We zipped around the city and flogged the 2008 Acura RDX through the hills, and in all areas found it an enjoyable ride. Its compact SUV-style body offers practical interior space while giving it carlike maneuverability. With the tech package, Acura throws in just about every cabin gadget imaginable, from an excellent-sounding stereo to its full-featured navigation system. However, while the RDX maneuvers like a car, it drinks gas like a large SUV. We also eagerly await the day that Acura redesigns its dashboard and reduces the ridiculous number of buttons.
Test the tech: Ambulance chaser
The navigation system on the 2008 Acura RDX includes live traffic reporting, fed to the system by XM NavTraffic. This system shows traffic flow on freeways and major roads by highlighting in red for traffic moving less than 20 mph, yellow for traffic between 20 mph and 40 mph, and green for average speeds more than 40 mph. Icons also appear on the map indicating incidents that could cause slow traffic, such as accidents and road construction. For our tech test, we spent a day investigating incidents that showed up on the navigation system.
As we set out, we saw an icon on the map just south of CNET headquarters, so we moved the cursor over it and clicked. The system reported an object on the road, on Interstate 280 South at Mariposa Street. We raced through San Francisco to the freeway entrance and were soon cruising down I-280. There wasn't much traffic around us, and as we passed the Mariposa exit, we didn't see any likely traffic-stopping objects around. That icon stayed on the map throughout the day.
Our next closest incident was an orange construction icon, and the map called it out as Construction I-80 East, Between Bay Bridge San Francisco and Oakland. We quickly found an entrance to I-80, which was reasonably close to our first incident, and headed east over the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The height of the RDX gave us a good vantage point from which to observe. We saw that the right lane was closed on the freeway, although the closure started well before the spot where the construction icon had appeared on the map.
Getting back to San Francisco after our trip over the bridge, we found another icon at the beginning of the Golden Gate Bridge. This one reported out as US-101 North at Golden Gate Bridge Toll Plaza, Disabled Vehicle. Eager to see a disabled vehicle, we started across town toward the bridge. However, this time the city traffic was too slow, and the icon disappeared when we were just halfway there. At least it was nice to see the system update its information.
We had no icon in the immediate vicinity, so we got on US 101 heading south, down the peninsula below San Francisco, a route that usually has some kind of disturbance. We lucked out quickly, as an icon appeared with the report, US 101 South at Airport Boulevard and Broadway, Disabled vehicle. On the highway, traffic slowed to a crawl, comporting with the yellow line highlighting the road on the map. We continued on, looking for confirmation of the incident. Sure enough, right at the Airport Boulevard exit, there was a man refilling the radiator of an old beater on the side of the road. We were happy to see the incident confirmed, but also noticed that the actual icon on the map indicated a spot a mile further down the road.
The traffic cleared up for a bit, and we saw another icon ahead of us on US 101. For this one, the system reported US 101 South at Holly Street/Redwood Shores Parkway, Accident. The report jazzed us up for this one, and kept traveling south as the traffic grew heavy around us again. As we approached the Holly Street exit, we could see three highway patrol cars on the right shoulder along with a couple of passenger cars, one of them a new Ford Mustang with the hood neatly bent upward and the front end crushed. Yes, here was our accident, although again the icon on the map was located further down the road.
We verified several incidents using the traffic reporting system in the RDX's navigation, but found that the system often misplaced the icon indicating the incident on the map. We would wish the car would proactively warn us about trouble ahead.
In the cabin
As Honda's luxury make, the interiors of Acuras have never impressed us. While the cabin of the 2008 Acura RDX is nice and feels well built, on the materials side it falls short of offerings from Lexus, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. Much of the switchgear has a plasticky feel, and the RDX is missing some tech options common in luxury cars, such as automatic headlights and a power-adjustable passenger seat.
Then there's the interface issue. We've mentioned in reviews of other Acuras how they litter the dashboard with buttons. There is no relief on the 2008 Acura RDX. The steering wheel alone has 13 buttons, with two sets of buttons for two different voice-command systems. The stack is similarly covered, with a whole set of audio controls at the base, topped by the navigation system controls that also have some redundant audio functions. Some day, we hope, Acura will redesign this interface.