The third-generation 2020 Acura RDX, completely redesigned for the 2019 model year, was named a Best Premium Compact Crossover for the eighth year in a row by the Consumer Guide Automotive editorial team based on criteria including: performance, features, accommodations, fuel efficiency, resale value and price. (Metro News Service photo)

Acura RDX SH-AWD with A-Spec trim makes its mark

I am the type of person who usually goes against the grain. Some call me a contrarian. I like to consider myself an independent thinker. How does that relate to a car review? Hold on, I’m getting there.

This week’s tester has had its share of ho-hum reviews and can get lost in the fray of luxury compact SUVs. My tester is the 2020 Acura RDX SH-AWD A-Spec (that’s a lot of nonsensical letters after the name, but they serve a purpose). Some have found the RDX to be dull or not luxurious enough. Some have disliked the new infotainment system. There’s always that old stale, standby that the Acura is just a slightly nicer Honda but with a much bigger price tag.

I’m here to say that all of that criticism is untrue; at least according to this realist. So, this review can stand as a way to dispel some of these misconceptions and unfair comparisons.

To start, the RDX may be based on the same platform as the Honda CR-V, but it’s nothing like it. RDX’s looks alone are independent and distinctive. Through the years, Acura has toned down its styling; in the past the grille had a beak-like look. Now there’s still a hint of that, but I think it looks great on the RDX. Whereas the CR-V blends in with a crowded field, the RDX has its own personality when it comes to the interior.

From a performance standpoint, the RDX with the all-wheel drive SH-AWD is outstanding. Add to it the peppy 272-horsepower, 2.0-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine and you have a small SUV that drives with confidence and personality. That’s rare to find in a small crossover. The 10-speed automatic transmission is one of my favorite modern transmissions, offering quick, well-timed upshifts and downshifts.

As far as those seemingly non-sensical letters after the RDX name (SH-AWD) they help make the RDX special. The SH stands for Super Handling which means that there’s a specially engineered torque vectoring system that can throw needed torque to various wheels. The end result means there’s virtually no oversteer on the RDX, which is hard to find in SUVs.

Drivers could spike the RPMs up through twists and turns and discover the joy of the super-handling torque vectoring.

Inside one finds luxury throughout the RDX. Fantastic touchpoints showcase the Acura’s luxury claim. The rear seats offer comfort and ample legroom and headroom.

One of the areas I’m most critical of in today’s vehicles is the infotainment system. Acura’s new Ture Touchpad Interface has been criticized. I generally dislike these overengineered systems and find them distracting to drivers and lacking intuition. In today’s Lexus vehicles they have a similar system that is worthy of such criticism. However, the new infotainment system in the RDX is so much better than the previous version and way more intuitive than the Lexus system.

There is a small learning curve for this system, and hopefully every Acura dealer will offer tips to those who buy the RDX; once you learn the different nuances you grow to appreciate it. The entire setup can be customizable. The eight primary tiles on the home screen can be moved/removed and favorites/custom shortcuts can be added for the things you choose most often, like a favorite radio station, destination or phone contact. This system now falls in my top-five list of best infotainment systems.

The A-Spec trim is one of the most exciting, vibrant trims on the Acura. My contact at Honda/Acura says that the A-Spec is the go-to trim for buyers younger than the age of 45. Highlights of the A-Spec trim include special badging, 20-inch wheels, large exhaust pipes, a sexy gloss black trim accent as well as interior distinctions like suede seat inserts, accent stitching and a black headliner.

Add in the outstanding ELS Studio sound system to work closely with the infotainment system and this trim really stands out.

The 2020 RDX SH-AWD A-Spec has an MSRP of $45,800. My tester had a final price tag of $47,195.

With only one engine, the RDX has fantastic fuel economy. It has an EPA rating of 21 mpg/city and 26 mpg/highway. For a turbocharged, all-wheel drive SUV, I’ll take that!

The Ohio-built Acura RDX has a lot of merit. It’s one of my favorite small luxury crossovers I’ve driven this model year.

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