By: Mike Ginsca
Acura touts its vehicles as being luxurious and sporty. Everything from the small ILX to the large MDX. But that puts the brand in direct competition with the likes of BMW & Mercedes-Benz. Their most recently updated 2020 Acura RDX A-Spec is poised to take on the BMW X3 & Mercedes GLC. So how does it stack up?
Engine – The Acura RDX is powered by a 2.0L turbocharged engine that produces 272 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. Compared to the 2.0L turbocharged engines offered in the German brands, this one is more potent. The peak torque is reached at a low 1,600 rpms and is sustained until the rpms reach 4,500. That means that the engine doesn’t feel as though it’s straining to get the 1,844 kg (4,065 lbs) body up to speed. However, there are a couple of drawbacks. Firstly, it’s not a very good sounding engine. The German brands know how to make a turbocharged 2.0L sound good. Secondly, the RDX is not offered with any other powertrain. There is no hybrid or more powerful engine option with the RDX. The 2.0L engine is all that you get regardless of trim level.
The 2020 Acura RDX A-Spec is rated for 11.3 L/100km (20.8 mpg) in a city and 9.1 L/100km (25.8 mpg) on a highway. Those are ok numbers however, in the real world, it’s hard to achieve those fuel economy claims. My average combined fuel economy number was closer to 11.5 L/100km (20.5 mpg) . What’s more interesting is that last year I drove the exact same SUV and achieved the same combined fuel economy numbers during my time with that one.
Transmission – The 2.0L engine is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. Yes, you read that right. A 10-speed automatic. But unlike many other transmissions with as many gears, this one doesn’t “hunt” for the correct gear when traveling around town. It knows which gear to be in and can quickly downshift to the appropriate gear when a burst of acceleration is required. On highways, it quickly tries to reach top gear in order to improve fuel economy figures.
Braking – While this particular trim is called the A-Spec and is the sportiest of all trims, it doesn’t receive any different brakes than the other trims. Stopping the RDX is an easy task thanks to the firm feeling brake pedal. The brakes may feel a bit grabby to some when they’re cold and they may squeal a bit but those things go away after a couple of brake applications & the discs warm up. Automatic emergency braking is a standard feature across all trims levels.
Handling – Around corners is where the 2020 Acura RDX shines a bit above its competitors. Standard for the Canadian market is Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD). This system can not only transfer power between the front and rear wheels but also from side to side. It uses real torque vectoring – not by applying brakes – to better rotate the SUV when driving around corners.
The steering provides good feedback to the driver and changes depending on the drive modes. In normal everyday driving, it is light for easy maneuverability. Switch to Sport mode and it becomes heavier to provide a bit more feedback to the driver.
Ride Comfort – Although this is a sporty oriented SUV, it still retains a luxurious and comfortable ride. On highways it feels stable while on city streets, it maintains its composure over potholes and cracked pavement. The front seats are a bit more plush than those found in the Mercedes GLC for example and it’s the same story in the rear seats.
Interior Space – The cabin of the Acura RDX is spacious in certain dimensions. There is a bit less headroom then in the X3 or GLC 300 but the RDX has more leg room for both front and rear occupants than the German rivals. Cargo capacity in the trunk is also larger than that of the German rivals at 835 L (29.5 cu-ft) with the rear seats up and 1,668 L (58.9 cu-ft) with the rear seats folded.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – The RDX has a solid build feel. Nothing in the cabin rattles or squeaks when driving over rougher roads. Noises from the outside are relatively well subdued but engine noise can become intrusive once you take the rpms past 2,500. As I mentioned earlier, it’s not the best sounding 2.0L engine out there. But other than that, the RDX is a comfortable daily commuter.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – This mid-level A-Spec trim costs $50,790 CAD ($46,100 USD). That is roughly the same starting price of the BMW X3 and a bit more than the starting price of the Mercedes GLC 300. However, this being a mid-level trim, you’re getting more features for your money. It comes with adaptive cruise control, ventilated front seats, automatic high beam, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Wi-Fi, sunroof, lane departure warning, and blind spot sensors to name a few. These are all standard features on the A-Spec on top of what you already get standard on the base $43,990 CAD (FWD $38,200 USD) RDX trim. So you’re getting a lot of value for your money when compared to the German SUVs. Compared to other premium SUVs like the Infiniti QX50, the Acura RDX is similar in price and features.
As for the actual gadgets themselves, they all work well. My only complaint is the infotainment system. It has been improved since its introduction with the 2019 Acura RDX and it can be updated via over-the-air updates but it still is a bit cumbersome to use. The 10.2-inch infotainment screen is not a touchscreen and instead has to be used via touchpad on the center console. Thing is tough, this touchpad is a bit different than any other. Acura calls it a True Touchpad Interface which means that your touch on the pad correlates to that exact position on the screen. So if you touch the top right corner of the pad, the top right item of the screen is highlighted. There’s no need to swipe to select between menu items like every other touchpad out there. And that’s what makes this one feel so cumbersome. Your brain is not used to it. Worse yet is trying to use Android Auto or Apple CarPlay with the touchpad. These systems were designed to work with a touchscreen rather than a touchpad or even a scroll wheel.
Interior Design – The interior of the 2020 Acura RDX A-Spec exudes sportiness & modernism from the alcantara lined seats to the floating center console. It looks great and for the most part, every button and switch is well organized. One small complaint that I have is the size of the Dynamic Mode selector. I get its positioning but every time I want to change the volume of the stereo, I find myself reaching for that big knob instead of the teeny tiny volume knob a bit further up the dashboard.
Exterior Design – On the outside, the RDX showcases the latest design language and direction for future Acura SUVs. The big Acura emblem and grille are the most prominent design features that catch your eye immediately upon seeing the SUV. There is also the Apex Blue Pearl colour that shines in direct sunlight but has a rich tone during the night. And around back, the A-Spec receives an ever so small faux diffuser to complete the sporty SUV look.
In the end, the 2020 Acura RDX A-Spec can hold its own against the competitors from BMW & Mercedes-Benz. With the RDX, you’ll be getting more features and more power for the same amount of money you’d spend on an X3 or GLC 300. But crucially you don’t really lose that feeling of sportiness or luxury with the Acura badge.
Thank you to Acura Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Acura.ca