2019 Acura RDX Prototype Debuts in Detroit

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

Crossovers and SUVs are the gravy train from which just about every manufacturer is currently drinking, more than happy to quench the buying public’s seemingly insatiable thirst for high riding all-wheel drive machines. Acura’s been in the game for ages with the MDX, RDX, and departed weirdo ZDX.

After vanquishing the unfortunate guillotine grille from the rest of its lineup, Acura has set its sights on revamping its littlest crossover, the RDX. Yes, the word “prototype” is in the headline, but one can be assured that the machine shown here is virtually production-ready.

The 2019 Acura RDX Prototype made its world debut today at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, providing a first look at the new design set to be applied to the production vehicle that’s launching later this year. In a continued effort to set Acura apart from its proletarian-spec Honda cousins, this third-gen RDX has been reengineered on a new, Acura-exclusive platform.

It definitely has a more athletic stance and proportions with a wider track (increased by 1.2 inches), longer wheelbase (up 2.5 inches) and shortened front overhang with its wheels pushed to the corners. The new design flows outward from Acura’s corporate diamond pentagon grille which is flanked by Acura’s jewel-eye headlamps. There’s no mistaking this is anything but an Acura.

Additionally, the 2019 RDX will be the first Acura SUV offered with an A-Spec trim, adding sport styling inside and out. The brand has announced all core Acura models developed moving forward will receive A-Spec treatment. Roll your eyes at what might seem like a paint-n-wallpaper if you want but trims like A-Spec allow manufacturers to tack on visual addenda without the expensive recertification of a different powertrain. Not everyone wants to record lap times on the way to soccer practice.

Motivation is provided by a turbocharged 2.0-liter, 16-valve direct-injected engine. VTEC will kick in, yo, even if the valvetrain is different than the Fast & Furious days. The engine is mated up to a 10-speed automatic transmission whose number of cogs should be able to take advantage of the torque profile found in most 2.0L turbo engines.

All-wheel-drive variants of the new Acura RDX will utilize the next generation of Acura SH-AWD, which I enjoy simply because its name includes the word “super.” An available new adaptive damper is tied into the Integrated Dynamics System, which is a selectable system with four distinct drive modes: Sport, Sport+, Comfort, and Snow. A prominent drive mode dial is placed high in the center console, which Acura will no doubt tie to the NSX somehow.

Oft-maligned for its approach to infotainment, Acura is taking another kick at the can with its new True Touchpad Interface, which features an Android-based operating system projected onto a dual-zone, 10.2-inch full-HD display mounted high atop the center console. It is paired with a touchpad within easy reach of the driver.

Acura says this setup will trump remote interfaces which deploy a mouse or scroll wheel. They say every spot on the RDX’s touchpad is mapped precisely – one-to-one – with a corresponding action on the center display. For instance, a tap on the top left corner of the touchpad corresponds precisely with the action on the top left of the center display. We reserve judgement until we try it for ourselves.

Development of the 2019 Acura RDX was led for the first time by a U.S. R&D team, with styling by the Acura Design Studio in Los Angeles, California, and development by an engineering team in Raymond, Ohio. All RDX models for the North American market will continue to be built in the company’s East Liberty, Ohio plant using domestic and globally sourced parts.

Last year, the RDX counted for 51,295 sales at Acura, only a few thousand off its bestseller, the MDX. This represents nearly one-third of Acura’s total volume, so it’s safe to say the RDX is an important model for the brand. With new clothes, powertrain, and technology, the buying public’s propensity for snazzy small crossovers give the RDX a good shot of stealing the Acura sales crown from its big brother.

[Images: Honda]

Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

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2 of 31 comments
  • 33873 33873 on Jan 25, 2018

    The qx50 looks better, but CVT, no apple/android car play, two screen layout, less refined interior, less standard equipment?? it's a hard sell overall.

  • Dal20402 Dal20402 on Jan 25, 2018

    Honda giveth and they taketh away. On the one hand, SH-AWD is a major, like huge, upgrade over the joke of an AWD system that is currently in the RDX. On the other hand, no 2.0T (even if it is uptuned from the 254 hp it makes in the Accord) can possibly replace the J35. Interior looks class-competitive but not outstanding, like the last one. I think SH-AWD is a bigger deal overall than losing the two extra cylinders, and would definitely test drive the new one when it arrives if I were in the market for this class of vehicle.

  • Loser What’s next, simulation of the “Hemi tick”?
  • Ajla There's a melancholy to me about an EV with external speaker-generated "engine" noise and fake transmissions. It feels like an admission from the manufacturer that you're giving something up and they are trying to give back some facsimile of it. Like giving a cupcake scented candle to someone on a diet. If I was shopping for an EV I'd rather go to a company enthusiastic about it rather than apologetic.
  • EBFlex More proof of how much EVs suck. If you have to do this, that means you are trying to substitute what people want...and that's ICE.
  • Akear The only CEO who can save Boeing, GM, and Ford is Alan Mulally. Mulally is largely credited with saving both Boeing and Ford. The other alternative is to follow a failed Jack Welch business model. We have all witnessed what Jack Welch did to GE, and what happened to Boeing when it was taken over by GE-trained businessmen. Below is an interesting article on how Jack Welch indirectly ruined Boeing.https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-boeing-was-set-on-the-path-to-disaster-by-the-cult-of-jack-welch
  • ChristianWimmer The interior might be well-made, but the design is just hideous in my opinion. It’s to busy and there’s no simplistic harmony visible in it. In fact I feel that the nicest Lexus interior ever could be found in the original LS400 - because it was rather minimalistic, had pleasing lines and didn’t try to hard. It looked just right. All Lexus interiors which came after it just had bizarre styling cues and “tried to hard” if you know what I mean.