Stick Shift: 2019 Acura RDX A-Spec

For the new model year, Acura has taken their popular selling, yet visually sedated and dynamically under-seasoned RDX, and transformed it into a beautiful combination of aggressively shaped sheetmetal with a cutting-edge interior that panders to the luxury, performance and technology obsessed buyer alike.

Gone are the bland exterior visuals of the former RDX. A car that used to thoroughly blend into the crowd, now proudly stands out from it. A menacing front grille, flanked by two striking Jewel Eye LED headlights that do an excellent job of brightly illuminating the dark road ahead, are the perfect first impression to the new 2019 Acura RDX. Special 20” alloy wheels on my A-Spec model come in gunmetal grey, and contrasted against the Apex Blue Pearl paint color perfectly. Finishing off the look are two somewhat disproportionately large exhaust tailpipes. Only out-disproportioned by the enormous Acura emblem on the nose. 

The 2019 RDX A-Spec is statement making on the outside. Lucky for us, it only goes bolder and bigger once you climb aboard. Here, the A-Spec trim really delivers the goods. Punchy red, leather trimmed sport seats with black ultra suede inserts look and feel fantastic. Especially against all that contrast stitching and polished-metal speaker covers, pedals and many other interior panels. If you desire a more muted effect, black leather is also available. All these different materials combine and overlap to produce wonderful visual and tactile variety throughout the interior. In A-Spec trim you’ll also get heated and ventilated front seats, a different steering wheel and a wonderful sounding 16-speaker audio system.

Photo via: Acura

Overhead, a sweeping panoramic sunroof opens up the cabin to wonderful amounts of natural lights. While an acoustically insulated windshield, plus other sound deadening materials ensure that only the sunshine gets in, and not all that pesky wind and road noise too. A floating center console with the push-button shifter and Our Touchpad Interface produces a futuristic effect, while simultaneously creating some smart storage space underneath. A single 10.2” display replaces the older models dual infotainments screens. Settings, audio, bluetooth and vehicle controls are managed with the True Touchpad below. Unfortunately, these controls felt clumsy, making even simple adjustments more difficult than they had to be. At least volume control and tuning have their own designated knobs.

Photo via: Acura

Tossing out the previous models 3.5L V6, Acura has dropped in their popular 2.0L turbo-four. Though horsepower is down from last year, torque is up by 28 lb-ft, with a generous torque curve and a mechanized suck, squish, bang, blow soundtrack that sounds great, further enhanced by extra engine-noise streamed directly into the cabin through the audio system. The 2019 Acura RDX A-Spec accelerates with ease, and has a variety of driving modes to help out. From Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus and even Snow. The only hiccup to this wonderful new engine configuration is a hesitant 10-speed automatic transmission, that needed a moment or two to think things through before down-shifting. 

In the handling department, this little crossover has never been better. Structurally stronger than ever before thanks to chassis improvements and a stiffer suspension. With the good follows the bad though, as the firm ride allows more bumps to permeate through the cabin and up your spine. In the Advance package, one step up from our A-Spec model, Acura will give you adaptive dampers, which go a long way to smooth out and soften the ride. I only wish it was available in the A-Spec package as well. On the whole though, the new RDX exhibits a nimble liveliness that many other small SUV crossovers couldn’t dream of. Steering feedback feels a little synthetic, but builds progressively and predictably, while braking feel is linear and tight. 

Pile on plenty of driving aides like adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist, in addition to many safety features, Hondas’ famous reliability and other amenities for just over $46,000, and the RDX A-Spec beats out the likes of similar small SUV’s from Audi, Lexus and BMW by several thousands of dollars. Strangely, Acura has taken a somewhat unrealistic marketing approach with the re-imagined RDX A-Spec. As an example, just last night I saw a TV commercial where they showed racing around a track the iconic NSX, followed by the irreplaceable Integra Type-R, and then out comes the RDX A-Spec. The message seemed to suggest the little SUV was picking up and carrying on the high-performance torch. This is a really big stretch at best. But if your expectations are more realistic than this commercials, the new 2019 Acura RDX A-Spec will delight each one of your senses and leave plenty of extra cash in your pocket.

Price as tested: $46,495.99

By: Brandon Randall

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