What's New for 2008
All-new last year, the Acura RDX receives minor updates for 2008. New features include an auto-dimming rearview mirror and memory positioning for the driver seat. Bluetooth connectivity, formerly optional, is now standard.
If the 2008 Acura RDX participated in a round of speed dating, it'd probably say this: "Hi, I'm RDX. I'm young and active. I'm into high-tech gear and fashion. In my spare time, I like working out and going for long drives in the rain. My family is well-known and famous. I'm ready for a long-term commitment; but first, is your credit score above 780?" Time's up. Interested?
If you are, read on, you hopeless romantic. Introduced last year as an all-new model, the Acura RDX follows the typical small crossover SUV plan by having a car-based body structure, a fully independent suspension and seating for four adults. It's about the same size as a Honda CR-V, but there are many upgrades that make it a more premium (and more expensive) selection. Acura's baby SUV comes with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, an advanced all-wheel-drive system and the upscale interior features and ambiance typical of an Acura product.
As SUVs go, the RDX is all-in on the "S" part. The turbo four is potent and spreads its power evenly throughout the rev range. That power is sent through Acura's "Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive" (SH-AWD) system that can adjust torque output to individual wheels to maximize handling and traction. Handling is furthered by a firmly tuned suspension and big wheels and tires. However, the capital S comes at the expense of some "U." Ground clearance is hardly better than a regular sedan's, the ride quality can occasionally be harsh and the interior lacks the space and versatility one can typically expect from this type of vehicle.
Essentially, the 2008 Acura RDX is a sport sedan disguised as a small SUV. It's not a bad combo, really -- how many people plan to hit the trails in such vehicles? Plus, this is a design approach that BMW has successfully used for the X3, and indeed the two models are prime competitors. The RDX is a bit quicker from zero to 60 mph and has a lower price but lacks the X3's extra interior space and premium ambiance. We like the Acura and recommend it, though it's in your best interest to look at both of these vehicles as well as the new Infiniti EX35. Alternately, top non-premium models like the similar-performing Mazda CX-7 or the larger Toyota RAV4 V6 are also very good choices.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Acura RDX is a small, five-passenger luxury crossover SUV. Standard equipment is generous and includes 18-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights, a moonroof, full power accessories, heated front seats, a power driver seat with memory, Bluetooth connectivity, leather upholstery and dual-zone automatic climate control. A seven-speaker audio system with a six-disc CD/MP3 changer, satellite radio, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and an auxiliary input jack is also standard. The RDX's Technology package adds a navigation system with real-time traffic, a rearview camera, solar-sensing and GPS-linking features for the climate control and a 10-speaker Acura/ELS premium surround-sound audio system.
Powertrains and Performance
Under the hood is a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine. It's capable of 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control is standard. Power is sent to all four wheels through an all-wheel-drive system (SH-AWD) similar to the one used for the RL luxury sedan. It's not only able to distribute torque between the front and rear axles, but also between the left and right wheels. In testing, we've found the RDX can accelerate to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds, one of the quickest times for this segment. Fuel economy is disappointing, however, with a 2008 EPA estimate of 17 mpg city/22 mpg highway. Towing capacity is a minimal 1,500 pounds.
Every 2008 Acura RDX comes standard with front-seat side airbags, head-protecting side curtain airbags with a rollover sensor, active front head restraints, antilock brakes with brake assist, stability control and traction control. The RDX has also proved to be very crash-worthy; in government testing, it earned a top five-star rating for protection of occupants in both frontal and side-impact crashes. Similarly, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the RDX a top score of "Good" in frontal-offset and side-impact crash testing.
Interior Design and Special Features
Thanks to its leather seating, metallic accents, blue illumination for the gauges and symmetrical dash design, the RDX's interior looks considerably more upscale than the average small SUV. There is a bit more plastic than expected in an Acura, but not enough to be bothersome. An improbably deep center storage compartment between the front seats can hold a briefcase or laptop bag. The most concerning aspect about the RDX is its lack of utility. Folding down the 60/40-split rear seat reveals 61 cubic feet of cargo room, less than what many other small crossovers can hold. Rear passengers don't receive many amenities, and the rear seats don't recline or slide fore and aft.
The 2008 Acura RDX should come with a free subscription to ESPN HD; it's all about sport. When the turbo kicks in with a minimum of lag, it does so with a delicious whooshing sound. The transmission is well suited for the engine's power delivery, though there is no rev-matching capability for downshifts. The ride quality is firm, perhaps overly so on rough city streets. In return, the RDX is eager to play when driven on curvy roads. Its firm suspension and big wheels and tires provide plenty of grip, while the signature SH-AWD system maximizes traction and idealizes yaw control.