So you’ve decided the 2020 Acura RDX is the luxury SUV for you—great! No car is perfect, but we’ve (mostly) come to like the RDX’s overall package after naming it a 2019 SUV of the Year finalist and driving a 2019 RDX A-Spec for nearly a year. But if you’re not sure which RDX trim is best, we can help. Besides our more than 20,000 miles in an RDX A-Spec, we recently spent some quality time with a 2020 RDX Advance, the highest trim in the model lineup.
So if you’re comparing the RDX A-Spec against the RDX Advance, which trim should you pick?
Wait, what’s wrong with the RDX Technology package model?
Nothing’s wrong with the RDX Tech package model, and you’ll save a ton of money if you can forgo the features and added appeal of the A-Spec and line-topping Advance trims. Keeping those extra thousands of dollars in your bank account does come at a cost, however. Passing on the A-Spec or Advance means you can’t get those RDX trims’ ventilated front seats, and the sound system only has 12 speakers instead of 16.
The Tech package also lacks the A-Spec’s dark brushed aluminum trim and the Advance’s attractive matte wood trim, an aesthetically pleasing detail you’ll notice on a regular basis. To top it off, the Advance trim gets front side acoustic glass and an adaptive damping suspension. I actually like the 2020 RDX Tech package’s 19-inch wheels and value argument a great deal, but I also live in hot Southern California. If I were buying a new luxury SUV, I’d think carefully about buying a $40,000-$50,000 new car without ventilated front seats.
Curb Appeal Advantage-RDX A-Spec
A new luxury SUV’s design should speak to you. Considering the price premium, the emotional factor is important when a Honda or Mazda would have done the basic job just as well. And in that respect, I’ve really come to appreciate the 2019 and 2020 RDX’s exterior design. The huge front grille, the grille’s detailing, and those headlights give it a smart and confident look. The profile is a bit busy but still appealing in the way the roofline is subtly pulled downward. Too bad the visibility from inside is so awful.
For me, this category goes to the A-Spec, which is designed to look and feel sportier than any other 2020 RDX trim (our red 2019 long-termer is pictured below). The A-Spec’s huge exhaust outlets are amusingly large, but they complement the rest of the trim’s “I’m sporty!” efforts. Glossy black trim replaces the chrome of the Advance and other trims, and A-Spec badges appear on the front fender and liftgate. Find an RDX in the A-Spec-exclusive color of Apex Blue Pearl to match against the trim’s 20-inch black wheels, and then you’ve really got a bold package. Style is subjective, but I like the cheaper Tech package’s 19-inch wheels better than the Advance’s 19s.
Interior Appeal Advantage-RDX Advance
Step inside the 2019 or 2020 RDX, and it’s a different story. Even with 20,000 miles on our RDX’s odometer, sometimes I still find myself feeling and appreciating the A-Spec’s Ultrasuede trim on the seats and on the passenger-side dash. Having said that, my time in a 2020 RDX Advance reminded me of how refreshing it is to drive a car with an interior that has a splash of color other than black. True, the RDX A-Spec has contrasting piping in the seats and the more adventurous among us could daily drive an A-Spec with its available bright-red and black seat combo. I find the Advance, with its matte wood trim and choice of four interior colors (black, brown, gray, and beige), to be a better fit.
Driving Fun Advantage-RDX A-Spec (in a photo finish)
The MotorTrend test team has track-tested a number of 2019 and 2020 RDXs at this point, and to be honest, this 2020 RDX Advance AWD tester doesn’t change much. The 2020 RDX hit 60 mph in 6.8 seconds—0.4 second slower than our A-Spec car—and actually beat our long-termer in the figure-eight test. Exclusive to MotorTrend, the test evaluates handling, braking, acceleration, and the transitions in between. The 2020 RDX Advance finished in 27.3 seconds at 0.62 g (average) to the 2019 RDX A-Spec’s 27.6 seconds at 0.61 g (average). On the track, testing director Kim Reynolds commented on a “wall of software” getting in the way of his ability to explore the Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system’s limits.
On the street, however, both RDX trims feel fun to drive for a luxury SUV. I like how the engine sounds in both cars, though it’s pumped up in the A-Spec. As for the brakes, we initially said brake feel was our RDX A-Spec’s weakest dynamic link. Many thousands of miles later, I still feel that way—you have to push way too far down before any actual braking occurs. The 2020 RDX Advance I drove felt slightly improved. On the track, both cars experienced some degree of dive in panic braking from 60 mph as well as lots of tire noise, with the 2020 RDX Advance coming to a stop in 120 feet to our long-term 2019 RDX A-Spec’s 116 feet.
Both RDX variants fall on the sportier side of the segment. As we validated again through testing, that’s especially true when you’re not pushing the car to the absolute limit on a track.
Ride Quality Advantage-RDX Advance
This category wasn’t even close. It’s not clear whether the Advance-exclusive adaptive damping system or higher-profile tires can take the most credit here, but the RDX Advance definitely rides better. Don’t go thinking that the Advance feels like it rides on a cloud, though. You can still feel the road, but despite that connection to your surroundings, it’s more comfortable than the A-Spec.
RDX Advance vs. RDX A-Spec-The Features You Get for $1,900 More
Maybe you don’t notice or mind the dynamic differences between the two RDX models. If you’re more into feature content, know that the Advance (pictured immediately above and below) is $1,900 more than the A-Spec. For that premium, Acura includes a 10.5-inch head-up display, matte wood trim, a surround-view camera system, rain-sensing wipers, and acoustic front side glass.
Let’s break that down. The head-up display is a good unit that only partially washes out when viewed with polarized sunglasses, but I have more mixed feelings about the multicamera parking aid. Such systems are a favorite feature of mine, as they help make sure you’re parallel within a parking space, and the better systems can even show you whether you’re about to curb a front wheel. My issue with the Acura’s system is mainly that it doesn’t use the full 10.2-inch display. With some serious reservations, I love the idea of a screen as large as the Acura’s, placed in the most ideal location on the dash. I’m also a fan of the way the screen easily splits into two, with a larger section devoted to any number of things including Apple CarPlay, and the smaller portion on the right to a clock/date screen, audio info, or a small map. But it’s slightly frustrating to have the still-useful surround-view camera only using the main portion of the screen instead of stretching all the way across.
As for the acoustic front side glass, I came to increasingly appreciate that the more I spent time in the RDX Advance.
Despite my extensive experience behind the wheel of our 2019 RDX A-Spec long-termer and a 2020 RDX Advance tester, this is a tough one. What complicates my fantasy RDX decision is that I just don’t like the Advance’s 19-inch wheel design—and that superficial consideration is important. So to me, the RDX A-Spec vs. Advance trim comparison doesn’t represent a price walk of $1,900. Because I keep cars for at least five years, the difference for me is $1,900 plus potentially more to invest in custom wheels or refinish the stock design down the road.
The Tech, A-Spec, and Advance trims all offer great value, including smart interior packaging—that translates to more space for people and their stuff than you’ll find in most other luxury SUVs in this price range. The sound of the 272-hp turbo-four also speaks to Acura’s sporty focus, and that’s present even in the Advance trim I drove.
I’m torn. I value the A-Spec’s visual specialness, but appreciate the Advance-only acoustic front side glass and ride for smoother commuting. Because I’m a pragmatic type, I might reluctantly go with the RDX Advance for its wood trim as well as its quieter and smoother ride. It’s still got enough of the A-Spec’s personality from behind the wheel, but I can see why some would go for that trim instead.