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.

Larger, roomier, faster, more efficient, higher tech, more luxurious, more refined and arguably better looking, the 2019 Acura RDX hits the road this week at just $43,990 plus freight and fees, only adding…

All-new 2019 RDX arrives at Acura Canada retailers from $43,990

2019 Acura RDX A-Spec
The 2019 RDX, shown here in sporty A-Spec trim, goes on sale at Acura Canada retailers this week. (Photo: Acura)

Larger, roomier, faster, more efficient, higher tech, more luxurious, more refined and arguably better looking, the 2019 Acura RDX hits the road this week at just $43,990 plus freight and fees, only adding $1,000 to the price of the outgoing model that enjoyed a very long and successful run. 

“The 2019 Acura RDX is a pure expression of Precision Crafted Performance. This is a development philosophy that puts the driver at the centre of it all,” said Emile Korkor, Brand Leader, Acura Canada. “Our goal from the beginning has been to deliver a perfect balance of engineering, performance, design and luxury to create a truly uncompromising and joyful experience.” 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
Top-line Platinum Elite trim shows a classier side of the new RDX’ personality. (Photo: Acura)

Acura brings the 2019 RDX to the Canadian market with five trim levels, including an unnamed base model, the $46,490 Technology, $49,990 Elite, $50,290 A-Spec, and finally the top-line $54,990 Platinum Elite. 

No matter the trim, the new 2019 RDX relieves the old 3.5-litre V6 in place of a much more efficient 16-valve, DOHC turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with direction injection and, of course, VTEC. Output is rated at 272 horsepower, which is down 7 horsepower from the old V6, but more importantly for an SUV torque is up 28 lb-ft to 280. The end result sees the new 2019 RDX with the strongest base horsepower and torque in the compact luxury SUV class. 

2019 Acura RDX A-Spec
A-Spec trim replaces chrome details with glossy black, adds black 20-inch alloys, and fills out the rear bumper with a sporty diffuser. (Photo: Acura)

The RDX performance advantage is partially due to a low-inertia mono-scroll turbocharger that promotes a wider, fatter torque curve resulting in 40 percent more low-end torque than the outgoing engine, while dual variable timing cams do their part as well. 

Connecting the new engine to the standard torque-vectoring Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system is an all-new 10-speed automatic transmission with performance-enhancing Grade Logic Control. The new transmission uses Acura’s unique pushbutton gear selector, which is now more fully integrated within the centre console than ever before. Shifting is automatic, or for a more hands-on experience you can shift its gears manually via standard steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
The new RDX looks distinctive no matter the trim. (Photo: Acura)

Also standard, Acura’s Integrated Dynamics System (IDS) lets you to choose between Snow, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ modes to enhance electric power steering feel and Drive-by-Wire throttle response. 

With a smaller displacement engine and four more forward gears it only makes sense that emissions and fuel economy have made gains too, the latter rated at 11.0 L/100km in the city, 8.6 on the highway and 9.9 combined for all trims but the A-Spec that gets an estimate of 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. 

2019 Acura RDX A-Spec
The new RDX gets Acura’s now trademark Diamond Pentagon grille, which first appeared on the refreshed MDX, then the updated TLX and RLX. (Photo: Acura)

The new drivetrain’s efficiency improvements are further aided by a new idle stop-start system that automatically shuts the engine down when it would otherwise be idling and then immediately reboots it when ready to go. 

Standard with 19-inch alloy wheels and available with 20s as part of the sportiest A-Spec package just noted, the new 2019 RDX rides on a totally new Acura-exclusive platform architecture featuring electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, a fully independent MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension system with 30 mm front and 23 mm rear stabilizer bars. Additionally, the top-line Platinum Elite model receives an Active Damper System to further enhance performance and comfort. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
Non-A-Spec trims get chrome detailing for a classy premium touch. (Photo: Acura)

As noted, the new RDX is longer, wider and taller than the model it replaces, its dimensions measuring 4,744 mm (186.8 inches) in length, with a 2,750-mm (108.3-inch) wheelbase, 1,900 mm (74.8 inches) in width, with 1,631- and 1,643-mm (64.2- and 64.7-inch) front and rear tracks, and 1,668 mm (65.7 inches) in height. 

This makes the 2019 model 78 mm (3.1 inches) longer than the outgoing RDX, with a 65-mm (2.5-inch) gain in wheelbase that should make a big difference to rear seat roominess, while it’s also 46 mm (1.8 inches) wider for added shoulder and hip space, not to mention a wider track for improved handling, whereas it’s only 31 mm (1.2 inches) taller, improving headroom yet not upsetting manoeuvrability by increasing the centre of gravity. Despite the new SUV’s increased size it’s only gained 86 kilos (189 lbs) of curb weight, so the aforementioned performance gains should still be easy to feel. 

2019 Acura RDX A-Spec
Like with the previous generation and all new Acura models, full LED headlamps come standard. (Acura)

More importantly the 2019 RDX’ increase in size makes for a more comfortable, more useful utility, with maximum cargo volume 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). 

That cabin is not only roomier and more comfortable, it’s also been upgraded with higher quality premium finishings, says Acura, with more high-grade soft-touch synthetics, particularly on the instrument panel, doors and centre console, plus hand-wrapped, stitched leather surfaces as well as real open-pore Olive Ash hardwood or genuine brushed aluminum inlays, depending on trim levels. 

2019 Acura RDX A-Spec
The standard taillights feature full LEDs too. (Photo: Acura)

Critical to the acceptance of any new vehicle are digital interfaces, the new RDX anteing up with a large standard 10.2-inch display featuring Apple CarPlay (but no Android Auto, which is interesting being that the entire operating system is Android-based—evidently Android Auto is to be introduced later pending updates), 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 (plus two optional USB ports in the rear), AM/FM/MP3/WMA audio with nine speakers including a subwoofer, plus more. Acura has eschewed a more traditional tablet-style touchscreen for a lower console-mounted True Touchpad Interface, which Acura promises is very intuitive. 

2019 Acura RDX A-Spec
The A-Spec interior can be had in this bright and sporty red and black theme. (Photo: Acura)

Along with the impressive load of standard equipment already mentioned, the base RDX continues Acura’s value theme by including standard full low and high beam LED “Jewel Eye” auto-on/off headlights with automatic high beam control, plus LED daytime running lights, LED brake lights and LED taillights, while additional standard highlights include a remote engine starter, proximity keyless access, pushbutton ignition, an acoustic windshield, active noise control, ambient lighting, a 7.0-inch colour TFT multi-information display within the primary gauge cluster, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, dual-zone automatic climate control, a HomeLink garage door opener, a multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, side mirrors with driver recognition, reverse gear tilt-down and integrated LED turn indicators, a standard 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, a large panoramic moonroof, a powered tailgate, a capless fueling system, and more. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
Or possibly something a little classier is more to your liking, the Platinum Elite featuring real hardwood trim. (Photo: Acura)

Also standard is an extensive suite of active and passive safety features including 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. 

Opting for Tech trim means that your RDX will receive yet more safety features including Blind Spot Information with a Rear Cross Traffic Monitor, and traffic sign recognition, while Tech trim also includes front and rear parking sensors, navigation, voice recognition, and a 12-speaker ELS Studio audio upgrade with the rear USB ports noted earlier. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
The new RDX promises the latest technology no matter the trim. (Photo: Acura)

Upgrading to A-Spec trim includes the aforementioned styling and performance improvements as well as 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. 

The move up to Elite trim means 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. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
A 10.2-inch infotainment display comes standard, featuring Apple CarPlay and plenty of other features. (Photo: Acura)

Lastly, 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 that projects key information onto the windshield ahead of the driver, a surround view parking monitor, a rear camera washer, 16-way powered front seats including lumbar support, thigh extensions and side bolsters, the genuine Olive Ash hardwood trim mentioned earlier, complete with contrast stitching and seat piping, and metallic cargo area garnishes. 

Of course, exterior styling will be key to sales success, and to that end the 2019 RDX is the first model to fully incorporate the Acura Precision Concept design language. We’ve seen the new grille gracing the front of the larger MDX luxury SUV, the TLX sport sedan, and the brand’s flagship RLX luxury sedan, but these were dramatic mid-cycle updates, not wholesale redesigns. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
No matter the trim, this massive panoramic sunroof comes standard. (Photo: Acura)

The Diamond Pentagon grille appears identical in shape if not size to those already in use by the TLX and RLX, both of which were slightly bolder and more pronounced than the MDX variant, but the lower front fascia of the prototype pulls cues from the Japanese brand’s larger SUV, particularly the pointed body-colour strike-through found hovering above each corner vent. They’re much larger and point in the opposite direction, while these, along with the horizontal row of LED fog lamps just below, flow more naturally into the centre portion of the fascia than the MDX’ vertical stack. Overall, the new RDX lower fascia design works well, particularly how it wraps around the sides of the bumper. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
A longer wheelbase means rear seat roominess and comfort is increased over the previous generation. (Photo: Acura)

Likewise, a more expressive set of headlamps wrap more fully around the sides of the new model’s front fenders before following the curvature of the front wheel cutouts upward to where they finalize at the hood line. Those fenders are rounder and more organically shaped, flowing naturally into more fluidly sculpted door panels, with the arcing greenhouse culminating at the centre point of the rear quarter window instead of the base. 

The top corner of the new RDX rear design forms a visual “X” where extended chrome window trim butts up against body-colour rooftop and side panels plus glossy black rear window trim extensions, resulting in a unique take on current floating roof trends, while the multi-angled LED taillights look fresh, modern and harmonious with the rest of the design. 

2019 Acura RDX Platinum Elite
The RDX cargo compartment in larger too, both with the 60/40-split rear seatbacks upright and when they’re folded flat. (Photo: Acura)

Lastly, the front and rear bumpers differ depending on trim level, with base and luxury models getting splashes of chrome around the corner vents up front and a matte black apron in the back, and A-Spec trim receiving gloss-black for the former details and a diffuser-style design between the exhaust pipes. 

“The all-new RDX delivers a powerful statement about who we are and where we are headed as a brand,” commented Jon Ikeda, vice president and general manager of Acura, when the RDX Prototype was introduced at the North American International Auto Show earlier this year. “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.” 

The 2019 RDX is now available at your local Acura retailer.

Acura has made a name for itself by producing cars and crossover SUVs that perform very well, and the seven-passenger MDX is no exception despite its large mid-size proportions and family hauling capability.…

Acura increases performance edge with new 2019 MDX A-Spec

2019 Acura MDX SH-AWD A-Spec
New A-Spec trim adds sportier style to the upcoming 2019 MDX SH-AWD. (Photo: Acura)

Acura has made a name for itself by producing cars and crossover SUVs that perform very well, and the seven-passenger MDX is no exception despite its large mid-size proportions and family hauling capability. Still, there’s always room for a little more go-fast fun. 

Answering that call is the new 2019 Acura MDX A-Spec, a special performance-tuned version of the popular SUV that features unique exterior styling elements including black lower body cladding, larger alloy wheels wrapped in grippier tires, and sportier interior styling. 

2019 Acura MDX SH-AWD A-Spec
Blackened trim, 20-inch 10-spoke Shark Grey alloys, plus a redesigned front fascia add more visual aggression to the popular luxury SUV. (Photo: Acura)

“This MDX A-Spec adds a dimension of sporty, aggressive and youthful appeal that will attract new buyers to the best-selling three-row luxury SUV of all time,” said Henio Arcangeli, Jr., senior vice president of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. 

The 2019 MDX A-Spec will only be available with Acura’s torque vectoring Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) models, although this won’t be an issue in Canada where SH-AWD comes standard with all MDX trims. 

2019 Acura MDX SH-AWD A-Spec
Expect some sportier colours with new A-Spec trim. (Photo: Acura)

MDX A-Spec features include a more aggressive front fascia design, body-colour lower side sills, larger-diameter exhaust finishers, plus gloss-black and dark-chrome detailing for the grille, headlamps, window surrounds, and rear tailgate spoiler, while 265-series tires wrap around exclusive 20-inch 10-spoke Shark Grey alloy wheels. 

Inside, a unique A-Spec primary gauge cluster joins a set of sport pedals, special carbon-look console trim, a thicker-rimmed A-Spec-badged steering wheel with paddle shifters, an exclusive A-Spec door step garnish, and sport seats upholstered in “rich red” or black leather with black suede-like Alcantara inserts plus high-contrast stitching. 

2019 Acura MDX SH-AWD A-Spec
A special A-Spec sport steering wheel with red stitching joins practical features like standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (Photo: Acura)

As with all Canadian-spec MDX trims, the new A-Spec model will include the AcuraWatch suite of advanced safety and driver-assistive technologies standard, including Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Lane Keeping Assist (LKAS), plus Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with low-speed follow and Road Departure Mitigation (RDM). 

2019 Acura MDX SH-AWD A-Spec
A-Spec trim will have the option of red upholstery, while all MDX A-Specs receive Alcantara seat inserts. (Photo: Acura)

Simplifying and enhancing smartphone integration will include standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while the new A-Spec trim line promises an impressive load of additional standard features to be announced closer to launch. 

The 2019 MDX A-Spec debuted March 28th at the 2018 New York International Auto Show, and will arrive at Acura dealers across Canada this summer. The addition of A-Spec trim to the MDX line means that every Acura model will be available with the performance-oriented upgrade, including the ILX A-Spec, TLX A-Spec and the all-new 2019 Acura RDX A-Spec.

I want you to think about something for a moment. The RDX just passed six years since the current second-generation design went into production in March of 2012, and despite only a minor facelift in 2016,…

2018 Acura RDX Elite Road Test

2018 Acura RDX Elite
The Acura RDX still looks sharp after all these years, especially in top-line Elite trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I want you to think about something for a moment. The RDX just passed six years since the current second-generation design went into production in March of 2012, and despite only a minor facelift in 2016, Acura Canada still managed to find more compact luxury SUV buyers in 2017 than all but one of its competitors. 

Now consider the only model to outsell the RDX’ 8,101 units, Audi’s Q5 with 10,271 down the road, was all-new for most of last year, so therefore sold 23.5 percent more examples than the year prior due to pent up demand; the third-place Mercedes-Benz GLC, at 8,057 units, was new just two years prior in 2015; the fourth-place Lexus NX, with 7,407 buyers, arrived the year before; the fifth-place BMW X3, at 5,730 units, entered its third generation partway through the year; and the other nine competitors didn’t sell in high enough numbers to truly compete. So what does the RDX have that the others don’t? 

2018 Acura RDX Elite
A good inherent design has kept the RDX fresh despite its age. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

At $42,390 plus freight and fees it’s not the cheapest in the segment, that honour held by Infiniti’s QX50 that starts at $38,900 yet only found 1,812 customers during 2017, so price is clearly not the sole differentiator. Buick’s new Envision is priced a bit lower too, at $40,195, and while it did fairly well for its first full year at 3,357 units, even if it combined sales with the Porsche Macan’s 3,767 deliveries it would still come up short (see pricing for all 2018 Acura RDX trims at CarCostCanada.com). 

Obviously premium SUV buyers like the RDX’ styling, its sharp, sporty lines and standard LED headlamps plenty distinctive, while that latter feature brings up another important point, value for money. 

2018 Acura RDX Elite
The RDX’ standard LED headlamps really stand out. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The RDX is one of few compact luxury SUVs with standard LED headlights, while the well-proven model comes standard with a powerful V6, a pricey option with its rivals if available at all. One could argue this pro as a con with regular unleaded hovering above the $1.50 per litre mark in some parts of the country, but so far rising pump prices haven’t negatively affected SUV sales, so this may be an issue for its turbocharged four-cylinder 2019 RDX successor to address. 

2018 Acura RDX Elite
Elite trim gets unique machine-finished 18-inch alloys. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Yes, if you want a new RDX with a V6 you’d better act quickly. A six-cylinder may show up as an option sometime in the future, but so far such prognostication hasn’t been up for discussion. For all we know the current 3.5-litre V6 with its smooth, linear 279 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque, not to mention its well-seasoned six-speed automatic transmission, will be relegated to Acura’s history books when the new third-generation RDX arrives in Canadian dealerships later this year. There’s no place for such luxuries in this brave new world where fuel-efficiency comes first and foremost, but this government-forced agenda obviously isn’t an issue with a significant number of compact luxury SUV buyers that keep buying up the RDX in droves. 

2018 Acura RDX Elite
Standard LED taillights look good and react quicker. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I’m not of the belief that small turbocharged engines are particularly better at minimizing fuel usage than larger six-cylinder powertrains when saddled with the burden of sizeable curb weights, the RDX tipping the scales at 1,781 to 1,797 kilos (3,926 to 3,962 lbs) depending on trim. The relaxed nature of the larger engine can actually save fuel in real world driving, especially when hills and highways are a factor. Even when comparing less-real Transport Canada five-cycle fuel economy ratings the 2018 RDX fares pretty well at a claimed 12.4 L/100km city, 8.7 highway and 10.7 combined next to the similarly popular Mercedes GLC’s 11.1 city, 8.6 highway and 10.0 combined numbers. 

2018 Acura RDX Elite
The RDX’ standard 3.5L V6 is surprisingly thrifty while effortlessly capable and wonderfully refined. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The German isn’t the thriftiest or the thirstiest turbo-four in the class, representing a good middle ground that the RDX comes close to matching despite its larger displacement, sportier V6 exhaust note, and more premium feel, this partially due to its still innovative yet long-time use of Variable Cylinder Management (VCM), which automatically shuts down three of its six cylinders when under light loads like coasting. Now, imagine if Acura had chosen to mate this engine up with the more advanced nine-speed automatic found in the MDX, which also benefits from auto start/stop? No doubt it would come even closer to matching the efficiency of its turbocharged four-cylinder peers. 

2018 Acura RDX Elite
The RDX’ interior is finished nicely and comes impressively equipped for the low asking price. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

That won’t happen, however, so like I said earlier, make sure to snap up a 2018 RDX if you prefer V6 performance and refinement, the latter aided by Active Control Engine Mounts (ACM), and while you’re at it you’ll benefit from an automatic $3,000 discount provided via “Customer Incentive Dollars,” this bringing my RDX Elite tester’s suggested retail price down from $47,390 to $44,390, plus freight and fees. If you’d rather get into something more basic, the reduced entry-level RDX price comes in at $39,390, or alternatively the mid-range RDX Tech can be had for $42,390. 

2018 Acura RDX Elite
Mid-range Tech trim ups the technology ante with dual infotainment displays and more. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Yes, for less than $40k a base RDX comes with the aforementioned V6 and auto on/off Jewel Eye LED headlights, plus standard LED taillights, all-wheel drive, 18-inch alloys, proximity access, pushbutton ignition, ambient cabin lighting, a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, heatable eight-way powered front seats with powered lumbar support, two-position driver’s memory for the seat and side mirrors, a colour TFT multi-information display, a HomeLink garage door opener, an auto-dimming centre mirror, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 5.0-inch infotainment display, a rearview camera with guidelines, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, SMS text message functionality, a 360-watt seven-speaker audio system, satellite radio, a powered moonroof, a powered tailgate, and more. That’s superb value, even without the $3k discount. 

2018 Acura RDX Elite
Backlit gauges are easy to read, and the colour multi-info display is a nice touch. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Those who prioritize safety over creature comforts will notice I haven’t even delved into the subject yet, the RDX loaded with all of the segment’s expected active and passive safety features as well as an impressive array of standard AcuraWatch driver-assist systems that would cost thousands more with some competitors, these including adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, autonomous collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning, and lane keeping assist. This gives the Canadian-spec base model IIHS Top Safety Pick status (these systems are optional in the U.S.) and a best possible five stars from the NHTSA. Are you starting to understand why the RDX is so popular? 

2018 Acura RDX Elite
A large 8.0-inch display provides clear, accurate navigation mapping and much more. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Mid-range Tech trim increases the RDX’ safety net with blindspot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, as well as a plethora of convenience and luxury items like remote engine start, rain-sensing wipers, a larger 8.0-inch LED backlit display with navigation and voice recognition, dynamic guidelines for the backup camera, a separate On-Demand Multi-Use touchscreen display, advanced AcuraLink smartphone connectivity, Siri Eyes Free, a 10-speaker 410-watt ELS Studio audio upgrade, a more advanced GPS-linked, solar-sensing system for the climate control, leather upholstery, heatable second-row outboard seats, and more for a mere $3,000 added to the bottom line. 

2018 Acura RDX Elite
The lower touchscreen allows quick access to audio, HVAC, and other functions. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Lastly, my RDX Elite benefited from sportier looking 18-inch alloys, fog lamps, auto-dimming side mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, and ventilated front seats, all for only $2,000 extra. 

This is where I should remind you about the top-line RDX Elite model’s $44,390 asking price (less discount), which despite its full load of features is still less expensive than most of its rivals’ base prices. Seriously! The Q5 starts at $44,950, GLC at $45,900, Volvo XC60 also at $45,900, BMW X3 at $46,700, Jaguar F-Pace at $50,250, Porsche Macan at $54,100, and Range Rover Velar at $62,000. Now I’m not going to say that an RDX competes directly with that Range Rover or Porsche other than for size, but I’m sure you get my point, while some others in the class are priced a bit lower albeit, other than that previously noted Infiniti, not by much. Plus, this comparison doesn’t factor in any competitor discounts. 

2018 Acura RDX Elite
All switchgear is high in quality, while some is beautifully finished with knurled metal detailing. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

If the RDX were an uncompetitive rolling anachronism undeserving of your time and attention its supposed value proposition wouldn’t be an issue, but it remains a good-looking SUV with a nicely finished interior and strong performance. Starting inside, a generous supply of leather-like padded soft-touch surfaces can be found in all the appropriate places, as can de rigueur fabric-wrapped roof pillars and high-quality, tight fitting, well-damped switchgear throughout. All of the aforementioned features work well, its navigation particularly accurate, while its seats are comfortable and supportive front to back, with rear seat roominess especially good. 

2018 Acura RDX Elite
The 8-way powered seats are very comfortable, while also providing standard 3-way heat and, in Elite trim, forced ventilation. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Likewise, the RDX can haul more cargo than most competitors thanks to 739 litres (26.1 cubic feet) of capacity behind its rear row and 2,178 litres (76.9 cubic feet) when its 60/40-split rear seatbacks are folded down, and that’s one of the easiest procedures in the class due to standard cargo wall-mounted levers that drop each side automatically. It’s not the flattest loading floor, with a fairly steep rise in the middle, but it’s something most owners learn to live with. 

2018 Acura RDX Elite
No one should complain about rear seat roominess as there’s plenty, while mid-range Tech trim adds rear seat heaters. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As for performance, the V6 provides more off the line jump than the majority of base challengers, and while its six-speed automatic might be down a couple of gears by modern-day standards, the torquey engine hardly needs as many shift points to optimize performance. In fact, most won’t notice this shortcoming at all, as it swaps cogs almost unperceivably unless getting hard on the throttle, at which point it does so with nice positive engagements, enhanced by standard steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters for more hands-on command, plus Grade Logic Control that regulates throttle and braking on steep hills. This is joined by standard hill start assist, which locks the brakes so you won’t roll backward before applying the throttle. 

2018 Acura RDX Elite
These standard levers fold the 60/40-split rear seatbacks down automatically. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Pulling back on those paddle shifters is especially enjoyable when the road starts to wind, allowing more engine control for powering out of corners and then setting up the next turn. The RDX’ well-engineered independent suspension helps most in this respect, mind you, thanks to a MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear setup that’s kept in check via amplitude reactive dampers that minimize fore and aft jounce as well as transitional roll while maintaining a smooth, comfortable ride at all times. Plenty of sound deadening materials along with active sound control aid in refinement too, giving the RDX the kind of upscale experience premium buyers gravitate toward. 

2018 Acura RDX Elite
Lower the rear seatbacks and you’ve got more cargo space than most rivals. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

So now you know why the RDX still sells so well in spite of its age, and hopefully can appreciate that it remains an impressive luxury SUV despite its low price point. No doubt the upcoming 2019 RDX will be a wholly better compact luxury utility, but there’s no reason to put off buying the current version if you need to pull the trigger now. The standard V6 is definitely a performance and refinement bonus with little if any negative hit to fuel economy, and the model’s marketplace longevity has got to aid long-term reliability expectations. Topping it all off, the RDX’ standard suite of advanced safety features can’t be beat, making it a no-brainer purchase for smart luxury SUV shoppers. All added up, I’ve got to slot the 2018 RDX into my highly recommended category. Too bad there are so few of them left.

The entry-level luxury car segment is different than most others in the industry. Unlike the larger compact D- and mid-size E-segments that see the Acura TLX and RLX sport-luxury sedans respectively fight…

2018 Acura ILX Technology Road Test

2018 Acura ILX Technology
At less than $30k the 2018 Acura ILX is such a good dollar value that it’s easy to overlook its many other attributes. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The entry-level luxury car segment is different than most others in the industry. Unlike the larger compact D- and mid-size E-segments that see the Acura TLX and RLX sport-luxury sedans respectively fight it out against similarly sized four-door models (plus the odd wagon), such as BMW’s 3 and 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz’ C- and E-Class, and Audi’s A4 and A6, the Japanese brand’s ILX compact sedan goes up against a four-door coupe and five-door hatch from Mercedes, two-door coupe and convertible models from BMW, a (now defunct) five-door hybrid hatch from Lexus, and yes another four-door sedan plus a two-door convertible and five-door plug-in hybrid wagon from Audi. It’s an eclectic mix for sure.

2018 Acura ILX Technology
Despite getting on in years, the ILX still delivers attractive premium styling. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I can’t see many luxury buyers cross shopping the ILX against a BMW 2 Series or any of the five-door family haulers in the class, but the Audi A3 Sedan is the ILX’ closest rival, followed by Mercedes’ CLA. And yes, I can’t be the only one still shaking my head that BMW never entered the North American fray with a four-door sedan version of its 1 Series, but I suppose now that compact SUVs have taken over most brands’ entry-level duties its previous sin of omission may now be seen as clever foresight.

2018 Acura ILX Technology
Yes, these five-element full LED headlamps come standard across the entire ILX line, unlike rivals that charge extra for LEDs. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Yes, there’s a lot of excitement surrounding SUVs as of late, but BMW aside, which sold more than three times the number of X1 crossovers as 2 Series models last year, Mercedes obliterates GLA sales with its one-two CLA/B punch, Audi handily outsells the Q3 with its A3, and Acura sells 100 percent more ILX sedans than its… CDX? Of course, we’re still waiting for Acura to show up with a subcompact SUV of its own, so for now the ILX carries the entire entry-level show.

2018 Acura ILX Technology
You’ll need to move up to A-Spec trim to upgrade these 17-inch alloys to a sportier set of 18s. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Other than being a bit past its stale date, the ILX carries that mantle well. Styling, while still attractive, gives away the car’s age, at least when put beside the aforementioned TLX and RLX sedans that have already been updated with the brand’s new trademark “Diamond Pentagon” grille and complementary body augmentation. Instead, the ILX continues to wear the brand’s outgoing aluminum-tone “Dynamic Power Plenum” grille, a more attractive adaptation of the earlier “shield” grille that’s more commonly and less respectfully known as the “beak”.

2018 Acura ILX Technology
These sharp looking LED taillights have always been a design highlight. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Either way, the ILX wears its front fascia proudly, its centermost portion protruding pointedly, flanking headlamps made up of five “Jewel-Eye” LEDs apiece, and lower apron suitably sporty thanks to a narrow centre air slit and assertive set of corner vents. An upswept shoulder line, shapely waste line, and yet more sculpting along the rocker panels adds depth to its side profile, while an angular set of slim LED taillights has always been an elegant addition to its backside, these topping off a rear bumper cap that nearly mirrors the car’s frontal design when it comes to corner vents. It’s a smart looking ride, rounded out by silver-painted multi-spoke 17-inch alloys on my Technology trimmed tester.

2018 Acura ILX Technology
The ILX delivers a premium experience for very little money. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

True, 17s seem a bit small for an optioned out premium sport sedan, but their size will be appreciated when it comes time to replace their 215/45R17 Michelins. Smaller diameter rubber can lead to substantial savings, and value continues to be an important element of the ILX’ success.

2018 Acura ILX Technology
The gauge cluster and dual-display infotainment system could use an upgrade, but they’re still plenty functional and filled with features. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

At just $29,990 for a base 2018 ILX, it undercuts the A3 by almost 10 percent or $2,810, and the CLA by nearly 20 percent or $5,710, and even more when including freight and fees, while its impressive load of features makes it an even bigger bargain. Standard with the ILX yet optional on the two Germans in question are full LED headlamps, remote engine start, proximity-sensing keyless access, SMS text message reading capability, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, road departure mitigation, and more.

2018 Acura ILX Technology
The ILX houses its colour multi-info display on the centre stack and just slots a simple trip computer between the primary gauges. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

It shares many features with its closest rivals too, including auto on/off headlights, heated power-adjustable side mirrors, ambient interior lighting, pushbutton ignition, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, a leather-wrapped shift knob, a rearview camera with guidelines, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity with streaming audio, tire pressure monitoring, hill start assist, all the usual active and passive safety features, etcetera.

Of note, both the ILX and CLA include standard shift paddles, forward collision warning, and autonomous collision mitigation braking, whereas the ILX and A3 boast standard dual-zone automatic climate control and glass sunroofs.

2018 Acura ILX Technology
Acura’s navigation system is easy to use and very accurate. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course, I’m not going to disrespect the Audi or Merc by neglecting to mention features they include in standard trim that are either extra with the Acura or not available at all, such items being rain sensing wipers, heated front seats, rear seat centre pass-thrus, and auto start/stop that shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling to reduce emissions and save fuel, all but the latter two features optional with the ILX, while the CLA also gets standard memory for its powered driver’s seat, and both of the A3’s front seats are powered while it also includes standard leather upholstery. Additionally, the ILX can’t be had with an electromechanical parking brake, standard on both German models, but (call me a luddite) I must admit to preferring the classic leather-clad handbrake more anyway.

2018 Acura ILX Technology
The standard multi-angle rearview camera covers a lot of ground. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

On that note, the ILX doesn’t offer all-wheel drive either. To be clear, the three cars in this comparison feature standard front-wheel drive, but both German models offer the low- and high-speed traction benefits of four-wheel power, at a significant cost mind you, Mercedes’ 4Matic upping the CLA’s price point by $2,200 and Audi’s Quattro adding $4,800 to the A3’s bottom line. Once again we’re back to the ILX value proposition, these all-wheel drive alternatives retailing for $37,900 and $37,600 respectively, while we haven’t even passed the $30k threshold with the ILX yet.

2018 Acura ILX Technology
Switchgear is well made, but it looks a bit dated. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

In order to do that, $32,490 Premium trim is still less expensive than either German yet adds perforated Milano leather upholstery, powered heatable front seats with two-way driver-side memory, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a larger 8.0-inch backlit colour VGA upper infotainment display controlled by a rotating knob and various buttons on the centre stack, plus a second 7.0-inch multi-use colour touchscreen display below that, a higher grade seven-speaker and subwoofer-enhanced audio system with satellite radio, and blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.

2018 Acura ILX Technology
No one can complain about the ILX’ advanced 8-speed automatic gearbox, which boasts standard steering wheel paddle shifters. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

My third-rung $33,990 Technology trimmed test car, priced slightly higher than the base A3 yet still more affordably than the CLA, added rain-sensing wipers, accurate navigation with detailed mapping, voice recognition, an excellent 10-speaker ELS surround sound audio system with Dolby Pro Logic, enhanced AcuraLink smartphone connectivity, and a HomeLink garage door remote.

2018 Acura ILX Technology
My tester’s powered driver’s seat with memory proved very comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Lastly, if you want to spice up the ILX styling, the $35,390 A-Spec gets everything noted above as well as an aerodynamic body kit featuring side skirts and a rear spoiler, plus fog lamps, sportier machine-finished 18-inch alloys with black painted pockets, metal sport pedals, Lux-Suede upholstery, and a black headliner. I tested this model last year and quite liked its upgraded styling and interior enhancements, while its mere $1,400 bump up from the Tech model is once again easy to budget for.

2018 Acura ILX Technology
The ILX’ powered moonroof isn’t the largest in the class, but it comes standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

All of this value would be moot if the ILX wasn’t a well-built car with the kind of performance expected in the premium sector, and to that end it really does measure up to its European competition. At its heart is a naturally aspirated 2.4-litre four-cylinder that makes wonderful mechanical noises, including some brilliantly raspy highlights when revs near the 6,900 rpm limiter and a suitably sensational exhaust note when pushed hard too. Output is 201 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque, making it an engine that likes to be pushed higher into the revs than the lazier 2.0-litre turbos on offer from Mercedes and Audi, the former good for 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, and the latter making 186 and 221 respectively.

2018 Acura ILX Technology
Rear seat roominess is an ILX forte. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The ILX partially makes up for slightly less go-power by adding an additional forward gear, its eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox wonderfully responsive yet extremely smooth too, while I can’t argue against the two seven-speed Teutonic boxes either.

As for fuel economy, it’s a dead heat with the ILX achieving a claimed rating of 9.4 L/100km in the city, 6.8 on the highway and 8.2 combined, the CLA near identical at 9.6 city, 6.6 highway and 8.2 combined, and the A3 a fraction better at 9.1 city, 6.8 highway and 8.0 combined.

2018 Acura ILX Technology
The ILX trunk is on the small side. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

At the limit handling is a toss-up too, although after extensive testing of all three I probably prefer either German due to their slightly firmer suspension tuning and more exacting responsiveness at the limit. Still, all three deliver great handling dynamics, with the ILX really impressing when pushed aggressively. Likewise, all can be driven comfortably all day long, whether in the confines of the city, enjoying the wide openness of the highway, or winding along a tight, twisting seashore drive. Your choice will come down to personal preference in the end, but no one competitor is necessarily better than the other in this respect.

2018 Acura ILX Technology
Without split-folding rear seats or a centre pass-through, the ILX lacks passenger/cargo flexibility. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

On that note this class isn’t only about performance, as most luxury buyers would probably want quiet refinement more often than not. I have to say all of these entry-level sedans do a good job of coddling their occupants, thanks to generous insulation and high-quality soft-touch synthetic surfaces above the waste, not to mention effective electronic noise canceling systems. The more modern cabins of the CLA and A3 might make them more appealing visually, plus some of their switchgear is nicer, but all stand up to this segment’s expected quality.

2018 Acura ILX Technology
The 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine is sourced from the previous Honda Civic Si, by the way, but comes mated to a much more advanced 8-speed automatic. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

All are roomy and comfortable up front too, while only the CLA lacks rear seat room, it being a four-door coupe and all. As for cargo capacity the CLA’s 470 litres and A3’s 480 beat the ILX’ 350 hands down, the Acura’s smaller trunk strange considering its near identical length to the former and longer dimensions when compared to the latter. What’s more, its single-piece folding rear seatback makes it the least flexible for loading in long cargo when rear passengers are aboard.

I expect Acura to address most of the current model’s shortcomings when the next-generation ILX debuts near the end of this year as a 2019 model, but until then the current model will continue forward as one of the better value propositions in the luxury car market. After all, we can’t expect perfection at such an accommodating base MSRP, especially when factoring in its many standard and agreeably priced options.

The ILX really does delivery solidly above its asking price, with sharp styling, a quality interior, best-in-class standard safety, good economy, and excellent driving dynamics, all for a price that’s thousands less than key competitors. In fact, its fiercest rival is probably the new Civic in top-tier Touring trim, but unless moving up into Si or Type R trim, which won’t allow for an automatic transmission, the ILX delivers much better driving dynamics. In other words, there are still plenty of reasons to choose an ILX over its four-door rivals.