2007 Acura RDX Looking at the body of the 2007 Acura RDX, we couldn't help but think of it as a truck, until we got behind the wheel. And that's the essence of a crossover--the industry's new favorite vehicle type--a vehicle that combines the utility of an SUV with the drivability of a car (and maybe some of the fuel economy). In an interesting design note, the RDX looks a little like a boat when viewed head-on, thanks to the way the underside is raked up toward the front bumper.
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.
Live traffic on the navigation system reports accidents and road construction.
The steering wheel has controls for the stereo, cruise control, voice commands, and telephone--we counted 13 separate buttons in all. And to further illustrate this interface mess, there are two buttons for accessing telephone voice commands between the left and lower spoke of the wheel. There is also another set of two buttons below these two telephone buttons for accessing voice commands for all of the other car systems. We would think Acura could engineer a single set of buttons to activate all voice command functions. People who complain about BMW's iDrive should give this system a try.
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.
The surround sound stereo in the RDX sounds amazing.
XM satellite radio is one of the many sources of music available to the RDX's ELS Surround Sound stereo system, along with MP3, WMA, RedBook CD, DVD audio, radio, and an auxiliary input. An iPod adaptor is also available as an option. As we pointed out earlier, the software interface isn't designed well, making it difficult to navigate MP3 and WMA CDs. We were also surprised to see that the system doesn't display ID3 tagging information, just file and folder names.
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.
An auxiliary input in the center stack makes it easy to plug in any type of MP3 player.
There are a few other tech touches, notably a GPS-linked climate control system. This system uses the location and heading of the car to determine whether the sun is blazing through one side or the other, and adjusts the climate control system appropriately. In practice, we never noticed it taking effect, but that might mean it works seamlessly, since we were never particularly uncomfortable in the car either.
Fast and sure-footed
Driving the RDX is fun--much more fun than we would expect from a pseudo-SUV. The fun comes from the car's responsiveness. It jumps forward with the throttle down, and Acura's Super Handling all-wheel-drive system makes it extremely maneuverable. The RDX's peppiness comes from its 240-horsepower, 2.3-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, a good amount of power for the size of this car. The engine is pretty advanced, with variable timing and valve lift, an intercooler, and a uniquely designed variable-flow turbocharger, which is supposed to reduce lag. In our driving, we didn't feel lag when accelerating from stop, but the car did show some turbo weirdness of slight power surges when we tried to hold a steady speed.
The engine's 260 pounds per foot of torque comes in at 4,500rpm, which helped the car keep strong acceleration up to freeway speeds when we held the throttle down. The 5-speed automatic works well, though a lot of the competition has gone to six gears. We found the Sport mode worked well for city and mountain driving, maintaining power for coming out of turns or cutting through traffic. We didn't get much use out of the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, which control the transmission's manual gear selection. The paddles came in handy while going down a long, steep hill, but we didn't find them that great for sport driving.
Acura's Super Handling all-wheel-drive system inspires confidence while cornering. The system gives the car neutral handling, making it go where we pointed it. The system distributes power between the front and back axles, and between the left and right rear wheels. An informational real-time diagram on the instrument cluster shows the power distribution. It's kind of fascinating, but dangerous to look at when the car is put into maneuvers that make the all-wheel-drive system work.
The EPA rates the RDX at 19mpg in the city and 23mpg on the highway. In our mixed freeway and city driving we observed 16.4mpg, lower than the EPA tests but not unexpected due to the turbo. The California Air Resources Board rates emissions for the RDX at ULEV II, a good score.
The RDX protects its occupants with front and side air bags for both front seats, and curtain air bags along both sides of the cabin. It also has side-impact door beams. The car gets five stars in front and side-impact crash tests, and four stars for roll-over. Road holding is helped by the Super Handling all-wheel-drive system, along with 4-wheel anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution. The RDX also includes a vehicle stability program.
Although it has a back-up camera, there are no distance or path indicators overlaid on the display. A tire pressure monitoring system is standard. Acura's warranty on the RDX is four years or 50,000 miles. In addition, Acura gives the powertrain a six year or 70,000-mile warranty.
Acura makes pricing on the RDX simple, selling it for a base price of $32,995, or, with the Technology package, $36,495. Our review car was the latter, with no other options. Notable tech options are Acura MusicLink ($189), an iPod adaptor, and an auto-dimming, rear-view mirror ($225).
We like the 2007 Acura RDX for its sporty, quick handling and its excellent stereo. All of its other tech toys are fun, and few other cars have live traffic integrated with navigation control. We can learn to live with its mixed-up interface. Its price is pretty reasonable considering all it has to offer. It would be a hard choice between the Mazda CX-7 and the Acura RDX, but the RDX has superior features that would make us lean toward it.