With so many new small luxury crossovers on the road these days, it's easy to lose sight of the Acura RDX, now entering its fourth year of production. It would be a mistake for crossover shoppers to do so, however, because the 2010 RDX is one of the most entertaining compact luxury crossovers on the market. Dimensionally similar to the Honda CR-V, the RDX features available all-wheel drive, a long list of standard amenities, trendy interior styling and a unique feature in this segment -- a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. This is one CUV that doesn't deserve to get lost in the shuffle.
That turbo-4 is an interesting story. Acura's engineers considered using the naturally aspirated 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine from the TSX sedan, but they decided (wisely, we'd say) that the RDX's extra mass called for more torque. Acura's stable of V6s provided additional candidates, but curb weight played a decisive role here, too -- a V6 would add pounds relative to a four, and that's the last thing the RDX needed. So the RDX ended up with a turbocharged 2.3-liter version of the TSX's four. With 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, this engine isn't the brawniest on the block, but its turbocharged nature could be an additional draw for people living at higher elevations as it helps compensate for horsepower loss.
For 2010, the RDX also features a host of changes designed to keep it fresh. For better or worse, the RDX has been treated to styling updates that include Acura's bionic beak of a corporate grille. A front-wheel-drive version is newly available, just in time to compete with front-drive rivals like the Cadillac SRX and Volvo XC60 3.2. There are new standard features, among them ambient interior lighting and a back-up camera. And as ever, the RDX offers competitive passenger and cargo space along with the availability of "Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive" (SH-AWD), a sport-biased system aimed at those who want an extra dose of driving entertainment.
As noted, the competition in this segment just keeps getting better. Notable rivals include the Audi Q5, Infiniti EX35, Mercedes-Benz GLK350 and the abovementioned XC60; indeed, the similarly conceived BMW X3 isn't a class leader anymore, a casualty of inflated pricing and an aging design. We wouldn't count the engaging 2010 Acura RDX out, though. It's more than just another face in this capable crowd.
Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The 2010 Acura RDX is a small five-passenger luxury crossover SUV available in one well-equipped trim level. Standard features include 18-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights, a sunroof, ambient interior lighting, full power accessories, heated front seats, a tilt-telescoping steering column, a power driver seat with memory, a power passenger seat, a back-up camera, Bluetooth phone and streaming audio connectivity, leather upholstery and dual-zone automatic climate control. A seven-speaker audio system with a six-disc CD/MP3 changer, satellite radio, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and a USB connection is also standard.
The RDX's available Technology package adds a navigation system with real-time traffic, solar-sensing and GPS-linking features for the climate control and a 10-speaker Panasonic/ELS premium surround-sound audio system.
Powertrains and Performance:
The RDX is available with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Both RDX versions are powered by a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic with manual shift control is the only available transmission. Notably, the SH-AWD system distributes power not only between the front and rear axles, but also between the left and right wheels, ensuring optimal traction in all conditions.
In performance testing, we clocked an all-wheel-drive RDX at 6.8 seconds from zero to 60 mph, one of the quickest times among compact luxury crossovers. Fuel economy is below average, however, with EPA estimates of 19 mpg city/24 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined for front-wheel-drive models, and 17/22/19 for the SH-AWD.
Every 2010 Acura RDX comes standard with antilock brakes (with brake assist), stability control, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints.
In government crash testing, the RDX earned a perfect five-star rating for both frontal and side-impact crashes. Similarly, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the RDX a perfect score of "Good" in its frontal-offset and side-impact crash testing.
Interior Design and Special Features:
With standard leather seating, imitation metal accents, blue gauge illumination and a sleek dash design, the RDX's interior is undeniably a premium environment. Acura claims modern urban lofts were an inspiration. We're not sure about that, but we do think RDX buyers will be satisfied with their new cabins. Materials quality is adequate, though there's a little too much hard plastic. A deep center storage compartment between the front seats can hold a briefcase or laptop bag.
There are 28 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seats, and folding down the 60/40-split rear seatback affords 61 cubic feet -- mid-pack numbers for a small luxury crossover. The GLK and Q5 are tighter, the SRX about the same, and the X3 and XC60 notably roomier. Rear legroom is good, but the rear seats don't recline or slide fore and aft (unlike those in the RDX's plebeian cousin, the Honda CR-V).
The 2010 Acura RDX's audible turbo whooshing sound is a pleasant departure from the standard six-cylinder soundtracks in this segment. Turbo lag is minimal, and power plentiful. The transmission's gearing is also well matched to the engine's power delivery. On the move, the RDX has a firm ride quality -- overly so on rough city streets. The payoff comes on curvy roads, where the RDX is as eager to play as any model in its class. Its firm suspension keeps body roll in check, and the signature SH-AWD system maximizes traction and cornering capability.