Acura calls the 2019 RDX its sportiest compact crossover yet, and claims the X3 and Q5 as its spirit animals. It’s not as firmly sprung as those SUVs, but has a mellow, refined feel that’s far removed from the jitter and buzz it’s had in previous lifetimes.
Its above-average drivetrain and ride/handling tune put it at a 7 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Under the hood, the RDX swaps its 3.5-liter V-6 for a rorty 2.0-liter turbo-4 that makes 272 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, which peaks at 1,600 to 4,500 rpm. Based on the Honda Civic Type R’s turbo-4, this energetic dual-overhead-cam engine has 40 percent more low-rpm torque than the V-6 did, and it’s teamed with a new 10-speed automatic that can toggle down 4 speeds at a time, if it must. Paddle shift controls on all models turn the driving experience into something akin to a video game, but the transmission’s programmed well enough that most drivers may never realize those switches behind the steering wheel actually do things.
The RDX isn’t particularly light or heavy for its size, with a curb weight of 3,783 pounds in base front-drive trim, or 4,068 pounds as an AWD Advance. Acura doesn’t publish acceleration times, but the gutsy sounds and moves of the RDX suggest a 7-second 0-60 mph range. Honda’s been talking future S-Type and turbocharged V-6 models, so we wonder openly about how much power this capable chassis could handle.
All-wheel drive is an option, and it can route 70 percent of the torque to the rear. Torque vectoring across the rear splits power left to right, up to 100 percent, to improve handling even more. While we’re spitting out numbers, the RDX sports 8.2 inches of ground clearance, but clearly isn’t intended for off-roading of the Baja-bounding variety.
Integrated Dynamics Control is one detail lifted from the NSX. It spins the RDX from Comfort to Sport and Sport+ modes, which tells the drivetrain to calm down or get amped up, from steering to throttle to adaptive shocks when they’re fitted. A Snow mode modulates everything down a half-step for more predictable behavior. When it’s tweaked to the more responsive programmed modes, the turbo-4 in the RDX delivers a swift gust of torque, thanks to a transmission with a low first gear and nine more to choose from there.
Ride and handling are one of the RDX’s bright spots, particularly on cars fitted with driver-selectable shocks. The suspension uses front MacPherson struts, and a five-link independent rear. It has a wider track this year, up to 1.3 inches wider at rear, larger wheels and tires (235/55-19 all-seasons on base versions, or 255/40-20 all seasons on all others). Acura also fits hydraulic front bushings to isolate the suspension, as Honda does on some Civics.
The combination of lighter and stronger pieces, wider track, and a new body gives the 2019 RDX a stronger sense of self. There’s a confidence in its relaxed roadholding that’s very on point, without aping Euro-utes too strongly.
With the available driver-selectable dampers, the RDX is quick-footed without being too firm, even with 20-inch wheels. There’s a rational level of body lean, and it has an absorbent ride. Even on the base suspension, it takes an unruffled set, and only gently thumps over potholes and road seams. Dual-pinion electric power steering doesn’t get too leaden when it’s dialed into Sport+ mode, either, and it tracks well over rough pavement.
The brakes on our early tester had a firm pedal without a lot of travel, though.
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