First Look – 2019 Acura RDX Prototype Takes a Bow in Motor City
A Thinly Veiled Concept for Acura’s Hotselling Small SUV
As the second-bestselling model in its lineup, the Acura RDX is hugely important to the brand. And for 2019, the company is going all in on the RDX, revealing an all-new crossover with an Acura-specific platform, holistic styling following the company’s new design language, and a few segment exclusives to vault it over other small luxury SUVs.
The 2019 RDX is the first Acura to be styled from the outset using the company’s new “Alluring Modern Edge” styling language. As such, it looks much more complete than the company’s still-attractive MDX, which received the new design features as part of a midcycle update. A “diamond pentagon” grille leads the charge on the RDX, with distinctive character lines emanating from the grille through the headlights and onto the bodysides. The sculpted profile does recall the Mazda CX-5 a bit, but there’s enough Acura “Precision Crafted Performance” DNA in the front and rear ends to guarantee you won’t confuse it for anything else. One of our favorite features are the distinctive hood creases, clearly visible from behind the wheel for some added drama.
That includes any Honda product, as the 2019 Acura RDX rides on a platform specific to the brand. Gone are the days when the Acura RDX and the Honda CR-V share architecture, giving the RDX a premium feel befitting the luxury brand. One representative we chatted with acknowledged that some of the front structure under the sheetmetal is common to other Honda and Acura vehicles, but from the A-pillar back, the RDX is all new. The architecture will pay dividends in chassis stiffness and lightweighting, giving the RDX more athletic handling.
Motivating that performance will be a new-to-RDX 2.0L turbocharged I-4 and a segment-exclusive 10-speed automatic transmission. Power goes to all four wheels through Acura’s Super-Handling All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD). We presume the engine shares a lot with the 2.0 turbo found in the Honda Accord, where it makes 252 hp and 273 lb-ft; expect at least as much from the new RDX, with less power but more torque than the outgoing model’s 3.5L V-6.
In many ways, the new RDX recalls the old, first-generation SUV, which also employed a turbocharged I-4 with SH-AWD; the second-generation RDX used a cheaper, simpler all-wheel-drive system mated to a naturally aspirated V-6. We hope the rorty new powertrain imbues the RDX with some personality; given the magic SH-AWD works on the much larger, fun-to-drive MDX, we think the RDX will be a delight on twisty roads. For even more handling verve, Acura will offer the RDX in the company’s performance-oriented A-Spec trim, a first for the nameplate.
Inside, the RDX gets the company’s new Precision interior design, including a floating center console with storage under the dashboard, comfortable and supportive seats, and open-pore Olive Ash wood trim. The tan interior on the show vehicle brightens up the interior well, but genuine brushed aluminum keeps it from feeling staid or dated. The company boasts class-leading cargo and rear-seat space, and the seats are covered in high-grade Napa leather for a rich, expensive look.
The RDX also marks the first appearance of Acura’s new Human-Machine Interface infotainment system, including an Android-based True Touchpad Interface. The system incorporates a small console-mounted touchpad mated to a 10.2-inch HD display mounted high on the dashboard. Tapping the touchpad results in a direct action on the display using a mechanism called absolute positioning; the idea is the driver uses the touchpad as though it was a touchscreen, with each point on the touchpad mapped directly to the info display. As such, the driver doesn’t need to reach across the dash awkwardly to operate a touchscreen, often out of his or her line of sight. Whether True Touchpad Interface is an effective, intuitive system remains to be seen, but the idea shows some promise.
Every 2019 Acura RDX will come standard with AcuraWatch, incorporating automatic emergency braking and other safety features. The luxury SUV will also be available with front and rear parking sensors, a surround-view camera, blind spot monitoring, and more.
Acura is calling this vehicle a 2019 RDX Prototype, meaning this isn’t exactly the vehicle we’ll see in dealers later this year—but it’s not far off. Aside from impractically small mirrors and an expensive coat of lusty red paint, don’t expect much to change in the transition from prototype to production. The vehicle was designed and developed in the U.S., and all U.S.-market RDXs will be built in the company’s East Liberty, Ohio, plant.
Acura says to expect retail sales to begin sometime in the middle of the year, and we think pricing should hold the line compared to the 2018 RDX. A fully loaded example should eclipse $50,000, with the base RDX starting at just under $40,000. If priced that aggressively, the RDX could really bring the fight to the $42,000–$55,000 Mercedes-Benz GLC and BMW X3, especially if it has the moves and zest we’ve come to expect of Acura’s SH-AWD and that 2.0 turbo four.
Regardless, with such an expressive exterior and comfortable interior, Acura is clearly playing for keeps with the 2019 RDX.