2007 Acura RDX Review


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2007 Acura RDX
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2007 Acura RDX

SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Acura

In the original sport-utility paradigm, "sport" was an activity, like skiing or camping, that the vehicle enable you to do. "Sport", as applied to the description of a car, had nothing to do with the vehicle dynamics and performance of a truck.

That worked fine for many people, but many younger and more urban-oriented potential buyers were not going for truck-based SUVs. Even the first-generation crossovers, like Acura's MDX, didn't pique their interest. And those youthful, upscale people are Acura's target market.

What to do? Put "sport" seriously into "sport-utility." And preferably without compromising the utility. A hint of Acura's intention was revealed in the RD-X concept vehicle of 2002. The concept vehicle was an interesting amalgamation of sports car, hybrid, and SUV characteristics, with a 250-horsepower 2.4-liter engine, racing-style clutchless paddle-shift manual transmission, and a four-wheel-drive system that incorporated electric motors to drive the rear wheels. Its radical styling and engineering features were not the stuff of mass-production, but it did point toward a certain then-future Acura vehicle - the 2007 RDX.

If it's not as radical as its concept forebear, the 2007 Acura RDX is still one of the most successful meldings of sport and utility yet. It's close to the concept in many ways, even if the implementation is different and the styling much more mainstream. There's no high-strung naturally-aspirated engine and clutchless manual gearbox or electric rear-wheel power, but the reality should get the job done just as well. Under the hood is a turbocharged and intercooled 2.3-liter engine with 240 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, and that power goes through a manually-shiftable five-speed automatic to all four wheels by the "Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive System"(tm), hereafter known as SH-AWD. The suspension is seriously sport-tuned, with very good grip and handling despite the tallish stance. The interior is like a tall compact wagon, with good room for four and/or plenty of "active lifestyle" equipment.

With five inches of ground clearance and a 1500-pound towing capacity, the RDX is more car than truck for any off-road use. But it wasn't meant for the back-of-beyond crowd. It's an urban multipurpose sport and utility vehicle, and driving is one of the sports involved. I've spent the last week driving an RDX with the optional Technology Package, a suite of high-tech information and entertainment features aimed directly at the contemporary urban techie. Stay connected and be directed, and get to your destination quickly in the RDX. And once there, it's convenient size should make city parking less of a chore.

APPEARANCE: If the RD-X looked like a 2057 Mars rover, the 2007 RDX looks more like a small Acura crossover SUV. It's muscular, but not to the point of being a sci-fi movie prop, and its basic shape, angular lines, and satin-finished five-point grille establish its relatedness to the larger MDX. The faired-in headlights, with projector-beam low beams and HID high beams, are far more sports sedan that sport-utility. There is a small amount of lower cladding, but it's not overdone.

COMFORT: Welcome. Yes, that's the word displayed beneath the speedometer when you start the RDX. Sport, luxury, and the latest electronic information and entertainment technology are combined in the RDX, especially with the Technology Package. Its interior design would not be out of place in a sports-luxury sedan at the same price point, with a pleasant design, multiple materials and textures, and well-designed heated sports seats covered with perforated leather. Pretty much anything that can be power-operated is, although over-the-top features like a power tailgate and keyless starting are not found. LED-backlit analog gauges are easy to read, and useful information can be displayed in the "welcome" area set into the speedometer. The audio system handles AM, FM, and XM satellite radio, as well as CDs and MP3 or WMA files from CD or an external player via a jack in the audio head. An iPod-specific hookup is available. The Technology Package adds a navigation system with real-time traffic information (where available), a Bluetooth-based hands-free phone connection, a backup camera, an upgraded audio system, and more. The nav and phone system interfaces are relatively simple and intuitive, and can be helped by the car's voice-recognition system. It's the compleat tech vehicle. It was designed for young singles or couples, and should suit them well. The rear seat can carry another couple easily, and it folds flat with a flip-and-fold 60/40 split for cargo duty.

SAFETY: Safety is paramount in the design and construction of the Acura RDX. It's built for bumper-height compatibility with cars, to lessen collision damage, and its unibody structure also has front and rear crumple zones and side-intrusion beams. All seating positions have three-point safety belts, and active head restraints, dual-stage, dual threshold front airbags, and front side airbags further protect front occupants, while all side occupants get protection from side-curtain airbags. Four-wheel antilock disc brakes, a rollover sensor, and Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA)(tm) also add protection.

RIDE AND HANDLING: The RDX is built on Acura's (and parent Honda's) new global light-truck platform, but don't look for a ladder frame and solid axles. It's a "light truck" in some bureaucratic definition only. In reality, with unibody construction, a fully-independent sport-tuned MacPherson strut front, multilink rear suspension, performance-oriented all-wheel drive system, and car-like ground clearance and center of gravity, the RDX is much more a compact sports sedan after a workout than any sort of truck. Its ride quality is sports-car firm, amplified by the high seating position, but it corners flat, with plenty of grip and stability. It can dispatch urban traffic as well as a country road, and its parking-friendly compact size and space-efficient design is perfect for the crowded urban environment.

PERFORMANCE: When I first drove the RDX, I was impressed by its engine more than any other characteristic. And the engine is what defines this vehicle. Torque is what makes a vehicle move, and the RDX's long-stroke, 2.3-liter turbocharged and intercooled twin-cam four-cylinder engine is a master of torque production. This is the Acura's first turbo engine, and they got it right the first time. The variable-flow turbo reduces lag to imperceptible levels, while the i-VTEC cam control system changes both actual valve timing and life and cam phasing, for a broader torque and power band and low emissions. Electronic throttle control works with both the other engine and transmission electronics to further optimize response. The engine is matched to a five-speed automatic transmission that has both normal and sport modes, and manual shifting by means of twin paddles mounted behind the steering wheel. There is a major difference in response in sport mode, but the RDX is quick even in regular mode, and there is such a surplus of torque, and the transmission logic is so good, that manual shifting is really only a means of entertainment. And it's very entertaining, although heavy use of the loud pedal will do bad things to fuel economy. EPA ratings are 19 mpg city, 23 highway; I managed 17.

CONCLUSIONS: The Acura RDX is a significant new entry in the entry-luxury / performance SUV class.

SPECIFICATIONS

2007 Acura RDX 

Base Price		$ 36,495


Price As Tested		$ 37,165


Engine Type		dual overhead cam 16-valve turbocharged
			        and intercooled aluminum alloy
				4-cylinder with i-VTEC variable
				valve timing and cam phasing

Engine Size		2.3 liters / 140 cu. in.

Horsepower		240 @ 6000 rpm

Torque (lb-ft)		260 @ 4500 rpm

Transmission		5-speed electronically-controlled automatic
				with manual-shift mode and Grade Logic Control

Wheelbase / Length	104.3 in. / 180.7 in.

Curb Weight		3935 lbs.

Pounds Per Horsepower	16.4

Fuel Capacity		18.0 gal.

Fuel Requirement		91 octane unleaded premium gasoline

Tires			P235/55 VR18 Michelin Pilot HX mxm4

Ground Clearance		5.12 inches

Brakes, front/rear	vented disc / solid disc, 

Suspension, front/rear	independent MacPherson strut/independent multilink

Drivetrain		transverse front engine, all-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		19 / 23 / 17
0 to 60 mph				7.5  sec
Towing Capacity				1500 lbs.

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

Destination Charge			$ 670

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