Completely redesigned for 2019, the RDX is no longer the small crossover you have to settle for. Acura is looking to change their image and the A-Spec is as good of a place as anywhere to start.
The first thing that catches the eye on the 2019 RDX A-Spec is the amazing Apex Blue Pearl paint. First seen on the 2008 Honda S2000, Apex Blue Pearl is a stunning color, especially potent on the larger surface area of a crossover. The color really shines in direct sunlight, but also almost turns a metallic purple in darker light. Your eye then moves to the grill. Unfortunately, as with most manufacturers, the Acura symbol is 25% too large; however the Star Wars Hyperspace-esque grill looks really cool. The streaks reach horizontally out to the aggressive Jewel Eye LED Headlights. On the exterior, the A-Spec package replaces chrome with black and adds 20” wheels with wider tires. It’s not a lot of change, but the combination makes for a car that looks fantastic.
The red and black interior continues the aggressive theme. The Apex Blue Pearl combined with the red interior make me think this could be Superman’s personal transport. For those that think it’s an issue, black with white piping is a option. Funny enough, I’d still have the red. The A-spec package adds ventilated Leather Trimmed Sport Seats with UltraSuede Inserts, black headliner, and the Acura ELS Studio 3D Premium Audio. The sixteen speakers provide clear audio and the ability change the volume of the speakers above your head and on the dash is really neat.
Rear seat room is quite good, especially for a smaller SUV. At around six feet tall, I had no problem comfortably sitting in the second row behind the driver’s seat. This is doubly impressive when the rear hatch is opened exposing the cargo area. It is plenty big enough for four adults to carry luggage for at least a long weekend. On top of the space above the floor, Acura also provided two plastic bins, perfect for items you need to store out of the way, or wet items you do not want soaking your carpet. Good on Acura for not trying to stick three rows into their small crossover and instead allowing it to be a more functional two row vehicle. Three rows are very rarely necessary and I’m glad Acura understands that.
The infotainment system and its user interface has been said to be disappointing by some, and during the first few days of my test I agreed. That changed after I read a bit into it. Unlike the Lexus trackpad that works more like a laptop, the Acura trackpad matches to the screen itself. For example, if you put your finger to the top right corner of the trackpad, it will put the cursor to the same spot. Overall, I found having to press the scroll page button is a pain, but if you quickly swipe straight down on the trackpad, it will scroll down a page in the same way. By the end of the week I found the trackpad to be fantastic with the only thing missing being the haptic feedback you should expect. Hopefully, that will be added in the future.
The performance of the Acura is where it really stands out. The RDX is far and above the best crossover I have ever tested and close to one of the best handling vehicles I have had the opportunity to drive so far. While the A-Spec package doesn’t add anything to the capabilities of the RDX, save for the wider tires, it makes the physiological so feeling of performance more genuine. What this means is that even the normal RDX SH-AWD is a fantastic car to drive. Enjoying the vehicle in in an aggressive manner on backgrounds with a near 4000 lb crossover should not be fun, but this one certainly was.
The RDX is powered by the 2.0L Turbocharged engine, a detuned version of the powerplant in the well regarded Honda Civic Type R. My only disappointment was with the sound. The turbo is evident when boost kicks in but both the exhaust and turbo sound are sadly absent.. For an “A-Spec” car, that is disappointing. Handling and steering do combine to make a car that feels much smaller than it is though. Steering is sharp and the suspension is up to handle the corners. Body roll is surprisingly minimal for a crossover. The car is more than willing to go where you want. The problem comes when trying to slow down quickly. The brakes feel squishy and inadequate for as fast and big as the RDX is. After a quick search of other reviews this was confirmed as multiple publications had similar issues. Brakes can make a vehicle so much faster around a track and it’s a shame the A-Spec does not try address that.
When they say SH-AWD means “Super Handling All Wheel Drive”, they are not wrong. The SH-AWD is an absolutely amazing system. I drove the RDX hard all week, but always felt confident in everything the car wanted to do. 70% of the power can be transferred to the rear wheels making for an AWD car that can oversteer rather than understeer. This is actually reassuring as understeer can make the car go uncontrollably straight. Meanwhile, oversteer can be controlled with a slight flick of the steering wheel. It’s also much more fun, thus why drifting is a popular Motorsport and whatever the understeer motorsport equivalent is is not. The trick to overcoming the brake inadequacy is to use them coming into the corner, but then use the SH-AWD system to pull out of the corner quite quickly.
The 2019 Acura RDX A-Spec is truly a rarity in these days. It’s a crossover, but also a vehicle that is amazing to drive and priced well below any competition. It’s no longer the small XUV you had to buy if you couldn’t afford the Porsche and didn’t want to spend the extra money on the BMW. There is a good chance it could be better than both. Acura is pushing to make it back to the top, and I’m excited to see where the summit is.