Folks uncomfortable with the latest computer gizmos may be suspicious of new technology. I'm sympathetic. I mean, honestly, can you really pause live TV?
So when the 2019 Acura RDX arrived with a virtually buttonless infotainment system and an alien-like twin-pad, finger-slide controller, I was only too happy to sit for a tutorial from Chris Naughton, a Honda North America spokesman and your humble correspondent's go-to guy for all things Acura (Honda's luxury brand). He provided me a complete walk-around on the new RDX, 15 minutes of which were dedicated to its techy infotainment interface.
But to focus exclusively on infotainment would be to miss the big picture: everything about RDX is new.
Fully redesigned for 2019, RDX is offered in base, Technology, A-Spec and Advance trims. Each offers front- or all-wheel drive and all boast RDX's new high-strength-steel-intensive architecture.
Below its handsome new skin, RDX jettisons its former 3.5-liter V-6 in favor of a 2.0-liter turbo four. Displacement and cylinder count shrink, as does horsepower -- now 272 compared to the outgoing six's 279, but torque grows by 28, to 280 lb.-ft., improving on the six pack's 252. And that grunt is fully onboard at just 1,600 rpm. The V-6 made drivers wait until 4,900 turns for peak torque.
Replacing RDX's former six-speed automatic is a new 10-speed auto shifter.
Meanwhile, the available AWD system includes torque vectoring. That handling wizardry not only is capable of shifting up to 70 percent of the engine's power to the rear wheels, it also can send 100 percent of that aft power to either rear wheel if necessary.
Four drive modes include Snow, Comfort, Sport and Sport+. In every RDX, they alter steering heft, throttle response and transmission shift points. In the Advance AWD we sampled, suspension damping also is included.
It all adds up to a new RDX with sharp handling, quick throttle response, and a zero-to-60 sprint of roughly six-and-a-half seconds -- not to mention a lot more driving fun than its workman-like predecessor.
On the road, transmission shifts under a provoked throttle are noticeable while the engine's exhaust note is pleasantly snarly. (I had a passenger who complained the engine sound was unpleasantly coarse. But, being egalitarian, I figure everyone has a right to my opinion: it was pleasantly snarly.)
In 150 miles mixed city/hwy, we got 21 mpg in our AWD Advance -- 2 less than the EPA expected. In fact, despite a smaller engine, two fewer cylinders and four additional gear cogs, RDX's "combined" EPA mpg ratings improve a mere 1 mpg over the V-6 in both front- and AWD models.
Interior room is aces, even under RDX's standard panoramic sun roof, while the cabin decor in our Advance -- rich leather, piano-black accents, luscious real-wood trim -- was gorgeous. And the ELS audio system (complete with four speakers in the headliner!) sounded great.
Which brings us to infotainment and its paucity of knobs and buttons.
Control of the non-touch screen is via two finger pads -- one a square that controls the larger, left-side screen display, the other a rectangle to control the smaller, right-side screen display. You slide around on the pad to highlight a function. Press down on the same spot and the function is engaged.
Those who don't want to visit RDX's pad can use voice commands, while artistic types can even write commands -- programming a navigation destination, for example -- on the touch pad. (Alas, I didn't have much luck with that. I guess RDX agrees with my 7th-grade teacher, Sister Amelia: my handwriting is awful.)
We longed for a tuning knob and hard buttons, but we figure techies will love this stuff. Still, buyers would do well to take the dealer-offered tutorial, although, in the end, we suspect most folks will simply learn the stuff they want to use and ignore the rest.
Other standards include keyless entry and start, Apple CarPlay (Android Auto is coming later), 4G LTE in-car Wi-Fi and safety nannies like Collision Mitigation Braking, Forward Collision Warning, Road Departure Mitigation, Lane Departure Warning, Adaptive Cruise and more.
It's a techy new world, and RDX embraces it. Happily, it also embraces an old school idea: driving fun is worth having.