New Acura RDX breaks from near-luxury category
Posted on August 1, 2018
German luxury vehicles have achieved an enviable stature as aspirational brands. They produce flagship sedans that convey the very best in quality and technology. Cars like the Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7-Series, and Audi A8 all make a statement of automotive substance and create a halo for the rest of the lineup. While the strategy isn’t complicated, it’s not easy to replicate.
Although Honda was the first Asian automaker to launch a luxury nameplate with Acura, the company was too timid to build a big luxury sedan to rival established players. It quickly became what pundits labeled “near-luxury.”
Building a flagship sedan to develop luxury credentials is tougher these days. The flavor of the decade is clearly sport utility. So, Acura’s all-new RDX follows the SUV crossover route that’s led the luxury compact segment with a combination of features and value that is the brand’s newest strategy to get out of the “near” category. Acura designers knew incremental changes would not heavily impact the industry’s hottest model segment, so the solution was to create a more sporting style instead of the standard upright box without losing utility.
Acura’s sporty styling may attract many potential buyers, but the deal is really closed on the inside and behind the wheel. It’s in the interior where Acura really raised the bar, inviting direct comparison with Mercedes’ GLC, BMW’s X3, and Audi’s Q5. The completely reimagined interior exudes luxury from the new infotainment system, with its high definition touch screen, now with Apple CarPlay available, to the use of authentic materials.
Metal, wood, and leather accents are genuine, not plastic facsimiles. Areas often overlooked, like the door pockets, are finished inside to eliminate that unpleasant touch. That’s impressive for a vehicle that costs far less than its vaunted rivals and a strategy that should pay dividends. In contrast, the German competition seems to deduct a bit of finesse as they move down from their big flagships. Acura doesn’t have that luxury.
Competitors in the hot luxury SUV segment all build vehicles with a nice ratio of power-to-fuel efficiency along with smart driving characteristics. Acura created a new powertrain with a 2.0-liter, 272 HP turbo engine powering a ten-speed automatic transmission that delivers results through a fourth generation Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system. The combination is at the head of its class in the specification comparison measure, and it was a delight to drive during my mixture of city and highway testing.
Acura’s improvement of its brand image from near-luxury to aspirational is still a work in progress, but the RDX will go a long way in moving that perception needle. Brian Douglas
2019 Acura RDX
TYPE: Front-engine, all-wheel drive
ENGINE: 2.0-liter Turbo I-4
HORSEPOWER: 272 @ 6,500 RPM
TORQUE: 280 lb.ft. @ 1,600-4,500 RPM
BASE PRICE: $38,295
ADAVANC PKG PRICE: $48,395
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 21 city, 27 highway, 23 combined
Photography courtesy of Acura