2019 Acura RDX A-Spec Off-Road Review – Wait, OFF-ROAD?

It may be better suited to the pavement, but the SH-AWD system has your back, wherever you are.

2019 Acura RDX A Spec Photo: TFLcar

Talk about sending a sports-car up an off-road trail.

The 2019 Acura RDX A-Spec was never meant to do any off-roading. Yet, despite this, it kept up with much better suited vehicles in the rough. The event that led us to take this RDX into the rough was the annual Rocky Mountain Redline Climb. It’s an event that brings automakers, journalists and a variety of vehicles to the mountains near Breckenridge, Colorado. There, using a basecamp that was an 1860s coal-mine camp (Golden Horseshoe Tours), journalists take these vehicles on challenging off-road trails. It’s a gas and we jumped from one ride to another, amid the scenic mountainsides.

Photo: Nathan Leach-Proffer

Watch those 20’s

The Acura representative was under the impression that there would be a good place to let the 2019 Acura RDX A-Spec stretch its legs, like a rally stage. While there were a few places to go sideways, it was more of a crawl and articulation path. Still, the Super Handling All Wheel Drive system (SH-AWD) worked remarkably well and the sporty Acura took on all obstacles.

The SH-AWD system works in a similar way the Honda Pilot’s system works. Unlike many competitors, it’s not reliant on using ABS to send power to wheels. Per Acura’s representative, “The system continuously determines the optimal level of power distribution between the front and rear wheels – and between the rear wheels individually – based on a continuous analysis of wheel speed, steering angle, lateral G-force and yaw rate.”

Photo: Nathan Leach-Proffer

While the system can send up to 70% its power to the rear wheels, and then to the outside wheel in corners, it seemed pretty happy to send power aft in low traction situations too. The massive 20-inch wheels were totally out of place on the off-road trails, as were its street-biased tires. Despite that, once again, the SH-AWD made it work.

The reason I am surprised is based on how excellent the 2019 Acura RDX A-Spec is on the street. Response from the turbocharged 272 horsepower four-cylinder engine is nearly lag-free. The 280 lbs-feet of torque comes in between 1,600 and 4,500 rpm – which was real useful off-road. Torque was on tap before you had to push the engine too hard. The only transmission available is a 10-speed which is hooked up to a push-button selector.

Fuel economy isn’t bad either

Driven correctly (we didn’t) you can get 21 mpg city, 26 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined. That’s not too bad, and the comfort in the cabin is second to none. Ergonomics are pretty good, but the button-based transmission and infotainment system are unnecessarily complicated. The look of the interior rivals the Germans.

Photo: Nathan Leach-Proffer

This vehicle, particularly in A-Spec guise, is not designed for major off-roading. Still, if you get lost on a trail, the intelligent all-wheel drive system has your back. Unfortunately, the articulation was minimal and in some cases up to two wheels would lift off the surface. The sporty on-road suspension set up is the culprit here.

Despite the long, low front lip, minimum ground clearance is 8.3-inches. Not bad considering some vehicles in this class are under eight-inches off the ground. The extra grunt from the turbo four-cylinder (which is shared with a few hot Hondas) gives you outstanding power.

No, it’s no off-roader, but it did better than anyone expected and that’s saying something.

Oh, and its MSRP of $46,985? I consider it a bargain considering what you get for the dough. Seriously, it may have a few flaws, but I admire how the 2019 Acura RDX A-Spec for how much it gives you. Even in the rough, where it does not belong, it surprises.

Nathan Adlen
Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism - Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. Brought up in the California car culture and educated in theater, childhood education, film, journalism and history, Nathan now lives with his family in Denver, CO. His words, good humor and video are enjoyed worldwide.