Before we critique the controversial touchpad, take a moment to enjoy the 2019 Acura RDX’s 10.2-inch infotainment screen. Not just for its impressive size or for the fact that even base models use the same screen but also for its perfect placement. Perched high on the dash and set back, the screen requires minimal effort to see at a glance, unlike the systems in many competitors.
Such an optimal screen position makes touchscreen functionality impossible (unless you’ve got elastic arms). So the RDX uses a touchpad that Acura promises will work more intuitively than similar tech in other cars. During 2019 SUV of the Year evaluations, opinions generally fell into two camps: A few editors found the system incredibly distracting while others had no trouble adjusting to its logic. And that’s crucial—if you don’t give the system a chance when the salesman or your tech-savvy niece shows you how to use it, you’ll have some trouble. But once you play with it, you’ll start to understand the logic. Unfortunately, however, even more patient tech experts may experience a few issues.
The screen is split into a large section that covers most of the 10.2 inches and a smaller space on the right side. In the larger segment, the home screen will display up to eight icons of your choosing, from navigation destinations (maybe you frequently get lost on the way to Grandma’s house) to audio presets across different media sources. Your favorite satellite radio stations can live next to an FM station preset as well as a navigation destination. Neat.
To select an icon on the top left of the screen, press the top left of the touchpad. In the mood for The Groove on XM? If you’ve placed that icon on the lower right, just tap the lower right section of the touchpad—no need to drag your finger across the touchpad toward the item you want as you might in a Lexus NX. As your finger comes in contact with the touchpad, the screen illuminates the icon you’re about to engage if you press down.
Where the touchpad’s functionality starts to weaken is with Apple CarPlay, which I use almost all the time. (Acura says Android Auto compatibility is on the way.) Once CarPlay takes over the larger left part of the 10.2-inch screen, forget about the one-to-one touchpad-to-screen-space mapping. Touching the top right side of the touchpad no longer gets you whatever command you were trying to reach on the top right of the screen—instead, you’ll probably have to swipe from side to side once or twice to reach one onscreen button or another. I wouldn’t buy a new car without CarPlay, but I still wish the system worked as well with the touchpad as the integrated system does.
The other problem I’ve had with the touchpad interface is with the smaller screen on the right. To the right of the square touchpad that controls the larger part of the screen is a slim vertical touchpad you swipe up and down to shift the smaller screen’s contents. First off, this split-screen execution is awesome. As in the Subaru Forester, which has a two-screen infotainment system, I never need to switch from song and artist info to a navigation map—I can see both simultaneously. So every time a Capital Cities song plays and I want to check how the band spells “Capital” (don’t ask), I don’t need to switch off the CarPlay map to an audio screen. The problem is that the system doesn’t always register my up or down swipes on that smaller touchpad. I’m not sure if it’s an issue with our particular 2019 RDX, the software, or even with the way I’m swiping, but it’s definitely something I’ll ask at a future service. Also, as testing director Kim Reynolds pointed out after a long road trip, the system’s responsiveness should be quicker. It takes slightly more time than it should to open the navigation or satellite radio page, for example.
Like many systems on the market, this infotainment system could clearly use some refining. Acura has made advanced tech one of its brand priorities, but this system’s greatest strength is value; the huge screen is standard on every RDX. Short of a head-up display, no other screen placement keeps the driver’s eyes on the road as effectively. Acura deserves credit for sticking with that idea, and we hope the automaker will continue to make improvements. Consumers who want an infotainment system they can immediately understand may have difficulty with the RDX, but those who give it a chance may find—as I have—that the trade-offs are worth it when you consider the Acura’s overall advantages.
Read more about our long-term 2019 Acura RDX A-Spec:
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