May 5, 2019

Confused about traction and torque? Not sure about the different drive modes that come on many of today’s vehicles — especially uplevel, performance-minded models? The 2019 Acura RDX makes a great teaching example for how torque can positively affect traction.

I know a lot about this subject because I test drive cars, but the good news is you don’t necessarily have to know how they work — you might just like to know that traction and torque can save your life. And, that’s exactly why Acura has put a lot of time and dollars into engineering its specialized AWD system into its newest RDX. I drove it in British Columbia on delightful Canadian roadways and on a track — I’m sold on its merit.

Since its launch in 2006, the Acura RDX has been the top-selling nameplate in the compact luxury SUV segment. Redeveloped from the ground up to represent Acura’s “Precision Crafted Performance” brand direction, the all-new 2019 model is a modern take on this automaker’s original mantra. Built on an all-new Acura-exclusive platform, the upscale RDX offers a more luxurious and spacious interior, top-of-class power-to-weight ratio, and a long list of standard luxury features and technologies.

With this redesign comes the return of Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD): This next generation of SH-AWD improves rear-wheel torque capacity by up to 40 percent over the previous-generation system, further improving the performance-enhancing capabilities of Acura’s dynamic torque vectoring technology. Now, up to 70 percent of torque can be distributed to the rear wheels, and up to 100 percent of that torque can be distributed to either the right-rear or left-rear wheel. And, that means safe motoring and more control.

Model choices include a front-wheel-drive base RDX (starting at $37,300), RDX with Technology Package ($40,500), A-Spec ($43,500), and RDX with Advance package ($45,400); choosing SH-AWD adds $2,000 and destination, and delivery fees add $995.

Under the hood is a direct-injected, turbocharged 16-valve, 2.0-liter four-cylinder powerplant mated to the segment’s only 10-speed automatic transmission. This combination brings 272 horsepower and 280 lb.-ft. of torque from 1,600 to 4,500 rpm, bringing powerful acceleration. Fuel economy is rated at 22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, 24 combined (on FWD models), or 21/27/33 (when equipped with SH-AWD).

All RDX models also come equipped with Acura’s Integrated Dynamics System — with Snow, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ modes — that give an expanded range of dynamic experiences to suit different driver’s moods as well as to meet the needs of driving environments — such as for winter driving.

The system interacts with the drive-by-wire throttle, transmission, electric power steering, SH-AWD with torque vectoring, traction control, Active Damper System (on Advance grades), and Active Sound Control to provide a wider range of driving experiences and dynamic capabilities based on the needs of the driver and driving conditions.

Outside, the RDX is striking and wears a more premium, athletic stance with a 2.6-inch longer wheelbase, shortened front overhang, and wider track. The new design showcases Acura’s signature diamond pentagon grille, next-generation Jewel Eye LED headlights, and NSX-inspired front air curtains.

The Acura Precision Cockpit pleases the eye with sumptuous interior appointments, including available authentic brushed aluminum, stainless-steel and Olive Ash wood accents, intricately sculpted sport seats, and an ultra-wide panoramic moonroof. Its high-deck floating center console showcases a new 10.2-inch HD center display, an intuitive True Touchpad Interface, and an NSX-inspired drive mode dial.

Thanks to its longer wheelbase and new packaging, cabin space boasts class-leading rear legroom with a fully flat rear floor, and a 3.4-cubic-feet-larger cargo area with an additional 1.7 cubic-feet of cargo volume behind the second row is 29.5 cubic-feet, or up to 58.9 cu.-ft. behind the first row.

A long list of stand-out attributes on the new RDX ranges from outside styling to inside accoutrements and comfort, but top of the list for me is its 10-speed auto transmission and seamless traction that keeps you on the course you set with your steering wheel. The proof-positive for me was motoring on a dirt surface with both dry and wet, muddy portions of the track. It performed flawlessly and kept me on-track and straight no matter the conditions; now that’s traction and torque.