It is not a surprise that Acura’s compact crossover, the RDX is also the best-selling model of the brand. Sales numbers are good not just because it is a premium SUV, but it offers premium features and quality for relatively reasonable price range. Also, unlike the competition, it comes with five different trim options so that means more flexibility for buyers. Unfortunately there is no hybrid/EV option, but it offers much better gas mileage compared to the previous generation.
Current (3rd) generation RDX was first released in 2018 in North America. Acura claims that this generation RDX is not using the same platform with Honda Civic or CR-V, unlike the previous generations. Also, there are lots of important changes compared to previous generation. One of the most important changes are, there is no V6 engine option. Although it may sound a negative thing, the fact that it is one of the few crossovers that has car-like driving dynamics and it is very rare for this price range. 2020 Acura RDX is our favorite premium compact crossover in 2020, and let’s see why it’s our favorite below.
Exterior and Interior
Acura offers a wide range of options that changes the overall look of the RDX. There is one base trim, one lower-mid trim, two mid trims, and one top trim. Two mid trims have one luxury option, and the other sporty one is called A-Spec. Although all versions of the RDX family (Base, Tech, A-Spec, Elite and Platinum Elite) have the same powertrain, our tester, the mid-of-the range A-Spec is optically very appealing with its 20″ wheels with wider P255/45 R20 tire, red Alcantara leather seating, and black interior.
In our opinion, RDX is one of the best-looking alternatives in the premium crossover segment. The LED headlights, front grille, body lines and overall design still has traditional Acura lines, sporty yet elegant. 20″ rims that come with A-Spec looks perfect. However, 45 width tires are not the greatest choice for big potholes or road imperfections. If you are looking for absolutely the best road comfort possible, you may want to choose the luxury trim called Elite for almost the same price.
Things are not very different when it comes to the interior. It is a unique Acura design. The center console design is floaty and makes you feel like your seat much like a car, which is very rare in the SUV world. There are lots of soft-touch plastics and leather parts used all around the interior, so it feels much more upscale than regular crossovers right off the bat. It may not be on par with German competitors, but it is really close.
Premium or not, it is still a crossover and unsurprisingly it has decent passenger accommodation and cargo space for a luxury compact SUV. It has 29.5 cubic feet of space behind the second row, and it can go up to almost 59 cubic feet if you fold the rear seats down. Vertical loading capacity is a little bit less than Honda CR-V, so if you need to carry tall items, this would not be the best option due to the sporty design of this crossover. There is no 7-seat option and you have to upgrade to Acura MDX if you need to have more than 5 seats. Please see our Acura MDX review here.
Engine and Drivetrain
Acura RDX comes with only one engine and transmission option. It comes with a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine that produces 272 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, as well as 10-speed torque converted automatic transmission which is made by Honda in-house. Also, all RDX trims come with a Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system standard in Canada.
Honda’s V6 is one of the best sounding V6s on the market, but due to stricter emissions, they have to ditch it and switch to 4 cylinder with the latest RDX. The current generation uses a turbocharged K20C4 engine that is very similar to Honda Civic Type-R, with few changes. For instance, it comes with a smaller turbo for a quicker spool and better torque curve down low rpm, but as a result, you lose power at the top end. There are also few changes in the cylinder head so that it can have more torque at low rpm, this is all for a smoother driving experience. Honda uses this engine in different Honda/Acura models, which is a solid platform.
The 10-Speed automatic transmission is a great choice for daily driving. It is not hunting gears and stays on the right rpm range when you need it. You can still choose the gears through the paddles, but they are not lightning fast. The RDX auto upshifts regardless of the driving mode you are in, which makes it a less engaging feel. However, it is a great match with the inline 4 turbocharged engine, as it is perfectly smooth and great for daily driving. Our tests show that we get 12.0L / 100 km average fuel economy, which is not bad for an SUV that weights over 4000 lbs. (1800 kg)
Driving Impressions and Features
As mentioned previously, lots have changed with this generation of RDX. First of all, this is not a shared platform with Honda CR-V or Civic. The latest-gen RDX has its own platform, which makes it much more premium and you feel the level of refinement as soon as you start driving it. Second, there is no V6 anymore and that’s good and bad depends on which way you are looking. Though V6 sounds better, this one doesn’t sound bad, but it has much more usable torque down low and mid-range. In the V6, you have to get the engine really high rpm to feel the power, that’s not the case with the current generation RDX. It’s a very smooth ride, and you don’t have to rev higher to go fast.
Driving the 2020 Acura RDX feels more like driving a sedan rather than a crossover. Steering weight is perfect, the feeling is okay. You still sit high, but the shape of the console makes you feel like you sit lower. Of course, Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) works great. Although the engine is placed horizontally, the system can send 70% of the torque to the rear wheels, and 100% of that torque can be applied to either rear wheel. 2020 RDX A-Spec, begin the sporty trim, has stiffer suspension than the other trims, and it is noticeable on rough surfaces. Of course, 20″ rims look great but they don’t help when it comes to road imperfections.
For the price range, you usually get a front-wheel biased AWD system and with all open differentials, the power usually won’t end up in the correct wheel. Acura offers the best AWD system for the price range, and you can feel the difference in tight turns that it sends the power to the outer wheel. It may not be a rear-wheel biased AWD replacement when it comes to the fun factor, but it is as good as it can be compared to front-wheel biased AWD systems.
Feature-wise, it is very good even at the base trim. Acura’s infotainment system is different than most other companies as it does not use a knob, it uses a touchpad instead. It definitely took more time to get used to the infotainment system and we think this is the biggest disadvantage of this generation. There is no touchscreen so you have to rely on the touch pad to navigate through the menus. Granted, the resolution is pretty high, and there is almost no input lag when you go through the infotainment system. Last but not least, the Premium Audio System is worth the premium as it is very good for this price range.
Pricing and the Verdict
2020 Acura RDX, though it is not the newest option in this segment, is our favourite premium SUV of 2020. The reason it’s our favourite is not that it is the best, or doing anything best. However, it offers everything in a great package. It comes with a great platform, nice premium interior, great handling characteristics as a result of having a great AWD system, as well as traditional Honda/Acura reliability for a reasonable price range. 2020 Acura RDX starts at $44,390 CAD and our tester is just over the $50,000 mark. If you want the top trim, it goes all the way up to $54,390 with the Platinum Elite trim. In our opinion, even the base RDX has lots of standard features that you may not need to upgrade to the upper trims.
However, if you want a more sporty look and features such as premium audio, or ventilated seats, or a heated steering wheel, we believe A-Spec is a great sweet spot. Though we are not a fan of the Blue exterior/Red interior combo, we just wish we had a different colour combination with the A-Spec, but you can always choose another exterior colour t such as Dark Gray or Black, to make it look much better inside and outside. The higher trims you go, the closer you get in terms of pricing of the German competition, that’s why lower trims are a better deal considering it comes with many standard features, unlike the German competitors.
Yes, the 2020 Acura RDX is the best premium compact crossover as of 2020. You get a German-level driving refinement and car-like driving dynamics for a much more affordable price tag. Remember that affordability is a relative term, but the base trim has so much value on it due to standard features. It just takes time to get used to its flaws, such as the infotainment touchpad and shifter buttons. If you think you can get familiar with the overall interior layout, there is no reason not to buy this one if you are looking for a compact premium crossover.
For more details, please go to www.acura.ca
Article and Photos by Dan Gunay