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2019 Acura RDX A-Spec Delivers B-Spec Performance

Car and Driver logo Car and Driver 8/24/2018 David Beard
2019 Acura RDX: A-Spec Looks with B-Spec Performance: Don't be fooled by its sporty looks; the RDX A-Spec delivers value, not speed.© Provided by Hearst Communications, Inc Don't be fooled by its sporty looks; the RDX A-Spec delivers value, not speed.

From the September 2018 issue

Acura is replacing the visually and dynamically bland last-generation RDX, recasting the small crossover as a striking, purposeful thing. The Acura RDX A-Spec model tested here looks better than a frosty Asahi with a side of gyoza. It features blacked-out accents, gray 20-inch wheels, and bazooka tubes for tailpipes. The interior matches the sheetmetal’s allure with polished-metal pedals, contrast stitching, and no-cost red leather with black suede inserts. Black leather is also available.

a close up of a car: 2019 Acura RDX: A-Spec Looks with B-Spec Performance© Marc Urbano - Car and Driver 2019 Acura RDX: A-Spec Looks with B-Spec Performance

But while we dig the A-Spec’s looks, the performance is more B- or C-spec. Acura needs to free up the RDX’s hardware to do its best work. Beneath the aluminum hood’s cutaneous horns is Honda’s turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four, replacing the previous RDX’s 3.5-liter V-6. Its 272 horsepower is down seven compared with the outgoing engine, but torque swells 28 lb-ft over the six-cylinder’s peak to max out at 280. The new four sounds great, even if it is an audio track streamed into the cabin. A paddle-shiftable 10-speed manages gearshifts smoothly if a bit lethargically.

The generous torque curve moves the 3997-pound SUV around town effortlessly. In Sport Plus mode-Comfort, Sport, and Snow are your other choices-and with the accelerator pressed to the firewall, the all-wheel-drive RDX reaches 60 mph in 6.6 seconds and the quarter-mile in 15.2. Both figures are average for small luxury crossovers, but the increased number of shifts doesn’t do this ute any favors. Compared with the last-gen RDX, this new one requires an extra 0.4 second to reach 60 mph.

a car driving on a road: 2019 Acura RDX: A-Spec Looks with B-Spec Performance© Marc Urbano - Car and Driver 2019 Acura RDX: A-Spec Looks with B-Spec Performance

When driven with mild aggression, the RDX A-Spec feels swift on its feet and is quick to change direction. The steering is direct and linear, and Sport Plus mode adds a little welcome heft. Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive can shunt up to 70 percent of the engine’s torque to the rear; from there, a torque-vectoring differential can send 100 percent of that torque to either side. SH-AWD does an excellent job assisting turn-in, but, ultimately, it’s good hardware wasted. When pressed, an aggressive stability-control system governs any genuine fun. Wider 255/45R-20 Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires help increase skidpad grip by 0.04 g over the last gen, but this ute’s 0.81 g still trails almost everything else in the class, and the new tires howl when pushed. They only manage a 177-foot stop from 70 mph-also on the underwhelming end of the segment-and the soft brake pedal makes smooth stops tricky.

The structure is stronger than before, but the firm suspension tuning and 20-inch wheels send impacts into the cabin. Adaptive dampers, included only on the top-level Advance package, would be a welcome addition to the A-Spec.

Explore the Acura RDX inside and out below. Click, drag and scroll to discover more.

A single 10.2-inch display replaces the previous RDX’s dual infotainment screens, and there’s a new gimmick to control the revamped system. Just below the push-button shifter, the True Touch­pad Interface makes the execution of even basic tasks feel counterintuitive. The inclusion of a volume knob and tuning buttons is the system’s only saving grace.

With LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and a pile of other amenities for $46,495, the Acura RDX A-Spec undercuts competitors from Audi, BMW, and Lexus by thousands of dollars. While the A-Spec branding is an overpromise, the RDX is full of highly impressive stuff. It just needs to be liberated.

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