2020 Acura RDX SH-AWD A-SPEC Review by David Colman +VIDEO
By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
You remember how Clark Kent sneaks into a phone booth for transformation to Superman? Well, the SH-AWD A-SPEC version of Acura’s RDX reprises that old Superman routine. Only this time around, the phone booth is the mild-mannered shape of this family SUV. Its deceptively understated exterior cloaks a decathlete with genes borrowed from Acura’s NSX supercar. SH stands for Super Handling, and AWD refers to the all-wheel-drive component that makes this SUV feel intimately connected to the pavement at all four corners. The current version of the RDX was introduced in 2019 as the first RDX to use an Acura-exclusive platform.
The A-Spec Package includes among its bevy of features, an upgrade to 20-inch alloy wheels mounted with sizable Goodyear Eagle RS-A radials (255/45R20). These high grip, all-season contact points establish decisive footprints when you chose to explore the high cornering limits of the RDX on a challenging piece of backroad. That’s when you sense the engineering inherited from the NSX that comes into play. As Acura puts it, "Less Talk, More Drive." We loved the stability of this SUV, its lack of slop in steering, and its ability to provide one of ten gear ratios for every occasion that might arise. Its automatic gearbox can be configured to provide instant paddle shift actuation by simply depressing the D/S button on the shift console and utilizing the paddles provided at the steering wheel.
Careful modulation of shifts enables you to extract compelling acceleration from the 2.0 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine which juices the RDX with 272hp. If you just chose to plant the transmission in D (drive) you will experience a slight case of turbo lag as the gearbox does a quick shuffle to comply with your acceleration request. This SUV is adequately powered for its size and 4,005lb. curb weight, but you need to keep the engine on boil with the paddles to produce acceptable passing power.
The A-SPEC Package also upgrades a number of other parameters, including terrific front seats that are ventilated and heated, trimmed in black leather with red Ultrasuede inserts. A matching black headliner completes the interior transformation. Acura stylists have also done a commendable job of reconfiguring the exterior appearance of the RDX without resorting to the usual visual hysteria that turns so many SUVs into clown wagons. Here, the look is well modulated, discrete and aerodynamic. The front end is a triumph of understatement, with nicely chiseled matte black blades describing the grill opening, and slickly integrated seven element “Jewel Eye” LED headlamps capping a face with arched eyebrows. Matching LED tail lights cap a rear end fitted with integrated twin chrome exhaust tips poking through a ribbed diffuser panel. All in all, the A-SPEC Package is a winner both visually and functionally.
We especially enjoyed the knockout red and black interior, which contrasted sharply with the understated Platinum White of the exterior. Every time you climb into this Acura you will feel special. The attention to detail in the materials used, the stitching and the highly refined level of finish makes you feel good about how little you spent for this much glamour. My wife and I sometimes play the sticker price game, where I ask her how much she thinks a particular vehicle costs and she come up with an answer that is usually quite close to the actual price. When I inquired about the RDX, she suggested $55,000 as the appropriate number, and was somewhat shocked to find Acura was selling this beauty for only $46,795.
The A SPEC Package also includes an “Acura 3ELS 3D Premium Audio” which will knock your ears off if you aren’t careful with the volume knob that controls 16 speakers. Due to difficulties beyond our immediate control, we never did come to terms with the “True Touchpad Interface” which Acura has installed in the RDX to control many of the SUV’s important functions, like infotainment and navigation needs. Acura touts TTI as the next big thing in car control, so effortless to use that you never need to take your eyes off the road to activate the system while driving. We never did take our eyes off the road - because after several aborted attempts to use TTI, we gave up on it altogether, and did the best we could with the few physical buttons and knobs Acura deigned to include for Luddites. The simple task of churning through SiriusXM’s 200 station playlist proved impossible to accomplish. A friend of ours, versed in the latest Apple paraphernalia, spent more than a half hour before he managed to get TTI to select three favorite stations from a playlist that never did show all the choices available.
I’m sure that with tutoring and daily familiarity, TTI will become usable to RDX owners, but there’s no need for it in this Acura, when everything else about the A-SPEC RDX is so appealing and forthcoming.
2020 ACURA RDX SH-AWD A-SPEC
ENGINE: 2.0 liter inline 4, Direct Injection, VTEC, Turbocharged
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 21MPG City/26MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $46,795
HYPES: Excellent Road Manners, Slick Exterior, Brilliant Interior
GRIPES: Illegible Speedometer
STAR RATING: 9 Stars out of 10