2019 Acura RDX A-Spec – First Drive Review – By Josh Seaman

When I found out that Acura was going to release an all new RDX, redesigned from the ground up, powered by a new 2.0L turbo powerplant, I was cautiously optimistic.

You see, I remember Acura’s glory days.

I remember the Legend and Integra and Honda’s feverish devotion to prove that they could swing with the big boys.

Even today, many of their vehicles from this era remain sought after by enthusiasts and commuters alike.

[Ed’s note: Josh drove an early-1990s Legend in his youth!  The one with the shouty V6 howl!]

But somewhere between then and now they seemed to have lost their way somewhat. Perhaps they were victims of their own success. Maybe after this golden age they didn’t feel like they had anything to prove anymore. Maybe they felt they could put the brand on cruise control and let styling and brand recognition alone carry them.

I hoped that in building this all new RDX from the ground up that they would take this chance to remember what made them great. I hoped they would decide not to give us just  another market segment box checking, hyper fiscally sound, just enough to be technically considered a “luxury-sport” vehicle, but instead something that was built with a passion to make something good. Something that was built by enthusiasts, not salespeople. I hoped Acura would take this chance to get it’s soul back.



When you first see the new RDX there are a few things about it that you really notice. First, the center focused Diamond Pentagon Grille draws your eye to the noticeably large Acura logo. Poised in the very front of the new Acura, the logo not only serves to loudly announce who the manufacturer is and that they are proud of what they have done, but also houses all of the radar equipment used for many of the AcuraWatch safety systems like the Adaptive Cruise Control and Collision Mitigation Braking System, now standard on all models and trims.

Behind the logo sits a tasteful and confidently sporty design.

The body lines and accent features such as the functional front air curtain scoops all work well together to create a look that conveys an air of practicality, and perhaps more importantly, fun.

Wrapping the whole package is a variety of color options, four of which are Acura’s premium paint offerings. My personal favorite of the available options would definitely have to be the Apex Blue Pearl, mostly because of the way Acura’s new clear coating process really helps to accentuate the color’s richness and depth.

All of this is connected to the pavement by way of a variety of stylish 19 and 20 inch wheel designs and finishes, variously equipped by trim level. Gloss black 19” and unique machined gray 20” wheels are also available as accessory purchase options.


We’re gonna talk about touchpads for a second. Ever since the technology for anything more than programmable memory buttons became affordable for the general consumer the automotive buying public has been subjected to a smattering of hit and miss user interfaces of everything from touchscreens to single knob dials to (shudder) touchpads.

Touchpad interfaces have gotten a pretty bad rap over the last few years in no small part thanks to one manufacturer in particular who seemed to think that locating a tiny mouse cursor on a screen is a good idea while going 80 on the freeway.

Needless to say I’m a bit prejudiced against touchpad interfaces so I wasn’t too excited upon seeing one in the new Acura. I was terrified that a vehicle that had, up to this point, been making such a good impression was about to be completely ruined for me by having an interface that caused me to plow into the car next to me the first time I tried to change the radio station.

It’s at this point that a member of the Acura team sat down with me and gave me a tour of the new interface. He explained that Acura’s goal was to combine the best parts of a touchscreen with the best parts of a touchpad. Instead of a touchscreen that you have to lean forward and take your eyes completely off of the road to interact with or a touchpad that you have to locate a pointer on the screen or swipe an obscene number of times just to navigate the menu, they have instead made the touchpad in front of the armrest interact with the screen on a 1:1 basis.

What this means is that wherever your finger is on the pad directly corresponds with what is highlighted on the screen.

This combined with a fully customizable home screen means that this is a system that can be utilized by everyone from a Silicon Valley developer to  the most technically illiterate among us.

A touchpad system I actually like…

Never thought I’d see the day!

Beyond that, the rest of the interior is very well put together.

The entire cabin flows very well using Acura’s new Precision Concept design language and provides for a very comfortable, spacious, and classy environment.

The drive is very quiet for this size vehicle, but that honestly won’t matter if you decide to spring for the optional 16 speaker ELS Studio 3D sound system. It would be very difficult for me to overstate how impressed I was with this system. I could go on for days about the clarity of the audio, due in part to four tweeters squeezed into the space between the door frames and the panoramic sunroof.

I could go on about the very well executed zone audio option that allows certain locations in the vehicle to continue receiving a quality audio experience while being almost inaudible by other passengers.

Unfortunately this is one of those things that you need to experience for yourself to appreciate. I highly recommend you do so.


If you’re buying an RDX because you’re worried about track times then you’re so far off base that there is nothing I can do for you and I’m sorry. I genuinely wish you the best and hope you find your way to reality soon. That being said…

The 2.0L turbocharged four cylinder makes more than enough power to get around town at 272 HP and 280 lb.-ft of torque and the 10 speed automatic transmission does a good job at delivering it to the road via Acura’s newest version of it’s trademark SH-AWD all wheel drive system, now in it’s 4th generation, and the active damper suspension system.

The 70% rear biased torque vectoring system really does inspire confidence in the twisties and especially on looser surfaces like dirt and gravel. Even with traction controls disabled (on a closed course with professional drivers, because you have to say that these days) the RDX feels grippy and controllable.

If there is a complaint to be made it would be that there seems to be a slight hesitation when accelerating from lower speeds that can sometimes give a little bit of a “soggy out of the corner” feeling, likely due to the number of gears it may have to change to downshift to get to the proper one. Honestly though, this is something you can only notice during spirited driving and can be resolved by either putting it in it’s Sport or Sport+ driving modes or shifting manually on the steering column mounted shift paddles.

I really have to say, they did a great job with this drivetrain.

The RDX is by no means a track monster or a rally king but it’s predictable, it’s AWD demeanor is rear-biased like it should be, and it’s overall a fun drive.


All in all, the new RDX is a very well designed and executed small SUV that is not just a practical daily driver, but also fun to drive. On top of that it provides all of the amenities you would expect from a vehicle in this segment in such a way that even the techno-phobic can use fairly intuitively.

Consistently coming in thousands less than a similarly equipped X3, Q5, or Mercedes GLC 300 the RDX also provides a great value and still has the tightly tuned, sporty driving experience you expect from it’s German counterparts. And this is the part I truly love about it.

The best part of Acura’s glory days of the 90s and 2000s was the fact that they did what they set out to do, which was take a swing at the German big boys. They provided all of the performance, luxury, and tech that their rivals did at a noticeably lower price. That mixed with Honda’s trademark reliability makes for one great all around package that I, for one, would love to have in the driveway.

2019 Acura RDX on location in Whistler, BC


2019 Acura RDX Pricing & EPA Ratings

including $995 Destination4
EPA Fuel Economy Ratings
(city / highway / combined)5
RDX (FWD) $37,300 $38,295 22 / 28 / 24
RDX (FWD) with Technology Package $40,500 $41,495 22 / 28 /24
RDX (FWD) A-Spec $43,500 $44,495 22 / 27 / 24
RDX (FWD) with Advance Package $45,400 $46,395 22 / 28 / 24
RDX SH-AWD $39,300 $40,295 21 / 27 / 23
RDX SH-AWD with Technology Package $42,500 $43,495 21 / 27 / 23
RDX SH-AWD A-Spec $45,500 $46,495 21 / 26 / 23
RDX SH-AWD with Advance Package $47,400 $48,395 21 / 27 / 23