Review: 2007 Acura RDX
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Dazzled by technology? Drawn to innovative engineering?
The 2007 Acura RDX might just be the sport utility for you.
This 5-passenger, 5-door, nicely sized sport-utility vehicle is a people and cargo hauler with more brains than brawn.
The RDX is the first Acura powered by a turbocharged gasoline engine. But this isn't any turbo or any engine. The 240-horsepower RDX uses innovative variable air flow and i-VTEC to deliver 6-cylinder-type power and, indeed, more torque than any other Acura—260 foot-pounds at 4500 rpm.
And guess what? The underlying engine is only a 2.3-liter 4 cylinder—something you'd expect to find in a small car!
The RDX has Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive as standard equipment, too. It does more than shift power between the RDX's front and rear axles for good traction in bad weather. The electronically controlled system can shift power between right and left wheels on the same axle, too, for better wheel tracking through curves during spirited driving on dry pavement.
And when loaded with an additional technology package that's expected to be in 40 percent of RDX models sold, this new SUV includes high-tech voice recognition for some car commands, a 410-watt, surround sound system and real-time traffic updates for more than 30 major U.S. cities.
Not for off-road
This SUV is designed for light duty—primarily pavement and dirt lanes. There's no extra-low gear for climbing and no skid plates underneath to protect mechanicals from rocks. It doesn't even come with a roof rack, unless you add it as an accessory.
Also, don't look for 4-cylinder-type pricing. At introduction, the RDX carried a starting manufacturer's suggested retail price around $33,000. Thus, the RDX has the highest starting price of all four-cylinder-powered SUVs on the market.
But looked at another way, the RDX also is the luxury-branded SUV with the lowest starting price. The next cheapest luxury-branded SUV, if you could call it that, is the Hummer H3, which starts around $30,000 and has a 242-horspower 3.7-liter inline 5 cylinder.
In fairness, the RDX price reflects the amount of standard equipment in this SUV. In every RDX, seats are trimmed with perforated leather. Front seats are heated. All RDX vehicles have a standard 5-speed automatic transmission with shift-it-yourself Sequential SportShift. All audio systems include XM satellite radio with three months of free service. Carpeted floor mats, remote entry, hard cover for the back cargo area and dual air conditioning are included.
And, the RDX is some $4,100 less than Acura's only other SUV, the larger, 7-passenger MDX that's powered by a V6.
At 15.1 feet long, the RDX also is 5.5 inches shorter than the entry SUV from Lexus, the 2007 RX 350, which starts over $37,000 with a 270-horse V6.
But the RDX exterior, while clean and pleasant enough, doesn't convey much personality. It's neither bold nor rich, so it's easy for passersby to ignore or just lump in with other, more mainstream vehicles.
Note that the RDX is the first Acura to come standard with large, stylish 18-inch wheels and tires. They help keep the vehicle from looking completely boring.
Inside, the RDX does much better in commanding attention, thanks to the leather seats, a large display screen in the middle of the dashboard and even paddle shifters on the steering wheel for manually shifting gears. These paddles are patterned after lightning fast shifters in Formula 1 race cars.
Controls and gauges are well-arranged, and the blue, white and red colors in the analog dials are attractive.
I appreciated the large and deep center storage area between the RDX front seats. It can hold a purse, a portfolio, even a laptop, and it locks, to boot.
At 5 feet 4, I could pretty much turn and set myself on the side of the driver's seat in the RDX to get inside. There's no scrambling aboard, yet the view out the front is good and all riders sit up a bit from the pavement.
And I liked that Acura was proud of its turbo technology and includes the word "turbo" in several places in the RDX: On the tailgate, in the instrument panel and on the engine.
Special engine engineering
Actually, I forgot at times that the RDX had a turbo engine under the hood, though there is a turbo gauge in the instrument cluster that shows a driver when turbo boost is being added. The maximum turbo boost pressure is 13.5 pounds per square inch.
The engineering of the RDX engine, done at Acura's parent company Honda Motor Co., is impressive.
The 4 cylinder combines Honda's already well-known intelligent Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control (i-VTEC) with a variable flow turbocharger that boosts engine response.
It's the first such combination in a gasoline engine, and both the turbo and i-VTEC in the RDX are connected to the engine control unit, so software manages both systems jointly.
Variable flow means airflow into the turbo can be modulated, using a movable flow control valve, and the RDX turbo is positioned at the rear of the engine so it's maximally positioned for exhaust gases to go into the turbo chamber.
To reduce wear and tear on turbo parts, Honda engineers placed as many moving parts outside the hot stainless cast iron turbo housing as they could.
But pricey synthetic oil is a must for this engine, and fuel economy is more like what you'd expect from a V6 than a 4 cylinder.
Specifically, the RDX is rated at 19 miles a gallon in city driving and 23 mpg on the highway, which is on par with other SUVs that have V6s, including the Nissan Murano and Suzuki Grand Vitara.
This, plus steering tuned with a sports sedan ratio, makes the RDX feel agile, not plush or soft.
The front suspension in the RDX is MacPherson strut, and there's a trailing-arm-type double wishbone in the rear. Stabilizer bars, front and rear, are sizable at 21 and 19 millimeters, respectively.
Odds and ends
With a towing capacity of just 1,500 pounds, the RDX isn't for major-league boat or trailer towing. But a decent amount of "stuff"—including two bicycles standing upright with front wheels removed—can fit in the back where there's 60.6 cubic feet of space when rear seats are folded down.