What's New for 2011
The Acura RDX is unchanged for 2011.
Some say the 2011 Acura RDX looks like a metal-beaked angry chicken. You can blame the front grille that debuted last year for that, but even so, the RDX has plenty of reason to be angry. Now in its fifth year in production, this compact luxury crossover has been overlooked in favor of newer competitors. Perhaps it's due to styling (pre- and post-beak grille) or perhaps it's simply that consumers didn't realize they wanted a small luxury SUV until Audi and Mercedes started selling them. Whatever the reason, though, the RDX deserves better.
For one, the Acura RDX is one of the most pleasing compact crossovers to drive. Its turbocharged four-cylinder engine has less horsepower than many of its competitors, but robust torque and a lighter curb weight result in energetic acceleration. In fact, the RDX is quicker than all its competitors with the exception of the 297-horsepower Infiniti EX35.
Complementing the RDX's swift acceleration is the optional "Super Handling" All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system that truly makes this Acura stand out from the pack. By proportioning power automatically to the outside wheels during cornering, the RDX corners more crisply and with a livelier feel than the competition. If your significant other wants the added utility of a crossover, but you're not quite willing to give up the driving experience of a sport sedan, the RDX could be a great choice.
Beyond performance and handling, the RDX features a well-constructed (though visually unremarkable) cabin available with a full load of high-tech features like solar-sensing climate control, an iPod interface and an easy-to-use navigation system. Its optional Acura/ELS surround-sound audio system is also one of the best in its class. Best of all, a loaded RDX hits the register at a price that undercuts its similarly equipped competition by thousands.
So as you can see, the 2011 Acura RDX is worth consideration alongside newer competitors like the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLK and Volvo XC60. Each has its own benefits, however, with the Volvo in particular being the best choice for families. They also benefit from arguably more compelling designs, which in the luxury segment means a lot. Unfortunately for the RDX, an angry robotic chicken just isn't the most premium of visuals.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Acura RDX is a five-passenger compact luxury crossover available in a single trim level. Standard features include 18-inch wheels, heated mirrors, privacy glass, automatic xenon headlamps, foglamps, a sunroof, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way driver and four-way power passenger seats, heated front seats, leather upholstery, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth and a seven-speaker sound system with six-CD changer, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.
The Technology package adds GPS-linked and solar-sensing automatic climate control, a rearview camera, a navigation system, real-time traffic and weather, voice controls, a larger infotainment display screen, and a 10-speaker Acura/ELS surround-sound audio system with DVD audio capability.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 Acura RDX is powered by a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder that produces 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission with shift paddles is standard, but there is a choice between standard front-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive. Dubbed SH-AWD, it distributes power not only between the front and rear axles as is typical, but also between the left and right wheels, ensuring optimal traction in all conditions.
With front-wheel drive, the RDX went from zero to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds in Edmunds testing, making this Acura one of the quickest crossovers in the class. The heavier SH-AWD model should be just a bit slower. In terms of fuel economy, the front-drive RDX is rated at an EPA-estimated 19 mpg city/24 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined, while the SH-AWD version rates 17/22/19. Both are about average for the class.
The Acura RDX comes standard with antilock brakes (with brake assist), stability and traction control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. A rearview camera is optional. In Edmunds brake testing, a front-drive RDX came to a stop from 60 mph in a reasonable distance of 125 feet.
The RDX has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash testing procedures. Its 2010 ratings (which aren't comparable to the new methodology) were a perfect five stars for both frontal and side-impact crashes. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the RDX a perfect score of "Good" in its frontal-offset and side-impact crash testing.
Interior Design and Special Features
The RDX's interior design is a bit unremarkable compared to what's found in newer competitors, but we still feel that most buyers will be satisfied with the RDX's environment. Materials quality is adequate, though there's a little too much hard plastic relative to its competitors. A deep center storage compartment between the front seats can hold a briefcase or laptop bag.
There are 28 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seats, and folding down the 60/40-split rear seatback affords 61 cubic feet -- mid-pack numbers for a small luxury crossover. The Audi Q5 and Mercedes GLK are tighter, the SRX about the same, and the BMW X3 and Volvo XC60 notably roomier. Rear legroom is good, but the rear seats don't recline or slide fore and aft (unlike those in the Audi Q5 and the RDX's plebian cousin, the Honda CR-V).
The 2011 Acura RDX's audible turbo whooshing sound is a pleasant departure from the standard six-cylinder soundtracks in this segment. Turbo lag is minimal, and power plentiful enough to make you question its relatively paltry horsepower number.
On the move, the RDX has a firm ride quality -- overly so on rough city streets. However, the payoff comes around corners, where the RDX is as eager to play as any model in its class. It feels smaller than many others in the segment and has steering that is on the light side, but reassuringly precise nonetheless. With Acura's signature SH-AWD, the RDX's handling is improved further, yanking this little ute around corners with poise and tenacious grip.