Like its parent Honda, Japanese luxury brand Acura likes to tease us with thinly disguised “concepts” and “prototypes” that are going to be landing in dealerships in the not-too-distant future. The Acura RDX Prototype making its debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit is no exception.
But Acura can be forgiven for wanting to test the waters before diving in with the biggest update this compact crossover has undergone since its original introduction for the 2007 model-year. Indeed, the new look, which borrows heavily from the Precision Concept first shown in Detroit two years ago, is a dramatic shift in direction that could breathe some much-needed life into a brand that many luxury buyers routinely overlook.
“The all-new RDX delivers a powerful statement about who we are and where we are headed as a brand,” said Jon Ikeda, Acura’s vice president and general manager – and previously the marque’s design chief. “For our customers, the new RDX is a quantum leap forward in design, style and performance, with luxury features and technology that will elevate their ownership experience.”
In years past, Acura might have wanted to use the bigger and more expensive MDX model to usher in a major shift in direction for the brand, but the RDX slots into a compact segment that is drawing a flood of new buyers – along with an onslaught of new competitors.
The RDX has been gaining ground for the better part of the decade, despite the new competition, setting five consecutive years of sales growth, in fact. So, Acura clearly wants to keep that momentum going with the third-generation ute.
The “prototype” features the latest iteration of the brand’s ”diamond pentagon” grille which mercifully replaced the ungainly “beak,” as critics called it, that marred many of Acura’s older designs. The chrome-framed grille is framed by the elegant, slit-like LED headlamps we first saw on the NSX concept a few years back. A lower grille picks up on the sunburst-style mesh of the upper and is itself framed by scoops for the front air curtains that reduce wheel well air turbulence.
(Acura hints at new direction with 2019 RDX Prototype. Click Here for the story.)
There are more sharp creases and folds with the “precision crafted” design theme, including an accent line that rises out of the front fenders to link the front and rear door handles. The coupe-like roof line and chromed rocker panel give the 2019 RDX a more sporty and less bulbous appearance overall.
The crossover is actually a bit bigger than the outgoing model, however, gaining 2.5 inches in wheelbase and 1.2 inches in track. But with its shorter overhangs it actually appears more poised. And the layout translates into a more spacious interior.
While nowhere near as extreme as the Acura Precision Cockpit, the cabin of the RDX Prototype is more sophisticated and, as Acura puts it, more “tech-savvy.” The five-seater now features Nappa leather and open pore woods, with heated and ventilated 16-way power front seats. All RDX models will ultimately come with a standard panoramic moonroof.
One of the more significant changes has Acura adopting what it has called a True Touchpad Interface, a laptop computer-style pad for controlling the latest update of its infotainment system. The technology is now Android-based and there’s a new, high-definition touchscreen mounted atop the center console, with a head-up display available as an option.
“Absolute positioning transforms the touchpad experience, making it personal, intuitive and particularly well-suited for premium, driver-centric, performance machines,” said Ross Miller, senior engineer of user interface research. “It’s also designed to be adopted quickly and easily, as drivers become acclimated and comfortable in minutes.”
(Click Here for details about Acura’s refreshed RLX.)
Another intriguing technology is the introduction of a “3D” sound system. Developed by long-time audio partner Elliott Scheiner, it punches out up to 710 watts through 16 speakers, including some mounted in the ceiling to create what might be described as a wall of sound.
Other technologies include onboard WiFi, a surround-view camera system, Hill Start Assist, Active Cruise Control, rear cross-traffic and blind-spot monitoring and other advanced safety systems.
Under the hood, meanwhile, the 2019 Acura RDX Prototype is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four paired with a new 10-speed automatic transmission. There will also be a new version of Acura’s torque-vectoring Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive technology with a new rear differential.
And when equipped with a new Adaptive Damper System, a motorist will be able to select from four different driving modes.
(Acura roars into SEMA Show with NSX Racers. Click Here for the story.)
We’re expecting to see the final version of the new RDX within a few months, most likely at the upcoming New York Auto Show. Production should begin by autumn at the brand’s assembly plant in East Liberty, Ohio, in time to get the first of the new crossovers into showrooms by autumn.