Drive to Five Review: 2019 Acura RDX SH-AWD Advance

Odometer (Legend):  563,495 Miles

Odometer (RDX):  911 Miles

Refined, Dynamic, and Xceptionally equipped.  I guess that’s how I’d define the acronym that Acura pinned on its latest version of the crossover that so many have come to know and love.  Does it look at home in this garage?

The Acura RDX, now in its third generation, is a power player for the Acura brand.  It sells over 50,000 units per year.  That success is impressive given the competitive segment that the RDX plays in:  It seems, everyone is trying to get in on the crossover game.  Over the years, I’ve been able to see firsthand the evolution the RDX.  Back in 2016, I put a prior-gen model through its paces on a mountain climb.

Building each upon advancements in technology since the RDX first launched in 2007, the 2019 model year version was first shown at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January 2018, and it went on sale six months later.  You can see the differences between the third and second-gens here.

I got my hot little hands on the first one in the Phoenix area media fleet this past Wednesday.  It only had 775 miles on the odometer when I turned the key.  Or rather, pushed the Start button.  This is a level of tech I’m not accustomed to!  You can practically get a whiff of the new car smell just from looking at the interior.  What if they made scratch & sniff computer monitors?

Getting settled into the RDX, I enjoyed the step-in height right off the bat.  I’m accustomed to riding low to the ground, so this was a nice change of pace – especially when I needed to throw my backpack and laptop into the back seat as I left the office.  Speaking of the seats, the driver’s seat was ergonomic perfection – especially when cranked up to Level 3 on the ventilation setting.  It is August in Phoenix, after all.

The RDX is about as well-rounded as any vehicle can be.  It exhibits polite road manners, it’s easy to maneuver and park, scoots down the road with plenty of power, and offers up some great utility for folks with active lifestyles who need that extra cargo room or ground clearance from time to time (in my current collection of 7 Acuras, none have All-Wheel-Drive capability – sadly).

Over my seven days with the RDX, I had time to capture perspectives of both positive and negative nature.  Maybe it’s easier to just summarize a few of those points in list form.

  • Loved:  Power, ELS audio system, visibility, illumination, seats, step-in height, fit & finish, ride quality, convenience tech (power liftgate, smart key, head up display), panoramic roof, storage solutions, HVAC effectiveness, overall size – not too big, not too small, gauge cluster display (fun graphics upon start/stop), CarPlay interface
  • Disliked:  Touch pad interface, dynamic selector placement (I’d prefer a volume knob front and center instead), occasionally intrusive safety tech, default automatic start/stop, black wheels

Performance is the name of the game, with the RDX producing 272 horsepower (that’s two more than my 1992 NSX!) out of a 2-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder.  A ten speed automatic transmission (again, outdoing the NSX with double the gears!) puts the power to the ground lickety-split.  I found “Sport Plus” mode to generate a surprisingly quick acceleration experience for a vehicle that weighs nearly 4,000 pounds.  I got a kick out of the graphics on the Snow mode setting.

It’s worth mentioning that as an audiophile, I greatly appreciate the efforts made to create a great sounding listening experience in the cabin.  I was provided some ELS Studio 3D audio files on a USB stick that I played at max volume.  I can say with a certainty that Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing” sounds at least as good in the new RDX as it sounded in my old TL Type-S with a DVD-Audio sound system.

Acura’s return to its “Precision Crafted Performance” mantra from the brand’s early days is evident here, especially considering the RDX can be outfitted in A-Spec.  The A-Spec trim has always been known as the sportiest, and offers up suspension & handling updates among other features.

Tipping the cash register at just over $48,000, this RDX was highly equipped, but still offers a nice value for those wanting a well-rounded package.  I thank the folks at Acura for the chance to put this one through its paces for a few days!

I’ve uploaded a video capturing some of my experience with it.

Here you can see the head-up display

Multiple camera angles when putting the vehicle into reverse

When I parked the RDX and walked away, I received a notification about where it was located.  This could be handy at concerts, in unfamiliar cities, etc.

Roommate took this while I was playing Musical Cars on Saturday morning.  The RDX felt right at home swapping spaces with some fellow Acuras.

Out and about on Saturday with Greg’s 1995 NSX.

Visiting Vlad who has a Civic Type-R.  He liked the RDX, too.

Safe seating for my Chipotle take-out transport!

Lots of controls down here to the left of the steering wheel.

View from the cargo compartment

And the cargo compartment itself.  Pretty roomy!

Until next time!

Bonus material – I have another Honda at the house.  This one needs some love.

19 Responses to “Drive to Five Review: 2019 Acura RDX SH-AWD Advance”

  1. Great write-up, Tyson! I were more of a family man, the RDX would be mighty appealing. Perfect size as the MDX is a little too much in my opinion. That new interior is just plain gorgeous! Especially love what looks like a palm rest for the infotainment controls. Well done, Acura. Happy Thursday!

    • Yes, there’s a wrist rest (say that 10 times in a row) and a touch pad at the bottom part of the console. I found the touch pad to be a little tough to get used to, and couldn’t decide if I liked the functionality. But then again, I’m an old-school “buttons and knobs” kind of guy as opposed to having everything touch-sensitive. Definitely enjoyed my time with the RDX!

  2. Really good review! I’m not much of an SUV person, but the RDX seems like a great choice if I ever needed something with AWD and higher ground clearance. The HUD was very cool- it was neat seeing your speed floating in their air in front of you- like something from an F-15E cockpit.

    Agreed on the black wheels. They look nice on the Type R Civic, but I don’t get the whole black wheel thing on most vehicles. Also agreed on the volume knob size- my Accord has the same issue (there is a huge knob that should be for volume, but instead is the selector for scrolling through your iPod). Not really that intuitive of a design.

    That 4G Accord doesn’t look too awful, considering the mileage. The CB Accord and the XV10 Camry are like the Keith Richards of cars- destined to outlast us all. In the event of global Armageddon, the only survivors will be the cockroaches and Keith Richards. And he’ll be driving either a 1992 Accord or a 1991 Camry…

    • Seriously! Those Accords just do not die. This one unfortunately has some overheating symptoms that Corey hasn’t yet diagnosed but I’m confident it has at least 200k miles left in it.

      Yeah I love the head-up display in the RDX and some of the other driver-information tech. With the lane-keeping, adaptive cruise, brake hold, and collision-mitigation braking enabled, the vehicle basically drives itself.

  3. I visited Matt’s parent’s new house in South Carolina this past weekend and got a ride in their 2015(?) RDX and really liked it. I can’t think of a scenario where I HAVE to have a SUV, but if I did, the RDX would be near the top of the shopping list.

    • I’m with you there. I don’t frequently need the room or capability of an SUV, but when I do, having something like this would be nice. I’ve still never lost my quirky obsession with the 1996-99 Acura SLX and may bite the bullet on one eventually…

  4. I thought I’d like the RDX more than I do but maybe driving one might make me feel differently… though I doubt it.

    CUVs have their place but I question the “need” many feel justified in owning one. The prices have risen disproportionately too given what they are but hey what do I know. Except I’ve read the average per unit profit per CUV (not jus Acura) is around $8k for the manufacturer so I see why they’re so heavily marketed. Guess I’m not their intended audience…

    As for the 93SE what can I say… another long lived CB7. LOL these things are becoming like cockroaches, just can’t kill ’em.

    • If the opportunity allows, I’d like to have you stop by and see both CB7’s at the house. Actually, what a great photo op: Your SE, Corey’s SE as bookends, and the Mulberry EX in the middle. CB7 triplets with perfect symmetry. As for the RDX, we’ve seen the writing on the wall for some time now with the sales figures – this is the type of vehicle that auto consumers want right now, so I totally “get” that there is a lot of effort going into its development. Engineers have definitely succeeded in making it an attractive package – especially for active folks or young families.

  5. That interior! Crisp and clean contrast! Please, no food transports in such luxury! Are you growing fond of the black wheels, or are you a chrome fan through and through?

    • Not a fan of black wheels. I’ll take chrome (or even just silver) all day long. The only food I transported was my take-out from Chipotle – in a paper bag in the backseat – don’t worry!

  6. Really great read. Acura really nailed it with this one hitting all points of the market – someone wanting the Acura sport heritage with the comforts of luxury. One thing I really liked was the sound that was pipped through, gave it a real hearty note. I’ll be curious what was on the audio files.

    • Hopefully the USB drive is still around when the RDX comes to you. Otherwise I still have the hyperlink to download the files all over again from Andrew. I was overall quite impressed with the RDX! I just wish I’d had time to subject it to some all-terrain challenges this past weekend, but time got away from me.

  7. Great review! This RDX looks a lot better inside and out compared to the old one. I especially appreciate that Acura has returned to actual metals instead of that crappy painted plastic metal “look” they had been using in recent years. Same goes for the wood. If I had a need (or desire) to get this kind of vehicle, the RDX would be at the top of my list. Btw, I wonder who at Acura thought that the dynamic selector knob needed to be that massive and right in the center of the dash like that. Silly appearance and not great ergonomics, as you mentioned.

    • Glad we are on the same page about some of this. It’s definitely easy to see that the RDX excels at what it’s trying to do. For active families it’s the perfect all-in-one solution. It’s closer to my interest list than an MDX is, that’s for sure, but still “too much” vehicle for what I need on a daily basis. Thanks Brad!

  8. Excellent write-up on the new RDX Tyson. I think it is an inspiring new offer from Acura. I love how clean both the interior and exterior are, minus the screen “standing” on top of the dash. I know that is a common trend among new cars today, but I’m not sure if I like it yet. It’s nice to see Acura getting back to their roots and I sure hope to see a TLX option or ILX with the 2.0L turbo found in this RDX. It might be wishful thinking but an ILX with this engine and a manual? Sign me up!

    • Um, YES! That would be a sweet drivetrain. Also, totally agreed, it seems the “iPad stuck on the dash” is an infotainment layout that started a few years ago and sort of became the norm. Side note, love your avatar pic from Monument Valley. Def one of my favorite road trip destinations – we should do a group meet-up there sometime. Hope you are having a great weekend.

  9. The new RDX and MDX are pretty handsome and I’m glad they got away from the beak-forward designs of recent years. But mostly, it makes me so happy that someone else shares such strong disdain for black wheels as myself.

    +1 on the driver assistance tech, I have limited experience with it so far but do enjoy it (and leave it on, usually) in my F150. Would be curious to see how Acura and others implement it vs Ford and how cautious each system is in traffic!

    • ABWS. Anti-black-wheel-society founding members #1 and #2 right here. Haha. Definitely enjoyed some of the finer luxuries of 2018 before going back to 1992 again. Hope your weekend has gone well! Few more hours to squeeze out of it.

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