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2019 Acura RDX crossover gets turbocharged power, A-Spec version

Standard 10-speed auto and available SH-AWD are highlights

  • Image Credit: Drew Phillips
NEW YORK — Calling the RDX that Acura showed at this year's Detroit Auto Show a "concept" was stretching that term to the limits of credulity. The production version of the 2019 RDX is here, and this turbocharged crossover with available AWD looks darn near identical. While it offers all-wheel drive like its Lexus NX and Audi Q3 competitors, Acura's next-generation SH-AWD should be a serious selling point.

Let's cover that "Super Handling All-Wheel Drive" system for a moment. It takes power from the 2.0-liter, 272 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque engine and routes it up to 70 percent rearward, and there's real torque vectoring (rather than brake-based faux vectoring) to shift 100 percent of that rear axle power to either wheel. The broad strokes are similar to the outgoing model's system, but there's much more available rear power bias — in the 2016 model, up to 40 percent could be sent to the rear. And that was up from 25 percent for pre-2016 models. The takeaway is that the RDX should handle a lot better on both dry and slippery pavement, and feel a bit sportier doing it.

A new engine may help as well. The outgoing 3.5-liter V6 is replaced by a turbocharged four-cylinder, almost certainly related to the unit in the Accord and Civic Type R, and tuned somewhere in between those cars (252 and 306 horsepower, respectively). We expect the new engine to be lighter than the old V6, and less weight off the front end should improve steering feel and handling. For those keeping track, the new engine is down 7 horsepower but up 28 pound-feet in torque, and thanks to turbocharging the torque band starts down low and is relatively flat, so more oomph from a stop and on through the rev range.

The six-speed automatic is gone, replaced by a 10-speed automatic. Most of its competitors use six- or eight-speed units, so that'll be a marketing focus. As you'd expect, the individual ratios are closer-spaced but the total ratio spread is, according to Acura, 62 percent wider than the outgoing automatic. There are steering-wheel-mounted paddles if you'd like to shift yourself.

Since the styling is very much a lightly retouched Prototype RDX from the Detroit show, it's nice to be able to give a sense of the new car's proportions with hard numbers. First of all, it's riding on a 2.6-inch longer wheelbase. Overall length is 187 inches, up from 184.4, and width is unspecified. Passenger volume grows very slightly to 104 cubic feet, up a half-cube, and cargo volume increases from 26.1 cubic feet to 29.5. All about what you'd expect from the length increases.

Other details: There's a larger panoramic moonroof, reflecting customer preferences for expansive glass panels up top. And there's an A-Spec version, the first Acura crossover done up like that, although it's mainly an appearance package. The highlights are grey 20-inch alloy wheels, gloss black grille accents, larger exhaust tips, and some badging. Inside, it's Ultrasuede with contrasting stitching and aluminum accents. That all sounds nice, but it's the revised infotainment system that will be the most welcome change. The Acura True Touchpad Interface is an awkward name for the touchpad that controls a new 10.2-inch center display running on an Android backend. There's no cursor; it's a 1:1 correlation between the position you touch on the pad and the input on the screen. It's concave, with a wrist rest, too. The true test of its competence will be using it on the road, but we'll try to get up close to the system on the show floor and report how it works.

The RDX will hit dealers in the middle of 2018, and pricing has yet to be announced.

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