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2020 Acura RDX SH-AWD A-Spec Rocky Mountain Review by Dan Poler

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

By Dan Poler
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Rocky Mountain Bureau
The Auto Channel

Acura’s RDX midsize crossover is unchanged from 2019 - not surprising, since last year saw its redesign. Acura’s demo vehicle came to me with the A-Spec package, which adds a number of stylistic touches to the vehicle.

On the outside, the RDX is quite striking, its form punctuated by sharp angles. This RDX was finished in Platinum White Pearl; the wide, dark grille up front contrasts particularly nicely against this color, its pattern somehow reminiscent of entering hyperspace in a Sci-Fi movie. The RDX sits high on gray 20” wheels exclusive to the A-Spec package, framed by beefy 255/45R20 rubber. It’s worth noting that the A-Spec package is the only RDX that includes with 20” wheels; without it, you’ll be rolling on 19’s, or you’ll pay for 20’s as an added charge. Apart from the wheels, the A-Spec package adds a few exterior details like darker chrome, black window trim, and restyled bumpers and exhaust.

The remaining balance of the A-Spec package is borne out inside the cabin, where it adds features such as a darker variant of brushed aluminum trim, soothing red ambient lighting, a black headliner, red-on-silver gauges … And yeah, those red leather seats. Fitted with black ultrasuede inserts, they certainly make an impression, but are not likely to be family-friendly when it comes to quick and easy cleanups. However, materials generally feel upscale and refined, if a little muddled - for example, the ultrasuede carries through to a single strip on the dash, forward of the front passenger, where it can’t help but look out of place.

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The driver’s seating position is high, and visibility is clear. Gauges are well laid out, the red-on-silver contrast easy to read at night, and the addition of thoughtful touches such as a GPS-linked speed limit indicator on the instrument panel are well appreciated. The eye is drawn to the shiny aluminum knob in the middle of the dash to switch between the various dynamic modes for the vehicle’s stands out, as if all roads lead to selecting Sport+. Storage, however, is somewhat limited; with limited volume in the armrest, primary storage is in an open space beneath the center console. In the rear, however, storage is generous, nearly 30 cubic feet, in addition to storage space beneath the rear cargo floor, a thoughtful touch but one that comes at the expense of a spare tire - you merely get a patch kit instead.

I would be remiss if I did not discuss the controls for the ELS Studio 3D infotainment system. The system boasts 16 speakers and a wide, clear screen mounted high on the dash, able to display two items at a time (for example, GPS or CarPlay next to the current audio selection) - appreciated, relative to smaller, narrower displays found elsewhere. It’s not, however, a touch screen. Instead, control comes from not one, but two touch-sensitive pads mounted between the driver and front passenger seat. Acura touts the controls as intuitive, and that’s true - anyone familiar with a laptop’s trackpad will pretty quickly get the idea - but intuitive alone doesn’t create good user experience. The trackpads are difficult to use, requiring multiple glances and moves to select the right button on the screen. It’s distracting, and tempting to take one’s eyes off the road to fiddle with the system. Input to the navigation system to enter a destination requires writing on the pad with a finger, and I ran about a 50% success rate in correctly entering letters to spell out an address.

Power comes from Honda’s 2.0-Liter direct-injected turbocharged engine, putting out 272hp and mated to a 10-speed transmission. Yes, there’s some turbo lag, and it may not be as quick off the line as its colleagues from Germany. It’s still a lot of fun - particularly in Sport and Sport+, which serve to nicely tighten up steering, shifting, and throttle response. The 4-cylinder isn’t going to produce the deep growl one expects of a luxury SUV, so a pleasing faux engine note is piped in via the audio system.

With Acura’s SH-AWD system putting power to all four wheels, the RDX feels composed and competent on the highway - and was surprisingly nimble carving through the hills and canyons southwest of Denver. The weather forecast didn’t afford me an opportunity to play in the snow, but the RDX handled predictably on wet roads, never giving the slightest hint it would slide if given the opportunity. Wind and tire noise is noticeable, but not excessively so. I saw a respectable 24mpg in combined city and highway driving during my time with the RDX.

As to safety features, one finds the expected for a vehicle of this class, including forward collision warning and collision mitigating braking, lane keeping assist and lane departure warning, and blindspot warnings. The RDX received an overall five-star government safety rating, and is an 2020 IIHS Top Safety Pick+.

Apart from the infotainment setup, there are a couple of other small nits to pick: The A-Spec package is cosmetic and provides no actual performance enhancements. The RDX comes with a single engine and transmission option; the only drivetrain choice is FWD or AWD. Selecting A-Spec - or any other trim, for that matter - doesn’t get you more horses or ft-lbs - not even a sport suspension. I’d hope to see more performance-oriented choices offered here. Further, the RDX lacks a small handful of key features I’d expect to see at this price point, like remote start and auto-dimming exterior mirrors.

Although the infotainment controls give us pause, The roughly $47,000 sticker price buys a lot of car, and the RDX is a solid contender for a midsize luxury crossover, more than holding its own against its upscale competitors.


2020 Acura RDX SH-AWD A-Spec
Engine Type: Direct Injection VTEC Turbo 4-Cylinder
Engine Size: 2.0-Liter
Horsepower: 272
Torque (lb-ft): 280 @ 1,600-4,500 RPM
Transmission: 10-Speed Automatic
Wheelbase / Length (in): 108.3 / 186.7
Curb Weight: 4,015
Pounds per HP: 14.76
Fuel Capacity (gal): 17.1
Fuel Requirement: Premium Unleaded (91 Octane)
Tires: Goodyear Eagle RS-A; 255/45R20 101V
Brakes, front / rear: 12.4-Inch Ventilated Disc; 12.2-Inch Solid Disc
Suspension, front / rear: MacPherson Strut / Multi-Link
Ground clearance (in): 8.2
Drivetrain: SH-AWD System
EPA Fuel Economy - MPG
city / highway / combined / observed: 21 /26 / 23 / 24
Base Price: $37,600
Base Trim Price: $45,800
Options and Charges
Option: Premium Exterior Color: $400
Destination & Handling: $995
Price as tested: $47,195.00