RDX is R-E-A-D-Y: Acura puts plenty of tech treatments into new crossover style

I didn't quite expect such a rousing reception from a four-cylinder and all-wheel drive. But this is an Acura, and the engineers have finessed 240 horsepower from the new 2.3-liter engine with a variable flow turbo that spools up quickly at low speeds.

That, and a five-speed automatic transmission with sport mode and "sportshift" paddle shifters at the steering wheel make for an involved driving experience.

The sophisticated shift system works three ways. Grab a downshift or two in drive with the paddle shifters, then the transmission automatically upshifts a few seconds later. Or, pull the console gear-shift lever down a notch to sport and the transmission upshifts only to third gear, which is handy in traffic to keep the turbo on its toes for even quicker response. Then flick a gear change with paddle shifters and sport mode puts the driver in charge of shifting.

It's really not as "Ricky Racer" as it may sound, and after a few outings to experiment you'll never ask why Acura didn't also offer a manual transmission.

This is the first Acura on Honda's new, global light-truck platform, and as a so-called crossover vehicle it blends SUV image and sedan practicality with lots of storage for the urban user's many things - phones, digital music, workout gear, weekend gear and friends.

On sale since August, RDX features one trim level with one factory option package. Pricing for the standard model is $33,665, including $670 freight charge from the Marysville, Ohio, factory. Conveniences include dual-zone automatic climate control, a 360-watt, seven-speaker sound system with multiformat six-disc changer, XM satellite radio and an MP3/auxiliary input jack (with a nearby storage slot for the player).

The uplevel Tech model, today's test car, is $37,165, and it adds among other things a 10-speaker surround-sound audio, Bluetooth-compatible hands-free wireless telephone connection, navigation system with voice recognition, rearview camera and satellite-linked real-time traffic alerts.

Over time, the $3,500 cost of the Tech package pays off with the convenience of the rearview camera. Once you try one, you won't want to go back to the dark side.

The tech-forward features are not difficult to use for those comfortable in a computer-oriented lifestyle, though it is unnerving to have a female voice remind that a door is ajar and other such prompts. The voice-activated controls for many audio and navigation controls are improved from earlier generations, but not quite perfected. Or, baby boomer that I am, I just don't have the patience to pursue it.

Safety features include the latest dual-stage, dual-threshold air bag technology for the driver and front passenger, front side air bags and side curtain air bags with rollover sensors for all window seats.

It is a wide and flat vehicle to drive and stable under power, but I'd wish for lighter steering at low speeds. Fuel economy - 19 mpg city, 23 highway on 91 octane - was second to performance, Acura says, but that does include the all-season security of all-wheel drive.

The so-called Super Handling AWD manages power front to rear and also between left and right rear wheels. The system also enhances dry-road adhesion in corners by rotating the outside rear wheel faster than the speed of the front axle, which takes some of the force off the front tires so they grip better.

Try this out on any freeway loop or just hold tight when hanging a hard turn. The laws of physics still apply and too much speed in the turn will, ultimately, prove that traction isn't guaranteed.

This smart four-door maximizes space with many small but useful storage areas, including two in the door panels, a handy slot to drop your iPod after plugging it in and a two-level center console - with false bottom panels that lift up to make it deep enough to stow a laptop.

The interior's metallic trim has manly appeal, but some lighter tones and wood trim wouldn't be overly feminine.

The back seat, which is raised to give passengers a good view, also folds flat for those who like to sleep in their vehicle while waiting for the early-morning sale of concert tickets, bird-watching or surging storm.

The cargo area is another multitasker with a reversible hard cargo lid that can be used as a scuff protector for the cargo area.

Acura targeted early-30s, eager urban men with this car, but RDX might prove to be a gender-blender with its versatility and sharp drivability.


2007 Acura RDX Tech

Body style: Compact, five-passenger, all-wheel-drive sport utility vehicle

Engine: Turbocharged 2.3-liter, 16-valve, DOHC 4-cylinder with variable valve timing; emission certification, ULEV 2 and EPA Tier-2, Bin-5

Horsepower: 240 at 6,000 rpm

Torque: 260 at 4,500 rpm

Transmission: 5-speed automatic with sequential SportShift paddle shifters and grade logic control

Acceleration: 0 to 60 mph, 7.3 seconds, from Motor Trend; Road and Track, 6.3

EPA fuel economy estimates: 19 mpg city, 23 highway; premium unleaded recommended

Fuel capacity: 18 gallons


Cargo space: 27.8 cubic feet, 60.6 rear seats folded

Front head/leg/shoulder room: 38.7/41.8/58.2 inches

Rear head/leg/shoulder room: 38.3/37.6/56.3 inches

Length/wheelbase: 180.7/104.3 inches

Curb weight: 3,982 pounds


Standard equipment includes remote locking with security system, Sport seats with perforated leather-trimmed interior, steering wheel audio and cruise controls, eight-way power adjusted driver seat with power lumbar, heated front seats, power windows-locks-mirrors, power moonroof, high-intensity-discharge headlights, fog lights, heated outside mirrors with integrated turn indicators, tilt and telescoping steering column, carpeted floor mats and tank of fuel on delivery

Tech package: navigation system with voice recognition, rearview camera and real-time traffic alerts; 10-speaker Acura/ELS surround sound system with multiformat DVD-A six-disc changer and XM satellite radio; hands-free wireless telephone interface; multi-information display with steering wheel controls; solar-sensing, dual-zone, automatic climate control system; tire pressure monitoring system with pressure readout

Safety equipment includes: front dual-stage air bags, front side bags, side curtain air bags with rollover sensor, active front head rests, tire pressure monitor; stability assist with traction control


Brakes: four-wheel discs with four-wheel ABS, electronic brake force distribution and Brake Assist

Steering: Torque-sensing variable power-assisted, rack-and-pinion; turning circle, 37.4 feet

Suspension: four-wheel independent; front MacPherson struts, rear multilink; twin-tube shock absorbers; front and rear stabilizer bars

Tires and wheels: P235/55R 18-inch high performance all-season on alloy wheels


Base: $37,165; price as tested, $37,165

Options on test car: none

Warranty: Four-year/ 50,000-mile limited

The competition: BMW X3

Where assembled: Marysville, Ohio


There are more than 25 Genuine Acura accessories to dress up your RDX, including gold emblems for $72. Others include Acura MusicLink for iPod, $189; console cooler bag, $40; 19-inch high-performance chrome-look wheels, $2,200; roof rack $399; and surfboard attachment, $75.

Each is covered by the RDX's four-year, 50,000-mile basic warranty when purchased with the vehicle or 12 months/12,000 miles when purchased separately from the vehicle.

PLUSES: Fast, desirable utility and styling in a politically correct size package.

MINUSES: Modest fuel economy; tight entry space for second-row passengers; voice recognition still not perfected.

Mark Maynard is driving in cyberspace at mark.maynard@uniontrib.com.

© Copley News Service

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