Acura is finding its way back to being cool.
Once upon a time, Acura was known as a luxury automaker that thought outside the box. The company offered a number of interesting models aimed at enthusiasts including the NSX, RSX, Integra, TL Type-S, CL Type-S, TSX Wagon, and more. But recently, Acura's offerings haven't brought the same magic. The company did show off a cool Type-S Concept that will inspire future sporty variants but we have yet to see anything concrete.
Still, Acura has released new models recently that suggests it's about to turn a corner. Having spent a week with the 2020 Acura RDX (in A-Spec trim), we are quietly confident that the brand is getting its cool factor back. Here's why.
Acura's A-Spec package is a lot like Lexus' F-Sport with visual and handling upgrades but without any additional power. A-Spec is offered on a variety of Acura models but we think it looks best on the RDX. If you opt for the RDX A-Spec, which costs $6,200 more than the base model, you get special badging, larger dual exhaust outlets, grey wheels, gloss black accents, and NSX-inspired details like a matte-black rear diffuser. Inside, you have a choice between black or bold red leather mixed with suede. The A-Spec model also comes pretty well-optioned, only missing out on a surround-view camera, a head-up display, and adaptive dampers. If you want the most sporty-looking RDX, the A-Spec is the one to get.
The previous generation of Acura's infotainment system was a complete disaster. It used a lower touchscreen combined with an upper screen that could only be controlled using a rotating knob. The result was an infotainment system that always felt disjointed and the experience wasn't aided by a lack of upgrades to the graphics.
Acura's new True Touchpad system is a huge improvement, though we think some buyers will need time to get used to the laptop-style controller. By making the touchpad sensitive to where you place your finger (with the right slider responding to the right half of the screen), Acura has avoided the distractive nature of the Lexus touchpad system.
A sense of enjoyment from behind the wheel has been missing in Acura products recently. The NSX is an exception but how many people are going to buy a $157,500 supercar? With the RDX, it feels like Acura has tapped into the playful nature that used to make its vehicles fun. The steering feels more direct than most luxury compact crossovers and the suspension is well-calibrated without feeling too stiff. Acura has switched from its lackluster nine-speed automatic transmission to a newer 10-speed unit, which shifts much more smoothly and with great ferocity when you put it in Sport Mode.
Our favorite piece of the RDX is easily its engine. It's a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 272 horsepower, which doesn't sound like a special recipe compared to other vehicles in this segment. However, the K20 engine (albeit in a higher state of tune) is also used in the Honda Civic Type R, meaning it feels more grunty that other four-bangers used by the RDX's rivals. In Sport + Mode, the engine sounds fantastic, providing the old-school sound we used to adore in Acura's Type-S models. Acura is rumored to be working on a new twin-turbo V6 to go in its future Type-S models, which should be even more fun.
The 2020 RDX starts at a reasonable $37,800, making it much cheaper than its European rivals. Even our A-Spec tester with the optional SH-AWD system rang in at just $46,795. If you were to build a similarly-optioned BMW X3 or Mercedes-Benz GLC, the price would easily approach $60,000. Acura was always known for offering great cars at a reasonable price and the RDX is an impressive return to form.