Like most manufacturers these days, Acura - Honda's luxury division - has turned to the "crossover" body style. So named because they slip into a niche somewhere between SUV, sedan and wagon, crossovers have become the hottest items on the market in the past year or two.
Occupying the "entry premium" portion of the crossover segment, the five-passenger compact RDX contains Acura's first turbocharged engine. It's also the first adaptation of Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) to an SUV. The AWD system is standard. For the first time on any Acura, 18-inch wheels are installed.
Acura considers the RDX to be the "soul mate" of the company's TSX sport sedan, and targets upwardly-mobile young professionals. According to the company, the RDX competes against only a few vehicles, including the BMW X3. But they predict that the "entry premium" segment will grow five-fold in the next few years.
Turbocharged and intercooled, the RDX's 2.3-liter i-VTEC four-cylinder engine develops 240 horsepower at 6000 rpm, and 260 pound-feet of torque at 4500 rpm. (The i-VTEC nomenclature stands for Intelligent Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control.) Acura's five-speed automatic transmission incorporates Formula 1-style Sequential SportShift paddle shifters.
Vehicle Stability Assist is standard, as are Xenon high-intensity-discharge low-beam headlights. Antilock braking includes electronic brake distribution and brake assist. Also on the safety side are side-curtain airbags with rollover sensing, plus front-seat side-impact airbags. Heated outside mirrors include a passenger-side tilt-down feature when in reverse, as well as integrated turn signals.
RDX passengers occupy perforated leather-trimmed seats, and the driver faces LED backlit gauges and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with fingertip controls. Acura claims that the front console is "briefcase-sized." The eight-way power driver's seat includes power-adjustable lumbar support. Standard equipment also includes heated front seats, a dual-mode cargo system, power moonroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, and six-CD changer.
Acura advises the RDX has a "high eye-point that allows an excellent field of view." With the 60/40-split rear seats folded flat, cargo space totals 60.6 cubic feet.
Performance is Acura's prime selling point for the RDX, in view of the new model's turbocharged engine. From a standstill, the RDX takes off with almost startling haste. At highway speeds, on the other hand, acceleration is more moderate.
Ride comfort earns a few demerits for this Acura model, due to a surprisingly stiff suspension for a vehicle of this caliber. On the plus side, the RDX maneuvers easily and handles confidently.
Ordinarily sticker-priced at $32,995 (plus destination charge), the RDX lists for $36,495 when equipped with a Technology Package that includes a navigation system and rearview camera, as well as a 10-speaker Acura/ELS Surround Premium Sound System. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the RDX warrants a fuel-economy estimate of 19 mpg in city driving and 23 mpg on the highway.