• 2020 Acura MDX SH-AWD Advance

Road Test: 2020 Acura RDX SH-AWD Advance

Putting Some Sport in a Luxury Compact SUV

Acura proudly will tell anyone listening that the RDX is the best-selling compact luxury SUV in America. Let’s also toss in that it is the best-selling compact luxury SUV built in America, coming out of the Acura plant in East Liberty, Ohio.

The value and sales leader coming at you

Acura did its homework in 2019 when the Acura RDX was completely redesigned. Building a high-quality compact SUV that is pretty much on-target for what consumers are looking for means the 2020 Acura RDX hits the sweet spot on design, performance, handling, comfort and technology.

Getting There

When Clean Fleet Report was handed the keys to a 2020 Acura RDX SH-AWD Advance, we wasted no time looking at it before pressing the start button and hitting the road. Make no mistake, road trips are exactly what Acura had in mind when they designed the two-row, five-passenger RDX.

2020 Acura RDX SH-AWD Advance
Enough engine to put some sport in the compact luxury SUV

Power is provided by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, producing 272 horsepower and 280 pounds-feet of torque. The power to the all-wheel drive system, which Acura calls SH-AWD with the SH standing for Super Handling, is through a 10-speed automatic with sequential SportShift paddle shifters. Zero-to-60 times were constantly around 6.6-seconds, making for some off-the-line fun.

The EPA fuel economy numbers are 21 mpg city/27 highway/23 combined. With that highway number oh-so-close to the magic 30 mpg that all crossovers should strive for, Clean Fleet Report was up to the challenge of surpassing the EPA numbers. In two, 100-mile highway runs with the adaptive cruise control set at 65 mph, we averaged 30.5 mpg. So, if you drive implementing the sage advice from my high school driver’s education instructor to “Accelerate like there is a raw egg between your foot and the pedal,” it is possible to get 30+ miles down the road for every gallon of 91 octane.

2020 Acura RDX SH-AWD Advance
The RDX’s panoramic sunroof brings the outside inside

The transmission has two drive modes of Normal and Sport; the Integrated Dynamics System has four more driving modes of Comfort, Snow, Sport and Sport+. Managed by the large wheel on the center console, selecting one of the modes integrates, and instantly results in specific driving dynamics that affect the throttle response, steering, suspension dampers and the exhaust note. The biggest swing is from Comfort to Sport+ where the feel is noticeable during acceleration and ride dynamics. Comfort was the place to be when on the open road cruising the highway, while Sport and Sport+ were where you needed/wanted to be on the twisties.

SH-AWD = Super Handling-All Wheel Drive

The “SH” stands for Super Handling, a big promise from a 4,019-pound compact SUV. The excellent handling characteristics are delivered through the electrified torque vectoring that instantly applies traction to the wheel most in need of grip. Torque vectoring is most effective during accelerating and turning, where the engine torque is split right to left and front to rear.

Whether on high-speed freeway onramps or mountain corners, the driver doesn’t sense these torque transitions, except in the positive and predictable handling being delivered. Understeer was non-existent, so it was possible to get back on the gas quickly when hitting the mountain curves hard. The Brits call this “point and squirt cornering,” where you take aim, then using positive braking and a slow entry with quick steering, you can accelerate out of the corner hard and never lose grip or confidence. This describes the RDX SH-AWD, with torque vectoring, perfectly.

2020 Acura RDX SH-AWD Advance
The seats are up to the sport and luxury offered

The mechanical part of the handling includes front MacPherson struts, rear multi-link, stabilizer bars and an active damper suspension system. The 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels were shod with 255/50 R20 high-performance Goodyear Eagle all-season tires. The grip was sure and confident, with the RDX SH-AWD feeling planted at highway speeds or aggressive cornering. One can only imagine the grip and handling if the all-season tires were replaced with summer tires.

Stopping comes from the four-wheel, ABS disc brakes, electronic brake force distribution and brake assist. The stops were straight and consistent, with a bit of brake pedal fade after repeated, spirited applications on a warm day.

Driving Experience: Exterior

The 2020 Acura RDX SH-AWD cuts a commanding presence, with the jewel-shaped headlights set wide on the fenders outside the diamond pentagon grille. For good measure the grille is centered with a very large Acura emblem, not so subtly reminding oncoming drivers what will soon upon them. The sides are smooth with architectural sculpturing on the upper doors as well as a chrome accent strip down low. The roofline with a panoramic power moonroof, ends with a color-keyed shark fin antenna and a very small spoiler over the hands-free power liftgate. The tail is clean with twin chrome exhaust tips on the outer edges of the fascia.

Driving Experience: Interior

Clean Fleet Report was driving the 2020 Acura RDX SH-AWD Advance, which is one of three trim lines of RDX and RDX Spec A. The RDX Advance includes the Tech and Advance packages, which loaded the interior with every feature expected on a luxury SUV. The dash is black, offset with brushed aluminum and Olive Ash wood with open grain accents. The interior’s overall Black and Graystone color scheme was very attractive. The driver and front passenger had 16-way ventilated and heated, power leather seats. Out back, the second row has generous head and leg room in heated, leather seats. HVAC vents, power ports and cup holders complete the rear seating environment.

2020 Acura RDX SH-AWD Advance
A driver-friendly environment with some quirks

The cockpit design is driver-friendly with the gauges in easy-to-read black with soft orange numbers. The usual type of gear shifter was replaced with a large chromed wheel located on the center stack. All controls are in easy reach, including those for the dual-zone automatic climate system. The heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel contains audio telephone, Bluetooth and voice controls. The center console has a lower area that can hold smaller items.

Standard on the RDX Advance was the infotainment system (information and entertainment) equipped with the 710-watt, 12-speaker ELS Studio Premium 3D audio system that included SiriusXM, FM/CD/HDAM with MP3 playback capability. There is an auxiliary audio jack, USB port with iPod connectivity, Apple CarPlay and a 4G LTE mobile hotspot. This sound system is amazing, quite possibly better than anything in your house.

2020 Acura RDX SH-AWD Advance
Rear accommodations have luxury features, too

To operate the system, you will find the center console-mounted True Touchpad Interface, which has been designed to mimic the screen. It works by the area on the touchpad being touched, correlating with an area on the screen. There is no mouse or cursor to drag; you are to swipe from side to side, corner to corner. There was nothing intuitive about this process, and even after some personal instruction by an Acura executive, I never really got the hang of it. Maybe it becomes a seamless operation in time, but one week in the RDX Advance was not enough.


Three greatly appreciated convenience features were the head-up display, rain-sensing wipers, and the Surround View Camera. The camera provides a downward 360º look at anything that may be in the vehicle’s surrounding area, and you will come to rely on this nifty feature especially when backing and parking.


The RDX Advance is well-equipped with the AcuraWatch suite of safety and driver assistance technologies. Some of these are lane keep assist, road departure mitigation, forward collision braking and mitigation and lane departure warning.

2020 Acura RDX SH-AWD Advance
As an SUV, the RDX offers storage/hauling space

Other safety features are nine air bags, a tire pressure monitoring system, collapsible steering column, anti-theft alarm and an engine immobilizer.

The 2020 RDX has earned a US Government National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score, where 5 Stars is their highest safety rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the 2020 RDX its top safety pick, for overall crash protection.

Pricing and Warranties

Clean Fleet Report’s 2020 Acura RDX SH-AWD Advance did not have any options, so the MSRP was $47,700. Pricing excludes the $995 destination and handling and fee.

The 2020 RDX comes with these warranties:

  • New Vehicle – Four years/50,000 miles
  • Powertrain – Six years/70,000 miles
  • Roadside Assistance – Four years/50,000 miles
  • Corrosion Perforation – Five years/Unlimited Miles

Observations: 2020 Acura RDX SH-AWD Advance

The 2020 Acura RDX SH-AWD Advance is a tremendous value for what it delivers, quite possibly the best dollar-for-dollar luxury compact SUV, which is probably why it is the sales leader.

2020 Acura RDX SH-AWD Advance
The view of the rest of the luxury compact SUV category

The redesign that took place in 2019 will most likely carry over for a few years. Therefore, you can get one of these very nice SUVs now and enjoy the contemporary design for years to come.

If you need a bit more space than a sedan, and want to step-up to a more premium SUV, then by all means visit your Acura dealership and take the 2020 Acura RDX SH-AWD Advance for a lengthy test drive. We will be interested in what you think.

Make sure to opt-in to the Clean Fleet Report newsletter (top right of page) to be notified of all new stories and vehicle reviews.

Whatever you end up buying, Happy Driving!

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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

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About Author: John Faulkner

John Faulkner is an automotive marketing professional with more than 30 years experience branding, launching and marketing automobiles. He has worked with General Motors (all Divisions), Chrysler (Dodge, Jeep, Eagle), Ford and Lincoln-Mercury, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota on consumer events and sales training programs. His interest in automobiles is broad and deep, beginning as a child riding in the back seat of his parent's 1950 Studebaker. He has a keen appreciation of Art Deco design, no bias for domestic versus foreign makes and loves competition - whether that be F1, IndyCar, Sports Cars, NASCAR or participating in Track Days at places such as Laguna Seca, Thunderhill or Willow Springs. John lives in Dana Point, CA, and enjoys a top-down drive on PCH on an early Sunday morning.

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