As New RDX Enters Production, Acura Needs a Segment Standout [UPDATED]

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Often found in its larger, older sibling’s shadow, Acura’s compact RDX crossover can at least boast of being the brand’s best-selling vehicle. Over the first four months of 2018, Americans picked up 15,326 of the little crossovers, versus the MDX’s 13,909.

But with popularity comes responsibility. As production begins in Ohio on the next-generation RDX, Acura’s smallest crossover must overcome its own falling sales in order to help reverse the brand’s flagging fortunes.

Editor’s note: Our initial data source for 2017 sales offered up incorrect numbers. See full correction at the end of this piece.

For the 2019 model year, the RDX returns to its roots — at least in terms of engine type. Gone is the 3.5-liter V6 engine; in its place sits a turbocharged four-cylinder, much like the original RDX.

Unlike that first-generation model, however, the model’s four-banger now displaces 2.0 litres and generates a healthy 272 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. Joining the new mill is a 10-speed automatic transmission — hardly the norm for the compact class. Dimension-wise, the new model’s wheelbase stretches an extra 2.5 inches, with track widening by 1.2 inches.

With an upgraded all-wheel-drive system on tap (capable of funnelling 70 percent of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels, or dumping it all into either of those rear donuts), and a body displaying more aggression than before, the revised model definitely ups the brawn factor. Tech wizardry comes in the form of a 10.2-inch infotainment screen with True Touchpad actuation. There’s no cursors in sight, as the touchpad offers what Acura calls “absolute positioning.” In other words, the touchpad serves as a miniature version of a touchscreen. Time will tell if buyers take to this feature.

Acura knows it needs to make the RDX far more appealing to the U.S. buyer, as a full third of its American volume now comes from the model. Unlike rival Lexus, Acura’s stable isn’t overflowing with lucrative crossovers, and that’s a big problem. From a post-recession high of 52,361 units sold in 2016, the RDX’s annual volume shrunk to 35,487 slipped a bit to 51,295 vehicles last year. So far this year, RDX sales are up 3.6 percent.

With only two utility vehicles in its lineup, Acura hasn’t been able to offset the loss of passenger car sales. The brand’s sales slipped from 177,165 vehicles in 2015 to 154,602 in 2017. Volume over the first four months of 2018 fell 1.3 percent.

It’s an understatement that the model now rolling out of Honda’s East Liberty assembly plant faces stiff competition. To get noticed, the basket of goodies Acura brings to the table needs to resonate with buyers, and the price tag can’t be too dear. For now, that sticker remains a mystery.

Correction: As the strike-through shows, our initial data source gave us the incorrect number of 35,487 sales in 2017. The correct number is 51,295. This post has been updated to reflect that fact.

[Images: Acura]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Seth1065 Seth1065 on May 17, 2018

    I agree Acura has lost it way, but they still make money for Honda and that is the point, I would buy a TLX over a BMW everyday, because I am pretty sure I would have a hell of a lot less issues with it. So they need somebody to change their image , not scrap them. I know plenty of MDX drivers who switch from German CUV?SUV who will not go back and it is not a money thing it is a I am sick and tired of the big and little issues that come with BMW,MB and Audi.

  • PV_Pathfinder PV_Pathfinder on May 17, 2018

    We bought a 2013 RDX when the first came out. Over the years, it's been a great car. Wife loves it for all the reasons people like the smallish crossovers. Compared to what we were driving at the time, it was definitely our first venture into upscale (compared to a Corolla and a Grand AM). The buying experience at first was somewhat luxurious, but at the end of the day, it was still just some dude in cheap shoes that squeaked, trying to sell us an undercoating. Despite that, the car has done just fine. With one exception... For a 5 year old car, the GUI is already painfully outdated and clunky at best. If memory serves, Acura for a time branded itself as a car company built around technology. That was a smart move in the late 90's or early 00's when satellite radio and phone integration were $5k options. But today, they are nearly standard on every Sentra and Elantra that rolls off the line. So that angle is pretty much moot. Like most folks said, Acura needs to either go the full on luxury/performance route, or maybe just be eliminated in rolled up as slightly higher end trim levels on Hondas. FWIW, the day we bought the RDX, we also drove the CRV. Hated that car. What a difference 2 extra cylinders makes.

  • Aja8888 Folks, this car is big enough to live in. Dual deal: house and car for $7 large.
  • Astigmatism I don't think tax credits will put me in this league, but if I could swing it, I would 1000% go for a restomod EV Grand Wagoneer:
  • FreedMike I like the looks of the Z, but I'd take the Mustang. V8s are a disappearing breed.
  • Picard234 I can just smell the clove cigarettes and the "oregano" from the interior. Absolutely no dice at any price.
  • Dartdude The Europeans don't understand the American market. That is why they are small players here. Chrysler Group is going to die pretty soon under their control. Europeans have a sense of superiority over Americans that is why the Mercedes merger didn't work out and almost killed Chrysler. Bringing European managers aren't going to help. Just like F1 they want our money. We need Elon Musk to buy out Chrysler, Dodge and Ram from Stellantis.