REVIEW: Dollar for dollar, the 2020 Acura RDX is hard to beat

Since 2000, the RDX has been one of the key compact SUVs for the Acura brand, although it has always been overshadowed somewhat by the larger MDX. 

All that changed in 2019 when Acura redesigned the RDX from the ground up, resulting in one of the most beautiful designs in the SUV market. With top notch technology features and futuristic design inside and out, the RDX soon became one of Acura’s best sellers.

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The Acura RDX offers sharp handling, comfortable ride, reasonable pricing, luxurious features all around, advanced technology and top-notch standard safety features. It’s hard to fault the RDX in terms of design and the features, although I would argue that SUVs from German brands such as BMW, Mercedes and Audi still offer better road manners (that is, they are more fun to drive).

The new version of the RDX was introduced for 2019, and only minor changes were made for the 2020 model year.

Design

Designers took a bit of a risk and completely transformed the conservative design of the pre-2019 RDX. A low, aggressive and confident stance as well as exaggerated lines give a bold new vision to the Acura brand. A diamond pentagon grille shapes the front end and gives a decidedly upscale feel. LED headlights fitted with Acura’s Jewel Eye design sparkle like diamonds on both the front and rear ends.

Acura RDX dash - web.jpg
The RDX's infotainment system is not quite as intuitive to use as one would hope, but the SUV makes up for this with a bevy of other technological features. photo Acura

The 2020 Acura RDX features 881 litres of cargo in the back (including a smart underfloor storage) which increases to 2,260 litres when the second row seats are folded down. The vehicle can tow 1,500 pounds, which is a meagre amount compared with other mid-size crossover SUVs.

AcuraLink is available which can connect you to your Acura RDX from anywhere at the touch of a screen. It features convenient applications such as real-time traffic reporting, automatic collision notification, geo fencing, and Last Mile – a feature that provides walking directions from your parking location to your pre-chosen final stop.

Apple CarPlay is compatible and a 10.2-inch HD infotainment screen sits atop the centre console. The infotainment system is a bit difficult to use, mostly due to a “True Touchpad Interface” system that requires the use of a touchpad near the cupholders. It’s not quite as intuitive to use as one would hope, but the Acura RDX makes up for this with a bevy of other technological features.

The Acura’s safety suite of technologies, known as Acurawatch, is standard on the RDX. This safety suite features Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow, Lane Keeping Assist, Collision Mitigation Braking System, and Road Departure Mitigation system.

Adding to this is Acura’s next generation body structure known as Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE), which is specially designed to disperse impact energy more evenly around the vehicle to keep the passengers inside safe. The 2020 Acura RDX was named a Top Safety Pick+ by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, as the vehicle was given the highest rating of “Good” in six different crash tests.

Acura RDX interior - web.jpg
The Acura RDX offers sharp handling, comfortable ride, reasonable pricing, luxurious features all around, advanced technology and top-notch standard safety features. photo Acura

Performance

With a 2.0-litre direct-injection, VTEC turbocharged engine delivering 272 horsepower and 280 foot-pounds of torque, the Acura RDX is a vehicle that moves spiritedly, though it’s no match for some higher performing competitors (such as the Audi SQ5 or Mercedes GLC43). Paired with this is a 10-speed automatic transmission with Grade Logic Control. In the front there is a MacPherson strut suspension and in the back we find a multi-link independent rear suspension.

Four driving modes are available including Comfort, Snow, Sport, and Sport+. For superior handling and driving, the Acura RDX features a Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system. Power is leveraged to each wheel depending on pitch and yaw, wheel speed and steering angle. This system excels in adverse conditions such as snow, sleet, rain, sand and gravel.

While the handling of the RDX is predictable and the car goes exactly where you point it, the steering lacks feedback. The somewhat numb steering is unfortunate because everything else about the car is superb. Drive an Audi Q5/SQ5 or Mercedes GLC/GLC43 and you would know what I mean – the Germans still have an edge when it comes to providing road feel and steering character.

Fuel economy for all trims of the Acura RDX (aside from the A-SPEC) is 11.0/8.6/9.9 litres/100 kilometres for city, highway and combined driving. For the A-SPEC version, the fuel economy is not quite as economical at 11.3/9.1/10.3 l/100 km for city, highway, and combined driving.

The Acura RDX is available in a variety of trim levels: Technology, Elite, Platinum and A-SPEC. Technology adds a mix of neat features including real-time speed limit information, keyless entry, a navigation system with voice control, two rear USB ports, and a few added safety features such as Blind Sport Information and Rear Cross Traffic Monitor.

Acura RDX rear - web.jpg
Acura’s next generation body structure, known as Advanced Compatibility Engineering, is designed to disperse impact energy more evenly around the vehicle to keep the passengers inside safe. photo Acura

The Elite package adds onto the Technology package with heated rear seats, steering wheel, headlamp washers, leather seats, puddle lights, and power-folding side mirrors as well as power tailgate with hands-free access.

Platinum adds onto the Elite with a heads up display, LED fog lights, genuine wood trim, adaptive front lighting and damper system, 16-way power adjustable driver and front passenger seat with ventilation, rear camera washer and a 360-degree view camera system.

The A-SPEC Package, a sporty package focused mainly on esthetics, provides unique and sporty styling both inside and out, including metal sport pedals, contrasted stitching and seat piping, Alcantara leather seats, and sportier accents. It would be nice to have another engine option for this “performance” based sport trim – perhaps we will eventually see a Type S version of the RDX in the future.

Summary

The competitors for the Acura RDX include the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Volvo XC60 as well as the Mercedes-Benz GLC. While some critics may say there is a lack of engine choice, the 2020 Acura RDX excels in many areas where it counts. The 2020 Acura RDX starts at $46,190 for the base model, $49,490 for the Tech trim, $51,690 for the Elite trim, $51,990 for the A-SPEC, and finally $56,190 for the Platinum Elite trim. Dollar for dollar, the RDX is hard to beat.

Automotive journalist David Chao has been reviewing vehicles for the North Shore News since the early 1990s. editor@automotivepress.com

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