Acura is back!
OK, before we go crazy, pop some champagne, and blow some noise makers, let’s discuss the reason for this exclamation. Acura needed some vehicles in its lineup to engage customers – just like the old days.
It is not to say that Acuras were getting "soft," but we felt that there were compromises to attract certain premium vehicle buyers to Honda’s luxury car brand.
Then came the new RDX. It got our attention. It certainly got mine – so says the former owner of a then-new 1991 Integra RS coupe.
How did I arrive at this thesis? First off, a 2020 RDX A-Spec arrived to be evaluated. Maybe it’s the red paint job. Maybe because Acura went deep into the redesign of its premium compact SUV to show what their design language is truly all about.
The sharp design is truly a looker from many angles. The diamond-shape grille has been around for a few years, but Acura made this the focal point from where the rest of the vehicle flows from. That includes the floating roof effect at the C pillar, as well as the lobster claw taillights out back. The result is a clean angular SUV silhouette that is distinctive, sculpted, and functional.
The best execution of this design is on the A-Spec model. Where chrome would dominate, a glossy black trim would replace it. With the gray/black alloy wheel finish, you have an assertive – if not, aggressive – vehicle that exhibits a personality that speaks to "sporty" and "cool." It is exactly what Acura wanted in this new generation RDX.
This theme continues into the interior. Even more so, with a lot of influence from the newly revived NSX. The silver faced instrument dials are lit up in red and bridged by a TFT information screen. The drawback of these instruments is that they are tough to read when the sun hits them at the worst times. The transmission is shifted by a push-button set-up with the Dynamic Control knob right above it. The latter takes care of the drive mode selection for your vehicle.
The new tablet infotainment screen operates multiple ways. You could touch it, but it is too far away for operation when you’re driving. Instead, you have to do your set up through a touchpad on the center console.
I found the front seats to be comfortable, as well as supportive. Acura went with a leather-and-suede upholstery combination in black, with a gray-ish piping to accent the trim, which fits perfectly with this vehicle’s theme. Rear seat room was very good for tall, thicker guys like me. For loads out back, you start off with 29.5 cubic feet of cargo space, expanding to 58.9 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down.
The last generation RDX had a V6 underneath its hood. Not anymore. A 272-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged engine handles all of the power with serious brio. It does help that it is attached to a 10-speed automatic transmission and the Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive making it a smooth operating sports SUV. I mentioned the Dynamic Control know before. If you flip to, say, Sport +, hang on for higher revving shift points. Oh, and it locks out the gears 9 and 10 in the process. Just as long as you know that you can put it into Sport + for more spirited drives with people who can handle them.
As for fuel economy, I averaged 25.0 MPG in my care. That’s not bad for the class.
The RDX tended be a bit noisy, but one can excuse this as being a sportier offering in its class. For fuel economy, we averaged 25.0 MPG in our care.
The ride quality is quite good and takes care of rougher sections of road with ease. What won me over with this RDX is how is corners almost flat with no roll or lean detected. This RDX exhibited excellent body control through every maneuver I could take it through.
Steering is precise with excellent on-road feel. The turning radius is tight for a vehicle in its class. On-center feel is good, but it can be improved for more weight by flicking the Dynamic Control knob to Sport +. I also like the braking system with its solid pedal feel and response. Normal stops are spot on with plenty of power sent down to the wheels.
The 2020 Acura RDX lineup starts at a base price of $37,800. My A-Spec tester had a sticker price of $47,195. In this highly competitive and image-conscious segment, that is a great value!
When I received the 2020 Acura RDX A-Spec, I had plenty of expectations for this latest offering from Honda’s luxury brand. Not only were they met – they were exceeded. Would I call this a spiritual cousin to my 1991 Integra? Maybe, but understanding that the RDX truly fits with current market trends towards SUVs over sedans and coupes.
The RDX certainly brings Acura back into the premium vehicle game. This vehicle is a relevant choice when you want something that is sporty with loads of practicality. I wouldn’t mind owning one myself.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by American Honda.
All photos by Randy Stern