Despite being one of the first small premium crossovers on the market, the first generation RDX didn’t establish the market share corporate was hoping to grab. It’s spunky four-cylinder turbo, sharp handling, and Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) won favor with Acura enthusiasts but it was never considered a sales success.
Around the time second generation RDX was due for 2013, the market was being flooded with other competing brands’ first generation entries, and they too were struggling to get the right formula – think the Mercedes chunky GLK, the low riding EX35, or the station wagon-lookalike BMW X1.
Committed to regaining sales, Acura decided to take an overtly safe approach. Spacious, efficient, safe, sensibly equipped, and entirely inoffensive are all accurate descriptions for the second generation, however, it was no longer considered sporty. The smooth V6, softer chassis, and simpler AWD system was all tilted towards a more comfortable and calm ride. Sales have been on a steady climb ever since, however, not without an intangible cost to the brand’s sporting heritage.
Well aware of this concern, Acura made a big push forward to focus the brand’s styling and performance direction. The RDX’s 2016 mid-cycle refresh thus came with significant upgrades that focused on sharper handling, improved acceleration, and more tech. Excitement started to brew for what Acura could do with a fresh start.
Bowing this week at the Detroit Auto Show, the all new third generation RDX marks the first full application of the brand’s Precision Concept styling theme. There are no overly amplified wheel fenders or large overhangs. The nose, grille and overall profile give it a close family resemblance to the larger MDX while angular body lines and a high stance bring a sense of youthfulness.
Inside, the mix of sport and comfort is evident. Maybe first noticing the high quality materials (Napa leather and soft touch panels), a large 10.2” high definition display, and standard panoramic roof, but the the driver and passengers are quickly reminded of the car’s multi-layered skillset as the Integrated Dynamic System controller is placed prominently in the center of the dash. The large dial controller provides the ability to select different driving modes from Snow to Sport+ (no off-road modes here) and the car adjusts the adaptive dampers, AWD proportioning, electric steering effort, as well as the shift and throttle mapping.
Seeing as the chassis was developed to offer a sporting balance between the first two generations, the same could be considered of the powertrain. The large but efficient V6 has been swapped out for a 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder. Utilizing VTEC and other cam trickery, we can expect improved low end power, acceleration, and efficiency partly due to the 10-speed automatic transmission that was developed in-house. When the road gets windy, the return of SH-AWD to overdrive the outside wheels will further aid to elevate its handling dynamics.
Notable tech features are throughout the cabin with Acura’s newest interface controller being the show stopper. Menus on the high-mounted screen are selected based on the position of your finger on the touchpad. If the controller isn’t your bag, Acura has updated the speech recognition system that can actually understand normal sounding sentences.
The new RDX also includes four ultra-thin ceiling mounted speakers, that are among the 16 total included with the 710-watt ELS sound system, the full AcuraWatch safety suite, surround view cameras, and much more.
This segment continues to gain momentum as more manufacturers put forth updated models. Mercedes-Benz is promising a whole new user experiences with its newest generation GLA while BMW recently launched its more practical and efficient X1 series. The new Infiniti QX50 brings industry-first engine technology and an impressively detailed interior, and then there is Chevrolet’s Equinox whose price now overlaps the entry level premium segment. You get the point.
The 2019 RDX isn’t expected to launch until later this year. Expect few changes to the RDX Concept other than the regulation-sized door mirrors and minor trim work. Pricing and feature line-up will also be released closer to the sale date which even this is interesting considering the higher-than-typical Acura level of features included in the 2019 RDX.
Honda has lately been right on point with its Civic, CR-V, and Accord debuts. Now it’s Acura’s turn to make the most of a fresh stable of engines and new platform to bring the sales figures while still offering the sporting nature that makes the brand unique.