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2010 Acura RDX review:

2010 Acura RDX

This big controller looks awkward, and the onscreen interface isn't all that intuitive.

Acura uses a big joystick/knob, set below the car's LCD, for controlling audio, navigation, and phone functions. It is not the most elegant-looking controller, and it uses a similar paradigm as BMW's iDrive and Mercedes-Benz's COMAND system for alphanumeric inputs. You twist the knob until a letter or number is highlighted on the LCD, then press it to select. Entering long names gets tedious quickly, but Acura speeds the process with predictive text. The main problem with this interface is that it's not always clear when you need to push the joystick up or down, or to either side.

The navigation system isn't up with Acura's latest, the hard drive-based system we saw in the TL SH-AWD. The RDX still relies on a DVD-based system. Map modes are restricted to 2D, but it does feature integrated traffic and weather, delivered through XM satellite radio. The traffic feature alerts you to slow traffic and different kinds of incidents, such as road construction and collisions. Program a destination, and the system dynamically routes around traffic problems.

Route guidance is fairly basic, but practical. The system doesn't do text-to-speech, but its guidance graphics are clear. Acura has included Zagat ratings in its points-of-interest database for a few years now, helping you determine a restaurant's quality instead of blindly choosing by cuisine. Not only are the ratings included, but you can also access the written reviews--a big plus.

Zagat ratings in the navigation system's POI database are very detailed.

As the navigation system is still DVD-based, there is no onboard storage for music, as there is in the TL SH-AWD. But for the 2010 model year, the RDX does gain iPod integration and Bluetooth audio streaming to add to its other audio sources--an auxiliary input, satellite radio, and an MP3- and DVD-audio-compatible six-disc in-dash changer. The interface for iPod integration allows music selection by artist, album, and genre, as we would expect. These audio sources play through 5.1 channel audio, the ELS branded premium system. It uses 10 speakers and produces excellent sound quality. Trying out different tracks with this system, we were impressed by its staging--the capability to precisely place specific instruments around the cabin. With the equalizer settings flat, the audio seems tuned more for good high-frequency reproduction, but tweaking the bass and subwoofer gives music some depth.

The Bluetooth phone system seems to have gotten an update from the previous RDX model year. It now copies over a paired phone's contact list, making it possible to select people by name on the car's LCD. The voice command system says that it will also dial by name, but we could not get that feature to work.

This double bank of buttons controls two separate voice control systems.

In general, the voice command system in the RDX is very good, letting you control a wide number of car functions by voice. Navigation, audio, and climate control are all easy to use by voice, and the car even responds to questions such as "What time is it?" Voice command also works for making calls, to some degree, but this is actually a separate voice command system, with its own set of buttons on the steering wheel. We've pointed out the problem with this double set of voice command buttons on previous Acuras; it hasn't yet been corrected in the RDX.

In sum
Although we like the idea of the turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the 2010 Acura RDX, in practice it isn't all that effective. Mileage is poor and acceleration is uneven. But the RDX earns points for its all-wheel-drive system and solid-feeling automatic transmission. The cabin tech earns points for the excellent sounding audio system, and it gets a boost from traffic, weather, and Zagat ratings on the navigation system. But in too many other ways this cabin gear falls behind competitors. The interface design for the cabin tech is about average, suffering from some usability issues. As for the exterior, from many angles the RDX looks like any other small SUV, but Acura does put a distinct grille on it.

Spec box

EPA fuel economy
Observed fuel economy
Bluetooth phone support
Disc player
MP3 player support
Other digital audio
Audio system
Driver aids
Base price
Price as tested

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