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I drive 50 to 60 new vehicles a year, of all kinds: sports cars, hybrids, pickups, mini-vans, sedans, luxury, economy box, electric – you name it.
And most of the time, I look forward to sliding behind the wheel, for a bunch of reasons. If it’s a new Porsche, for example – well, that speaks for itself. If it’s a mini-van, I look forward to driving something that’s easy to get along with, roomy and with easy ingress/egress. If it’s a hybrid, I can anticipate a thrifty time behind the wheel. And on it goes.
I can also usually count on some manufacturers to consistently provide a pleasant driving experience: Toyota, Kia, Mazda and Mercedes all spring to mind. And, until recently, so did Honda. Not necessarily because their products stir the blood or raise my pulse, but because, for the most part, Honda vehicles are well thought-out, easy to get along with and highly driveable.
But that seems to be changing. Acuras, in particular, are becoming less and less driver-friendly, and more confrontational. If Honda’s upscale division is trying to enhance the driving experience and make their models more usable, they’re not succeeding – quite the opposite, in fact.
Take the RDX … please.
Available in five trim levels, power for the 2020 RDX is provided by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that develops some 272 horsepower. It’s mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission only.
That’s more than enough power. But this engine has a little more chatter to it than I’ve come to expect from Honda, especially during takeoff from a dead stop. On the highway, there’s no problem, but engine noise is a titch excessive around town.
All-wheel drive is also standard with the RDX. And the engine requires premium fuel.
My tester was the A-Spec model and I may as well address one of the major sources of irritation for this vehicle right off the top: the push-button shifter. When you want to go from reverse to drive, it definitely takes its time trying to figure this out. Parallel parking is also much more complicated than it should be.
This transmission setup needs to be revisited by Acura. It’s imprecise, clumsy and annoying.
Another major source of irritation with this car is the Touch Pad Interface. This does more than control the radio, it basically connects the driver to many of the car’s functions: navigation system, radio, Bluetooth, etc., etc. It’s all accessed via a centre console-mounted touch pad.
It doesn’t work! This is the worst system of its kind I’ve ever had to grapple with and that’s saying something.
The touch pad is wildly inaccurate and hyper-sensitive. If you’re driving and want to change radio bands/sources, for example, the slightest irregularity in the road will give your hand a bump and then you wind up with something completely different. You have to correct your mistake and start over again. And the connection points on the system are counter-intuitive – I never did figure out how to get AM radio, for example.
This may not seem like a big deal, but when you consider how much time we spend adjusting the radio and messing around with all the other electronic gizmos in today’s breed of automobile, a system this poorly designed takes on major importance. Were I in the market for this car, this feature would stop me in my tracks. It’s absolutely awful.
The RDX offers 2,260 litres of cargo space. This is quite generous, and the back seats fold down simply and efficiently. It’s a pity the designers didn’t extend this simplicity of operation to the driver-vehicle interface.
And, thankfully, Honda/Acura hasn’t lost the ability to build in a nice sense of driveability. Ignore things like the shifter and interface and the RDX is still a reasonably pleasant driving experience.
Our family vehicle is a high-mileage, well-used Honda CR-V. In just about every way, it’s a better vehicle than the RDX, because it’s simple, easy to get along with and driver-friendly.
It’s time Honda got back to its roots.
2020 Acura RDX
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
|Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Horsepower: 272 at 6,500 rpm
Torque: 280 foot pounds at 1,600 to 4,500 rpm
Base price: $$43,990
Fuel economy: 11.3 litres/100 km city and 9.1 litres/100 km highway, with premium gas
Some alternatives: Volvo XC60, Audi Q3, Lexus NX300t, BMW X3, Land Rover Discovery, Buick Enclave, Lincoln MKC, Alfa Romeo Stelvio.
Ted Laturnus writes for Troy Media’s Driver Seat Associate website. An automotive journalist since 1976, he has been named Canadian Automotive Journalist of the Year twice and is past-president of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).
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