The Honda/Acura empire routinely previews upcoming models with nearly-ready-for-prime-time concept cars, so there is little surprise to see that the street-ready 2019 Acura RDX is a doppelgänger for the RDX prototype that debuted at the 2018 Detroit auto show. Look closely and you’ll see the usual production-ready tells: The mirrors are larger, the front fascia bears a few additional elements and a slightly different mesh design on the lower grille, and the rear bumper panel is a bit more prominent. But it’s essentially the same as the concept car, right down to the spoiler and the descending character-line creases.
The unibody is built with more than 50 percent high-strength steel, and the RDX employs a strut front and multilink rear suspension setup, both with fluid-filled compliance bushings. Adaptive dampers will be available as an option. A dual-pinion electrically assisted variable-ratio steering rack handles the directional chores.
Motivation comes by way of Honda’s turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. The dual-overhead-cam engine is a rev-willing VTEC design that produces its peak 272 horsepower at 6500 rpm, down slightly from the previous car’s 279-horse V-6. But the turbo four delivers 280 lb-ft of torque at just 1600 rpm, a 28 lb-ft advantage over what the V-6 could muster way up at 4900 rpm.
The 10-speed automatic is said to have a 62-percent-wider ratio spread and is tuned to make the most of the turbo four’s low-end shove, whether left to its own devices or shifted manually with the steering-wheel-mounted paddles. Four driving modes (Snow, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+) can be selected via a control knob on the center console.
Honda-philes will be thrilled to learn the 2019 RDX marks the return of torque-vectoring all-wheel drive to the RDX. Available as an option and dubbed Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) in Honda-speak, the new system can route up to 70 percent of available torque to the rear wheels as needed, but its real trick is the ability to direct 100 percent of that torque to either one of the rear wheels to improve handling. The RDX is the first Acura model to receive the new SH-AWD setup.
An all-new touchpad user interface for infotainment functions also makes its debut in the RDX. Said to combine the advantages of a conventional touchscreen with a remote-based approach, it operates functions on the 10.2-inch center display screen using a console-mounted touchpad. Acura claims the setup permits mapping on a one-to-one basis in that where you touch the pad is reproduced on the exact same location on the center screen to facilitate eye-hand spatial coordination. In some early demos, we’ve found this setup to be more intuitive than the typical touchpad, which operates like a computer mouse, but we’ll need more time before we fully form our opinion on whether it moves infotainment control technology forward. Acura claims that an improved voice-recognition system allows for more intuitive control of features like the navigation system, and the touchpad also is augmented by additional physical buttons (and a volume knob). A 10.5-inch head-up display is optional.
Frankly, we were hoping for a little more oomph from the A-Spec’s powertrain. On the other hand, rumors involving the word Type and the letters S and R are circulating around Acura, so maybe that’s something we’ll see later. Speaking of performance, a production version of the RDX A-Spec will not only be competing at the 102nd running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb this June but also will serve as the official pace car.
The 2019 model is the first RDX to be entirely designed, developed, and manufactured in the United States. Development was done by the R&D team in Raymond, Ohio; it was styled at the Acura Design Studio in Los Angeles, California; the 2.0-liter engine is produced in Anna, Ohio; the 10-speed transmission hails from Tallapoosa, Georgia; and final assembly will be completed in East Liberty, Ohio.
Look for the 2019 Acura RDX to hit dealers before the end of the year. Pricing will be announced closer to its on-sale date.