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2020 Acura RDX Review by Larry Nutson +VIDEO

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Lots of Delight

By Larry Nutson
Executive Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

Acura introduced its third generation new-from-the-ground-up RDX for the 2019 model year with new styling, both in and out, as well as a new powertrain.

In May 2018 I was among the first auto writers to drive the new 2019, albeit for a very short stint. This was on the roads around Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin at the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) Spring Rally. This time around I had a 2020 RDX SH-AWD A-Spec model at my disposal for a week of driving on the city streets and highways around my Chicago home.

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For 2020 the 5-seat RDX is a carry-over from 2019 with no changes other than a new Platinum White exterior color.

A significant change to the RDX in this third-gen model is the powertrain. As is the trend across most all car makers, the number of cylinders under the hood is going down but vehicle performance is going up.

The 2020 RDX has a 272-HP turbocharged 2.0-L 4-cylinder sitting up front. Of note, this new engine develops 280 lb.-ft. of torque—the grunt you need to get going. A 10-speed automatic transmission gets the power to the front-wheel drive or Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system.

I was really impressed by the engine/transmission combo and liked it a lot, so much so that I would put the RDX on my theoretical shopping list (I’m not car shopping!). We give too little credit to the transmission’s role in the powertrain. The new eight, nine and ten speed automatics that are being equipped on new vehicles today deserve more credit than they get for improving overall performance and driving satisfaction.

Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive is torque vectoring. Up to 70% of all torque can be distributed to the rear wheels. And, up to 100% of that torque can be distributed to either the right-rear or left-rear wheel. This greatly improves traction and agility. The outer rear wheel is also overdriven with additional rotational speed.

I tried a few full throttle starts in the RDX while also turning and there is no evidence of torque steer or front end push. So yes, there is some fun to be had in this people hauler.

The engine and drivetrain are all tied into the RDX's new four-mode Integrated Dynamics system, controlled from a drive mode dial on the center console. Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Snow modes can be selected.

The front-wheel drive RDX pricing starts at $38,595, including the $995 destination charge. $2,000 will get you all-wheel drive. Both drive trains are available with Technology, A-Spec or Advanced packages, with pricing topping out at $48,695.

The RDX SF-AWD A-Spec I drove had a base MSRP of $45,800 with $400 added for the Performance Red Pearl premium exterior color plus $995 destination, for a total of $47,195.

Acura doesn’t offer a long list of stand-alone options. However, a line of dealer-installed Acura genuine accessories was developed simultaneously with the RDX to provide vehicle personalization for the owner.

One example here is that I was wanting a heated steering wheel on my test car. Well, that feature is standard with the top-line Advanced package but could have been equipped on my A-Spec driver by a dealer.

Design and stying is, no doubt, highly subjective. Overall I liked the RDX especially the A-Spec with its blackened exterior trim features. I’m not a red car person. Perhaps silver or grey would be my choice.

The interior is most important, since that’s where you spend all your time and it needs to provide a comfortable and pleasant driving environment. High-grade, premium material treatments abound, including hand-wrapped, stitched leather surfaces and brushed aluminum or available open-pore Olive Ash wood accents.

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We’re seeing new approaches to transmission gear selection by various carmakers. The RDX’s center console pushbutton and pull-toggle switch gear work just fine after a brief acclimation.

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The infotainment system is all new, and is primarily controlled via Voice Control or a new True Touchpad Interface. The touchpad interface can be customized. This allows you to prioritize the broad number of choices unique to a driver’s likes and what she or he does most often.

Automakers have realized that consumers often need help understanding new systems. It is said that many drivers don’t know how to use many vehicle features and therefore don’t, and are losing the benefit. Acura, like other car makers, has a video that’s really helpful.

The RDX has a long list of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) safety features that are available as standard or some are included in the three different packages.

EPA test-cycle fuel economy ratings for the base FWD RDX are 22 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. These ratings each drop by one to two mpg in AWD or A-Spec models. Cargo room is a-plenty with a bit more than 31 cu.ft. behind the rear seats and nearly 80 cu.ft. with the rear seat folded including storage space under the rear floor. Have a look at Acura RDX Facts for more product information. The RDX received an overall five-star government safety rating, and is an 2020 IIHS Top Safety Pick+.

The Acura RDX is a good value in the premium compact SUV segment. It has a nice luxury feel, interesting styling, sporty performance and refined ride and handling, decent fuel economy as well as a roomy interior.

© 2019 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy