Around The Bay Auto Weekend Wheels

Weekend Wheels: We give Acura’s new RDX an ‘A’ for achievement

Luxury Living Tampa Bay

Talk about a bucketful of alphabet soup. The all-new 2020 Acura SUV I’ve been driving goes by the tongue-twisting title of RDX SH-AWD A-Spec. 

When friends asked what I had in the garage, they’d fall into a deep comatose stupor by the time I reached the A-Spec bit. I quickly defaulted to “Thanks for asking, it’s an Acura RDX.”

I tell you, there are fewer letters in a can of Heinz Alphabetti spaghetti than on the tailgate of this fun’n feisty new Acura.

Yet despite the somewhat silly superabundance of lettering, there’s a lot to love about this hot seller in the ever-expanding premium compact crossover market. 

And it’s a market filled with some serious all-stars. We’re talking everything from BMW’s X3, Mercedes’ GLC, Audi’s Q5, Cadillac’s XT4 and Infiniti’s QX50 to Lexus’ funny-faced NX. 

And with pricing kicking off at an attainable $37,600, or around $45,000 very nicely loaded, the RDX undercuts pretty much all of the opposition. Only the Infiniti and Lexus are cheaper.

The RDX got a much-needed head-to-tail makeover for the 2019 model year that included a new, Acura-exclusive platform, all-new exterior styling which thankfully ditched the awkward owl-beak-like grille, and an all-new interior.

See it in the metal and this is one handsome, athletic-looking sport-ute. I love the new pentagon-style grille with those slender LED headlights. Love that swoopy roof which, thanks to the blacked-out roof pillars, looks like it’s floating.

Of course the trucklette’s sporty stance is heightened with the $3,000 A-for-athletic A-Spec package fitted to our test car. It adds must-have 20-inch black-painted alloys, more aggressive front and rear fascias, storm-drain-sized dual exhaust tips, and more gloss-black than a Steinway piano showroom.

A-Spec also jazzes up the interior with sexy red leather seats with black faux suede inserts, dark-tinted brushed aluminum trim, a chunky perforated leather steering wheel with red stitching, and brushed metal pedals and footrest.

Alas, whoever decided to put red numbers on black-background gauges should be made to recite the alphabet backwards for at least a month. They’re almost impossible to read, especially in bright sunlight.

For a compact SUV, the RDX is surprisingly big on interior space. With the rear seats in place, there’s an impressive 29.5 cubic feet. Add to that a huge, hidden underfloor storage compartment that could double as a kid’s paddling pool.

Flip forward the 60/40-split back seat and you get a whopping 59 cubic feet of load space. There are student apartments at USF that are smaller.

And I love the standard panoramic glass roof that floods the cabin with light. That’s a huge plus.

Powering this cute ute is a 2.0-liter direct-injection four-cylinder that’s in the same family as the engine powering Honda’s screamin’ Civic Type R. 

It cranks out a meaty 272 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, and coupled with a 10-speed automatic, it makes the RDX feel livelier than a sugared-up 2-year-old. 

Stomp on the gas from a stoplight and it scoots away like its pants are on fire. And with four drive modes to pick from — Snow, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ — selecting Sport+ is the equivalent of pouring a can of Red Bull into the tank.

While those 20-inch rims look da bomb, they do little to soften the ride. Even over the smoothest of road surfaces, and even in Comfort mode, the car jiggles, jitters and jolts like a Publix shopping trolley over cobbles. 

But steer it down a twisty backroad and this thing is more fun than riding one of those crazy electric scooters on Kennedy Boulevard in rush hour. 

That SH-AWD bit stands for Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive and it’s especially clever in that it can direct 70 per cent of torque to the rear wheels, which provides terrific traction and agility. 

Add to that electric steering that’s as precise as a surgeon’s  scalpel in Chicago Med, and brakes that can seemingly stop time, this new RDX is one fun-driving sport-ute.

I’ll give it an ‘A’ for all-round appeal.

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