving I tried, never felt even remotely out of control. Maybe I should have used the paddle shifters too.

Performance technology gets paired with a healthy selection of active safety features, all standard, from collision mitigation braking to a forward collision warning system (that told me to BRAKE on a few occasions – it’s quite perceptive) to a lane departure warning system, and so forth.

Fuel economy

The price for that power and control doesn’t seem too steep. Acura published city/highway/combined numbers of 11.0/8.6/9.9, all in litres/100 km. Numbers are slightly higher on the A-Spec (Acura’s “go-fast” version of its vehicles). Thankfully, Acura ships “Idle-Stop” technology standard on the RDX. When it can, Idle-Stop kills the engine at red lights, stop signs, or whenever you aren’t moving, so you don’t burn gas while standing still.

The RDX takes premium unleaded fuel in its 65-litre tank.

Conclusion

The 2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite retails for – and I did a double take when I read this in Acura’s documentation – $54,990 MSRP. This is the flagship RDX. It offers levels of luxury, performance and modern technology that compares well to anything else in its class. At this price, I can say Acura is coming out swinging for market share.

The base trim RDX can be had for $43,990 MSRP.

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