Updated: Apr 1
Living on the west side of the Sierra Nevada has major benefits, not least of all the roads in the foothills. It's about sixty miles from the last piece of flat land in the Sacramento Valley to any of the Sierra summits (Echo, Carson, Ebbetts), and all the highways, local, county and Forest Service roads are both breathtakingly beautiful and a great test of any vehicle's handling capabilities. So, when the 2020 Acura RDX SH-AWD A-Spec landed in my driveway, there was only one thing to do---head for the hills.
Let's stop for a second and untangle the alphabet soup in the name. SH-AWD is Acura's Super Handling All Wheel Drive system. It's been around for 16 years and by far the best technical explanation of how it works is by fellow NorCal journalist Alex Dykes of Alex on Autos.
Watching that video would be nine minutes and 21 seconds well spent, but if you are going all TL:DW on me, the quick and dirty explanation is that it's torque vectoring---sensing when to favor the front wheels, when to favor the rear, and in turns, when to give more power to outer and inner wheels in the turn. All of the torque---100% can be transferred to the left or right rear wheels.
SH-AWD is now in its fourth generation, with 40% greater maximum torque capacity and 30% faster torque transfer. The term "handles like it's on rails" is a cliche', but so be it. The RDX SH-AWD A-Spec tracks the trickiest of mountain roads effortlessly.
A-Spec is an appearance package, but a very thorough one, bringing 20-inch A-Spec wheels, front and rear bumper garnish, LED fog lights, large exhaust finishers, gloss black trim, dark headlight and taillight treatements, red illuminated gauges, a perforated leather steering wheel, chrome-plated paddle shifters, accent stitching, a black headliner, Ultrasuede seat inserts and dash material, aluminum trim, an A-Spec sill plate and badging, metal sport pedals, a 16-speaker, 710-watt ELS Studio 3D audio system, and ventilated front seats.
Beyond that, the 2020 Acura RDX SH-AWD A-Spec has what you find in other RDX variants---a 2.0-liter VTEC turbo four-cylinder making 272 horsepower and 280 pounds per foot of torque and a ten-speed automatic transmission. Zero to 60 happens in a brisk 6.4 seconds. Top speed is 125 miles per hour. The EPA fuel economy estimate is a respectable 21 city/26 highway.
Base price for the 2020 Acura RDX SH-AWD is $45,800. The window sticker is at the end of this review so you can see the full list, but beyond what we've already discussed, the standard equipment includes a panoramic moonroof with tilt and slide, 12-way driver and passenger front seats, dual-zone climate control and navigation.
And with Acura's one-price per trim level policy, that's it. Just add $995 destination and handling and the as-tested price comes to $46,795.
The 2020 Acura RDX SH-AWD A-Spec is, all things considered, a rare creature---the family crossover with sports car genes. More than quick enough, entertaining in the twisty bits, and capable of some soft-roading when the mood strikes.