Review of the Platinum Elite Model: Top-of-the-Line 2019 RDX

The arrival of the NSX in 2016 was the first sign that Acura was attempting to get back to some of the dynamic, driver-focused ethos that was a characteristic of early cars like the Integra. The brand’s new tagline is ‘Precision crafted performance’ and the all-new, 2019 RDX luxury compact SUV is the first model to be developed according to the new mantra.

What’s New for 2019?

The new RDX replaces a vehicle that’s been on sale since 2012. It features the return of the torque-vectoring SH-AWD drivetrain (standard in Canada, optional in the USA) and the same 272-horsepower, 2-liter turbocharged engine and 10-speed transmission that’s found in the latest Honda Accord – no V6 for now.

We tested a top-of-the-line Platinum Elite model, which retails for C$57,161 and is roughly equivalent to the SH-AWD with Advance Package in the US (US$47,400).

Also see our picks for 2018 Best Luxury SUV & Crossovers | TractionLife.com

Acura RDX Redesign: Bolder Look

Acura has gone for a bolder look for the new RDX. There are styling themes here from the attractive Acura Precision Concept that was first shown at the Pebble Beach Concours in 2016, such as the side crease that rises from behind the front wheel arch to the rear light cluster.

The front and rear detailing is nice, too, but there are also some me-too elements such as the chrome insert in the C-pillar to create the illusion of a floating roof. We’ve been seeing that for some time on SUVs from other brands including Nissan, Lexus and GMC.

How each customer responds to a car’s styling is a question of personal preference, but I would suggest that, while the latest RDX is more distinctive than the old model, the restrictions of SUV packaging and aerodynamic necessity mean that it’s not quite as radical as Acura might want it to be.

2019 acura rdx rear white in mountains

2019 RDX Interior: New Look

Instrument Panel

There’s a new look in the cabin, too. The old dual-screen design is gone from the instrument panel, replaced by a 10.2-inch landscape screen that sits high in the center, BMW-style. It’s controlled by Acura/Honda’s new True Touchpad Interface, which is designed to marry smartphone-style intuitive control with the safety and practicality concerns of an in-car installation.

The screen’s high position and its simplified, app-based functions are aimed at minimizing driver distraction.

Tech

True Touchpad works through relative positioning – if you slide your finger to the top-right of the pad, for example, the cursor moves to the app icon or function control that’s top-right of the central screen.

A push of the pad the selects the icon or operates the function. We like the principle, although it took time to get accustomed to the pad, which needs a push-button-style shove rather than a touchscreen-style tap to complete the desired operation.

2019 acura rdx interior cabin sunroof

Centre Stack and Controls

The nicely styled centre stack also incorporates regular push-buttons for the HVAC controls, a prominent and slightly out-of-place volume control for the high-end ELS Studio audio system, and buttons to operate the transmission.

We’re still not quite convinced that buttons are the best alternative to a regular shifter – a rotary dial, Fiat Chrysler or Jaguar Land Rover style, seems to be a more elegant alternative.

Steering-wheel paddle-shifters are fitted if you want to a manual shift option. With a 10-speed gearbox to shift through, however, the novelty soon wears off.

Overall RDX Interior Impressions

The RDX’s cabin is beautifully built and full of very high-quality materials, including ash wood trim – good enough to worry any of the RDX’s luxury rivals. The 16-way adjustable, heated and ventilated seats of the Platinum Elite model are extremely comfortable and rear legroom is good.

The trunk, too, is a little narrow but surprisingly practical due to a decent amount of underfloor storage. The car was large enough to accommodate four passengers and their luggage on an airport run during the test week.

2019 acura rdx interior cabin and sunroof

Driving Impressions: 2019 Acura RDX on the Road

Acura’s current TV commercial for the RDX shows it pulling donuts around a skid pad and racing Baja-style along a twisty desert road. Calgary, Alberta, is sadly lacking in either tire-shredding skid pads or dusty desert racetracks, so I’m unable to substantiate those specific performance claims!

The more relevant question is however: is the RDX the dynamic driver’s car that Acura wants us to think it is?

The answer isn’t straightforward. There’s lots of good stuff here. The RDX rides very well on its sophisticated adaptive dampers. There’s little roll, even when you change direction quickly, assisted by the clever SH-AWD system.

What’s Missing

For me, the missing piece in the ride and handling puzzle is steering feel. The best driver’s cars have good on-center feel that gives you a sense of where the wheels are and how they’re responding – or will respond – to your input.

The trunk, too, is a little narrow but surprisingly practical due to a decent amount of underfloor storage.

At low speeds, the RDX was vaguer around the straight-ahead than I would have preferred – no worse than similar SUVs, but out of step with the desired dynamic image. The steering is accurate, however, and well weighted at speed. Note that switching to Sport+ Mode increases the steering weight and sharpens throttle response.

Engine Noise

This particular RDX, fitted with 19-inch Continental CrossContact LX Sport tires, suffered from excessive tire noise in the cruise. Otherwise it’s good on the highway, where the engine spins quietly, and Acura/Honda’s excellent AcuraWatch driver-assistance systems help keep you safe.

Takeaway

Judged in isolation, the 2019 Acura RDX is an attractively styled, luxurious compact SUV that rides and handles well. Its fine interior, in particular, makes it a worthy contender in a competitive segment. It is not, however, the sports car that Acura’s marketing would suggest it to be.

Make no mistake: Acura/Honda knows how to build fantastic driver’s cars, as we have seen recently with the Civic Type R. That hot-hatch even shares a base engine with the RDX, but the Type R’s immediacy of response and connection to the road are some distance from what you’ll feel in an RDX.

But then, who takes their luxury family transport to a track day? The RDX is good at what it will do every day, and that’s fine with us.

2019 RDX Pros

  • Smooth ride
  • Beautiful interior
  • Surprisingly roomy

2019 RDX Cons

  • Struggles to match up to marketing hype
  • Steering lacks feel
  • Too much tire noise

Learn more here: 2019 Acura RDX USA | 2019 Acura RDX Canada

2019 Acura RDX Release Date & Price

Few more reviews you should check out:

  1. First Drive: 2019 QX50 Review | Infiniti’s New Premium Crossover
  2. 2019 Acura MDX 3-Row SUV Arrives Today with 3 New Features
  3. 2017 Best Luxury SUVs & Crossovers

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Based in Calgary, AB, Graham’s outlets include Autocar, Professional Motorsport World, Turnology.com and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology. A lifelong motorsports fan, he’s a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), the Guild of Motoring Writers and the Motor Press Guild, speaks German and collects Matchbox cars (at the same time).