Honda/Acura has had it share of experience with turbochargers, what with its background in motorsports and all, but it took them awhile to get this technology into their production model line-up. In fact, the Acura RDX was the first model to get it, when it debuted in North America, in 2007. Even then, the RDX had a gestation period of about eight years, and Honda collaborated with Mitsubishi to get everything sorted out. Honda has never been a company to rush into things and when they finally do get around to something, it�s usually done right….at least as far as engines and drivetrains are concerned.
You could argue that the RDX might have been just as appealing with a small displacement V6 engine, but, with some 240 horsepower on tap, and an almost seamless delivery of power, the forced air induction 2.3 litre four cylinder works a treat, and delivers decent fuel economy into the bargain. This was one of the factors weighed by Honda when they began R & D on the RDX. That said, it requires premium grade fuel, which kind of negates any savings at the pumps.
And a word about the turbocharger in this rig. Acura describes it as a variable flow system, which means that the exhaust gases that propel the turbocharger can be managed to increase and/or decrease the spin rate of the turbine. It�s a slick set-up, and gives the RDX virtually instant power….no turbo lag here. Off-the-line jump is exceptional and this may be the most useable and refined turbocharged four cylinder I�ve ever driven.
Also a factor in Acura�s deliberations was the concept of this being a performance-based SUV, rather than a down-and-dirty stump-jumper. Yes, the RDX does have an all-wheel-drive system, but it�s designed to enhance handling and road performance, not the vehicle�s ability to traverse off-road terrain. Known as Super Handling All-Wheel-drive (SH-AWD), this set-up redirects power from the front to the rear driving wheels, and than distributes again it between the left and right rear wheels, depending on road conditions and what the driver is doing. It�s also found in the Acura RL sedan. The idea, according to Acura, is to keep the vehicle stable during high-speed cornering, by using the engine�s torque to counteract any understeer or oversteer. Funny thing is, the majority of people that drive an RDX probably won�t even notice, and the RDX, though it�s meant to bridge the gap between a practical family wagon and a sport sedan, is still a sport ute.
Which means that it has a full complement of convenience items and practical features. For it�s just under $42,000 base price, the RDX comes with all the usuals: leather interior, climate control system, one-up/down power windows, keyless entry, 60/40 folding rear seat, power front seats, heated front seats, MP3 input jack, and all the rest. Standard equipment also includes a back-up camera, and my tester, the Technology model, also came with Bluetooth, a navigation system, and an upgraded stereo. I say, save yourself the $3000 and stick with the base model. One nice feature here: steering-wheel-mounted shift and audio controls. There is but one transmission choice, a five-speed automatic with sequential shift feature.
With 788 litres of cargo room, the RDX is not the most commodious SUV out there. Pick just about any other comparably sized SUV, and it�ll have more storage space. For example, the new
Chev Equinox is good for 889 litres. I realize the RDX is up a notch in terms of market niche and aimed at a different group of buyers, but these are both compact SUVs, and the amount of gear you can stuff into them is just as relevant.
I also have a problem with the instrumentation and dash layout with the RDX. In a nutshell, it�s just too cluttered and busy. Acura needs to simplify things here and cut down on the number of knobs and buttons. And, last but hardly least, Acura designers have worked their magic on the front grille and managed to make it even more awkward and garish. Back to the drawing board here, boys.
But in terms of assembly quality and fit and finish, the RDX feels like the upscale ute that it is. The leather seating surfaces actually smell and feel like leather, the engine is nicely muted, the transmission as tight as a drum, and underway, road noise is minimal. Note to Acura: whatever you�re doing here, pass it along to your colleagues next door, at Honda. NVH intrusion is a constant issue with virtually all Honda products.
The 2010 edition of the RDX isn�t much different from the �09. Basically, this year�s version gets automatic headlights, redesigned 18-inch wheels and tires, and, depending on the model, an internal compass, to let you know which direction you�re headed in.
Wherever that is, it won�t be off-road.
AT A GLANCE
Type: Compact SUV
Base Price: $41,885; as tested: $42,990
Engine: 2.3 litre turbocharged four cylinder
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Horsepower/Torque: 240 hp @ 6000 rpm/ 260 foot-pounds @ 4500 rpm
Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 11.7 city; 8.7 hwy, premium gas.
Alternatives: Mazda CX-7, Audi A5, BMW X3, Infiniti FX35, Mercedes GLK 350, Cadillac SRX, Lexus RX350.
Likes: Typical capable Honda drivetrain, tight assembly quality, all kinds of usable power, nice interior ambience.
Dislikes: Front grille is still ugly, dash layout cluttered, down on cargo volume.