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Shaking Up the Segment: 2019 Acura RDX Test Drive

Acura’s first commercial for the all-new 2019 Acura RDX is quite gripping. It opens with flashes of the original Acura NSX and Integra, while Motörhead’s cover of Sympathy for the Devil jams in the background. Put simply, it isn’t your typical Acura commercial, which is fitting since this crossover’s launch begins “a new era” for the 32-year-old luxury brand.

Those are some lofty expectations for any vehicle let alone one positioned in an always-growing segment that currently includes luxury CUVs like the BMW X3, Jaguar F-Pace, Infiniti QX50 and Volvo XC60. To get our glimpse of Acura’s future, we spent a week with the 2019 Acura RDX decked out with the sporty Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) and loaded up with the Advance package.

2019 Acura RDX

2019 Acura RDX Exterior

The 2019 Acura RDX isn’t the first to display this Acura current design, but it is, arguably, the best. As you walk around the RDX, the multitude of body lines flow from edge to edge creating a sense of motion even when the vehicle is standing still; this is especially apparent on this tester’s Majestic Black Pearl paint job, which sparkled from every angle. The black 19-inch wheels are part of the Advance package, and add a sinister look to the compact RDX with only streaks of chrome breaking up an otherwise all-black exterior. Up front, the large grille is flanked by standard jewel eye LED headlights, while the rear view gets stylish LED taillights (standard on RDX Advance) and large, chrome-tipped exhaust outlets.

2019 Acura RDX

2019 Acura RDX Interior

While Acura’s exterior design has evolved into an edgier look over the years, the interiors have been a bit more conservative, but that isn’t the case with the 2019 Acura RDX. From the overall design to the stylish materials, this cabin is far better than the previous RDX, and quite possibly one of the best in its segment.

Step inside the 2019 RDX, and your eyes wander all over from the stitched leather and wood trim (natural olive ash burl wood on the Advance) to the standard panoramic roof and the ultra-wide infotainment screen. The Advance also upgrades brings 16-way power-adjustable, heated and cooled front seats with power-adjustable lumbar, thigh and side bolster support, heated outboard rear seats, heated steering wheel and 10.5-inch head-up display.

This cabin comes painfully close to perfection. On the bright side, Acura thankfully got rid of the loathed dual-screen layout of the previous RDX, but the brand’s new True Touchpad Interface isn’t much better. Not only were the touchpad and wrist rest too small for comfort, the interaction with infotainment system was a bit slow to react. Add in the push-button gear selector, and the center stack just looks too busy and cluttered. Even with these quirks, the interior of the 2019 RDX is an absolute homerun!

The redesigned RDX is larger than its predecessor in almost every dimension including a wheelbase that has been stretched by almost three inches and an overall width that is 1.1 inches wider. This gives more space to passengers with enough room to realistically accommodate five adults, and the cargo capacity (29.5 cubic feet with the seats up and 58.9 cubic feet with the seats folded) also includes some nifty storage compartments hidden under the load floor.

2019 Acura RDX

2019 Acura RDX Powertrain

When it comes to the powertrain, the 2019 Acura RDX has gone back to its roots by bringing back a turbocharged four-cylinder and Acura’s legendary SH-AWD – key features absent from the second-gen (2013-2018) RDX. As we’ve come to expect from automakers today, Acura ditched the previous RDX’s V-6 with a smaller, lighter and more efficient turbocharged and direct-injected four-cylinder. In the case of the 2019 Acura RDX, this is a 2.0-liter engine that produces 272 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, which takes a slight hit in horsepower (down 7 hp) but produces an extra 28 lb-ft of torque. The dated six-speed automatic was replaced with a 10-speed automatic, which helps return quicker shifts and EPA-rated fuel economy estimates of 21 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway** on this SH-AWD model.

While the idea of a “driver’s CUV/SUV” is a bit suspect to true enthusiasts, the 2019 Acura RDX has a sporty chassis that is nimble without being too fussy. Comparably equipped, this new model weighs about 100 pounds more than the V-6 model it replaces, but some of that weight had to be from the return of the torque-vectoring SH-AWD. The previous RDX dropped this system in the name of weight savings, although it negatively affected the crossover’s handling and driving performance. This new SH-AWD can send up to 70 percent of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels, and 100 percent of that can be sent to a single wheel. Acura has not released acceleration times for the RDX, but a reliable app showed an average of 5.7 seconds over several attempts.

Despite being an agile CUV, the new RDX is still a smooth cruiser when you need it to be. The suspension has no problem absorbing bumps and expansion joints, and the acoustic windshield and available acoustic front door glass (standard on RDX Advance) provide a surprisingly quiet cabin at highway speeds. Of all the improvements made to the all-new 2019 Acura RDX, the powertrain and chassis were the best.

2019 Acura RDX

2019 Acura RDX Safety

The 2019 Acura RDX has not yet been rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but this compact crossover comes packed with plenty of standard safety features. In addition to ten airbags – including driver and front passenger knee airbags – the RDX is equipped with the AcuraWatch Advanced Safety and Driver Assistance Technology, which consists of forward collision warning, collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, road departure mitigation system, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow and a multi-view rear camera. Stepping up to the RDX Advance adds head-up warning, blind spot information system, surround-view camera system and Rear Cross Traffic Monitor.

2019 Acura RDX

2019 Acura RDX Overall

Like the original NSX and Integra, the 2019 Acura RDX looks to shake up its segment with performance, luxury and style. Will enthusiasts be fawning over the third-gen RDX in 20 years? Only time will tell, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a small crossover – luxury or otherwise – that is this much fun to drive.

One area where the new RDX really outperforms its key rivals is in price where the starting price of $37,300* is almost $4,000 less than the BMW X3. All in, this fully loaded 2019 Acura RDX SH-AWD Advance had an as-tested price of $48,395.

Make sure to visit your local AutoNation-affiliated Acura dealership and test drive the 2019 Acura RDX today!

*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
**Based on 2019 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending on specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.

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