If Only: The 2019 Acura RDX SH-AWD A-SPEC

Front 3/4 view of 2019 Acura RDX A-SPEC
The 2019 Acura RDX A-SPEC.

Acura, the upscale division of Honda, can't seem to catch a break.  From a golden beginning in the 80s through the early-mid 90s, everyone in automotive circles seemed in agreement that building a better--or at least nicer and more powerful---Honda was a good thing.

For the past 20 years though, a lot of my fellow automotive journalists have been saying it's not enough and even wondering why there should be an Acura at all.  The new 2019 Acura RDX A-SPEC should answer all those questions---but raise a brand-new one.

Rear 3/4 view of 2019 Acura RDX A-SPEC
2019 Acura RDX A-SPEC.
The third generation of the RDX rides on a 2.6-inch longer wheelbase, has 3.4 cubic feet more storage space behind the rear seats and another 1.7 cubic feet in an underfloor compartment. The RDX's body structure is made up of over 50 percent high-strength steel.  It uses a new double-ring rear frame design and new two-piece ultra-high-strength steel front door rings, which significantly increase body rigidity, handling precision and cabin quietness.

There's also an all-new chassis design with variable-ratio dual-pinion electric power steering, a sport-tuned Macpherson strut front suspension, an all-new five-link independent rear suspension and available adaptive dampers.  Pair all that up with Acura's torque-vectoring SH-AWD (Super Handling all-wheel drive) and the RDX is ready for pretty much any winding road you care to head for.

Under the hood, there's a 272-horsepower 2.0-liter direct injection VTEC turbo four-cylinder engine. mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission.  It's quick---especially in Sport and Sport+ modes.  And the EPA fuel economy estimate of 21 city/26 highway is respectable for that performance level and realistic, based on our week's worth of city street and urban freeway driving.

Interior view of 2019 Acura RDX A-SPEC
2019 Acura RDX A-SPEC interior.
The interior is contemporary, comfortable and suitable for some enthusiastic driving.  It is also where the biggest flaw resides.

Entertainment interface in 2019 Acura RDX
2019 Acura RDX entertainment interface.
Acura has needed to step up its game in terms of its entertainment interface.  They have.  The new one is a quantum leap forward in terms of graphics and capability.  It, however, has two big drawbacks.  One---the screen itself is not a touchscreen.  Given its position atop the dashboard, it would be too long a reach, anyway.  But that means it's controlled by this:

Trackpad in 2019 Acura RDX
2019 Acura RDX trackpad.
Yes, it's a trackpad.  But unlike the trackpad on, say, your laptop, this one doesn't follow your finger smoothly swiping across the icons on the screen to land on the one you want.  No, this one requires you to touch a specific point on the trackpad that highlights the selection you want on the screen and then press.

In theory, it's brilliant.  You should spend less time with your eyes off the road as you learn that along the bottom, one quarter of the way in on the left is where you press to bring up Apple CarPlay.  But it's the time you spend learning that where your eyes are off the road a helluva lot more than they would be if it were just a trackpad.

2019 Acura RDX entertainment interface showing Apple CarPlay
2019 Acura RDX entertainment interface showing Apple CarPlay.
And, if you did, in fact, choose Apple CarPlay---well, the trackpad does act like just a trackpad, because Apple doesn't support the specific finger placement Acura invented for the rest of the system.  So sometimes you do this, and sometimes you do that.  It's maddening.  I got used to it in the week I had the RDX A-SPEC, largely by just staying in Apple CarPlay.

2019 Acura RDX trackpad
2019 Acura RDX trackpad.
Oh---and the trackpad also allows you to enter a navigation command by tracing the numbers or letters with your fingertip.  If you're one of those people who can sign their name legibly on the trackpad at a restaurant, this is for you.  If not, then, no.

Front 3/4 view of 2019 Acura RDX A-SPEC
2019 Acura RDX A-SPEC.
All this is unfortunate, because it takes the focus off what a great machine the RDX is to drive.  A touchscreen, two big knobs and voice command would be better.

The A-SPEC's base price is $45,600.  It is so all-inclusive that our tester had only one option---an extra $400 for a premium paint color.  With $995 for destination and handling, the bottom line rings up to $46,995.

I LOVE driving the RDX.  I know this is the machine that will bring my brethren and sistren in the world of automotive journalism back into the ranks of the Acura faithful (some of us never left).  But could I own one with that entertainment system?  I have my doubts.