Saturday, February 22, 2020
Reviews 2020 Acura RDX: Bringing Excitement Back

2020 Acura RDX: Bringing Excitement Back

Not a worldbeater, but a mighty fine compact luxury crossover that can measure up to any other rival.


  • 2020 Acura RDX priced from $43,990 before freight and delivery charges
  • Great handling, capable AWD, superb engine
  • Touchpad infotainment system interface is infuriating

If the most recent generation of the Acura RDX is an indication of what’s in store for the brand’s future models, we definitely have something to look forward to. The third-generation crossover is not only more exciting from a design perspective, but it’s much more enjoyable to drive than the bland, appliance-like previous-gen RDX.

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Dressed up with the A-Spec package, the 2020 Acura RDX is toned up with a more athletic pose, thanks to specific front and rear bumpers, LED fog lamps, gray 20-inch alloy wheels and a general absence of exterior chrome trim. We’re seeing a lot of these on the roads, so we’re guessing the A-Spec’s appearance and features on chiming in with Canadian SUV shoppers.

The RDX competes with a lot of rivals, including the Audi Q5, the BMW X3, the Mercedes-Benz GLC, the Lincoln Corsair, the Volvo XC60, the Lexus NX and the Infiniti QX50, in addition to being bullied from mainstream brands with upscale packages, such as the GMC Terrain Denali and the Mazda CX-5 Signature. It’s a tough segment, but one that’s gaining in popularity, so the potential for profit is there.

Alive With Four

Only one powertrain is available in the 2020 Acura RDX, and that’s a turbocharged, 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that develops 272 horsepower as well as 280 pound-feet of torque between 1,600 and 4,500 rpm. It’s managed by a ten-speed automatic transmission, which feeds all four wheels through the brand’s SH-AWD system.

The turbo four is a lively engine, especially with the Sport or Sport Plus mode activated. It revs quickly up to its redline, and although fake engine sounds aren’t always appealing, they do add some character to the crossover. It’s one of the most powerful 2.0-litre engines in its class, beaten out only by the Alfa Romeo Stelvio’s four-banger turbo, but the RDX is among the least fuel-efficient with a combined city/highway average of 9.9L/100 km—or 10.3 in the case of the A-Spec variant. Super unleaded is “recommended,” too, which also adds to the cost at the pump.

That’s odd, because Honda is usually pretty good when it comes to developing fuel-mising engines. It’s worth noting that its competitors’ combined ratings hover between 9.3 and 10.7 L/100 km, so the difference isn’t all that substantial. We averaged 10.5 L/100 km during our test.

Another peculiar detail is that the 2020 Acura RDX Platinum Elite gets an adaptive damper system, which is said to smoothen out road imperfections during highway cruising and firm up during spirited driving, but the A-Spec edition doesn’t. Nonetheless, after driving both, we can say that the difference is barely noticeable.

Switching between drive modes is performed with the console-mounted Integrated Dynamics System rotary dial. Aside from the aforementioned sport modes, it includes Comfort and and Snow settings. However, and we’re not just pointing the finger at Acura here, but a drive mode selector belongs on the steering wheel, not an arm’s length away on the dashboard. It has to be easily and quickly accessible, without requiring us to take our eyes off the road.

The dealbreaker

Speaking of distracting, the RDX’s infotainment system interface is, to us, poorly engineered and offers zero intuitiveness. The touchpad surface requires a stable finger to operate, and pointing an on-screen button is extremely complicated because in a moving vehicle, our finger is anything but stable and we have to look at the 10.2-inch screen to make sure we’re choosing the right thing. It’s like if the system was installed in the RDX without ever being tested while driving or on the road.

Worse, there are actually not one, but two touchpad zones, with different menus appearing on two sides of the screen. There’s a small, cushioned area to rest your palm while you’re trying to use the interface, which is proof that it’s difficult to use and user unfriendly. Even reverting to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto doesn’t make things much simpler.

That’s a shame, because otherwise, the 2020 Acura RDX’s cabin is very enjoyable. The A-Spec’s leather and microfiber seats are decently supportive, the interior design is sharp and build quality is top-notch. The ELS Studio sound system with 12 speakers in Tech and Elite variants, 16 in the A-Spec and Platinum Elite, is terrific. There are four USB ports for charging everyone’s portable devices in all but the base trim level.

Even interior space is good, given its compact size, as rear-seat occupants benefit from lots of foot room and no floor bump. Cargo is rated at up to 881 litres with the rear seatback in place, and from 1,668 to 2,260 litres with the seats folded down—which includes an underfloor storage bin. There are pull handles in the cargo area to release the seatbacks, which is a handy feature not all SUVs can brag about.

Bang for the buck

Starting at $43,990 before freight and delivery charges, the 2020 Acura RDX has an interesting list of standard kit, including a power panoramic sunroof, forward collision warning, lane departure warning and lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, a windshield wiper de-icer, LED headlights, dual-zone climate control as well as heated and 12-way power front seats.

Stepping up to the $47,290 Tech trim adds blind spot monitoring, rain-sensing wipers, navigation, front and rear park sonar and a sound system upgrade. An RDX A-Spec is listed at $50,790, which is still more than reasonable. In comparison, a base X3 costs $48K, a GLC is priced from $48,800 and an XC60 starts at $46,350.

It’s no wonder Acura is selling so many RDXs, and the crossover represents almost half of the brand’s total sales in Canada. It looks smart, it serves up crisp handling and its engine is fun to play with. It’s priced right, too. As a matter of fact, its only major flaw is the fussy infotainment system that needs to be simplified. Acura can leave the rest alone.

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