The RDX is smaller than other crossovers we've tested recently, such as the Mazda CX-7 and the Ford Edge. It feels quicker and more agile. The interior isn't particularly roomy, although seating position is higher than in a sedan. The driver's seat gets 10-way power adjustment, but the front passenger seat has manual controls. We also discovered that front legroom is minimal, with one of our 6-foot-plus review staff brushing the dashboard with his knees--even with the seat all the way back. As a nice touch, the center console hatch is very wide and deep, with room enough for a couple of laptops.
All the tech that fits
Acura chose to make the RDX a tech powerhouse, including a similar Technology package to the one available on the Acura RL, a previous winner of our Tech Car of the Year award. The Technology package includes Bluetooth cell phone integration, voice recognition, and navigation with live traffic information. But the RDX takes it a step further by adding an excellent stereo system. While we like all of this technology, Acura didn't do a good job of making the interface very usable, mounting buttons wherever they fit around the dashboard and steering wheel.
The main interface for the RDX is a LCD screen mounted at the top of the stack, with function buttons and a joystick/dial right below it. The joystick/dial is big enough that it's easy to use, even while driving. But the software interface isn't so good, as it's difficult to determine from what's on the screen whether the dial should be turned or the joystick moved to make a menu selection. A CD changer sits at the bottom of the stack, and has some duplicative controls to those displayed on the LCD screen. Unfortunately, the lower stereo controls don't mirror the look of the screen controls at all. Further complicating things, there are no Bluetooth phone controls on the screen, as they're relegated to a voice command system.
Beyond this profusion of buttons, we've always liked the voice command systems offered in Acuras and Hondas. It's fairly intuitive and does a great job of recognizing spoken words. When we said, "Show restaurants," the system added restaurant icons to a displayed map, and when we asked, "What time is it," it told us the current time. The phone system works well, too. We paired it with a Motorola V551 cell phone, and found it simple to make calls by pressing the voice command button (the top one on the steering wheel) and telling the system to dial a number. We didn't find any straightforward way to access our phone's address book or recent calls log, however.
As in other Acuras we've seen, the navigation system is top-notch. It's easy to enter destinations, and its points-of-interest database goes beyond restaurants, gas stations, and ATMs to include all sorts of retail stores. It's like having a yellow pages in the car. The navigation system also does a good job with route guidance, showing a split screen with a graphic to indicate upcoming turns. Best of all, the RDX has the same live traffic reporting found on the RL. The system shows icons for traffic incidents, such as construction or crashes, as well as traffic speed on freeways and major roadways. The traffic information is a service from XM satellite radio; owners will need to maintain a subscription which costs $12.95 a month, after a three-month free service period.
But the stereo does sound good--really, really good. The system uses a 6-channel, 410-watt amplifier, pumping music through 10 speakers, including one center fill and a subwoofer. The Surround effect works very well, making it hard to pinpoint a sound source. Highs are extraordinarily crisp, the mid-range is excellent, but lows get just a little muddy at high volumes. It's a rich and clear sound, making every instrument stand out in a track. With our most bass-heavy music, we found the subwoofer tame enough not to shake the car.