2019 Acura RDX Premium Elite

For those times when you want what everybody else is having, just nicer and with more stuff, the premium crossover offers a solution.

Midsize utility vehicles dominate the market, for reasons easy to see – elevated lines of sight for drivers, easier entry and exit due to the overall height, and (in most cases) all wheel drive – make for a package that suits the needs of a large segment of the population.

And, when a buyer wants such a vehicle, but still wishes to stand out from the crowd (and not have their ride easily confused with all the others on the roads), the makers of luxury brands step up and offer just that.

This is the case with the RDX, from Acura, Honda’s luxury arm. They’ve been selling the combination of everyday usefulness and high style (and of course, enhanced performance) since 2006, and with this third generation have put forth a complete redesign to make their popular offering ever more appealing to driver and passenger alike.

Certainly the 2019 RDX is vastly better looking in its redesigned body – the grille alone is an improvement over past models (which the company describes as ‘diamond pentagon’), and follows up with more pleasing and tapered style from front to rear.

I’m a fan of the new look, mostly because I was never a fan of the old look; that cheese-slicer faux-chrome horizontal band that served as the vehicle’s face just didn’t do anything for me.

The ‘A’ badge at the center of the grille has grown quite a bit larger as well; you won’t miss the branding even at a casual glance.

Naturally, one of Acura’s biggest hooks has always been performance. The manufacturer is dedicated to bringing a sporty and, when pushed, adrenaline charged experience to their models, and the RDX continues to bring that with the latest iteration.

It gets a new engine for the new generation, a turbo two-litre (which replaces the 3.5L V6 of past models) that is capable of 272hp and 280 lb.-ft. of torque. The power comes on quickly and readily – I didn’t find any significant lag or delay when punching the accelerator, regardless of which of the available drive modes I’d selected.

The intelligent, adaptive suspension and all-wheel drive system (called ‘super-handling all wheel drive’ in Acura-speak, SH-AWD for short) keeps the ride under control on slippery terrain, or when performing enthusiastic cornering just for the fun of it.

Inside the cabin, the RDX follows through on the ‘premium’ promise, decking the seating surfaces out in comfortable leather and the dash and door trim with dark wood inserts. It was all quite pleasant to look at and touch in the test vehicle I used for this review, as was the brown-on-black color scheme inside the cabin.

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From the driver’s position, the 2019 RDX is great. I love a heads-up information display, putting the pertinent info (particularly the speed) in easy view right in front of you. I am throwing in a special shout-out to the 16-way power adjustable driver’s seat in my Platinum Elite trim test vehicle, Acura offers one of the best driver’s seats available.

The steering feels great, it’s smooth and responsive, allowing a feeling of connection and control. Braking is very effective, without being grabby, even when applying the brakes hard.

As is the case with any vehicle from any carmaker looking to compete in the premium market, technology abounds; some of it good and some of it… well some of it I could do without.

I love the look and design of the center console and gauge cluster, it’s a masterpiece of high-end industrial design. The framing of the mode selector knob and gear selector on the center console looks good, as does the central information display on the dash.

Things I don’t especially care for though, are the gear selector itself (it is the ‘strip-of-buttons’ motif found in an increasing number Honda and Acura products). I just prefer an old-skool shifter. Maybe that’s just me. I feel the same way about the turny-knob selector found in several FCA vehicles, like the Ram 1500.

Another thing I didn’t enjoy in the RDX is the touchpad interface. Similar to what you’ll find in other premium offerings from, say, Lexus’ NX, it is like the pad on most laptop computers. While the one in the RDX is perhaps more precise, I find that with any of these systems, inevitable some sort of grit or crumb or particle of dust ends up on the pad and you feel it under your finger when touching the pad and ew, I hate that.

As for the pricing of the vehicle, well decide for yourself.

The one used for this review was the top-of-the-line trim, a Platinum Elite (with no additional options, and I do like a vehicle that comes pretty much complete without having to tick a lot of boxes to get all the extras required to fully put together the car you want), and it rolls with an MSRP of $54,990 before taxes and destination charges.

In the world of premium crossover utes, that’s actually not out of the norm, and I will mention that 2019 RDX can be had in five different models (base, Technology, Elite and A-Spec), all of which provide the basics of the Acura experience, starting at entry point of $43,990

©Wade Ozeroff 2019

2019 RAM 1500 Limited

Big, bold and (arguably) beautiful, revamped and reworked for 2019 the Ram 1500 competes with other upper-niche trucks that seek to fill the higher echelons of the pickup market.

This one, a 1500 in ‘Limited’ trim definitely positions itself near the top. It’s a combination of comfortable and well-appointed cabin, with a piled-on collection of tech and creature comforts wrapped in a body painted ‘Diamond Black Crystal Pearl’ (quite a mouthful there, eh?).

Powered by a 5.7L HEMI eight-cylinder engine dispensing huge power and torque (395 hp and 410 lb.-ft., respectively) and four wheel drive, this is the Ram for the well-heeled and style-conscious buyer.

Of course that comes at a price, and omigawd – have you seen how much you can option the price of a pickup to these days? Equipped as it is, this one bent the MSRP to over thousand dollars (CDN, of course), but I’ll come back to that in a bit.

Clambering up into (and out of) the cabin is aided by a foldout, power running board/step, which is handy because the Ram is a tall vehicle, but once everyone is inside there is a great deal of space in both seat rows, and rear seat legroom is extraordinarily good.

Quality leather wraps the seats, and passengers and driver (me) alike found them extremely comfortable. The climate controls allow for everyone to tailor the heat or A/C to their individual preference, but it was mostly heat that was in demand at the time of year I drove the Ram. On that note, I do love a vehicle with a heated steering wheel. Once you’ve experienced this function there’s no going back.

I loved the sound system in the Limited tester (it’s a Harmon/Kardon rig with 19 speakers), and I very quickly resorted to using the vehicle’s voice-command system for changing stations on the radio, because if I’m being honest here, I found the center stack interface difficult to use.

There’s a big touchscreen (and in the Limited its very big, twelve inches) that will display the various onboard functions of the Ram. You can split the display into up to four quadrants to show multiple info at once, and it is pretty bright. Like, almost too bright, especially at night.

A very good camera system with the Limited helped me out tremendously, as I don’t regularly drive vehicles of this size; so a 360 degree view along with backup cameras and rear cross-traffic alerts was a real benefit.

The ride is very good in the Limited, on virtually any road surface it handles bumps and rough patches well. Steering is at least the equal of any of it competitors, and it handles well (although what I mean is, it handles well for a truck, it’s obviously not a Porsche we’re dealing with here.

Gear selector for the 8-speed automatic transmission.

Overall, I liked the Ram during my time with it; although I primarily treated it is a good-looking luxury vehicle rather than a work truck. I like the exterior appearance (especially since the company has backed off a bit from the ‘gigantic grille’ look that they embraced for a long time.

It has lots of storage space inside, ample electrical and usb plugs for various devices, and delivers a top-flight passenger experience.

The downsides, for me, were the overall size of the thing, the difficult electronic interface, and of course fuel economy. I shouldn’t get to picky about the economy, of course – I mean what do you expect from a 4×4 pickup? The manufacturer states combined city/highway mileage of 16.1L/100 km, which is actually pretty good for a V8, and I managed to bring it down to 14.5 in a roughly even mix of city and highway use (but I admit, I wasn’t pulling a load or hauling anything in the bed, so that number will only go up if the Ram is driven as intended).

The price, though, dayumn. Clearly, I am showing off my embitterment about my economic and social stats by saying this, but where the heck are all the people coming from who can justify an $85,295 pickup truck?

Seriously, I’m askin’ here. If anybody knows the secret please let me in on it.

Limited models start at a little over 74K, but the vehicle I used for this drive included the aforementioned paint job ($275), $445 for a larger fuel tank (124 litres), the Level 1 equipment group ($3,895), folding tonneau cover for the bed ($650), anti-spin rear differential ($525), panoramic sunroof ($1,595), 22-inch wheels ($750), and $870 for hitch receiver and trailer brake controller.

Book plug!

Mahoney’s Camaro
by Michael J. Clark

Fiction fans!

Here’s a niche market for you – gritty Winnipeg noire, set in a not-too-distant past and told in the time honoured dialog of the genre.

Author Michael Clark has wrought a really special combination of foul play meeting regular folks, with a twist or two that makes the whole tale worth following to the end.

Clark’s gift for bringing back the Canadiana of yore, the stuff that we all grew up with (remember OV stubbies?) along with his detailed and genuine love of the location and situations he puts the characters into, fold the tale of the titular character and car into an engaging read.

*full disclosure: I know Michael, from back in the day, when we both wrote automotive features for rival newspapers and would run into each other at product launch events; so basically this is me saying “hey! I know that guy!”