Review: 2019 Acura RDX Offers Novel Touchpad Infotainment Controls, but CarPlay Doesn't Fully Support Them

by

As part of my continuing series of articles looking at how car manufacturers have integrated CarPlay into their infotainment systems, I've taken a look at the 2019 Acura RDX, the popular crossover SUV from Honda's luxury brand. Acura has been gradually rolling out CarPlay support across its lineup over the past few model years, and the new 2019 RDX is the first of this model to support the feature.

acura rdx
My test vehicle was a well-equipped RDX with Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD), Technology package, and an A-Spec trim designed for those who want a bold look.

The Technology package adds a premium ELS Studio audio system that offers 12 speakers, Acura's navigation system, two rear USB charging ports, parking sensors, and blind spot and rear cross traffic warning systems.

acura rdx rear
The A-Spec package adds larger 20-inch wheels in "Shark Gray," special exterior accents like a unique front bumper with LED fog lights, dual oval exhaust, and prominent badging. Inside, the A-Spec package adds a sport steering wheel that feels great in the hands, and leather seats in either full black or red with black inserts, including heated and ventilated front seats. Regardless of seating color, red is a prominent highlight color in other areas of the A-Spec cabin, including on the instrument panel and nighttime ambient lighting. The audio system is also upgraded to 16 speakers, including four embedded in the roof of the vehicle.

There's an additional Advance package that includes some other nice features such as rain-sensing windshield wipers, a heads-up display, a surround-view camera system, and 16-way power front seats including thigh extensions and side bolsters, but interestingly that package is not available on models equipped with the A-Spec package.

Acura tells me it's received some feedback from customers who would have liked to add some of these Advance package features to an A-Spec vehicle, so it's potentially something Acura will be taking a look at for the future as it weighs customizability against the simplicity of minimal trim packages.

Infotainment System Overview

Acura's built-in infotainment system handles all of the usual functions, including radio, SiriusXM, Bluetooth phone connectivity, voice control, optional navigation and more. A beautiful 10.2-inch widescreen center display is standard, as is CarPlay support, which is a welcome decision compared to some other manufacturers that offer it only with certain trims or as a standalone option for an extra charge.

acura rdx center stack

Acura RDX's center stack with high-mount infotainment display

As part of its research, Acura's product development team determined that the optimal placement for a large infotainment display is mounted high on the dashboard and pushed back from the driver, minimizing the distance the driver's eyes need to travel from the road to glance at the display. What that means, however, is that touchscreen operation is infeasible, as it requires a stretch to reach even the near side of the display.

Manufacturers have come up with various solutions to the infotainment control issue, with some keeping the display close enough for touchscreen operation while others use some form of control knob to allow for scrolling through and selecting onscreen options.

acura rdx tti

True Touchpad Interface

In the RDX, Acura has launched a new True Touchpad Interface (TTI) within easy reach in the center console, and while it's not the only car to offer touchpad control of the infotainment system, it does offer a unique absolute positioning design where the small touchpad maps directly to the display above – pressing the top left corner of the touchpad activates the icon or menu option at the top left of the display, for example.

The TTI system takes a little bit of getting used to, but once you get the hang of it and stop trying to swipe around to the button you want on the display, it's a simple and natural way to navigate through various options, and the RDX has a comfortable palm rest below the touchpad to support your hand.

The touchpad is surrounded by a raised border that makes it easy to tell where your finger is by feel, and as your finger rests on various areas of the touchpad, the corresponding function on the display highlights to let you know where you are. Once the desired function is highlighted, a press on the touchpad in that location registers your selection.

acura rdx home highlight

Display highlighting Navigation icon corresponding to location being touched on TTI

Similar to some other widescreen infotainment systems, Acura's system in the RDX allows for two separate content windows, a large primary one taking up the majority of the screen, and then a smaller one off to the right side that can show options such as a clock or a secondary function of the system.

acura rdx nav popup options
For example, if you have navigation up on the main part of the screen, the secondary portion of the display can show your current audio selection, whether it be radio, SiriusXM, or another source.

The TTI system includes a secondary touchpad, a thin strip along the right side that corresponds to the secondary content zone of the display above. Swiping up or down on this portion of the touchpad scrolls through the available content screens like clock or audio information, and pressing this strip swaps the two content zones, such as bringing the audio content over to the primary zone of the display while pushing navigation off to a small map on the right side. It's a handy system that makes it easy to manage multiple functions of the infotainment system.

acura rdx sirius nav
Above the TTI touchpad is a set of three physical buttons: a Back button, a Home button, and a Cards button that lets you quickly access the available content for the secondary zone of the display without needing to scroll through the options one by one.

acura rdx nav cards

Top right physical button brings up card options for secondary display zone

The TTI touchpad can also be used to input handwriting for operations such as spelling out a destination or a phone number. In practice, I found this to be quite finicky and generally had a hard time getting the system to recognize the characters I was intending to draw.

acura rdu wheel dash

Steering wheel and multi-information dashboard display
(Voice control button is at lower left on steering wheel)

Of course, the TTI is only one way to control the infotainment system, with voice being the other primary system. The new RDX includes a revamped natural language voice recognition system, meaning you don't need to use specific phrasing for the system to recognize your requests. I found the system to be quite good at recognizing requests using a variety of wordings, while a fairly natural-sounding voice offered audio feedback and navigation prompts.

Interface

One of the great features of Acura's infotainment system is the customizability of the home screens. Much like an iPhone, the system supports multiple pages of "apps," such as navigation, radio, SiriusXM, Bluetooth, Aux, Hotspot controls, CarPlay, and more.

acura rdx home
By pressing and holding on an app icon using the touchpad, you can enter an edit mode that lets you move the icon around the home screen or to a different page. This lets you put your most frequently used functions on the front page and in the most easily accessible locations such as in the corners.

acura rdx home edit

Edit mode for rearranging home screen icons

These home screen icons aren't limited to just general functions like navigation or radio. Various "Favorites" like frequently used destinations, specific phone contacts, and radio stations can be added directly to the home screen with their own icons, allowing for one-touch access. And for apps you know you'll never use, you can delete them entirely from the home screen.

acura rdx fave highlight

"Home" favorite for one-touch access to navigation route home

Built-in Navigation

I found Acura's built-in navigation to be quite powerful, easily recognizing a variety of addresses and POIs while providing accurate directions and estimated arrival times, as well as helpful voice prompts. The system makes it easy to set favorite destinations or select from recent ones, or you can quickly search for nearby POIs in various categories.

acura rdx nav results

Navigation search results

Several different views are supported, including 2D and 3D views with available "north up" and "heading up" options for 2D mode. The system also shows helpful information like distance to next maneuver, direction and street name of the next turn, follow-up maneuvers, and lane guidance. You can also easily add waypoints if you need to make a stop on the way to your final destination.

Aside from the standard navigation mode, the system also offers an exploration mode, which lets you easily zoom and pan around the map for an overview of routes and traffic conditions, and you can select locations and POIs directly from the map.

CarPlay

As with nearly every other car manufacturer, Acura's CarPlay implementation is a wired one, so you'll need to plug your phone into a USB port in the center console in order to get CarPlay up and running.

acura rdx console

Center console with phone slot and cupholders

Fortunately, the center console in the RDX includes a convenient slot housing the required USB port and providing simple and space-saving storage of your phone and cable while connected to the system. A sliding metal cover can hide away your phone and other small items in the neighboring cup holders.

acura rdx console cover

Center console with sliding cover closed

CarPlay shows up as its own app on the RDX's home screen, making it easy to hop into CarPlay as needed. And as with other apps, you can customize its location on the home screen.

acura rdx carplay home
Once you enter CarPlay, you'll be greeted with the familiar 4x2 grid of app icons from your iPhone, taking up the primary zone on the RDX's display. The secondary display zone is not dedicated to CarPlay, so it can show content from the native system such as a navigation route in progress or the current audio information.

acura rdx carplay maps radio
As usual, I won't delve too much into the specifics of CarPlay itself, as that's generally a consistent experience from vehicle to vehicle, but the one aspect that does vary is system control. CarPlay can support both direct touchscreen manipulation and selection highlighting via off-screen control methods such as knobs and jog wheels. But as you'll quickly find when you enter CarPlay for the first time on the RDX, it doesn't support absolute touchpad positioning, and that's a disappointing realization.

You can certainly control CarPlay using the touchpad, but it's a traditional trackpad mechanism where you have to swipe in various directions to move the highlights on the user interface to the desired function. You can't just tap on the touchpad in the location where your intended CarPlay icon or menu option is displayed.

What this means is that the method of controlling your infotainment system differs depending on whether you're in the native Acura system or in CarPlay, and that takes a bit of brain processing power to remember as you rapidly switch back and forth between the systems. Here's hoping that Acura and Apple are working together to bring absolute touchpad positioning to CarPlay, as it's a handy control mechanism.

In fact, Android Auto isn't supported at all on the RDX at the moment, as Acura says it's still working with Google on developing the ability for Android Auto to recognize absolute touchpad positioning, and so Android Auto support won't be coming until a future software update.

acura rdx carplay waze

Waze on CarPlay

The hardware Back and Home buttons on the RDX do work with CarPlay to some degree, although the integration could be improved a bit. The Back button does typically reverse through your previous actions, backing up through menus and even moving out of apps back to the CarPlay home screen. I did find a few apps such as Google Maps and Waze, however, where pressing the Back button yielded a chime but didn't actually step back to the previous action.

The hardware Home button always takes you back to the Acura home screen, even if you're in CarPlay, and it would be nice if the system could intelligently take you back to either the CarPlay or Acura home screen depending on which system you're currently in, with perhaps a second press of the button in CarPlay mode taking you all the way out to the Acura home screen.

CarPlay can of course also be controlled via voice, and that functionality is accessible through the same steering wheel button used for Acura's built-in voice assistant. A short press on the button brings up Acura's system, while a long press brings up Siri.

I mentioned earlier that the dual-zone display lets you quickly swap back and forth between different functions in the Acura infotainment, but CarPlay is a bit limited in that regard. If you're using Acura's navigation and listening to music via CarPlay, the integration works fine and the secondary display zone will say "Apple CarPlay" and show the currently playing track and artwork, whether you're using Apple's Music app or another service like Pandora or Spotify.

acura rdx nav carplay music
Pressing the right-side strip on the TTI will then conveniently bring your CarPlay audio over to the primary zone and slide the Acura navigation over to the right side.

acura rdx carplay music nav
With the cards options for the secondary display zone, you can even assign audio to both zones, displaying the traditional CarPlay "Now Playing" interface in the primary zone and album artwork in the secondary zone.

acura rdx carplay music both
Things don't work quite as well when you're using other functions. For example, if you're using CarPlay navigation in the primary display zone and SiriusXM in the secondary zone, swapping the zones will move the SiriusXM controls to the primary zone, but there's no "mini" mode for CarPlay's maps apps to show in the secondary zone.

acura rdx sirius carplay maps

SiriusXM on left, CarPlay Apple Maps on right

As a result, all you'll see on the right is a CarPlay-like icon and text saying "Apple CarPlay" and "Route Active" with no details on the navigation in progress. You will, however, still receive navigation voice prompts.

Ports and Connectivity

If you're looking to charge your devices in the RDX, you'll find several options, including the prominent USB port in the center console that gives your device access to the infotainment system. Another USB port is located underneath the center stack adjacent to a large storage space.

acura rdx under ports

Ports under the center stack

If you have the Technology package, you'll get two more USB ports on the rear of the center console, giving your rear passengers convenient accessing to charging. All of the USB ports in the RDX offer 2.5A charging, so even devices like iPads with demanding charging loads will refuel fairly quickly.

acura rdx rear usb

Rear USB ports

Hotspot capabilities come standard on the 2019 RDX, although you'll have to subscribe to an AT&T data plan. Conversely, you can tether the car to your phone's cellular connection to support internet-connected features of the infotainment system.

Wrap-up

I came away impressed with the overall driving experience of the 2019 Acura RDX, and the infotainment system is one of the best I've tested with a powerful navigation system, a terrific widescreen center display, and a unique but natural-feeling touchpad control interface. CarPlay works well, and I appreciate the ability to use the secondary display zone to show details on apps from the built-in system while using CarPlay. It's a handy way to take advantage of CarPlay navigation and SiriusXM radio simultaneously, for example, and keep tabs on everything at once. It's a welcome enhancement to CarPlay's one-app-at-a-time experience.

The most significant negative is the lack of full True Touchpad Interface support in CarPlay, and hopefully that's something Apple will address at some point. TTI is a solid control mechanism, but I feel like CarPlay hampered my ability to become fluent with it simply because I was constantly switching between CarPlay and Acura's system.

As a result, I still found myself dragging my finger around on the touchpad even when using the native Acura system rather than heading straight for the area corresponding to my desired target. I have no doubt the interface would have become second nature more quickly without CarPlay and the built-in system constantly fighting to retrain my brain.

The 2019 Acura RDX starts at an MSRP of $37,300 with CarPlay supported on all vehicles including the entry-level Standard trim. The Technology package adds $3,200 to the total cost, and if you want even more you can opt for either the A-Spec package for a further $3,000 or the Advance package for $4,900, both on top of the Technology package. SH-AWD is an additional $2,000 on all levels.

Related Roundup: CarPlay
Tag: Acura

Top Rated Comments

DBZmusicboy01 Avatar
27 months ago

Off topic but man is that one cheap looking interior. Looks like they kept the Honda interior specs for the Acura.

Yuck For a $50,000+ Car it looks very cheap.
Much better to get a RAV4 or Prius at this point. Even a Corolla now has Apple CarPlay.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ZipZap Avatar
27 months ago

Actually, their tech is great (SH-AWD) - it is the finish that they suck at! You don't feel like you are sitting in a luxury car, unlike MB, BMW or Lexus.

Honda, along with the other Japanese companies, seem to lack vision in one aspect - killing off their super cars, and belatedly reviving them as the market left them, with distrust. NSX, Supra, RX7 and Z!

SH-AWD is not the tech to which I am referring. Infotainment sucks. And up until this year you could not get any advanced features on the TLX 4 Cylinder which I think is the more appealing version.

Acura never feels like a luxury car nor do the implement features fully or usefully. There are just so many things I hate about my 2016 TLX.

However, the engine is solid and maintenance costs are low.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
bigcat318 Avatar
27 months ago
Off topic but man is that one cheap looking interior. Looks like they kept the Honda interior specs for the Acura.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
roland.g Avatar
27 months ago
Audi put a ‘touchpad’ of sorts into their newest Q7 and probably some other vehicles by now. A salesperson showed how I could spell out letter by letter with my finger (like on the Apple Watch) search items, etc. I laughed at it. Siri integration in CarPlay works much better and is much safer. It seems like many of these types of interfaces are only useful to a passenger or while parked.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
gtg465x Avatar
27 months ago

Here’s hoping in 2019 the auto industry will start adopting Qi charging and wireless CarPlay for the masses.

The 2019 Santa Fe I just bought has Qi charging! No wireless CarPlay though :(. Love the car so far. Definitely check it out if you’re in the market for a small - midsize two row SUV.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
codydale Avatar
27 months ago
Oh my god. This interior...

Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

maxresdefault

Italy Fines Apple $12 Million for Misleading iPhone Water Resistance Claims

Monday November 30, 2020 3:10 am PST by
Apple has been slapped with a 10 million euro ($12 million) fine by Italy's antitrust watchdog for unfair commercial practices related to its iPhone marketing in the country. One of the Apple ads cited in the Italian watchdog's proceedings (credit: setteBIT) Specifically, Apple is being charged for misleading claims in promotional messages about how deep and how long iPhones can be submerged...
m1 chip macbook air pro

Developer Delves Into Reasons Why Apple's M1 Chip is So Fast

Monday November 30, 2020 1:57 pm PST by
Apple's M1 chip is the fastest chip that Apple has ever released in a Mac based on single-core CPU benchmark scores, and it beats out many high-end Intel Macs when it comes to multi-core performance. Developer Erik Engheim recently shared a deep dive into the M1 chip, exploring the reasons why Apple's new processor is so much faster than the Intel chips that it replaces. First and foremost,...
General cyber monday 20 sale feature

Apple Cyber Monday 2020: Discounts on iPads, Macs, AirPods, and More [Updated]

Monday November 30, 2020 6:25 am PST by
Today is Cyber Monday, a shopping event that sees many of the same deals from Black Friday bleed over into a new week, along with a few brand new offers on everything from Apple products to related accessories. In this post we'll highlight the best online discounts that you can find on Apple devices today. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a...
16 inch MBP Mini Led

Mini-LED M1 MacBook Pro and Mini-LED iPad Pro Models Coming First Half of 2021

Monday November 30, 2020 2:24 am PST by
Apple is widely reported to be embracing mini-LED display backlighting technology for some products next year, and a new report today by DigiTimes has named several of Apple's partners in the supply chain that are expected to benefit from the switch. According to the report, Apple is set to launch its first mini-LED iPad Pro in the first quarter of 2021 and mass produce mini-LED MacBook Pro...
Mac Mini 2018

Apple Developers Now Able to Natively Run macOS Within AWS With Amazon EC2 Mac Instances

Monday November 30, 2020 9:01 pm PST by
As AWS re:Invent kicks off, Amazon Web Services today announced new Mac instances for Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, allowing AWS customers to run on-demand macOS workloads in the AWS cloud for the first time. Amazon says that the new feature extends the flexibility, scalability, and cost benefits of AWS to all Apple developers as those creating apps for iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, Apple...
periscope iPhone feature2

Apple Moving Forward With Plans for 'Folded' Periscope Cameras to Significantly Increase iPhone's Optical Zoom

Monday November 30, 2020 8:01 am PST by
Apple is advancing its plans to significantly enhance the iPhone's optical zoom range using periscope lens technology, according to ETNews. Citing industry sources familiar with the development of iPhone cameras, ETNews report says Apple is currently seeking an appropriate "folded" periscope camera solution for the iPhone and has already initiated discussions with suppliers. Apple has...
apple fitness plus instructor kim ngo

Apple Fitness+ Promotion Ramps Up as Launch Approaches

Sunday November 29, 2020 11:57 am PST by
Promotion for Apple Fitness+ is ramping up, with advertising initiatives and teases from instructors being spotted on social media, indicating that the new subscription service may be launching imminently. MacRumors reader Chris Weaver spotted that Best Buy has started advertising six-month free trials of Apple Fitness+ with Apple Watch purchases. The advert suggests that retailers have...
iphone 12 colors

iPhone 12 Colors: Deciding on The Right Color

Thursday November 5, 2020 8:35 am PST by
The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro arrived last month in a range of color options, with entirely new hues available on both devices, as well as some popular classics. The 12 and 12 Pro have different color choices, so if you have your heart set on a particular shade, you might not be able to get your preferred model in that color. iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 The iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 are ...
mac mini macbook pro macbook air m1

Notable Developer Starts Patreon to Fund Apple Silicon Linux Port

Monday November 30, 2020 4:23 pm PST by
Developer Hector Martin, who describes himself as someone who "likes putting Linux on things," has launched a plan create a Linux port for Apple Silicon Macs. Martin, also known as "Marcan," has created a Patreon with the goal of earning enough funding to be able to take on the complexities of bringing Linux to Macs equipped with an M1 chip. Creating a Linux port is no easy task, and Linux...
leather sleeve iphone 12 box

Hands-On With the Leather Sleeve for iPhone 12 Models

Monday November 30, 2020 2:13 pm PST by
Apple this year came out with a handful of accessories for the new iPhone 12 models, and in addition to the standard Silicone and Leather cases, there's also a new Leather Sleeve that recently went on sale. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. We picked up one of the Leather Sleeves to check it out to see if it's worth the $129 that Apple is charging. The Leather Sleeve ...