2011 Acura RDX Expert Review:Autoblog
After three years on the market, the Acura RDX is getting its first comprehensive makeover for the 2010 model year. Unlike the automaker's new TSX V6, where the changes were largely restricted to the bits you don't see, the opposite is true of the RDX. Acura's cute 'ute gets a mid-cycle facelift to bring it in-line with the rest of the Acura line-up – meaning if you haven't warmed up to Acura's shield grille you might want to look elsewhere.
If, on the other hand, you're partial to the new corporate beak, the RDX benefits from a few well-designed tweaks to boost its exterior appeal. The shape of the headlamp clusters remains the same, although the internal arrangement has been shuffled around, while below the bumper you'll spot a new air intake sitting in between the revised fog-lamp housings. Out back, the taillights receive a few minor revisions that most observers probably won't notice and the satin frame around the license plate pocket now matches the finish on the front grille.
Photos Copyright ©2009 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.
The powertrain of the compact crossover is carried over intact, meaning propulsion still comes from a turbocharged 240 hp 2.3-liter four with a healthy 260 lb-ft of torque. Although a new six-speed automatic is likely to be fitted next year, the RDX retains its predecessor's five-speed 'box, complete with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. The only mechanical change for 2010 is the addition of a front-wheel drive model to the RDX range. Unfortunately, Acura didn't have the FWD model on hand for our First Drive.
On the road, the torquey four still provides reasonably brisk and responsive acceleration whether you roll into the throttle or stab the long pedal. Our drive loop didn't provide much opportunity to exercise the Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive system, but our past experience with the torque vectoring drivetrain has been positive, sending twist to the outside wheel to keep understeer at bay. The 2010 model retains its forbearer's ride and handling, with good steering feel from its hydraulic power assist and minimal roll.
Acura has also made some changes to the brake actuation hardware with a new pedal ratio, vacuum booster and servo. The front brakes are unchanged and we didn't notice any significant difference in feel. The stoppers apply smoothly and were easy to modulate during our brief drive, although the changes should be more apparent when the CUV is driven hard and temperatures rise.
The RDX receives a variety of technology upgrades for 2010, including new real-time traffic and weather data for the optional navigation system. The information is automatically retrieved via the satellite radio and routes are re-calculated on the fly if the system detects congestion between you and your destination. All new RDXs get a compass, automatic headlights and a rear-view camera as standard equipment, and for those that take a pass on the navigation system, the rear camera display shows up in an LCD embedded the mirror. A USB port for connecting your audio player is now installed along with Bluetooth connectivity, both of which are standard on the 2010 model.
Gary Robinson, assistant manager for product planning at Acura, explained that offering the new front-wheel drive RDX was a means of offering customers more variety, while also lowering the price point and improving fuel efficiency. While customers in Northern states enjoy the safety and security of AWD, those in southern regions are apparently less enamored. Discarding the extra hardware means a $2,000 reduction in the base price of the 2010 RDX, with the front-drive model coming in between $32,520 and $35,620 when it goes on sale August 7. Acura expects about 30% of buyers to opt for the two-wheel drive variant, and you can expect a full review of the FWD model soon.
Acura RDX Turbocharged Crossover Receives Numerous Upgrades and New Two-Wheel-Drive Option for 2010
Fresh Exterior Looks, Revised Interior, Additional Technology and a New Drivetrain Choice Increase the Appeal of the 2010 RDX
TORRANCE, Calif. – Never content resting on its laurels, Acura brings to market the 2010 RDX with a fresh new exterior look, a more luxurious interior, and a host of new technology features. For 2010, the RDX is now available with a two-wheel drive option which offers improved fuel economy and a lower price point over its SH-AWD™ counterpart.
"The RDX has always offered a unique mix of great performance, good utility, lots customer relevant technology and sharp looks- but for 2010 these attributes get even better," said Jeff Conrad, vice president of Acura sales. "The availability of a new 2WD model with improved fuel economy and a lower price make the 2010 RDX a smart choice."
The RDX continues to be the compact luxury SUV of choice for drivers with energetic lifestyles who need a responsive and sporty vehicle with plenty of utility and leading edge styling. 2010 marks the first time ever that the RDX is available with a two-wheel-drive option, which is appealing to customers who live in warmer climates and who don't need the all-weather capability all-wheel drive offers. Due to the decreased weight of the two wheel drive model, the RDX gets improved fuel economy over the SH-AWD model- resulting in an improvement of 1 mpg in the city and 2 mpg on the highway.
Externally, the 2010 RDX receives numerous changes resulting in a more aggressive, sporty appearance. Exterior changes include redesigned 18-inch diameter aluminum-alloy wheels, bold new front and rear bumper fascias, Acura's signature design front grille, revised headlights and taillights, new exhaust tips and satin trim accents.
While the RDX's sport-minded chassis remains the same, the 2010 model features revised braking system components that deliver better feel and enhanced durability. Also for 2010, the RDX receives several new standard interior features including a rear view camera system, electronic compass, a pull handle to make closing the rear hatch easier, auto-function headlights, ambient footwell lighting, a center console storage tray, improved cupholders, USB-port connectivity, and Note function for XM® Radio. Additionally, the RDX interior gets subtle changes to the leather, resulting in a richer, more premium look to the interior seating surfaces.
True to Acura's leadership in the application of advanced technology, the RDX incorporates a class-leading array of features that keep passengers informed, entertained and in control. Every RDX features as standard Bluetooth® HandsFreeLink® connectivity with new Bluetooth® audio capabilities, a 7-speaker Acura Premium Sound System and a new USB port that allows the connection of (and charging of) items such as an iPhone® or iPod®. For those who want to be even more connected to the world around them, the optional Technology Package includes Acura's signature Navigation System with Voice Recognition which has expanded voice capabilities for 2010. Additionally, the AcuraLink™ Satellite Communication System with Real-Time Traffic™ now features Traffic Rerouting™ and AcuraLink Real-Time Weather™.
The RDX also incorporates leading safety technologies based on Acura's "Safety Through Innovation" initiative including advanced front, side and side curtain airbags, Vehicle Stability Assist ™ (VSA™), ABS with Brake Assist and an Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ (ACE™) body structure- all of which have lead to the RDX earn the highest designation by the IIHS of 'TOP SAFETY PICK'.
The RDX is equipped with a turbocharged 2.3-liter DOHC 16-valve inline four-cylinder engine incorporating computer-controlled "intelligent" i-VTEC® intake/exhaust valve actuation that delivers enhanced performance across a broad powerband. The heart of the RDX's performance is its Variable Flow Turbocharger (VFT) that delivers an unusually broad powerband with virtually no lag in throttle response. The turbocharger works in concert with i-VTEC® to deliver outstanding acceleration and efficiency while driving at a variety of speeds.
For 2010, the turbo system makes use of a new inlet pipe that is thicker to reduce noise during high boost situations and the RDX incorporate a dual-stage radiator fan to further reduce cabin noise.
Rated output for the 2.3L I-4 engine is 240 horsepower at 6,000 rpm with 260 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm. The RDX has an EPA city/highway fuel economy rating* of 19/24 mpg (RDX) and 17/22 mpg (RDX SH-AWD™) along with meeting EPA TIER 2 – BIN 5 and CARB LEV-2 ULEV exhaust emissions standards.
A performance-minded Sequential SportShift 5-speed automatic transmission is standard on the RDX and an electronically-controlled Drive-by-Wire™ throttle system works with the transmission to execute exceptionally quick and smooth gear changes. The Sequential SportShift feature allows the transmission to function in a conventional automatic mode or can be controlled manually via steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Acura's exclusive Super Handling All-Wheel Drive™ (SH-AWD™) system is available on the RDX, helping it to maximize available traction while improving handling balance and responsiveness in a variety of weather conditions. SH-AWD™ distributes optimum torque not only between the front and rear axles, but also between the left and right rear wheels while also being able to overdrive the rear wheels. The system's direct yaw control utilizes torque vectoring to help reduce understeer thus enhancing steering accuracy and adding to total cornering ability.
New for 2010 is a two-wheel-drive version of the RDX that offers a lighter vehicle weight, improved fuel economy and a lower purchase price. The 2WD RDX employs a front wheel drive drivetrain design, but otherwise retains the same exceptional chassis and driving dynamics for which the RDX is known.
Precise and responsive handling is generated by fully independent front and rear suspension. The MacPherson strut (front) and multi-link (rear) suspension system is tuned for compliant control, and the suspension is assisted by large-diameter front and rear stabilizer bars for flatter cornering. Standard to the RDX is Vehicle Stability Assist™ (VSA®) with traction control to further enhance vehicle controllability and grip.
For 2010, changes to the brake booster and servo deliver even better brake pedal feel along with less initial brake "grabbiness". In addition, the brake system makes use of revised rear brake pad actuation that delivers less drag and longer pad life; also added to the mix are Geomet-coated brake rotors for improved looks and added corrosion protection.
RDX exterior styling further emphasizes the crossover SUV's sporty athleticism. Large wheel arches, aggressively raked body sides, steeply raked windscreen and a short rear overhang generate an RDX with a taut and muscular presence. A unique rear hatch allows for a smooth transition of the body to the rear bumper- a transition that delivers a more custom look as well as eases loading and unloading of cargo.
For 2010, the RDX gets a new front fascia, Acura's signature front grille, a hood with a new front edge design and updated HID headlights that are now controlled by a standard Auto on/off function. Looking at the side of the 2010 RDX you'll notice new 18x7.5-inch 10-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels that team with the vehicles wide track (61.9-in. front, 62.6-in. rear) to deliver excellent handling. At the rear, a much more aggressive bumper fascia, rectangular exhaust finishers, revised taillights and satin finish trim give the 2010 RDX a fresh new look.
Redesigned high-intensity discharge (HID) low beam headlights command the corners of the RDX's front fascia and fenders. The headlight's new design incorporates a "smoke style" chrome plating treatment and complements the angular pattern set by the Acura grille. Front bumper integrated fog lamps are standard on the RDX, and for 2010 they are mounted within separate side grilles located at the corners of the new front fascia. Both front and rear wheel arches are bold and broad, and new 18x7.5-inch 10-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels further add to the dramatic appearance of the RDX.
Inside every RDX, leather trimmed front seats deliver a high outward visibility "eye point" that provides a confident field of view. The 3-passenger rear seat has a 60/40 split-folding capability and, when folded flat, significantly expands the load area and increases the total cargo volume to 60.6 cubic feet.
Multiple interior storage compartments are positioned throughout the interior, including a lockable dual-level center console (that is large enough to accommodate a briefcase) conveniently located between the front seats. For 2010, two revised interior color themes are available: a darker, richer Ebony and; a lighter, more premium looking Taupe.
Acura interior design has always made intuitive functionality a priority, and in the 2010 RDX all important systems and controls now feature even more intuitive button placement along with easier-to-read markings. The systems used most frequently – audio and cruise control – have switches positioned on the steering wheel, and for 2010 the HVAC buttons have been moved closer to the driver. Technology Package items like Bluetooth® HandsFreeLink®, Multi-Information Display (MID) and the AcuraLink™ Satellite Communications System can be controlled via switches on the steering wheel. AcuraLink™ messages consist of text displayed on the navigation screen, plus full details via Text-To-Speech can be heard over the RDX audio system. For 2010, the RDX has improved Text-To-Speech voice recognition with more words that can be recognized.
Also new for 2010 is a center console tray that is a convenient way to store items such as a wallet, spare keys, or an iPod®. In addition, integrated to the underside of the lid is a coin holder and place for holding credit or gate cards. New for 2010 is a USB port (also located in the center console) that allows for the easy connection of items such as an iPod®, iPhone® or a memory stick storage device. Standard is an Acura Premium Sound System with AM/FM tuner, 6-disc in-dash CD, MP3, WMA, XM® Radio, 7 speakers and a 360 watts watt amplifier. The RDX has soothing blue low-level ambient lighting in the ceiling that illuminates the front center console area, and new for 2010 is ambient blue footwell lighting.
For 2010, the available Technology Package adds even more capability, and integrates seamlessly into the RDX's performance-oriented driving environment. The Acura Navigation System with Voice Recognition™ has a revised 8-inch screen and with improved navigation system feature use and content, a faster reacting and more useful rear view camera. Non-Technology Package RDX's now get a standard rear view camera system with a viewing screen that is integrated into the auto-dimming rearview mirror.
With the AcuraLink™ Satellite Communication System and AcuraLink Real-Time Traffic™, the RDX driver can easily navigate around complex freeways. In addition, the navigation system now includes Traffic Rerouting™ that allows automatic rerouting around problem areas. Also new for the 2010 RDX is AcuraLink Real-Time Weather™ with weather radar image maps that provide weather tracking for area-specific, continually-updated weather conditions between your current location and your final destination.
Part of the RDX Technology Package is a spectacular Acura/ELS Surround® premium audio system with 6-disc DVD-audio, CD/MP3/WMA player, DTS®, AM/FM tuner, XM® Radio, Dolby Pro Logic II 10 speakers and a 410 watt amplifier. The Acura/ELS® audio system was designed by 6-time Grammy® award winning sound engineer Elliot Scheiner. When playing DVD-Audio discs (DVD-Audio is 500 times clearer than traditional CD), this advanced system delivers eight discreet audio channels (up from the usual two channels) to create an exceptionally accurate listening experience. For 2010, the Acura/ELS Surround® audio system receives a Note function for XM® Radio that allows the driver to later recall the song title, artist, a short excerpt of the actual song along with the XM® channel that played the song.
The Technology Package also includes a GPS-linked, solar-sensing, dual-zone, automatic climate control system. In total, these advanced technologies put the RDX at the cutting edge of the Entry Premium SUV segment.
Safety and Security
The RDX's technology leadership also extends to safety, where a long list of advanced technologies, including an Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ (ACE™) body structure allow the RDX to achieve NHTSA's top rating (5-Star) for both frontal and side impact crash tests, along with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) premier rating of TOP SAFETY PICK.
The ACE™ body employs a network of interconnected front frame structures that work to absorb and redirect collision forces away from the passenger cabin while helping improve crash compatibility with vehicles of different sizes in a frontal collision. A special frame member located below the RDX's front bumper is designed to engage the front bumper of a lower vehicle, allowing the bumper systems of both vehicles to attenuate crash energy more efficiently.
In addition, a specially engineered hood, collapsible hood hinges, breakaway wiper pivots and other features help reduce the chance of pedestrian injury in the event of a collision with the vehicle.
Inside, the RDX has a full complement of passive safety features. Key technologies include the latest generation of dual-stage, dual-threshold airbags for the driver and front passenger, plus side airbags for the driver and front passenger along with side curtain airbags with a rollover sensor for all outboard occupants. The front passenger's side airbag features an Occupant Position Detection System (OPDS) to prevent airbag deployment if a child or small-stature adult leans into the deployment path. LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) child seat mounting systems allow the quick and secure installation of a child seats.
Like all Acura models, the 2010 RDX is covered by a comprehensive 4-year/50,000 mile bumper-to-bumper limited warranty and a 6-year/70,000 miles powertrain limited warranty. Additional ownership benefits include Acura Total Luxury Care®, which provides free 24-hour roadside assistance, concierge service and trip routing.
New Car Test Drive
Crossover utility with performance and handling.
The Acura RDX is a premium crossover SUV designed for sporty driving. It features a 240-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a five-speed automatic with paddle shifters, and a firm independent suspension made for winding roads.
The 2010 Acura RDX offers a choice of front-wheel drive or Acura's proven Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system, called SH-AWD. The all-wheel-drive system delivers a higher proportion of power to the outside rear wheel under hard cornering, thus keeping the car balanced and enhancing cornering performance. The front-wheel-drive version gets better fuel economy (by about 2 mpg) and lowers the purchase price $2000.
RDX comes trimmed in leather, no cloth interior is available. Standard equipment includes a power moonroof and dual-zone climate control.
In short, the RDX is designed for drivers who do not want to compromise cornering for a comfortable ride (hence, the firm suspension), but want upscale accommodations.
The 2010 RDX features revised front and rear styling, cabin upgrades and additions. It's also a bit quieter. The addition of the front-drive model is the most substantial change since the launch of the RDX as a 2007 model.
The Acura RDX ($32,250) comes with leather upholstery, heated front seats, power moonroof, Bluetooth hands-free phone interface, USB input, XM satellite radio, 18-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires, xenon HID headlights with fog lamps, rear camera display in rearview mirror. The RDX SH-AWD model features the all-wheel-drive system ($34,250).
The RDX with the Technology Package ($35,620) upgrades with a 10-speaker, 410-watt sound system, navigation system with voice recognition, rearview camera, GPS-linked solar-sensing climate control and the AcuraLink satellite communication system with real-time traffic and weather. The Technology Package is the only available option and is also available on the SH-AWD model ($37,620).
Safety features standard on all models include dual-stage frontal airbags, side airbags in front, side curtain airbags with rollover sensor, active front head restraints to help protect against whiplash, tire-pressure monitor, VSA electronic stability control, traction control, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist. All-wheel drive is optional.
The Acura RDX is about one inch longer in wheelbase than the Honda CR-V, and two inches longer overall. The appearance of the two cars is similar, even with the styling revisions for 2010.
RDX has wavy sculpting on the sides that mimics large-scale corrugation.
The nose of the RDX is its most distinctive feature. The grille is a wide shallow vee below an equal-depth bright trim panel, the Acura theme, with flush-mounted side grilles and fog lights, and a dark panel in the center that appears to offer lots of snow-bank clearance.
Behind the C-pillar there's a small window not easily discerned because the C-pillar is black and the window is tinted so darkly. From the inside, it affords good visibility, with no major blind spots when looking over your shoulder.
Between the redesigned taillights is a trim molding that almost combines Acura's bold grille and five-angle themes. The lower bumper area is blacked out and the tailpipes capped off with oval outlets.
The Acura RDX dashboard cascades with colors, textures and levels. The top is wide and flat black vinyl, there's a three-inch-tall strip of dark titanium plastic in the center, broken by the display screen and, at the bottom, it turns to smooth vinyl in light gray. The top and the plastic strip are grained with minutely raised crossed diagonal lines, a sort of diamond-like golf-ball effect.
On the top center of the dashboard, tucked under the windshield, is a narrow digital display that indicates time of day, radio station, the interior temperature setting on each side of the car, and where cabin airflow is directed. It sometimes washes out in sunlight or with polarized sunglasses.
The navigation system is controlled by a sizable knob in the middle of the center stack. It pushes in, up, down, left and right. Acura has an excellent reputation for its navigation systems and we've found them among the best and easiest to operate. For 2010 the system incorporates real-time weather, traffic and automatic re-routing.
We found the rearview monitor fuzzy. It is on the dark side at night (which might be from dim backup lights), often too dark to be useful at dusk or on overcast days. For RDX without the Technology Package a backup camera image is displayed in the center of the rear view mirror, far less useful due to its size. Looking backwards still works well, of course, but rearview monitors are an additional aid for the driver, helping him or her to spot small children, short metal poles, parked cars and other things you don't want to hit. They can also speed the parking process. So we recommend the Technology Package.
A compass, automatic headlights and ambient footwell lighting have been added for 2010. The ventilation controls, said to be more intuitive, always gave us the climate desired.
We found the perforated leather seats comfortable, and the driver can perch up high to see over the short nose of the car. The driver's seat has eight-way power with power lumbar support, and the passenger's seat has four-way power adjustment. Both front seats have high and low heat settings.
The gauges are nicely lit at night, in blue and white. The tachometer is at left, with redline at 6800 rpm, and an insert that shows turbocharger boost. A big speedometer is in the center with an information display inside it, and on the right is a spot of similar size which contains a gear-selection indicator and a fuel-level gauge. It would be nice if there was a temperature gauge because, as it is, you can find the engine's temperature only by using the information display inside the speedometer, and scrolling through other information to find it. That makes it tough to see an overheating problem developing.
The information display can also show which wheels are getting the power with the SH-AWD, or Super Handling All-Wheel Drive. This system sends more power to the outside rear wheel when the car is cornering aggressively, which keeps it on line (though that's exactly the time you'd not want to look down to check the display). There's also an instantaneous fuel mileage display, consisting of a bar ranging from 0 to 50 mpg, but we did not find it to be easily readable.
The leather-wrapped, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel feels nice in your hands, if busy, with 15 buttons and switches, including paddles for upshifting and downshifting the transmission. It has three spokes, at 3, 9 and 6 o'clock, and they're trimmed in aluminum-look plastic, with a design that makes the wheel look like a scale model of a space station.
There are terrific grab handles for closing the front and rear doors, something we wish all cars had.
There are nice little storage compartments, and a very deep center console compartment, with trays at the bottom that lift out to reveal a hidden spot that's another couple inches deep. It's 16.9 inches from front to back, 12.2 inches deep and 5.5 inches wide, big enough for a laptop, briefcase or champagne bottles you're bringing to a party, and it's lockable.
The parking brake pedal seems too low, as it can interfere with moving your left foot from the rest position to the brake pedal, for those who choose to brake with the left foot. We would sometimes catch the toe of our left shoe on the parking brake when moving our foot into position to use the brake.
There seems to be decent knee room in the rear seat; we had a tall passenger back there who said she had enough room. The specification of 37.7 inches is about par for a mid-sized sedan, though you sit more upright in a small SUV like this. The rear passengers have cupholders in the folding armrest, door pockets and map pockets in the front seatbacks, and the 60/40 rear seatbacks will fold flat, after the seat cushions are flipped up against the front seatbacks.
Cargo space behind the rear seat is about par for the class, with 27.8 cubic feet; with the rear seats lowered, there's 60.6 cubic feet.
The most fun you can have with an Acura RDX is when driving it like you would a sports car. Not exactly like a sports car because it's too tall and automated for that, but it's far more a driver's car than the average upper-level cute ute.
This is the first turbocharged car Acura has ever made. Honda has been a leader with small engines and this 2.3-liter turbo is no different. The turbocharger broadens the power delivery quite a lot from the high-revving Acura TSX four-cylinder, although it doesn't smooth out the engine. It is slightly quieter than earlier models and takes more effort to hear the turbo whooshing.
It has no turbo lag and develops 260 pound-feet of torque, though at a relatively high 4500 rpm. However, a sensitive throttle and fast-responding turbo conspire to keep the transmission busy with upshifts and downshifts on uphill grades, even when driving casually. Put another way, if your right foot asks for a moderate increase in power and the boost gauge is down low, a gearshift will probably ensue. Simply selecting S for Sport mode smoothes everything, just remember to shift back into the normal mode so the transmission will use top gear on the highway.
In the Sport mode, the transmission obeys your manual-shift commands except when you downshift at an engine speed the system thinks is too high, or upshift at one it thinks is too low. Then at least it tells you that it's rejected your input with a flashing light. You can manually upshift and downshift in Drive as well, and after a few seconds of no manual input the car will revert to full automatic.
In heavy stop-and-go freeway traffic, we found it difficult to accelerate smoothly. It has a drive-by-wire throttle. We have found many cars with this type of electronic system to have sensitive throttles, and adding a turbocharger seems to magnify the sensitivity. You can manage the stop-and-go in an RDX smoothly, but its requires more concentration.
Brakes are solid and offer good feel and progressive retardation, perhaps indicative of the system upgrades for 2010.
A bigger flaw than a quick throttle or unsettled transmission might be the ride. A front-seat passenger said she could feel every bump, especially on the freeway. We could feel them too. It was like a jolt over the freeway ridges or sharp speed bumps.
Of course, this firmness in the suspension enables the RDX to perform like a sports car around the corners. Acura boasts that it will out-corner a BMW X3, which was developed on the Nurburgring circuit in Germany and has a ride similarly biased to performance. Potential buyers should include road surfaces reflective of their usual travel before deciding how much sport, or comfort, they want.
We drove one RDX in California then spent a week in another in the Northwest, just in time for snow and ice. We tested the ABS by slamming on the brakes going down a steep hill with hard-packed snow at 20 miles per hour. The response was beautiful; it took a long time to get stopped, but we were able to steer anywhere we wanted, without sliding, while our foot was mashed to the pedal. (In deep snow or dirt or gravel, you can actually stop quicker by locking the brakes, building up little dams in front of the tires, so ABS is not always a great feature in the snow.) We should point out that the P235/55R18 Michelin Pilot tires are considered high-performance all-season, meaning they weren't made for this sort of thing; all-season means three seasons, winter not being one of them.
Then we went to a slushy parking lot, and tried to cut doughnuts at hard throttle, to test the VSA electronic stability control. The RDX just turned in tight circles, without much sliding; it was quite amazing.
A couple days later the slush froze into sheer, lumpy ice and we returned to the bottom of our steep hill. We charged uphill, and it was fascinating to feel the all-wheel-drive work, and watch the readout on the instrument panel indicate with bars which of the four tires was getting the torque, based on how slippery it was under each tire at any moment. The all-wheel-drive system, which can send 70 percent of its torque to the rear wheels, struggled for grip, its computer sensors playing the throttle and brakes on and off at four separate wheels at lightning speed, and we made it to the top. This was very impressive, especially with those high-performance all-season tires that were never intended for dealing with such severe conditions. With real snow tires, the RDX would be unstoppable in the winter, and we recommend a set for winter climates.
In winter conditions, it's hard to beat a relatively light high-tech vehicle, with all-wheel drive, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, six airbags and xenon headlights, not to mention heated seats and heated mirrors. Dedicated winter tires should keep you running with the plows.
The EPA-rated mileage is 17/22 mpg City/Highway for the RDX SH-AWD. We got 17.6 miles per gallon on premium fuel at an average of 34 mph running stop-and-go on the freeway and 80 mph when the traffic was less crowded, very unfavorable conditions for fuel economy. We found the fuel mileage similar during around-town driving. Fuel economy will likely be closer to that 22 mpg EPA Highway rating when cruising constantly at 55 mph.
The new front-wheel-drive model doesn't handle quite the same around corners where you have your foot on the gas, such as mountain passes and many on-ramp clover-leafs, because it carries a higher percentage of its weight on the front wheels and has no rear drive. On the plus side it is lighter and rates 2 mpg higher in all conditions. The top two gears are taller, meaning lower engine speeds for the same road speed and quieter cruising. While you may coax mid 20s out of it on the highway, fuel economy has never been the RDX's forte.
Our choice is for the SH-AWD model with its superb all-wheel-drive system. If it's economy you're mainly after, we'd recommend looking elsewhere.
The Acura RDX is a compact crossover sport-utility built more for sporty performance than comfortable cruising, so it appeals to buyers whose driving style is on the enthusiastic side. The 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine is turbocharged to produce 240 horsepower, and it isn't tame. The firm suspension is aimed at cornering, and doesn't make many compromises. The RDX has many desirable touches inside the cabin, a full set of features, and quality engineering.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Sam Moses test drove Acura RDX models in California and the Pacific Northwest; with G.R. Whale reporting from California.
Acura RDX ($32,250); with Technology Package ($35,620) Acura RDX SH-AWD ($34,520); with Technology Package ($37,620).
Options As Tested
Technology Package includes 10-speaker 410-watt sound system, navigation system with voice recognition, rearview camera, AcuraLink satellite communication system/real-time traffic/weather.
Acura RDX SH-AWD Technology Package ($37,620).