Test Drive: The Acura RDX Meets Vancouver Island
Test driving the Acura RDX on Vancouver Island’s winding, damp roads.
Written by Chris Penrose
Though I’ve spent a great deal of time in British Columbia over the years, I had only ever been to Tofino, a town on the west coast of Vancouver Island, once. Set beside a harbor that is surrounded by mountains and old-growth rainforest, the town has a coastline that faces the open Pacific Ocean. When I found out that I would be returning there to experience the 2019 Acura RDX, I couldn’t think of a better location for this drive of a lifetime.
After getting a breakdown the night before of all of the features behind what precision-crafted performance means in this new generation of Acura, it was time to hit the road. It had been raining most of the night and there were no signs of clearing. The beginning of the drive was steps away from the pristine Chesterman Beach, with a departure time of 8 a.m.
Once we pulled out, the first thing that was obvious about the RDX is that it is powerful. It wasn’t long before I jumped at the opportunity of passing a couple of slow moving cars in front of us.
Most of the road was a highway with only one lane in each direction, full of curves and sharp changes in altitude. This is a challenging drive for most vehicles, as you follow the curves of the nearby rivers, the twists through mountain valleys and a route that wraps around the shore of Kennedy Lake.
For the entire trip, I was either driving through damp roads or falling rain. The handling through it all was steady. As hard as I took some of those turns, I always felt in control. The level of control on the constant (and sudden) turns was helped by the car’s ability to toggle through the gears of the ten speed engine, placed on either side of the steering wheel.
One of the unique aspects about a drive from Tofino into the interior of the island and back is the need to make frequent stops with cars barreling behind you. There are look-out points, rainforest trails, hidden beaches, lake views, and nooks beside rivers at nearly every turn. Along the drive, I must’ve made a split decision on a sudden pullover a dozen times during what the GPS said would be a ninety-minute drive each way. The first half of the trip ended up taking close to four hours, but felt like I didn’t have enough time. And that is how you want to feel whether you are driving through the city or some of the most idyllic terrain on the planet.
The level of design inside of the vehicle made driving the Acura RDX in Tofino such an elevated experience. On the way back from the interior to the coast, we made a stop at a beach tucked away in a Provincial Park. The walk from the parking lot has a short path through trees that have been on earth longer than any of us will. The view then opened up a massive stretch of beach smoothed out by the receding tide.
The sky was grey and with no visible break in the clouds and the wind was driving the rain at us sideways. The walk to the breaking waves could only really be done in bare feet and the ocean still had the cold sting of winter. After this detour to bask in the raw beauty of this virtually untouched natural environment, we were inspired and soaking wet (not to mention cold). Getting back into driver’s seat, you appreciate the care taken in details like the authentic stitched leather interior and feel of real metal and wood detailing.
Before you put the car in drive, the front seats have twelve customizable options that let you mold it to your body from headrest to seat bottom. The sound system has sixteen speakers that typify the notion that you haven’t listened to an album until you’ve heard it in a car. Set on the dash, right above the radio is a 10 by 9.5 inches screen that is controlled by a touch pad set right where your hand sits at rest. It takes a bit of playing with to figure out, but I got the hang of it pretty quickly. There are two portions on the screen that let you toggle between navigation, music, messaging and dozens other apps that keep you connected – not distracted – on the drive.
The interior of the RDX is spacious for passengers and storage with the backseat feeling like a front seat. The openness is amplified by the sunroof, which stretches across the width of the car and reaches quite far into the backseat. I didn’t realize how massive the sunroof was until I spotted an eagle perched on a tree down the road. As I passed it, I was able to look up through the sunroof and see the sharp details of its cutting gaze and beak.
The most enjoyable part of the RDX for me was the handling. My first car was a manual shift box of metal on wheels and you could feel every push from the engine, and every turn and twist on the road as you drove it. While the RDX is an automatic vehicle with some of the most advanced power steering available, you are able to switch the handling to ‘sport’ or ‘sport x’ mode and shed some of the electronic assistance. I still felt the luxury on that setting, but the sensitivity and level of control left me feeling like I was driving.