2008 Acura RDX - A sports car in a CUV costume

Click the RDX for a high res gallery from the track

What's pictured above looks like a stylish, if conventional, compact crossover utility vehicle. As is so often the case, however, appearances are deceiving. While the vehicle has four doors and a tailgate, this is indeed a sports car. Acura gave us an opportunity to thoroughly flog the RDX compact CUV at the Waterford Hills racetrack and it acquitted itself astoundingly well.

The RDX is equipped with Acura's Super Handling-All Wheel Drive system which, combined with a well tuned suspension, makes for a thoroughly tossable unit. The RDX has a 2.3L turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the first of its type in a North American vehicle from Honda. The responsive powerplant turns out 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque with minimal turbo lag.

The torque peak comes at 4500 rpm and a 5-speed automatic transmission manual shifting capability is the only one available. With a base curb weight of 3,924 lbs, it's no lightweight, so it doesn't leap off the line. Once underway, however, the RDX won't embarrass itself when you're getting into the throttle, and pulls well coming off the corners.

The best part of the RDX, however, is the hardware between the transmission and wheels. The SH-AWD features an electronically controlled clutch pack on either side of the rear differential. In slippery conditions the clutches transfer torque to the wheels that have the most traction. When the inertial, steering and throttle settings indicate that directional changes are in order, torque is transferred to the wheels in a way that helps it follow the drivers intended path. If understeer is detected, more torque goes to the outside rear wheel to help bring the back end around.

The end result is that a nose-heavy vehicle that would normally plow through a turn becomes much more neutral. You can do a nice four-wheel drift through a high speed corner like the one at the end of the back straight, and a right-left-right series of turns at Waterford Hills showed the RDX to have resistance to changing direction. Having the AWD pitch in for this control instead of relying so much on brake intervention meant no loss of momentum during hard driving.

Body roll was kept to a minimum and the RDX never felt like it wanted to go wheels-up. In spite of the vehicles coming into the pits at the end of each run with smoke pouring off the stock brake pads, fade was kept to a minimum. If you need seating for four or five and some storage space, but you still love to drive hard, this is definitely one to check out.

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