2020 Acura RDX

2020 Acura RDX Test Drive Review: Getting Its Mojo Back

by Jared Rosenholtz

We won't mince words here. The Acura brand has struggled over the past few years. Models like the Legend, Integra, TL, and RSX have fallen to the wayside, replaced by alphabet soup monsters like the TLX, RLX, and KE$HA. Ok, we made that last one up but can you really tell us what ILX stands for? While most of these models are middling at best, Acura is in the process of revitalizing its entire lineup. It started with the redesigned third-generation RDX back in 2019, a model that hopes to recapture some of the brand's former glory and get its mojo back.

The RDX is a great place to begin this product renaissance because it competes in the compact luxury crossover segment, often the best-seller for luxury brands (Acura included). Competitors include the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Mercedes GLC, Lexus NX, and Volvo XC60 just to name a few. If Acura hopes to make a name for itself in this competitive segment, it is going to need some serious firepower. We were sent a 2020 Acura RDX A-Spec with all-wheel-drive to review for the week to find out how it stacks up.

2020 Acura RDX Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2019 RDX?

Introduced last year following a complete overhaul, the 2020 RDX continues largely unchanged - the only difference is a new Platinum White exterior color that adds to the existing color palette. Otherwise, Acura's crossover continues to be offered with the brand's range of optional packages to customize your purchase.

Pros and Cons

  • Much more appealing styling than before
  • Very well-priced
  • Gutsy turbocharged engine
  • Entertaining handling for a luxury crossover
  • Improved infotainment system
  • Commodious trunk capacity
  • Technology still feels laggy
  • The Germans make a better interior
  • Only one engine option
  • Thirsty for a four-cylinder

2020 Acura RDX Trims

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
Base
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$37,800
Technology Package
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$41,000
A-Spec Package
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$44,000
Advance Package
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$45,900

RDX Exterior

Acura's latest design language has been successfully applied to the RDX, which is now no longer an anonymous SUV thanks to the attractive trapezoidal grille design, Jewel-Eye headlights, and distinctive details like the sharp edges of the front air intakes. All versions get standard LED headlights, a panoramic moonroof, and dual exhaust outlets. To make even more of a statement, go for the sporty A-Spec package with its exclusive front/rear bumpers, black window moldings, and unique 20-inch Shark Gray alloy wheels. All other models are fitted with 19-inch alloys. Our A-Spec tester turned plenty of heads during our week of testing.

2020 Acura RDX Forward View CarBuzz
2020 Acura RDX View Out Back CarBuzz
2020 Acura RDX Frontal Aspect CarBuzz
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Dimensions

The RDX is longer and wider than a BMW X3, although the differences are marginal. Height is 65.7 inches, width is 74.8 inches, and length is 186.7 inches (along with a 108.3-inch wheelbase). Unladen ground clearance is 8.2 inches, but the RDX remains a road-biased SUV. Curb weight varies between 3,783 pounds for the standard front-wheel-drive model to 4,068 lbs for the all-wheel-drive variant with the Advance package.

  • Length 186.7 in
  • Wheelbase 108.3 in
  • Height 65.7 in
  • Max Width 74.8 in
  • Front Width 64.2 in
  • Rear Width 64.7 in

Exterior Colors

With the new addition of Platinum White Pearl, you can now have your RDX in one of nine shades. Other color options are Lunar Silver Metallic, Modern Steel Metallic, Majestic Black Pearl ($400), Fathom Blue Pearl, Performance Red Pearl ($400), Canyon Bronze Metallic ($400), and Gunmetal Metallic. Apex Blue Pearl is a particularly striking shade but requires upgrading to the Technology and A-Spec packages.

  • Majestic Black Pearl
  • Canyon Bronze Metallic
  • Performance Red Pearl
  • Apex Blue Pearl
  • Platinum White Pearl
  • Modern Steel Metallic
  • Fathom Blue Pearl
  • Gunmetal Metallic
  • Lunar Silver Metallic

RDX Performance

Every RDX gets a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine delivering 272 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. Front-wheel drive is standard but Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) system is an option. Independent tests revealed a 0-60 mph sprint time in the mid-six-second range - although this is a tad slower than the previous generation model which used a naturally-aspirated V6, it's the more drivable nature of the new RDX that appeals most. There's good torque low-down that doesn't necessitate chasing the redline as often as you did before. That being said, a base BMW X3 is ultimately faster. The RDX's maximum towing capacity of 1,500 pounds also falls far short of the X3 and the Audi Q5, both of which can tow over 4,000 lbs.

2020 Acura RDX Aft View CarBuzz
2020 Acura RDX Gearbox Controls CarBuzz
2020 Acura RDX Engine CarBuzz

Engine and Transmission

More efficient than the V6 engine used previously, the latest RDX uses a 2.0-liter turbo-four with outputs of 272 hp and 280 lb-ft - the torque figure is 28 lb-ft up over the older, naturally-aspirated motor and is available from a nice and low 1,600 rpm. The engine is mated to a ten-speed automatic transmission with sequential SportShift paddle shifters. The transmission is capable of four-gear direct downshifts that aims to deliver lag-free performance. In addition to its efficiency, the VTEC engine has resulted in more compact front packaging and improved weight distribution.

You may recognize the RDX's four-pot turbo from the Honda Accord and more importantly, the Civic Type R. While not as potent as in Honda's hot hatch, you can certainly feel this engine's pedigree in the RDX. Turbo lag is apparent at lower rpm but once the boost comes on, the engine pulls like a crazed animal and sounds angry while doing so. The 10-speed automatic offers a massive improvement in smoothness over Acura's old nine-speed box but the transmission can still be caught off guard when you ask it for a sudden burst of acceleration. Tapping the D/S button toggles the transmission into Sport Mode without adjusting any other drive mode settings, leaving the transmission in lower gears for quicker responsiveness.

  • Engine
    2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
  • Transmission
    10-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrains
    AWD, FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

Aside from its awful nine-speed transmission, we enjoyed driving the larger Acura MDX. The smaller RDX takes all of what we loved about the MDX and shrinks it down into a sportier, more complete package. The steering has a nice weight for a luxury crossover and puts most of its competitors to shame in this area. Acura has firmed up the suspension on the A-Spec model without ruining the ride comfort, though the adaptive dampers on the standard RDX might be more appealing for shoppers wanting a luxurious experience. The A-Spec rides pretty firmly, though we believe it will be livable for most buyers.

Changing the RDX's drive modes is done using a large, NSX-inspired knob on the dashboard, which emits a cool sound straight out of an old-school Gran Turismo loading menu. Sport mode, especially when paired with the aforementioned S transmission mode, has a noticeable impact on performance while Sport + mode causes the engine and transmission to respond with sports car-level excitement. Sport + mode also pumps additional engine noise into the cabin and makes the steering heavier, combining to create a truly exciting driving experience.

All the while, the driver peers at their speed and rpm through red-on-silver gauges, which reminded us of the old-school RSX Type-S. This RDX is the first sign of Acura returning to the form that made it popular in the first place and we can't wait to see how the company follows up the A-Spec package with a more powerful Type-S variant. While not lacking in power in any way, we think a 400-hp RDX Type-S could sublime.

RDX Gas Mileage

In standard FWD configuration, the RDX manages EPA-rated economy figures of 22/28/24 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. By comparison, the previous-generation V6 model (also in FWD form) returned 20/28/23 mpg, so the new four-pot's economy gains are especially notable in city driving. The AWD model's economy dips a bit to 21/27/23 mpg city/highway/combined. Acura recommends premium unleaded 91 octane, and on a full tank (17.1 gallons), a combined cruising range of around 410 miles should be achievable for the thriftiest model. Overall, the RDX's estimated economy numbers are above-average in this segment. It is worth noting though, that we only averaged 20 mpg combined during our week of testing, even with plenty of highway driving.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    17.1 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 22/28 mpg
* 2020 Acura RDX FWD

RDX Interior

Not every Acura matches the cabin feel and quality of its German rivals, but the same can't be said of the RDX's plush interior. From the available open-pore wood to the soft leather and classy covers for the storage compartment in front, the sensation is of a distinctly upmarket product. Leatherette upholstery is fitted to the base model but all others enjoy premium Milano leather. Standard features include power front seats with heating and optional heating for the spacious rear outboard seats. Indeed, wherever you sit, there's generous room on offer and the cargo area is voluminous, too. The brand's True Touchpad infotainment interface is an improvement over other Acura models' dual-screen setups, but some familiarity is still required for efficient operation. For the most part, the RDX's interior is a lovely place to spend time, we have just seen better on the pricier European competition.

2020 Acura RDX Dashboard CarBuzz
2020 Acura RDX Driver Instrument Display CarBuzz
2020 Acura RDX Center Stack CarBuzz
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Seating and Interior Space

Seating in the Acura RDX is limited to five people no matter how you option it. This is for the best, as a third row would likely have to be tiny. Front seat passengers are treated to 40 inches of headroom and 42 inches of legroom while rear occupants still have plenty of room with 38 inches of headroom and 38 inches of legroom. Rear passengers will be more comfortable in the back seat of the RDX than most competitors, though we would like to see the seats be able to slide forwards and backwards. Even middle seat passengers in the back will be relatively comfortable because the RDX only has a small hump in the rear footwell.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater
  • Front Leg Room 41.6 in
  • Front Head Room 39.6 in
  • Rear Leg Room 38.4 in
  • Rear Head Room 38.3 in

Interior Colors and Materials

Base variants of the RDX receive leatherette upholstery finished in either Ebony (black) or Parchment (tan). All other trim levels get premium Milano leather with Espresso (brown) or Graystone (gray) colors unlocked with the Technology Package. If you opt for the sporty A-Spec package, your interior color choices are limited to an all-black leather/suede combination with white piping or the bright red/black combination sent on our tester. Open-pore wood is available but A-Spec models feature sportier metallic trim. The cabin materials feel premium, but only just. We've sat in plenty of high-trim Honda models that feel almost as nice, and an Audi or Mercedes feels more premium.

RDX Trunk and Cargo Space

There's lots of space for a weekly shop or even a family's luggage for a weekend getaway thanks to the RDX's large trunk which has 29.5 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats. Handy underfloor storage is ideal for keeping valuable items like laptops and tablets out of sight. By folding down the 60/40-split rear seats, a total of 58.9 cubes of cargo space is freed up.

Interior storage space is also well thought through thanks to a large center console, another covered storage space lower down, cupholders, map pockets on the front seatbacks, and adequately sized door pockets.

2020 Acura RDX Trunk Space with Seat Folded CarBuzz
2020 Acura RDX Trunk Space CarBuzz
2020 Acura RDX Maximum Cargo Space CarBuzz

RDX Infotainment and Features

Features

The high-value proposition of the RDX range shines through with a generous standard of features, even on the base model. Many of them would cost extra on premium-badged competitors. 12-way power front seats with heating are standard, with 16-way power and ventilated front seats being available. All models get dual-zone automatic climate control, a keyless access system, push-button ignition, cruise control with an adaptive setting, an electronic gear selector, ambient cabin lighting, and a power moonroof. Available via one or more optional packages are features like heated rear outboard seats, a heated steering wheel, and GPS-linked climate control. Acura hasn't skimped on safety either thanks to a multi-view rear camera and a raft of driver aids under the AcuraWatch moniker - among them are collision mitigation braking and road departure mitigation.

Infotainment

All RDX models include a 10.2-inch HD Dual-Content Center Display paired with a seven-inch Color Multi-Information Display. The main screen is controlled using Acura's new True Touchpad system, which relies on a laptop-style trackpad on the dash. Unlike the Lexus system, Acura's system allows you to place your finger on a corner of the touchpad and have the corresponding area of the screen light up without a fuss. We will give Acura credit for besting Lexus on infotainment but we also don't understand what was wrong with a touchscreen. The Touchpad is an improvement over Acura's old dual-screen layout but it may take some getting used to for technophobes.

An Acura Premium Audio System with nine speakers comes standard while an ELS Studio Premium Audio System with 12 Speakers or 16 speakers with 3D is also available. Our tester was equipped with the 16-speaker system, which sounded nice but not class-leading (it is worth noting our test vehicle the previous week was a Volvo XC90 with the fabulous Bowers & Wilkins system, and the XC60 boasts a similar setup). Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard, though using them without a touchscreen is a bit cumbersome. Built-in navigation is available with the Technology Package.

RDX Problems and Reliability

Although still early in its life, the Acura RDX holds a J.D. Power rating of 77/100. Promisingly, the new RDX has had zero recalls since its introduction in 2019, indicating that this is a dependable SUV.

In case anything does go wrong, the RDX comes with a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty, a six-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty, outer body rust-through for five years with unlimited miles, and roadside assistance for four years or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Warranty

  • Basic:
    4 Years \ 50,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    6 Years \ 70,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    5 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    4 Years \ 50,000 Miles

RDX Safety

When crash-tested by the NHTSA, the RDX received a full five stars for overall safety. An evaluation by the IIHS revealed similarly exemplary results with the 2020 RDX being given the agency's Top Safety Pick+ award. If it's a safe SUV that you're after, you can't do much better than the RDX.

US NHTSA crash test result

  • Overall Rating
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
  • Side Crash Rating
  • Rollover Rating

Key Safety Features

Every RDX ships standard with a multi-view rear camera with dynamic guidelines, a full suite of eight airbags (including front knee airbags), vehicle stability assist with traction control, and hill start assist. The AcuraWatch suite of driver aids bundles together features like collision mitigation braking, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, lane keeping assist, road departure mitigation, forward collision warning, and lane departure warning. The various optional packages have even more safety gear like a head-up warning, front/rear parking sensors, rear cross-traffic monitoring, and a blind-spot information system. It's a thorough list that provides peace of mind for families.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2020 Acura RDX a good SUV?

We are pleased to report that with the 2020 RDX, Acura has indeed got its mojo back. There are some silly gripes with the infotainment and our observed fuel economy wasn't great, but this feels like the best effort we've seen from Acura in a long time, especially when you consider the price.

The 2020 RDX starts at $37,800 (undercutting most of its European and Japanese rivals) and even our well-optioned A-Spec tester with SH-AWD only commanded an as-tested price of $46,795. There are plenty of nicer interiors in this segment but at this price, we'll give Acura a pass. Most of the German competitors will easily go well into the $50,000 range with some even passing the $60,000 mark.

This feels like an excellent rebooting point for the Acura brand. The RDX has winning styling, a nice-enough interior, and gutsy power. In a year or so, we hope Acura successfully relaunches its Type-S sub-brand. This should give us more to talk about in the future but for now, the RDX remains a winner.

🚘What's the Price of the 2020 Acura RDX?

The most affordable RDX is the standard model without any packages which starts at an MSRP of $37,800, excluding a destination fee of $995 as well as tax, licensing, and registration. Next is the Technology Package at $41,000, followed by the stylish A-Spec at $44,000 and the fully-loaded Advance Package at $45,900. While all models drive the front wheels by default, Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive system is a $2,000 option. Equipped with the Advance Package and SH-AWD, the RDX will cost you $47,900.

2020 Acura RDX Models

Acura has persisted with its unconventional range of optional packages which build on top of each other, whereas most other manufacturers allow you to upgrade via standalone trims. With that in mind, there are essentially four distinct RDX packages/trims to choose from: the standard RDX, the RDX with the Technology Package, the RDX with the A-Spec Package, and the RDX with the Advance Package.

All versions are fitted with the same 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with peak outputs of 272 hp and 280 lb-ft, along with a ten-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard and Acura's Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) system is an option.

The base model comes standard with 19-inch alloy wheels, a power moonroof, Jewel Eye LED headlights, dual exhaust outlets, and heated side mirrors. Inside, the heated 12-way power front seats are trimmed in leatherette and there are features like dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless access, push-button ignition, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, and forward collision warning. Infotainment is taken care of by Acura's nine-speaker premium audio system linked to the True Touchpad interface with a 10.2-inch HD center display.

Moving up to the Technology Package adds unique Pewter Gray alloy wheels along with perforated Milano leather seats and GPS-linked climate control. This package's main upgrades are focused on infotainment, with a 12-speaker Acura/ELS audio system, navigation, and traffic rerouting among the additions. Other inclusions are parking sensors and a blind-spot information system.

The A-Spec Package requires the Technology package first and then adds 20-inch wheels, bespoke bumpers, LED fog lights, heated and ventilated front seats, sport pedals and more.

Also requiring the Technology package first is the Advance package - it adds an adaptive damper system, a rear camera washer, a remote power-operated tailgate, a 10.5-inch head-up display, and 16-way power front seats.

See All 2020 Acura RDX Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

With Acura's comprehensive packages (effectively trims) providing upgrades to luxury, safety, and creature comforts, there are a limited number of additional options. The all-wheel-drive system is the most notable at an extra $2,000, plus you can get LED fog lights ($625 on models not already fitted with them), a hands-free access power tailgate ($384 but standard with the Advance Package), and front/rear parking sensors ($700).

🚗What Acura RDX Model Should I Buy?

Optioning an Acura RDX is less a matter of trim level and more a matter of what packages you require. Our A-Spec tester was equipped with all of the options we could possibly require for $46,795 but we could easily save $2,000 on the SH-AWD, since we live in a warm-weather part of the world and would prefer the fuel economy gains of the FWD model. Acura's SH-AWD system is among the best, so go ahead and select it if you live in a colder climate. The A-Spec oddly misses out on a surround-view camera and a head-up display but we feel it is the best-looking and most well-balanced of the RDX models.

2020 Acura RDX Comparisons

Acura MDX Acura
Lexus NX
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Acura RDX272 hp22/28 mpg$37,800
Acura MDX 290 hp20/27 mpg$44,500
Lexus NX 235 hp22/28 mpg$36,870

2020 Acura RDX vs Acura MDX

With three rows of seating, the MDX will be the automatic choice for larger families that require extra seating capacity. At $44,500, the MDX also starts at just under $7,000 more than the smaller RDX. For that extra outlay, you do get a smooth 3.5-liter V6 engine with 290 horsepower, although the performance gap isn't significant due to the MDX's extra weight. The MDX can, however, tow up to 5,000 pounds, significantly up on the RDX's 1,500-pound towing capacity. The bigger SUV also has more space behind the second row of seats, with 38.4 cubic feet trouncing the RDX's 29.5 cubes when the third row of seats are folded down. The RDX claws back some points with its superior infotainment system (the MDX uses the brand's controversial dual-screen system) and the RDX's cabin also uses posher materials. Both are accomplished crossovers, but we'd go for the smaller and nimbler RDX if you don't absolutely need the extra seats.

See Acura MDX Review

2020 Acura RDX vs Lexus NX

The Lexus NX used to be the more appealing SUV between these two by virtue of its unique styling, but the latest Acura RDX also looks the part and is pretty fun to drive as well. Both start at a similar price point and use 2.0-liter turbocharged engines, but the RDX's unit is more powerful. The cabins are roomy in both competitors but the NX's trunk is noticeably smaller than the RDX's. We also prefer the infotainment system in the Acura, even if both systems aren't perfect. Both SUVs are quiet on the freeway and handle well, but the Acura has the edge for agility, especially when equipped with all-wheel-drive. It's hard to fault either cabin for quality, too. Following the Acura's latest update, it has a better spread of abilities and it's our pick between these two.

See Lexus NX Review

Acura RDX Popular Comparisons

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2020 Acura RDX Video Review

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$37,800 - $47,900
Price Range (MSRP)
Acura RDX