Strengths and weaknesses:
- that GRIN
- rear seatbacks don’t fold flat
- so many switches and buttons (61)
Acura RDX takes a smarter approach to compact SUV
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – First introduced to the entry premium SUV market in 2007, Acura’s RDX crossover gets a complete remake that ups the ante considerably with new look, new engine, new shifter and a new all-wheel-drive setup.
Wheelbase and track have been extended and the body given a sleeker line, but the make-over artists only slightly tweaked the nose, keeping that odd signature grin. I keep thinking it needs a long red tongue sticking out of one corner. I will concede that it is vastly better than the previous edition especially, with the new headlights.
In profile, the door panels are smoother and the roofline is more tapered at the rear.
Behind that grinning grille and under the skin, more “driver relevant” technology has been added in Acura’s goal of smart luxury. There’s more high-strength steel and a more aerodynamic underbody.
The interior is well done indeed. Leather is everywhere; surface trim is in a matte finish. Doors are bigger, there’s more passenger and cargo space, the power rear tailgate gives access to a wider cargo opening.
Once behind the wheel, I’m confronted by a huge number of buttons and switches – 61 of them within reach of the driver – each with a specific purpose. Luckily they’re easy to sort out.
The seats are comfortable and there’s ample room for legs, hips and heads in any seating position. Front passengers get seat warmers.
With the 60/40 split folding rear seatback folded down (they don’t fold flat, by the way), there’s 2178 litres of cargo space, an increase of 461.6 from the previous RDX.
Acura has brought along some Canadian-spec top-of-the-line technology package vehicles for testing around the Phoenix area.
A push of the starter button brings the new engine to life. The 3.5-litre V6 is rated at 273 horsepower and 251 lb.-ft. of torque. With 33 more horses than the 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbo it replaces, it employs Variable Cylinder Management (a first for Acura) and i-VTEC to produce the kind of fuel economy you want to see these days.
I find that I can’t tell when the engine moves from six to four to three cylinder operation.
Power gets to all four wheels through a new sequential sportshift six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive with intelligent control.
It’s a smooth-operating team that responds quickly when I stomp on the drive-by-wire throttle, with good off-the-line getaway oomph and decent passing power on the highway.
RDX still rides on a four-wheel independent suspension with MacPherson strut design up front and multi-link setup in back; the longer wheelbase, wider track and lower centre of gravity make for the well-mannered luxury-like ride for which we’re looking.
Motion adaptive electronic power steering has replaced the previous hydraulic system. It responds quickly and gets the RDX going where you want it to go when you want it to go there.
The RDX in its base form is a very well-equipped vehicle, but the technology package takes things to a new level of driver-oriented features. It starts with Acura’s bilingual voice recognition navigation system which now has a hard disk drive with 60 gig storage. It’s much quicker than the previous CD-based system.
Data is displayed on a new eight-inch colour screen.
The tech package is music to my ears. Literally. It includes a new Acura/ELS surround sound 410-watt, 10-speaker audio system with DVD (does anybody produce that any more?), CD, DTS, AM/FM, satellite, Bluetooth audio and a 3,500-song hard disk storage system.
When you opt for the technology package, you get a GPS-linked solar-sensing, dual-zone automatic climate control system, and a power-operated rear hatch.
The target buyer for RDX is a bit older than for the previous vehicle: mid-30s rather than late 20s), married and planning a family.
That buyer is more affluent, too, with a household income of $150,000 versus $130,000.
I’m not in that demographic, but I do like the new RDX and I’m pretty sure empty-nesters might prove to be a sizable chunk of the buyer profile.