Anyone who believes the Acura ILX is merely a badge-engineered Honda Civic might want to rethink their point of view.  First off, since the 10th-generation Civic arrived for 2017 the two don’t even…

Acura ILX gets significant refresh for 2019

2019 Acura ILX A-Spec
The 2019 Acura ILX gets a major refresh, and looks especially nice in sporty A-Spec trim. (Photo: Acura)

Anyone who believes the Acura ILX is merely a badge-engineered Honda Civic might want to rethink their point of view. 

First off, since the 10th-generation Civic arrived for 2017 the two don’t even share underpinnings, with even this latest 2019 upgrade riding on the previous ninth-gen Civic platform architecture, not that this really matters to those behind the wheel, who no doubt will continue to enjoy rewarding driving dynamics and extremely good efficiency. 

2019 Acura ILX A-Spec
The ILX continues to be a fun car to drive thanks to a standard 201-hp 4-cylinder engine and 8-speed dual-clutch automatic with paddles. (Photo: Acura)

Despite getting a dramatic refresh that brings it inline with the rest of the Acura lineup, the 2019 ILX continues forward with a wonderfully rev-happy 201-horsepower, 16-valve, DOHC, i-VTEC-infused 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine borrowed from the previous Civic Si albeit refined for this car’s more luxury-oriented gateway-to-premium role. As part of its repurposed application the potent engine joins up to an automated dual-clutch eight-speed transmission with paddle-shifters, providing both smooth ease of use and quick-shifting performance, while its front-wheel drivetrain aids fuel economy. If it seems familiar, this formidable powertrain is also used in the base TLX. 

2019 Acura ILX A-Spec
The ILX is the most popular car in its class with millennial buyers, no doubt because of its stylish, sporty character and excellent value. (Photo: Acura)

The most notable update is the Japanese luxury brand’s new trademark Diamond Pentagon grille up front and centre, complemented by a new front bumper and lower fascia. The latter is made more dramatic in new A-Spec trim, while the rest of the car gets minor updates from front to rear. Truly, only the seven-element Jewel Eye LED headlamps look unchanged, although Acura points out the 2019 ILX is entirely new from the A-pillars forward, with even the hood more sharply sculpted. 

2019 Acura ILX A-Spec
Now the entire Acura line-up (NSX aside) has been transformed with the new Diamond Pentagon grille design. (Photo: Acura)

The shape of the LED taillights appear totally new, while the rear bumper and apron are revised as well, once again more significantly in A-Spec guise. No doubt if you like the look of the new TLX you’ll also appreciate the changes made to the ILX, and no one should argue that the updated 2019 version is wholly more upscale looking than the car it replaces. Of course, no mid-cycle update would be complete without new wheel designs, which means lower end models get fresh sets of 17-inch split-five-spoke alloys with trim-specific finishes, and the new A-Spec sports exclusive 18-inch rims. 

2019 Acura ILX A-Spec
All 2019 ILX trims get attractive new LED taillights, while the A-Spec features a more aggressive rear apron. (Photo: Acura)

Changes inside are less noticeable at first glance, with many of the same high-quality finishings remaining for 2019, albeit Acura talks of “more luxurious and sporty cabin appointments” too, which we’ll report on in an upcoming road test. Acura also highlights new silver-finish dash trim featuring a new chrome insert, plus a machine-finished ignition button. Even more consequential to real-world comfort, the reworked ILX receives “more intricately styled and reshaped sport seats, front and rear, with available high-contrast piping and stitching.” Driver’s seat power-adjustable lumbar support is standard across the line as well, making comfort priority one. 

2019 Acura ILX A-Spec
Once again, full LED headlights are standard. (Photo: Acura)

Additionally, the dual-screen On Demand Multi-Use Display (ODMD 2.0) infotainment system gets a much-needed update with fresh graphics, new software, a faster responding operating system (by up to 30 percent), more intuitive menus and command structures, and standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. Acura says the 7.0-inch touchscreen portion of its dual-screen setup features a capacitive display that’s “more responsive to touch and is positioned within easy reach of the driver and front passenger,” so we look forward to testing this out in an upcoming review. 

2019 Acura ILX A-Spec
Acura has improved interior refinement and significantly upgraded the infotainment system. (Photo: Acura)

The new 2019 ILX gets five new exterior colours as well, including Platinum White Pearl, Majestic Black Pearl, Performance Red Pearl, Canyon Bronze Metallic and A-Spec-exclusive Apex Blue Pearl, while Lunar Silver Metallic and Modern Steel Metallic carryover. Likewise, Ebony and Graystone colourways continue forward inside, although take note new Espresso provides some upscale colour to the ILX cabin, while the sportier A-Spec model gets exclusive Ebony on Red or Red on Ebony combinations, mixed with soft, grippy Ultrasuede seat inserts. 

2019 Acura ILX A-Spec
Acura’s dual-display infotainment setup carries forward into the refreshed model, but the graphics are new, it’s faster, and better organized. (Photo: Acura)

Speaking of the A-Spec upgrade, along with the exterior enhancements mentioned earlier, which also include distinctive styling with more aggressive aero components, plus dark chrome grille and lower fascia trim, darker headlights and taillights, LED fog lamps, a gloss-black rear deck lid spoiler, and unique new 18-inch alloys in a Shark Gray finish, the A-Spec gets a special graphite-silver dash accent with chrome insert, an A-Spec badged steering wheel with contrast stitching, and aluminum sport pedals. The aforementioned sport seats feature high contrast stitching as well. 

2019 Acura ILX A-Spec
The top display is not touch capacitive, but instead is controlled via a knob below the bottom display. (Photo: Acura)

Additionally, the 2019 ILX joins every other model in the brand’s lineup in providing the AcuraWatch suite of active safety and driver-assistive technologies as standard equipment, including Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS) with Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Lane Keeping Assist (LKAS), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), and Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) with Lane Departure Warning (LDW). 

2019 Acura ILX A-Spec
The graphics certainly look better, while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (shown) now come standard. (Photo: Acura)

Acura is the only premium brand to provide such standard advanced safety features to all of its models, and this focus has pushed it up the U.S. Insurance Institute of Highway Safety’s (IIHS) rankings, resulting in three of its recently updated models receiving Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick + scores. The 2019 ILX should benefit from the AcuraWatch upgrade too, as the 2018 model already earns 5 safety stars from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), plus zero complaints, zero investigations and zero recalls. 

2019 Acura ILX A-Spec
ILX A-Spec trim gets the choice of either black leather with red highlights or this bold red on black theme. (Photo: Acura)

The current ILX’ high NHTSA score results from Acura’s Advance Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure as well as other standard safety and driver assistive features, such as Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) with traction control, an Expanded View Driver’s Mirror, advanced front airbags, driver and front passenger side airbags, side curtain airbags, a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), not to mention pedestrian injury-mitigation exterior design elements, while the new 2019 ILX will also be available with blind spot information (BSI) and rear cross traffic monitoring. 

2019 Acura ILX A-Spec
The A-Spec sport seats are upholstered in perforated leather with a grippy suede-like Alcantara insert down the middle. (Photo: Acura)

Also notable, the outgoing 2018 ILX earned a top Initial Quality Study (IQS) ranking for its segment this year. In more detail, it received a Power Circle Rating of 5 out of 5 and a quality award in the Small Premium Car segment. The ILX also earned the top position in the entry-luxury car category of Kelley Blue Book’s 5-Year Cost to Own Luxury Brand Awards, while Acura was the top ranked brand for the third consecutive year. 

Will the redesigned 2019 ILX continue to attract more millennial buyers than any of its compact luxury competitors? It’s been the class leader amongst young millennials every year since 2013, so only time will tell if the refreshed model continues this trend. Still, the new ILX’ more distinctive styling, continued strong performance, and high quality, comfortable interior should help it maintain a steady influx of new and repeat customers. 

The new 2019 Acura ILX will go on sale later this month.

News that Acura would be making a sporty A-Spec version of its four-cylinder powered, front-wheel drive TLX should be well accepted now that it’s available, as the new variant costs thousands less than…

Acura TLX sport-luxury sedan gets four-cylinder A-Spec trim for 2019

2019 Acura TLX A-Spec
Acura is offering a new four-cylinder-powered TLX A-Spec for 2019, which saves thousands initially and plenty at the pump too. (Photo: Acura)

News that Acura would be making a sporty A-Spec version of its four-cylinder powered, front-wheel drive TLX should be well accepted now that it’s available, as the new variant costs thousands less than the V6-powered model and reduces ongoing costs by achieving better fuel economy. 

The new four-cylinder TLX A-Spec looks identical to the V6 version, including its matte-black grille, sportier front fascia design with larger air intakes, dark chrome internal headlights, fog lamps, extended side sills, gloss black rear trunk lid spoiler, dark tinted taillights, special glossy black 19-inch alloy wheels on 245/40 R19 all-season tires, A-Spec branded door sill garnish, red LED ambient interior lighting, thicker-rimmed leather-wrapped A-Spec sport steering wheel, red-accented primary instruments, metallic driver’s foot rest pedal, brushed aluminum inlays, unique heavily bolstered A-Spec leather sport seats, and black roofliner. The four-cylinder-powered TLX A-Spec starts at $39,400 plus freight and fees, which is a $4,365 savings compared to the V6-powered TLX A-Spec. 

2019 Acura TLX A-Spec
The base 2.4-litre four-cylinder provides ample performance for most peoples’ wants and needs, while its 8-speed dual-clutch auto is actually sportier than the 9-speed auto that comes with the V6. (Photo: Acura)

To be clear, the 2.4-litre inline-four may be the base engine, but it’s still a sporty alternative to the 3.5-litre V6 thanks to 206 horsepower and 182 lb-ft of torque, an ultra-quick shifting eight-speed dual-clutch automated transmission with standard steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, rear-wheel steering, and a reduction of 123 kilograms in curb weight. 

According to Acura, strong customer demand prompted the addition of four-cylinder A-Spec model, which incidentally is otherwise outfitted in well-equipped Tech trim. Therefore, along with the aforementioned styling modifications, the front-wheel drive model gets rain-sensing wipers, power-folding side mirrors, a heatable steering wheel, heated rear outboard seats, powered front thigh extensions, perforated leather upholstery, navigation, AcuraLink connectivity, a 10-speaker ELS audio system with AM/FM/CD/ MP3/WMA/satellite radio, hard disk drive (HDD) media storage, Blind Spot Information System with Rear Cross Traffic Monitor System, and more. 

2019 Acura TLX A-Spec
Full LED headlamps continue to be standard equipment with all ILX trims.

Additionally, highlights pulled up from the $36,190 base TLX include LED headlights with automatic high beams, passive keyless entry with pushbutton ignition, adaptive cruise control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone automatic climate control, a large infotainment display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a multi-angle backup camera, a powered glass sunroof, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, a four-way powered front passenger seat, heated front seats, and the list goes on. 

Also standard, the TLX features a bevy of AcuraWatch advanced driver assistance systems including Forward Collision Warning (FCW) with autonomous Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Lane Departure Warning (LDW) with steering wheel haptic feedback, Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM), and more. 

2019 Acura TLX A-Spec
Fog lamps and sportier aerodynamic parts get added to A-Spec trim. (Photo: Acura)

Of course, another bonus that comes with ownership of the four-cylinder powered 2019 TLX A-Spec that shouldn’t be overlooked when comparing it to the 3.5-litre version is fuel-efficiency, the new model rated at 10.2 L/100km in the city, 7.4 on the highway and 8.9 combined, which is only 0.2 L/100km more city/highway combined fuel consumption than the base TLX due to its larger wheels and tires, yet it’s also 1.4 L/100km combined city/highway more efficient than the V6-powered car. 

That V6 makes a substantive 290 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque, and couples that performance to a sophisticated nine-speed automatic transmission and Acura’s renowned torque-vectoring Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD). While the nine-speed autobox doesn’t shift as quickly as the four-cylinder model’s eight-speed unit, the former includes faster reacting quick-ratio steering, stiffer springs, and an upgraded rear anti-roll bar, enhancing high-speed handling. 

2019 Acura TLX A-Spec
A-Spec trim allows the option of sporty red leather upholstery. (Photo: Acura)

With the recent announcement of the redesigned 2019 ILX sedan, and the all-new 2019 RDX A-Spec and updated 2019 MDX A-Spec, all of which come with A-Spec variants, the only models left in the lineup to receive the sporty trim level are RLX flagship sedan, which may not receive it, and the NSX mid-engine sport car, which surely doesn’t need it. 

The 2019 Acura TLX A-Spec is available now, along with mostly carryover versions of the TLX Tech, TLX Elite, and top-of-the-line TLX SH-AWD A-Spec Elite.

For complete pricing information on all 2019 Acura TLX trims, plus important dealer invoice pricing and model rebate program information that could save you thousands off your next car purchase, make sure to check out CarCostCanada.com.

So here it is, the first application of Acura’s new Diamond Pentagon grille on a vehicle that was designed to incorporate it from the ground up.  Together with a more fluidly shaped set of Jewel-Eye…

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite Road Test

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
Without question, the 2019 Acura RDX is one of the most competitive entries in today’s compact luxury SUV segment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

So here it is, the first application of Acura’s new Diamond Pentagon grille on a vehicle that was designed to incorporate it from the ground up. 

Together with a more fluidly shaped set of Jewel-Eye LED headlamps to each side and a more progressive front fascia down below, not to mention plenty of chrome thanks to my tester’s top-line Platinum Elite trim, the new 2019 RDX is one eye-catching luxury SUV. 

The sharp creases and shapely folds continue down each side of the redesigned model, providing a wedge-like profile and muscular, sporty stance, while the roofline up top culminates into now popular floating D-pillars above an attractive set of pointed LED taillights. Again, the new RDX design is pleasing from front to back. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
The new RDX has sporty, attractive styling from front to back. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Those who found the previous RDX a bit too budget-oriented when compared to some of its peers should welcome the new interior as well, as it’s really hard to fault it on styling or materials quality. The top half of the cabin is primarily composed of high-end, soft-touch synthetics, contrast-stitched padded leathers, and real hardwood inlays on the upper edges of the dash top, flowing into the door panels, and extending across the mid portion of the instrument panel, plus the lower console as part of a scrolling lid that accesses the cupholders and large cell phone bin/USB charger below. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
Just like with the outgoing RDX, Acura’s trademark Jewel-Eye LED headlamps come standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Acura has done a great job with metal accents too, tastefully detailing the steering wheel, column stalks, gauges, vents, centre stack, door handles, power seat controls, and overhead console, and then stepping things up another notch by trimming the handle on that aforementioned centre bin lid and the ELS Studio 3D speaker grilles with an even nicer grade and finish of aluminum. Impressive. 

A large infotainment display with superb definition, clarity and depth of colour is now perched atop the dash, providing easy visibility from a quick glance, while other functions can be sourced from a sizeable multi-information display within the otherwise analogue gauge cluster. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
Nineteen-inch alloys come standard, but the top-line Platinum Elite gets unique 19s plus more chrome detailing. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Also notable, the centre stack actually floats above a large open compartment featuring a rubberized base for holding personal devices that can be conveniently plugged into a USB charge point, an auxiliary plug or a 12-volt power outlet. 

The sides of that floating centre console’s upper portion are finished in padded leatherette with nice contrast stitching that continues all the way back to the centre armrest/bin lid cover, and some of that soft-touch material wraps over to the edge of the steering wheel column where the engine ignition button sits, as well as to the right side to the glove box lid. You’ll be hard pressed to find as high a level of luxury finishings amongst RDX competitors. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
A massive panoramic sunroof comes standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Common in this class, however, the lower door panels are made from harder plastic, as is most of the lower dash and lower console. Nevertheless, the RDX is finally in the same league as its compact luxury SUV peers when it comes to interior fit, finish, refinement and features, which means it can now command the higher price point this Elite Platinum trim requests. 

My top-line tester is available from $57,160, my example actually priced at $57,660 due to White Diamond Pearl paint. That’s $2,770 into MDX territory, but as noted the RDX is more than ready to do battle with the Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC, BMW X3, et al, and feels like a much more complete package than the Lexus NX and some others in the class, with better switchgear refinement and a more solid, substantive feel all-round. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
The standard LED taillights have some ice detailing inside. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The RDX is a lot sportier than I expected too. Initially factoring in a displacement drop from 3.5 to 2.0 litres and the elimination of two cylinders, from six to four, straight-line performance was a pleasant surprise. In fact, the new RDX feels even quicker off the line than the old model and is now one of the sportier SUVs in its segment. Along with 272 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, which is a generational bump of 7 horsepower and 28 lb-ft, the engine also makes wonderful noises, its soundtrack just enhancing the experience enough to excite without overwhelming conversations within. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
Get ready for the best RDX interior ever offered. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The new 10-speed automatic, a significant two forward speeds more advanced than most premium challengers, allows the engine to rev up to its maximum between shifts, and swapping cogs via the steering wheel paddles happens instantaneously when in Sport or Sport Plus modes. It’s wonderfully smooth too, especially in its Normal default mode, this new engine/gearbox combination delivering one of the best refinement/performance compromises in this class. 

Choosing driving modes is accomplished by rotating a massive knob placed square in the middle of the centre stack (more on this in a moment), while Acura has also made its class-exclusive button/rocker switch-actuated gear selector standard across the RDX line. It’s slightly different than the one used for the MDX, for instance, but it didn’t take long for me to acclimatize. My advice to those taking the new RDX out for a test drive is, be patient and give it time. You’ll get used to it and might even like it more than a shift lever after settling in, while you’ve got to admit it’s a pretty futuristic looking human-machine interface. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
The RDX provides a comfortable, ergonomically intelligent, high-quality driving environment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The RDX has always been a strong performer, but this new model feels lighter up front and more responsive around fast-paced corners than its predecessor, with easy, reactive turn-in and rock-steady grip when snaking through circuitous backroads. Acura’s highly touted torque-vectoring Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) is standard, and as with the previous model provides excellent all-weather control, while braking is linear and fully up to the task of scrubbing off speed quickly with confidence, all adding up to a new RDX that once again feels more capable than the outgoing one, as well as many of its peers. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
A fully configurable TFT gauge cluster would seem more appropriate in a brand new model, but the colour MID is large and full of features. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

With a much smaller displacement, more advanced engine and four additional forward gears it only makes sense that RDX emissions and fuel economy have made gains too, the latter rated at 11.0 L/100km city, 8.6 highway and 9.9 combined for all trims other than the sporty new A-Spec that gets an estimated 11.3, 9.1 and 10.3 respectively, these numbers comparing favourably against last year’s claimed fuel economy rating of 12.4 city, 8.7 highway and 10.7 combined. New idle stop-start, which automatically shuts the engine down when it would otherwise be idling and then immediately reboots it when ready to go, does its part in reaching the improved consumption figures, while making a big difference in reducing emissions. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
The standard display is excellent and feature filled, while the mapping in the navigation system is wonderfully detailed. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While its mix of performance and economy certainly gives the RDX an edge over the majority of entry-level luxury rivals, Acura hasn’t forgotten that comfort is king in the luxury SUV class. Therefore, along with all the aforementioned high-end detailing and impressive assortment of premium equipment, the redesigned model is even larger and roomier than the SUV it replaces, which was already quite generous. Specifically, the 2019 RDX is 78 mm (3.1 inches) longer than the old one, with a 65-mm (2.5-inch) increase in wheelbase that makes a significant difference to rear seat roominess, while it’s also 46 mm (1.8 inches) wider for added shoulder and hip space, and 31 mm (1.2 inches) taller, improving headroom. Despite its increased dimensions it has only gained 86 kilos (189 lbs) of curb weight, the previously noted performance improvements partially attributed to this. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
Choosing Platinum Elite trim means you’ll get this very helpful surround parking camera. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

When seated in back I could almost completely stretch out my legs with my feet under the front seat, leaving at least eight to 10 inches ahead of my knees, about five inches next to my shoulders, and another three or so between my outside hip and the door panel, while the rear seat is also comfortable. A reasonably sized armrest folds down from centre, exposing two smallish cupholders. Even better, the back padding of the armrest’s alcove is covered in a wonderful soft velvet-like material that does a good job of pampering elbows. Also appreciated, three-way seat heaters warmed rear outboard positions in my top-tier trim, while rear ventilation is good too. Lastly, the rear seating area is finished just as nicely as that up front, with the same high-quality soft-touch door uppers, the same nicely padded leather on the inserts and armrests, identical aluminum speaker grilles, and satin silver finished door pull accents, plus of course the same sumptuous perforated leather upholstery edged out with stylish grey piping and contrast stitching. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
The vertically stacked rotating drive mode selector and transmission switchgear takes up a lot of real estate that could otherwise be used for a more convenient infotainment touchscreen. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The new SUV’s larger size also makes for more cargo room, with maximum space behind its 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks growing by 142 litres (5.0 cubic feet) to 881 litres (31.1 cubic feet), while the new model offers 82 additional litres (2.9 cubic feet) of luggage space when the second-row is folded flat, at 2,260 litres (79.8 cubic feet). 

Acura trims the cargo compartment out with premium carpeting that goes all the way up each sidewall, plus of course the backside of the rear seats, while chrome tie-down hooks bling up each corner. The sturdy load floor is removable, exposing large compartments for additional stowage below. Each side of the cargo wall gets a convenient carryover feature, a release lever for laying 60-, 40-, or 100-percent of the split rear seatbacks flat, and yes when I say flat I mean the load floor is now much better at swallowing up cargo than previously. I was disappointed not to see a centre pass-through, however, necessary for loading longer items like skis when the more comfortable, heated window seats are occupied. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
The new True Touchpad Interface works better than Lexus’ Remote Touch Interface, but it’s nowhere near as user-friendly as a regular tablet-style touchscreen. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Problems? None, but I found the infotainment system’s new True Touchpad Interface a bit disconnected when compared to life with a regular tablet-style touchscreen, like those used for many Honda vehicles. I understand the need for a separate controller when the display is positioned far away from the driver’s reach, but this brings up the question of why it’s so far away, and why Acura chose to fill prime centre stack real estate with the aforementioned massive rotating dial for choosing driving modes. A simple button on the lower console, instrument panel, or better yet the steering wheel, would suffice for driving modes, which would’ve freed space to lower the HVAC interface and pull the infotainment display downward and closer, within easy reach of front occupants. This would have reduced the unnecessary cost of developing such a complex touchpad, which I must say can be a bit tricky to use. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
The RDX’ seats are inherently comfortable, and top-line Platinum Elite perforated leather soft and supple. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

First off, not everyone likes track pads. I use one every day with my MacBook Pro so they’re second nature to me, but my partner uses a mouse with her laptop—enough said. On the other side of the argument, most everyone is familiar with touchscreens due to smartphone and tablet use. Despite my familiarity with the latter, I found even simple commands challenging to implement. For instance, the first thing I wanted to do after setting up my smartphone, which worked easily via Acura’s HandsFreeLink wireless connectivity, was listen to a podcast via Bluetooth audio. With forefinger on the touchpad I repeatedly attempted to slide it along and then press downward once it reached the Bluetooth logo, but each time it initiated a different function and would not select Bluetooth. I kept trying and eventually managed to select Bluetooth, but this was not a good start. It reminds me of a problem Lexus experienced with its first-generation joystick-style Remote Touch Interface controller, which caused enough frustration from customers to cause the Japanese brand to install separate pushbuttons to each side of the main controller. Acura may want to consider something similar, as merely pressing downward on the trackpad isn’t a reliable solution. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
Rear seat roominess is excellent and comfort superb. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The large 10.2-inch high-definition display and graphics within are superb, with main functions divided two-thirds to the left and one-third to the right. This, of course, allows more variety of simultaneously displayed features and therefore provides a more customizable setup, with the ability to show navigation mapping, for instance, on the larger or smaller screen, plus the audio interface, or some other feature, opposite. Choosing the map function, with finger on touchpad you can explore all around by swiping in any direction, pinching or spreading two fingers for a closer or wider view, and tapping to execute commands. While it mostly sounds hunky-dory the touchpad is much smaller than the screen and therefore doesn’t allow for much finger movement. Suffice to say it’ll take a little time to get used to. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
Rear passengers in Platinum Elite trimmed models get dual USB chargers and three-way heated outboard seats. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of note, there’s a home button that displays a main screen filled with function links to navigation, phone, AM/FM/HD/satellite radio, Bluetooth audio settings, Apple CarPlay (but no Android Auto), Siri Eyes Free, SMS text message and email functionality, 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot capability, Wi-Fi tethering, AcuraLink Subscription Services, etcetera, and I have to say it works pretty well, other than the system’s aforementioned habit of not keeping its bright orange cursor on a chosen function after releasing one’s finger. You’ve got to be ultra-exact or you’ll miss it, and that’s a lot to ask of someone who should be spending less time concentrating on infotainment and more time focused on the road ahead. My advice to you? Spend time learning how to get the most out of this system while parked in the driveway. Try to be patient and you’ll probably get the hang of it in time. My advice to Acura? Replace the space-depleting drive mode selector knob on the centre stack with a high-quality touchscreen. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
This massive powered panoramic sunroof comes standard on every RDX trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

On the positive the gauge cluster looks sharp, the multi-information display (MID) at centre is large at 7.0 inches, very high in resolution with deep, rich contrast, and filled with attractive graphics. Still, I found it odd that the gauge cluster was mostly analogue, for two reasons. First, full TFT gauge clusters are all the rage these days, and some are even included as standard equipment. Secondly, it must be less expensive to make a new digital display from scratch than design, produce and assemble all of the mechanical and digital MID components needed for an analogue cluster these days. 

Other issues? My tester’s powered tailgate made a strange groaning noise when opening and closing, as if it needed some lubricating oil somewhere within, and when giving my RDX a bath I noticed a six-inch long score in the front portion of the panoramic glass sunroof, likely due to rubbing up against something when being opened and closed. It wasn’t very deep, but over time it could become so. It probably just needs adjustment, but nevertheless these are strange teething pains from a brand like Acura that usually comes to market with its products fully sorted. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
The cargo area is larger than it used to be, and very well finished. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

According to CarCostCanada.com, which has the latest in new vehicle pricing, including otherwise hard to get dealer invoice pricing that will help you get the best deal on your next car, truck or SUV, plus everything you need to know about the latest manufacturer discounts and rebates (that your dealer may not tell you about), the 2019 RDX can be had as a well-equipped base model for $46,160 including freight and fees, as well as in $48,660 Tech trim, $48,660 A-Spec, $52,160 Elite and $57,160 Platinum Elite trims. 

Unlike some competitors, I could see plenty of buyers being very happy in the base RDX thanks to features already noted as well as standard automatic high beams for the aforementioned LED headlamps, proximity access, pushbutton ignition, ambient lighting, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, dual-zone auto climate control, a garage door opener, a multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, side mirrors with reverse gear tilt-down and integrated LED turn indicators, 12-way powered front seats including lumbar and four-way headrests, two-position driver’s memory, heated front seats, a panoramic moonroof, a powered tailgate, and much more. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
Handy storage bins below the cargo floor are ideal for stowing dirty, oily rags and gloves, or alternatively keeping expensive belongings away from prying eyes. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Also standard, AcuraWatch includes Forward Collision Warning, Collision Mitigation Braking, Lane Departure Warning, Road Departure Mitigation, and Lane Keeping Assist, while all the usual active and passive safety equipment are joined by front knee airbags, hill start assist and tire pressure monitoring, all resulting in a best-possible Top Safety Pick+ safety rating from the IIHS. 

Moving up to Tech trim adds Blind Spot Information with a Rear Cross Traffic Monitor, and traffic sign recognition, plus front and rear parking sensors, navigation, voice recognition, and a 12-speaker ELS Studio audio system with dual rear USB ports. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
Acura carried forward these convenient levers that drop the rear seatbacks down without the need to walk around to the side doors. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Like with other Acura models, A-Spec trim provides unique front and rear styling, 20-inch alloys, LED fog lights, power-folding side mirrors, a heatable steering wheel, metal sport pedals, unique Alcantara and leather-trimmed upholstery with contrast stitching and seat piping, ventilated front seats, and a 16-speaker ELS Studio 3D audio system. 

Elite trim actually results in a step back to the 12-speaker audio system and the removal of ventilated front seats and LED fog lamps, but it adds headlamp washers, auto-dimming side mirrors, perimeter/approach puddle lights, perforated leather upholstery, and heated rear outboard seats. 

Lastly, my tester’s Platinum Elite trim adds back the LED fog lamps, ventilated front seats and 16-speaker 3D stereo, while also including adaptive cornering headlights, a colour head-up display, a surround view monitor, a rear camera washer, 16-way powered front seats including lumbar, thigh extensions and side bolsters, genuine Olive Ash hardwood trim, and metal cargo area garnishes. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
The rear seatbacks only fold 60/40 with no centre pass-through, but they now lay flat improving load carrying capability. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Yes, loaded up with every possible feature the new 2019 RDX can compete head-on with any premium-branded peer, and no matter the trim should once again be seriously considered when also shopping in this hotly contested segment. There are now 14 entries in the compact luxury SUV class, not including four-door coupe variants, which makes it all the more impressive that the RDX has maintained its near top placement. 

As you now know from my criticisms this new RDX is not perfect, but it does most things so very well that it’s easy to look past its idiosyncratic infotainment system and my tester’s few minor problems, which are likely due to being an early production example. In other words, I like it a lot more than I expected to, and can’t help but recommend it highly.

The 2019 Acura RDX just received the best safety rating of any vehicle in its compact luxury SUV segment from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), as well as the highest award possible from…

IIHS awards new 2019 Acura RDX with best possible safety rating

2019 Acura RDX A-Spec
The 2019 Acura RDX, shown here in its sportiest A-Spec trim line, is now the safest new compact luxury SUV, says the IIHS. (Photo: Acura)

The 2019 Acura RDX just received the best safety rating of any vehicle in its compact luxury SUV segment from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), as well as the highest award possible from the U.S. government agency. 

The 2019 RDX achieved a Top Safety Pick+ rating due to a best-possible ranking of “Good” in all crash tests, while standard AcuraWatch advanced driver assistance/safety systems helped it earn a “Superior” rating, plus it received another Good score for its optional headlights. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
The new RDX, seen here in top-line Platinum Elite trim, certainly has attractive styling on its side. (Photo: Acura)

“The 2019 Acura RDX excelled in our six crashworthiness evaluations, including the roof strength test,” stated the IIHS in a press release. “Our testing apparatus applied over 21,000 lbs of force to the RDX’s roof before it crushed 5 inches. That’s more than 5 times the weight of the vehicle.” 

In comparison, the competitive Mercedes-Benz GLC also received Good marks in crashworthiness, but its Superior optional headlight rating was down one notch on the IIHS scale, plus the German competitor only managed an Acceptable rating for the ease of use of its child seat “LATCH” anchors compared to the RDX’ ideal Good rating. Worse yet, the BMW X3 only received at Marginal rating for its child seat anchors, although did well in all other tests. 

2019 Acura RDX A-Spec
Standard full LED headlamps have long set the RDX apart from key rivals. (Photo: Acura)

“The 2019 Acura RDX offers the highest level of standard safety and driver-assistance features in its class, so earning class-leading safety ratings is a strong proof point of the technology and design innovation we’re bringing to the game,” said Jon Ikeda, Acura vice president and general manager. 

The 2019 RDX was developed by Acura’s U.S. research and development team, and therefore was designed to exceed stringent IIHS safety tests from onset. The new model incorporates the latest generation of Acura’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure, which includes new high-strength steel door stiffener rings, and for the first time, eight standard airbags, including new driver and front-passenger knee airbags. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
The RDX gets LED lighting elements all-round, plus a longer, wider and roomier body shell that’s big on performance. (Photo: Acura)

Additionally, the new RDX features the AcuraWatch suite of advanced driver-assistive and safety systems in all trims, these technologies including Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Road Departure Mitigation, and Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow. The new RDX also comes standard with Acura’s easily recognizable JewelEye LED headlamps, which helped it achieve its best-in-class ranking. 

2019 Acura RDX A-Spec
No matter the trim level, the new RDX receives a high-quality interior that’s sportiest in its A-Spec variety. (Photo: Acura)

To earn the 2018 Top Safety Pick+ award, a vehicle must achieve Good ratings in the driver-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests, as well as an Acceptable or Good rating in the passenger-side small overlap test. Additionally, the top rating requires available front crash prevention that earns an Advanced or Superior score, plus available Good-rated headlights. The RDX’s base headlights are rated Good, while the curve-adaptive headlights added to its top-line trim are rated Acceptable. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
The RDX Platinum Elite not only provides real wood and supple leathers, but features every available safety feature too. (Photo: Acura)

The RDX was completely redesigned for the 2019 model year, and thanks to a positive response from long-time owners trading up from the outgoing model and new customers to the Acura brand, it was the best-selling vehicle in its compact luxury SUV class during its first month of availability in June. The RDX has long been one of the segment’s top sellers, dueling it out over first place with the Audi Q5 for nearly a decade, and this new redesign should certainly keep it ahead of most peers. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
Apple CarPlay is standard with the new 10.2-inch high-definition infotainment display. (Photo: Acura)

Along with appealing design and quality that surpasses many of its rivals, the new 2019 RDX continues to deliver plenty of value to its luxury clientele. Priced at $43,990 plus freight and fees (detailed pricing covering each trim line, options, dealer invoice prices and rebate information can be found at CarCostCanada.com), the redesigned Acura features a new turbocharged and direct-injected 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine good for 272 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, which is similar in power to the outgoing 3.5-litre V6 although delivers better straight-line performance due to 40 percent more low-end torque. 

This advantage is complemented by the compact luxury SUV segment’s only 10-speed automatic transmission that simultaneously improves acceleration and fuel-efficiency, allowing the RDX to continue outperforming many key challengers. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
This large panoramic glass sunroof is standard across the entire RDX line. (Photo: Acura)

With respect to fuel economy, the 2019 RDX achieves a claimed Transport Canada rating of 9.9 L/100km combined city/highway for all trims excepting the sportiest A-Spec model that gets an estimated 10.3 L/100km combined, whereas last year’s claimed rating was 10.7 L/100km combined city/highway. 

2019 Acura RDX A-Spec
Whether bright red and black, black or light tan, the RDX rear seating area is spacious and feature filled. (Photo: Acura)

The new RDX rolls on a brand new Acura-exclusive body and chassis architecture that’s much more rigid and therefore provides better handling and crashworthiness than the outgoing model. It’s also 78 mm longer with a 65-mm gain in wheelbase, the latter making a major difference to rear seat roominess, 46 mm wider, and 31 mm taller than the model it replaces. Still, despite its increased dimensions, the new RDX is only 86 kilos heavier, which aids aforementioned fuel economy and performance. 

Along with greater interior comfort, the RDX’ increased size provides 142 litres more cargo volume behind its 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks and 82 additional litres when the 60/40-split second-row is lowered via handy cargo wall-mounted levers, while the load floor is flatter and therefore better for hauling items that might otherwise tip over. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
Cargo capacity has grown with the 60/40-split rear seatbacks up or down. (Photo: Acura)

Together with its more roomier and more refined interior, the new RDX incorporates a bevy of new standard features and technologies, such as the aforementioned full LED headlights with automatic high beams, a remote engine starter, proximity keyless access, pushbutton ignition, ambient lighting, a 7.0-inch colour TFT multi-information display within the primary gauge cluster, driver recognition, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, dual-zone automatic climate control, a HomeLink garage door opener, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, 12-way powered front seats including powered lumbar support and four-way adjustable headrests, two-position memory for the driver’s seat and side mirrors, an ultra-wide panoramic glass sunroof, and a powered tailgate. 

2019 Acura RDX A-Spec
The load floor is now mostly flat, which makes for a much more utile SUV. (Photo: Acura)

Also standard, a new 10.2-inch high-definition infotainment display is controlled by Acura’s exclusive new True Touchpad Interface. The system features a standard multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, Apple CarPlay, Siri Eyes Free, SMS text message and email functionality, 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot capability, Wi-Fi tethering, AcuraLink Subscription Services, HD and satellite radio, Bluetooth streaming audio, connectivity via two front USB charging ports, nine speakers audio, and more. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
Now that it’s proven to be one of the safest SUVs in its class, the RDX is an even better choice for family buyers. (Photo: Acura)

Options include adaptive cornering headlights, LED fog lights, power-folding and auto-dimming side mirrors, Blind Spot Information with a Rear Cross Traffic Monitor, traffic sign recognition, a surround view parking monitor, a colour head-up display, a heatable steering wheel, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, front and rear parking sensors, navigation, voice recognition, 12-speaker or 16-speaker Acura ELS audio, dual rear USB ports, genuine Olive Ash hardwood trim, perforated leather upholstery, metal sport pedals, sport seats with 16-way power adjustment, and much more, while a sporty new A-Spec trim line provides styling and performance improvements.

Acura is in an enviable position with respect to SUVs. Its compact RDX has managed to maintain first or second place in popularity since it arrived on the scene in 2009, and its MDX has been the top-selling…

2018 Acura MDX SH-AWD Elite Road Test

2018 Acura MDX SH-AWD Elite
The impressive MDX was made more stylish thanks to a mid-cycle upgrade last year, which was carried over to this 2018 model. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Acura is in an enviable position with respect to SUVs. Its compact RDX has managed to maintain first or second place in popularity since it arrived on the scene in 2009, and its MDX has been the top-selling dedicated three-row model in its mid-size luxury class since 2005. How have they done it? Value. 

When I say value, I’m not just talking price. In fact, according to CarCostCanada.com, Canada’s best resource for new vehicle pricing, invoice pricing, rebate information and more, the MDX is not the least expensive three-row SUV in its segment, that attribute (if being cheapest is even considered appealing amongst premium buyers) achieved by the $48,000 Buick Enclave, which is followed closely by the $48,195 Infiniti QX60. The MDX sits third in three-row, mid-size, premium-branded affordability, its 2018 pricing starting at $54,090 plus freight and fees. So why did 20 percent fewer Canadians choose a QX60 and 40 percent less opt for the even cheaper Enclave? 

2018 Acura MDX SH-AWD Elite
Our MDX SH-AWD Elite tester featured unique 20-inch alloys, painted out front and rear fascias, and more. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Value is never solely about price, especially in the luxury sector. Overall build quality and refinement are often more important, as well as mechanical sophistication and performance, digital interfaces and other convenience features, advanced driver assistance and safety features, practicality and functionality (these last points particularly true amongst sport utilities), plus reliability, styling and brand cachet that impact residual/resale values. The MDX gets high marks for most of the above, and therefore gets rewarded with consistently strong sales. 

2018 Acura MDX SH-AWD Elite
Full LED headlamps come standard across the entire MDX line. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Acura addressed styling last year, when a mid-cycle update transformed the frontal design with its new trademark “Diamond Pentagon” grille. The MDX was already ahead of its peers with respect to lighting, its advanced “Jewel-Eye” LED headlamps and LED taillights standard across the line, but many of the SUV’s other design details were enhanced as part of the redo as well. 

The refreshed MDX’ interior remained mostly carryover, but for 2018 Acura has added some user-friendlier tech. Specifically, the standard 7.0-inch capacitive touchscreen now includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a bonus for iPhone users due to Apple’s much better interface, plus useful to Android phone owners that can make it work. 

2018 Acura MDX SH-AWD Elite
This is one sweet set of machine-finished 20-inch alloys. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

To be clear, while I like Android-based phones and have owned many from Samsung, Sony, Asus and Huawei, I’m not a fan of Android Auto. It normally hooks up quickly enough, but its capability is limited and graphic interface dismal. My problem in this case came down to the MDX infotainment system’s inability to recognize that my phone was connected to the correct USB (the one with the smartphone graphic), so there was no Android Auto for me. This could have something to do with the 2016 Huawei GR5 I was using, but it’s a relatively common phone in my parts (up until recently providers were giving it away for free with a two-year contract) and therefore shouldn’t be a problem, plus it hasn’t posed a problem when connecting to other brands’ infotainment systems. 

2018 Acura MDX SH-AWD Elite
Along with standard LED headlamps, the MDX gets LED taillights as well. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

As for Acura’s other 2018 MDX promise, which includes more logically organized functions and an operating system that’s 30-percent faster when responding to inputs, I can attest to both. It’s certainly a better laid out interface than the previous one, but that’s not saying a lot. Unfortunately it remains one of my least favourite infotainment systems to use, and that’s despite being noticeably quicker as well. Somehow Acura has created a system that uses twice as many displays to perform half as many functions, or at least that’s how it seems when trying to perform various tasks. My advice? Acura should study the latest iPad and Samsung tablets, and then do their best to mimic their various functions, such as pinch or swipe capability, without infringing on copyright laws. That’s what Tesla, Volvo, and others have done, and consumers have responded well, while pundits, like me, have given them multiple awards. Acura won’t win any awards for this infotainment system, even with the upgrades. 

2018 Acura MDX SH-AWD Elite
All MDX trims are nice, but Acura goes all out with its Elite model, including real hardwood inlays, contrast stitching and piping for the Milano leather upholstery, and much more. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

It’s a shame because the rest of the interior is superb. My tester was finished in top of the line Elite trim, which meant its Black Limba or Olive Ash Burl wood inlays, found across the instrument panel, door panels and lower console bin lid, were real, its perforated Milano leather seat upholstery featured contrast stitching and accent piping, and its feature set was upgraded to include a really useful surround view parking camera, a great sounding 546-watt ELS Studio audio upgrade with Dolby Pro Logic II, 12 speakers and a sub plus more, rear DVD entertainment with an “Ultrawide” 16.2-inch display, a remote, two wireless headphones, and an HDMI input jack, four USB charge points, a 10-way powered front passenger seat, ventilated front cushions, and that’s just on the inside. 

2018 Acura MDX SH-AWD Elite
Each new MDX generation gets better, with the 2018 model receiving an updated infotainment system. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Outside, the Elite gets attractively painted front and rear lower skid garnishes, nice looking vertically stacked LED fog lamps, a sharp looking set of 20-inch alloys, always helpful front and rear parking sensors, plus roof rails up top, while a fuel-saving, emissions reducing engine idle start/stop system gets added under the hood. 

I should also point out the Milano leather upholstery was pulled up from mid-range Tech trim, as were the auto-leveling headlamps, auto-dimming power-folding side mirrors, rear door proximity keyless access, a 115-volt household-style AC power outlet, and a set of heatable rear outboard seats. 

2018 Acura MDX SH-AWD Elite
Acura hasn’t introduced a fully digital gauge cluster in the MDX yet, but the current system gets a sizeable, functional TFT multi-info display. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Notable MDX Elite features not yet mentioned that get pulled up from Navi trim include perimeter/approach puddle lights, rain-sensing wipers, an upgraded HVAC system with sun position detection, navigation, voice activation, hard drive media storage, AcuraLink connectivity, blindspot monitoring, rear cross traffic assist, and more. 

On the subject of safety, all MDX trims get standard AcuraWatch auto-sensing and driver-assist technologies such as road departure mitigation, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, lane keeping assist, and collision mitigation braking with pedestrian detection resulting in an IIHS best Top Safety Pick rating and five-star NHTSA status, once again driving home the MDX’ value proposition. 

2018 Acura MDX SH-AWD Elite
Acura is doing its best to hobble together updates for this antiquated infotainment system, but it remains far behind competitors. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Lastly, items pulled up to Elite trim from the base MDX include automatic high beams, remote engine start, proximity keyless access, pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, a powered steering column, ambient lighting, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, a colour TFT multi-info display, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, tri-zone auto climate control, a multi-angle backup camera with dynamic guidelines, text message and email reading capability, Siri Eyes Free, satellite radio, a 10-way powered driver’s seat with two-way powered lumbar and two-position memory, heated front seats, a heatable leather-wrapped steering wheel, a garage door opener, a powered moonroof, a powered liftgate, and much more. 

2018 Acura MDX SH-AWD Elite
Most of the MDX’ switchgear is superb, this knurled metal one for controlling the infotainment system. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

When you combine other standard items that aren’t included in upper trims, like 18-inch alloy wheels, the base 432-watt eight-speaker audio system, a slightly lower grade of leather upholstery (but genuine leather nonetheless), a less adjustable eight-way powered front passenger’s seat, etcetera, with the comprehensive list above, it’s easy to appreciate how much bang you get for just $53k, while the near top-line Elite shown here starts at $65,360. 

2018 Acura MDX SH-AWD Elite
The long strip of gear selector buttons to the left takes a lot of getting used to. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

To put this price in perspective, that’s less than where the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE start out, once again driving home the MDX value proposition. What’s more, the MDX comes standard with a direct-injected 3.5-litre V6 that’s good for 290 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque, a sophisticated nine-speed automatic transmission with standard steering wheel paddles, and Acura’s much-respected torque-vectoring Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD), which was recently upgraded to include a twin-clutch rear differential that directs torque between front and rear wheels, as well as side to side, for faster, smoother cornering and ultimately better traction. When combined with its amplitude reactive dampers and Agile Handling Assist brake torque-vectoring technology, SH-AWD helps the MDX’ rigid body structure and nicely sorted front strut and multi-link rear suspension to manage fast-paced curves well, while providing a comfortable, compliant ride. 

2018 Acura MDX SH-AWD Elite
The MDX driver’s seat is inherently comfortable, yet it nevertheless gets a lot of adjustment. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Making matters better still, Acura includes something it calls an Integrated Dynamic System (IDS), which includes a Sport mode that quickens throttle response, allows for higher engine revs between shifts, adds steering weight, and sends more torque to the outside rear wheels amid corners to improve turn-in, while it also enhances engine sound. Of course I employed Sport mode often, although I also made sure to leave it in Comfort mode when traveling at regular speeds, especially when managing rough patches of tarmac. 

2018 Acura MDX SH-AWD Elite
The second row is roomy and comfortable, while it slides out of the way easily when the third row is needed. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Along with its impressive ride and handling, the MDX remains wonderfully quiet, even when the outside world seems loud and chaotic, and when driven modestly the big SUV proves quite efficient with a claimed combined city/highway fuel economy rating of 10.7 L/100km when fitted with the Elite’s auto start/stop system, or 11.0 L/100km without. It should also be noted the top-line MDX Sport Hybrid receives an even more agreeable 9.0 L/100km combined city/highway rating, while boosting output to 321 net horsepower and 289 lb-ft of torque—something to consider if you want a best-of-both-worlds alternative. 

2018 Acura MDX SH-AWD Elite
The third-row seats are reasonable comfortable for smaller adults, but best relegated to kids. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

In other good news, after multiple weeklong MDX test drives I’m finally fully acclimatized to its unorthodox gear selector, which is basically a row of buttons plus a single pull-tab-like reverse switch, culminating at the just-noted IDS button. It remains unnecessarily complicated, and could potentially turn off as many uninitiated prospects as it turns on tech geeks, but suffice to say it works well enough once you get used to it, and it looks pretty cool. 

2018 Acura MDX SH-AWD Elite
The cargo compartment is large and accommodating, although when all seats are folded down it’s downright cavernous inside. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

That it doesn’t do anything to minimize space usage which would otherwise be taken up by a shift lever, and arguably adds to the level of visual clutter a driver needs to deal with are separate issues altogether. At least it provides some sense of occasion to a cabin that could also benefit from a modernized primary gauge cluster, the latter having yet to be upgraded to a fully configurable digital TFT display, plus, of course, the as yet imperfect dual-display infotainment system chastised earlier. 

Other than these few quibbles, the 2018 Acura MDX is a fine SUV deserving of its ardent following. Its inherently well engineered mechanicals provide stronger than average performance, a high level of refinement, reasonably good fuel economy and dependable reliability, while its solid construction makes it feel bulletproof, its superb standard safety set adds to its confidence-inspiring demeanor, and its comfortable and accommodating interior makes it easy to live with no matter the size of occupants or load. Now all you need to decide on is which MDX trim level and colour you want.