Surprisingly powerful!

Redesigned for the 2019 model year, the Acura RDX looks sportier than ever and boasts enough luxury features and state-of-the-art tech to give the German competition a run for its money. Unfortunately, it’s only marginally more powerful than its predecessor, even in the new, sportier A-Spec trim. This is where the Graham Rahal Performance update comes in, adding some extra grunt for the 2018 SEMA Show.

Founded in 2017 by race-winning Honda IndyCar driver Graham Rahal, Graham Rahal Performance (GRP), which owns an Acura dealership, decided to meddle with compact luxury crossover. In an effort to add style, power, and performance to the RDX, GRP customized the SUV’s exterior and interior and upgraded the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine. The end result is the most powerful third-generation RDX ever created, but it’s only for display purposes. At least for the time being.

Acura RDX A-Spec by Graham Rahal Performance Exterior

  • Darkened body trim
  • 19-inch wheels
  • Bigger tailpipes
  • Carbon-fiber mirror caps
  • Body-colored side skirts
  • Apex Blue Pearl paint
  • Custom graphics
2018 Acura RDX A-Spec by Graham Rahal Performance
- image 802449
GRP added its logo in light blue on the engine hood and "Graham Rahal Performance" lettering on the front doors

In case you’re not familiar with the A-Spec trim, it’s a slightly sportier version of the RDX. And by slightly I mean that it only has darkened trim in place of the regular model’s chrome, larger 19-inch wheels finished in black, and bigger tailpipes.

Graham Rahal Performance took over from there and added carbon-fiber mirror caps and body-colored side skirts. The end result? Well, let’s say that the RDX appears to sit a bit lower than the regular SUV. But that’s about it. GRP chose an RDX painted in Apex Blue Pearl, a color exclusive to the A-Spec trim, and added its logo in light blue on the engine hood and "Graham Rahal Performance" lettering on the front doors.

Acura RDX A-Spec by Graham Rahal Performance Interior

  • Silver-ringed gauges
  • Carbon-fiber accents
  • Custom steering wheel
  • Black upholstery
2018 Acura RDX A-Spec by Graham Rahal Performance
- image 802438
The bespoke steering wheel features carbon rim sections and Alcantara grips

The interior is just as subtle. In addition to the metal trim and silver-ringed gauges with red lighting that come with the A-Spec, GRP added carbon-fiber accents on the center console and A/C vents, as well as a custom steering wheel. The latter was designed by racing driver Max Papis of MPI innovations and features carbon upper and lower rim sections, Alcantara grips, and red stitching.

GRP’s RDX retains the A-Spec’s unique black leather sport seats with Ultrasuede accents instead of the available red leather. It’s probably because GRP wanted a sportier look, but I think red leather makes the RDX look far more exotic.

Acura RDX A-Spec by Graham Rahal Performance Drivetrain

  • Upgraded 2.0-liter engine
  • Race-inspired internals
  • 345 horsepower
  • 370 pound-feet of torque
  • Eibach sport springs
  • Six-piston brakes
2018 Acura RDX A-Spec by Graham Rahal Performance
- image 802437

While it’s not exactly impressive inside and out, the RDX A-Spec by GRP shines under the hood.

Using its experience in tuning the Civic Type R, GRP upgraded the RDX’s factory 2.0-liter turbo engine with a new turbocharger, intake and exhaust manifolds, and downpipe.

It also commissioned PRL Racing to make a custom intercooler and intake setup, while it developed its very own lightweight cat-back exhaust system. A custom ECU map from KTuning ensures that everything works in harmony.

2018 Acura RDX A-Spec by Graham Rahal Performance
- image 802445

What does it all mean in terms of output?

This RDX comes with 345 horsepower and 370 pound-feet of torque on tap, which accounts for a 73-horsepower and 90-pound-foot increase over the standard A-Spec model.

That’s quite impressive! All that oomph hits the wheels through Acura’s recently introduced 10-speed automatic and the torque-vectoring Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system.

GRP also meddled with the chassis by adding custom Eibach sport springs that lower the RDX by two inches and improved stopping power via six-piston StopTech brakes. The lightweight HRE P101 wheels in 21-inch diameter are wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires for increased grip.

2019 Acura RDX 2018 Acura RDX A-Spec by Graham Rahal Performance
Engine 2.0-liter, 16-valve DOHC turbo with direct injection and i-VTEC® valvetrain updated 2.0-liter turbo engine with a new turbocharger, intake and exhaust manifolds
Transmission 10-speed automatic with Sequential SportShift Paddle Shifters 10-speed automatic with Sequential SportShift Paddle Shifters
Horsepower 272 HP @ 6,500 rpm 345 HP
Torque 280 lb.-ft. @ 1,600-4,500 rpm 370 LB-FT

Final Thoughts

2018 Acura RDX A-Spec by Graham Rahal Performance
- image 802446

While it’s not as impressive as most SEMA concepts inside and out, Graham Rahal’s RDX stands out when it comes to performance. The upgraded drivetrain boasts the kind of extra power I’m sure many Acura customers want to get from the luxury company. If I were Acura, I’d start a cooperation for a special edition model with the racing team.

  • Leave it
    • Not so special inside and out
    • Likely to remain just a concept

Further reading

2019 Acura RDX Exterior
- image 775683

Read our full review on the 2019 Acura RDX.

Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert -
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read More
About the author

Oct 30, 2018 - TORRANCE, CALIF.
2019 RDX A-Spec tuned and tweaked by Graham Rahal Performance to 345 horsepower
Updated 2019 Acura NSX in Thermal Orange Pearl also on display alongside new NSX GT3 Evo race car
Acura Team Penske ARX-05 Daytona Prototype and Peter Cunningham’s TLX GT commemorate a successful 2018 race season for Acura Motorsports
Acura returns to the Specialty Equipment Manufacturing Show (SEMA) in Las Vegas, Nevada to display its commitment to performance, motorsports and the tuner community. A custom 2019 RDX A-Spec designed and built by Graham Rahal Performance (GRP) adds style, power and performance to the quickest, best-handling RDX yet. Fresh from Victory Circle, the race-ready NSX GT3, hill climb-conquering TLX GT and Acura ARX-05 Daytona Prototype showcase recent Acura Motorsports successes. Production cars on display include the newly updated 2019 NSX in Thermal Orange Pearl dress and an accessorized version of the refreshed 2019 ILX.

Graham Rahal Performance RDX A-Spec
Graham Rahal Performance, founded in 2017 by race-winning Honda IndyCar driver Graham Rahal, took on the all-new 2019 Acura RDX A-Spec with a goal of enhancing the performance through subtle but significant updates to the RDX’s powertrain, suspension, brakes, and wheel, tire package.

"As owners of an Acura dealership, we know how strong the new 2019 RDX is out of the gate. I didn’t want to mess with a good thing," said Graham Rahal. "Sometimes, subtle enhancements can make a big difference in the look of a vehicle. And that’s exactly what my team and I aimed for with this GRP RDX."

Using its experience in tuning the Civic Type R, GRP upgraded the RDX’s factory 2.0-liter DOHC VTEC® Turbo engine with a new turbocharger, intake and exhaust manifolds, and downpipe. PRL Racing fabricated a custom intercooler and intake setup, while GRP developed a custom lightweight cat-back exhaust system. Ensuring everything works in harmony, KTuning created a custom ECU map for the boosted RDX. All-in, the GRP RDX produces an estimated peak output of 345 horsepower and 370 lb-ft of torque, channeled through the RDX’s available torque-vectoring Super Handling All-Wheel Drive™ (SH-AWD®) system. Chassis modifications include custom Eibach sport springs that lower the RDX by two inches, while stopping performance is improved by six-piston StopTech brakes. Lightweight HRE P101 wheels in 21-inch diameter are wrapped in 265/40 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, giving the GRP RDX A-Spec an aggressive and purposeful stance.

The GRP RDX is painted in Apex Blue Pearl, an A-Spec exclusive color, supplemented with GRP custom carbon mirror caps and carbon grille accents, along with body-color painted lower garnish, giving the RDX an even lower appearance. Interior styling modifications include carbon fiber accents and a custom steering wheel designed by renowned racing driver Max Papis of MPI Innovations. The GRP RDX retains the A-Spec’s unique black leather sport seats with Ultrasuede® accents. A longtime partner throughout Rahal’s racing career, Troy Lee Designs consulted on the design of the vehicle and installed custom graphics in its Southern California design studio.

Acura NSX GT3 Evo
Following two successful racing campaigns, culminating in five race wins and a second-place finish in the 2018 IMSA Weathertech GTD Championship, the NSX GT3 was recently revealed in updated Evo form. The NSX GT3 Evo improves upon the race-proven NSX GT3 with a host of updates aimed at better performance and reduced running costs for an even wider range of amateur and professional drivers. The NSX GT3 Evo’s lightweight carbon fiber bodywork has been modified for reduced drag to create higher top speeds, better balance and drivability at all speeds, and improved cooling. The new bodywork includes a new front splitter, rear diffuser, and rear bumper. The GT3 Evo receives new turbochargers for better throttle response, boost control and improved fuel economy. Additionally, the NSX GT3 Evo benefits from an improved anti-lock braking systems, an upgraded Bosch display and data-logging unit to increase efficiency and enhance the driver experience. Existing owners can have their NSX GT3s retrofitted to Evo-spec through Variant Supply.

The GT3 race car’s bespoke chassis is built alongside the road-going version of NSX at the Performance Manufacturing Center (PMC) in Marysville, Ohio1. The 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 racing engine uses the same design specifications as the production car, including block, heads, valve train, crankshaft, pistons and dry-sump lubrication system and is assembled alongside the production engine at the Anna Engine Plant (AEP) in Anna, Ohio. Offered for sale globally strictly for racing, the NSX GT3 Evo is eligible for competition in more than two dozen racing series. More information is available at

2019 Acura NSX
Arriving in driveways just in time for Halloween, the 2019 NSX shines in its new Thermal Orange Pearl hue. Unveiled at Monterey Car Week in August, the 2019 Acura NSX features a host of appearance and mechanical updates aimed at enhancing the unique style and performance of Acura’s electrified supercar. Along with new exterior and interior color options, the 2019 NSX is distinguished by a body-color front grille accent and high-gloss treatment for the front air intake, rear fascia outlet mesh, and available exterior carbon fiber packages. The 2019 NSX rides on enhanced suspension and new Continental SportContact™ 6 tires developed specifically for NSX for improved control at-the-limit. The result is a nearly two-second faster lap time in testing around the world famous Suzuka Circuit. The 2019 NSX is available for order now, and starts at $157,5002, with $4,700 in previously optional content now standard.

Acura ARX-05
With the ARX-05, Acura returned to the competitive world of prototype sports car racing with legendary partner Team Penske, campaigning two Daytona Prototypes in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the 2018 season. The driver duo of Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya drove the ARX-05 to the podium four times in the team’s inaugural season, while Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves secured two podiums, including a win in the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio.

The ARX-05 is powered by Acura’s race-proven AR35TT twin-turbocharged V6, based on the production V6 that powers the Acura MDX, TLX and RLX. The AR35TT has powered class wins at the 12 Hours of Sebring, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and an LMP2 World Endurance Championship in 2012; the American Le Mans Series LMP2 title winners in 2012 and 2013; and the overall victors at the Rolex 24, 12 Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans in 2016.

RealTime Racing TLX GT
The all-wheel-drive RealTime Racing (RTR) TLX GT race car, piloted by Peter Cunningham, returned to Pikes Peak in 2018, taking first-in-class and third overall at the grueling and famous hill-climb event. The podium finish was quickly followed with an Exhibition Class win and new all-time course record of 18:539 in the Empire Hill Climb in Empire, Michigan. Previously campaigned in the Pirelli World Challenge, the twin-turbocharged RTR TLX GT features suspension, engine management and transmission gearing specially tuned to tackle the many challenges presented by hill-climb events.

Acura Accessories 2019 ILX
The refreshed and redesigned 2019 Acura ILX, featuring Acura’s signature Diamond Pentagon grille, just hit showrooms with updated interior and exterior styling, and substantial improvements to technology, including standard AcuraWatch™, and available Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™ integration. The accessories displayed on the 2019 ILX A-Spec showcase Acura’s performance-inspired design with front and rear underbody spoilers, 18-inch black alloy wheels, and satin silver door mirror covers. In addition, the ILX A-Spec features dark chrome accents in the rear and lower side trim, and black chrome badges. Inside are A-Spec floormats, red interior illumination, and A-Spec door sill trim.

About Acura
Acura is a leading automotive luxury nameplate that delivers Precision Crafted Performance – a commitment to evocative styling, high performance and innovative engineering, all built on a foundation of quality and reliability. The Acura lineup features six distinctive models – the RLX premium luxury sedan, the TLX performance luxury sedan, the ILX sport sedan, the five-passenger RDX luxury crossover SUV, the seven-passenger Acura MDX, America’s all-time best-selling three-row luxury SUV, and the next-generation, electrified NSX supercar.

Five of the six models in the Acura lineup are made exclusively in central Ohio, using domestic and globally-sourced parts, including the ILX and TLX luxury sports sedans (Marysville Auto Plant), the RDX and MDX luxury SUVs (East Liberty Auto Plant) and the Acura NSX supercar, which is built to order at the Performance Manufacturing Center in Marysville, Ohio.

View the full press release Hide press release
Press release
What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: