Unlike other compact-luxury crossovers that toe the line between luxury and sporty, the 2020 Acura RDX lets everyone know it’s the latter. Visually, its angular bodywork and striking front end stand out compared with subtler alternatives. Its Acura badge lacks the cache of rivals such as Audi and BMW, but the RDX offers comparable build quality at a lower price. Available with an abundance of desirable features and a dynamic all-wheel-drive system, this two-row crossover will satisfy most SUV shoppers. While the Acura’s small turbocharged engine doesn’t deliver breathtaking acceleration, it’s responsive and talkative when prodded. We can look past its erratic brake-pedal feedback and clumsy automatic transmission thanks to sharp steering and other playful driving attributes.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Likes: Effortless acceleration, default drive mode can be set to Sport, all-wheel drive improves athleticism. Dislikes: A-Spec package is mostly cosmetic, automatic has lazy gearchanges, erratic brake-pedal feedback.
Every RDX is powered by a 272-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that pairs with a 10-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive (a.k.a. SH-AWD). The A-Spec version we tested had a responsive gas pedal at low speeds, and it pulled away from stoplights with authority. It also zipped from zero to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds at our test track. However, the quickness and pedal response were less noticeable at highway speeds, where the RDX needed 5.2 seconds to get from 50 mph to 70. The transmission could be quicker to downshift with prompt gas-pedal inputs, especially when using the steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. We preferred the transmission’s behavior with the S mode selected so the transmission holds gears longer and downshifts quicker. The turbocharged engine did make the RDX sound more like the NSX, with its high-pitched roar during hard acceleration that is artificially piped into the cabin through the audio system’s speakers.
The RDX we drove had large 20-inch wheels that are included with the A-Spec package. It also had the standard suspension setup, unlike models with the Advance package, which adds adaptive dampers that provide adjustable ride quality. While our test vehicle failed to isolate the cabin from harsh impacts on the roughest roads, it was never punishing or noisy. The torque-vectoring SH-AWD also helped it change directions quickly and was backed by precise-feeling steering. The RDX only leaned when we attacked a highway on-ramp, but otherwise, it was wonderfully balanced for those who enjoy driving quickly. Unfortunately, the brake pedal diminished the experience, due to its inconsistent firmness and responsiveness.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The 2019 RDX was named a Top Safety Pick+ by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which is the independent crash-test agency’s highest honor. Likewise, the 2020 RDX earned a perfect five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Every model includes a host of standard driver-assistance technology, but several other assists are available with the Technology package. These include front and rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. Key safety features include:
- Standard forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking
- Standard lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist
- Standard adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow
Interior, Infotainment, and Cargo
Likes: Likable driving position, no shortage of standard features, ample luggage space. Dislikes: Interior fails to feel special, finicky touchpad controller, limited small-item storage.
Inside, the RDX’s symmetrical dashboard creates an intimate space for front-seat passengers. The design is dominated by a rotary drive-mode selector that flows into a floating center console. Our test vehicle had the A-Spec package’s flashy red seats and several other exclusive styling bits. While the cabin’s notable build quality and desirable standard features (ambient lighting, power-adjustable and heated front seats, dual-zone climate control) were appreciated, the RDX fails to feel luxurious. Instead, the Acura delivers a sportier experience than, say, the CR-V could ever provide. Nothing feels cheap or chintzy, and the driving position is high enough to satisfy crossover fans and flexible enough to appease driving enthusiasts.
2019 Acura RDX A-Spec interior.
Every RDX has a 10.2-inch touchscreen that’s perched high on the dashboard and can be operated via a touchpad that sits comfortably where the driver’s right hand rests on the center console. Acura calls the controller intuitive, but it was a while before we got accustomed to it. At least we were treated to many standard features, such as Apple CarPlay and a 4G LTE mobile hotspot. Surprisingly, the Android-based infotainment system currently doesn’t support Android Auto. However, Acura claims it will eventually be available. The optional Technology package adds built-in navigation, rear-seat USB ports, a 12-speaker ELS Studio audio system, and more.
The RDX’s back seats easily fold flat via a handle on the upper outboard side of the seats or from release handles in the cargo area. We managed to fit eight carry-on bags with the seats up, and 22 with them folded. While the RDX has a large storage tray beneath its floating center console, the only other useful storage tray is alongside the cupholders in the center console.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
- RDX: $38,595
- RDX A-Spec: $44,795
The 2020 RDX is essentially a single model that can be equipped with several distinct packages. Front-wheel drive is standard but all-wheel drive is available for $2000. The most recognizable RDX models have the A-Spec package, which adds exclusive upgrades inside and out such as 20-inch wheels and red interior accents. While these visual enhancements look cool, the A-Spec setup is pricey and lacks any legitimate performance improvements. Instead, we’d recommend adding the Technology package that brings a better audio system, built-in navigation, fancier leather-trimmed seats, and more. It also includes front and rear parking sensors as well as blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. Those who want the ultimate options such as adaptive dampers and a head-up display will have to spring for the $4900 Advance package, which costs $8100 total because it requires you to also add the $3200 Technology package.