The definition of an audiophile is a person who is enthusiastic about high-fidelity sound reproduction. If an audiophile happens to be a luxury car enthusiast, too, then their perfect vehicle might actually exist. And I drove it this week.
The 2019 Acura RDX is completely redesigned for this model year and features an industry-best sound system. That sound system is so good because Acura teamed up with a Grammy-winning sound engineer and self-proclaimed audiophile to create the RDX’s sound system.
The ELS 3D Sound System is named for Elliot Scheiner who is a famous record producer. Scheiner leant his name and had major input over the quality of the sound system inside the new RDX. There are 16 speakers throughout that create what is described as 3D sound, where you’re surrounded with full, vibrant tones from every seat in the five-passenger RDX. There are even speakers on the roof liner pumping out studio-quality tones that will make every audiophile happy.
But, none of that means everything, if there’s nothing else new or improved on this year’s RDX. Thankfully there are all-new looks and a new engine as well for the 2019 Acura RDX.
This luxury compact SUV has a new grille that is both elegant and modern. Gone are the days of the old, beaky-looking Acura front ends. The chrome accents found on the grille and flowing along the roof line give the vehicle a sleek, complete look. The sloping C-pillar is further accentuated by the chrome. It gives the appearance of a floating roofline, which is common within this segment. It’s not gimmicky any longer but is a style trend. The rear spoiler gives a sporty look. The rear LED taillights have a distinctive, modern shape that span over the back-quarter panel and onto the rear gate, splitting the lights into two parts.
Sticking with segment trends, Acura replaces the V6 engine with a turbocharged four-cylinder powerplant that has plenty of pep. With 272 horsepower, the RDX drives like a sporty SUV of more than 300 hp. It’s quick off the line and spry on the highway. Of course, I was spoiled by driving the SH trim, which will please many of Acura’s enthusiasts to see this sport-inspired offering return. As such, and with the 10-speed automatic transmission, the RDX SH-AWD offers amazing overall performance with dynamic driving and the ability to downshift four gears at once. This is an SUV that overperforms its output numbers and offers European-like performance with no turbo lag. There are multiple driving modes, including sport and snow modes which change the handling and performance, but also helps this SUV adapt to the weather and road conditions.
Even if you took the aforementioned ELS Sound System out of the RDX’s interior, there would still be a lot that impresses. Three passengers will fit comfortably in the back seat and not want for legroom or headroom. I was surprised, given the sleek slope of the C-pillar, that it didn’t impede headroom.
The panoramic sunroof really adds the ambience and gives the feel of an open-air concert when you’re cranking your favorite songs on the sound system. Acura does seem to fall into the trap of trying to mimic rival Lexus with their infotainment interface offering a True Touchpad Interface (TTI) system that will have a significant learning curve and lacks intuitiveness. The 10.2-inch full-HD display is beautiful. The voice recognition works well and helps overcome some of the TTI’s frustrations. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.
There is adequate cargo room with 29.5 cubic feet behind the second-row seats. Fold those rear seats down and the cargo area expands to 58.9 cubic feet.
For a luxury SUV, the RDX has a competitive starting price point of $37,300. My tester, which is the top-of-the-line SH with AWD, had an MSRP of $48,395.
Without the V6 engine, the new powerplant helps make this the most fuel-efficient RDX ever with an EPA rating of 21 mpg/city and 27 mpg/highway. There are some semi-autonomous features that make it quite good on the highway and for road trips that can really make it incredibly fuel efficient. In a week’s worth of driving, including a trip to Nashville to interview Scheiner in a sound studio, I averaged just over 24 mpg.
Audiophiles are not usually a targeted audience for car makers. Certainly, the redesigned 2019 Acura RDX hits this mark but also covers a wider appeal with this new-look, fun-to-drive luxury SUV.