Short Take Road Test: 2010 Acura RDX Front-Wheel Drive
This 2010 review is representative of model years 2007 to 2012.
By Steve Siler of Car and Driver
Three years ago, the compact luxury SUV segment had but two entries: the BMW X3 and the Acura RDX. Now, of course, the segment has gotten rather crowded, so the time is right for the originals to get freshened. The X3 is due for a full-scale redesign soon, but the RDX is receiving a mid-cycle refresh for 2010. The RDX has always represented strong value, and that's the case now more than ever, as heavier and pricier entries push the limit on what people will spend for small utes ($50,000-plus for a well-optioned BMW X3 is a stretch, even for the most ardent Bimmerphiles). To really hammer that point home, Acura presents a lighter, thriftier entry in the form of the 2010 front-wheel-drive RDX.
Now, front-wheel drive is hardly our favorite arrangement for anything that attempts to combine luxury and sport. But at about 3750 pounds (add 10 or so pounds for the Tech package), the two-wheel-drive RDX saves just under 200 pounds over the all-wheel-drive version — previously the only available arrangement — making it one of the lightest compact luxury SUVs around. In the process, the front-to-rear weight distribution shifts forward a bit compared with that of the all-wheel-drive version (60/40 versus 59/41), but fuel economy goes up by 2 mpg to 19 city/24 highway from 17/22, and the price is exactly $2000 lower, starting at $33,330 for the 2010. Acura expects this to be a trade-off many will be willing to make, particularly in the Sunbelt, where all-wheel drive is seen primarily as an off-road-only thing.
Does Front-Wheel Drive Kill the Fun? Nope.
We expected a truckload of torque steer with 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque channeled through the front wheels, but just a taste of that notorious steering-wheel shimmy came through. We even let go of the steering wheel during a couple of full-throttle launches — something we would never do in a Saab 9-3 or even Acura's own front-wheel-drive TSX V-6 — and found little tugging to the right that wasn't immediately straightened on its own. And this RDX is as quick as ever, equaling or besting nearly all the figures posted by our long-term 2007 RDX AWD. The front-driver's 0-to-60-mph sprint was three ticks quicker at 6.4 seconds, although too much brake torquing causes acceleration-spoiling wheelspin, while the quarter-mile passed in 15.1 at 94 mph versus 15.3 at 91 for the long-termer. A top speed of 136 mph also was slightly better than the all-wheel-drive version's 132, but braking from 70-0 took 186 feet, six more than before. Steering feel seemed mostly unfazed by the concentration of power at the turning wheels, although we admit we didn't get a chance to do much hard charging in the twisties. However, the front driver did match our all-wheel-drive long-termer around the skidpad by pulling 0.80 g.
In addition to comparable performance for less coin, the most troublesome of the RDX's earlier issues also has been rectified, that being a painfully brittle ride. Today's RDX offers an excellent balance of feel and composure while keeping body roll in check. All RDX models now feature redesigned center-stack controls and a new standard rearview mirror with an integrated rear-camera display. Additional ambient lighting and standard Bluetooth and USB connections have been installed, although all told, the interior still doesn't match the sense of occasion presented by the Mercedes-Benz GLK or Audi Q5.
The same can be said for the exterior, which wears new front and rear bumpers, subtly revised lighting elements, and the new corporate beak, as well as new 10-spoke, 18-inch wheels. However, for just $36,430 loaded, the front-drive RDX is a terrific bargain that you don't have to live in the Sunbelt to appreciate.
C/D TEST RESULTS: