Warren Clarke , Automotive Content Editor
At some point post-childhood, you realize there's not really an Easter Bunny, and the Santa Claus you see posing for photos at the mall is just some old guy who couldn't find a better-paying gig. Similarly, once you've driven a few crossovers, you realize that they don't all offer the nimble, carlike ride promised in their slick advertising campaigns. The 2010 Acura RDX, however, lives up to the hype. Muscular and athletic, this crossover blurs the lines between SUV and sport sedan.
For 2010, the RDX gets some changes -- some welcome, and some less so. On the plus side, you can now get this SUV with front-wheel drive (FWD); previously, only all-wheel-drive models were available. Front-wheel drive brings with it better fuel economy and a slightly lower price. Best of all, this new drivetrain is just as sporty as that seen in all-wheel-drive models -- our FWD test vehicle earns a solid thumbs-up on the fun-to-drive front.
Less thrilling is the SUV's updated sheet metal. The RDX's overt front fascia wasn't exactly a hit with most of our editors. Still, that sort of thing is subjective, and you'd be best served by checking out this Acura in person to see if its aesthetic appeals to you.
A few years ago, there was no such thing as a compact luxury crossover. Today, the segment is bustling, and there are many choices that deserve a look. The Mercedes-Benz GLK350 offers more premium materials quality than the 2010 Acura RDX and the bragging rights that come with the Mercedes badge, but it's less sporty and more expensive. Audi's Q5 features athletic handling and a deluxe interior, but it, too, is pricier than the Acura. Other worthy candidates include the BMW X3 and the Infiniti EX35.
The FWD RDX may not offer the high-end cabin decor seen in some of these choices, but it has them all beat when it comes to price. Unlike Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, this crossover is the real deal. It's the affordable solution for the luxury SUV buyer in search of a truly engaging driving experience.
The Acura RDX engine doesn't look particularly impressive on paper: a turbocharged inline-4 mated to a smooth five-speed automatic transmission, good for an unremarkable 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. After all, this is a segment in which V6 brawn is the norm; you'll find more grunt in rivals like the Audi Q5 (270 hp) and the Infiniti EX35 (297 hp).
In practice, though, the 2010 Acura RDX moves with a quickness that will leave you questioning its paltry horsepower numbers -- it's never less than energetic around town. It's also fleet-footed at the track, hustling from zero to 60 mph in just 6.9 seconds. This is a shade behind the EX35's 6.6 seconds, but ahead of the 7.2 seconds logged by both the Q5 and the GLK350.
The crossover's bantam-weight physique no doubt plays a huge part in its stellar acceleration. With our test model tipping the scales at just 3,723 pounds, the FWD RDX is one of the lightest choices in the luxury compact crossover segment.
Braking is merely so-so. The Acura RDX decelerates from 60 mph in 125 feet; the GLK350 makes the same stop in just 119 feet. Handling is more the RDX's forte. The spry little crossover whips round the slalom cones at 64.6 mph, besting both the GLK350 (61.3 mph) and the Q5 (64.3 mph). In city driving, the RDX carries itself just as nimbly as these numbers suggest; it feels smaller on the road than many others in the compact-ute segment. Steering is on the light side, but is reassuringly precise.
Fuel-efficiency in the FWD RDX is obviously better than that of its AWD counterpart, and is reasonably good for this category. EPA estimates are 19 mpg city/24 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined -- on par with the Q5 (20 combined) and ahead of the GLK350 (18). We averaged 19.5 mpg in mostly city driving.
Taut and responsive yet reasonably forgiving, the RDX's suspension is tuned to deliver excitement that doesn't come at the expense of comfort. The road is actively engaged, but not in a way that feels overly jarring. Still, the ride can get somewhat busy over tarmac inconsistencies. As such, this isn't the best pick if you're seeking a supremely plush driving experience.
Front seats are comfortable and offer ample lumbar support -- they're wide enough to present passengers with fairly generous amounts of shoulder and hiproom. Though the 2010 Acura RDX offers less headroom than rivals such as the GLK350 and the EX35, we found the crossover's 38.7 inches to be more than adequate, even for taller drivers.
When it comes to wind and road noise, the RDX has much in common with the finest luxury cruisers. Tranquility is the order of the day within its cabin, though you might want to break the silence by cracking the window to savor the pleasant growl of its turbocharged mill.
Happily, the RDX's navigation system is operable when the crossover is in motion, and the fact that it's easily voice-activated means that you can operate it without taking your eyes off the road. The nav system boasts a Zagat Survey database; you can use this feature to sort restaurants in specific neighborhoods by cost, cuisine, décor and service. We found the database to be quite complete; it included even fairly new restaurants, and opened our eyes to some worthwhile establishments in our neck of the woods. DVD updates for the nav system may be purchased online.
The RDX's design team has clearly given a lot of thought to in-cabin storage. The cabin's most notable storage feature is a large center console bin; it's lockable, and deep enough to swallow a laptop. We're also fans of the diminutive covered bins found in the midsection of both front doors. These bins are sized to store change, or to perfectly accommodate your sunglasses. There's an adequate selection of cupholders, but you'll find that none of the door bins offer pockets deep enough to handle taller water bottles.
Legroom in back is sufficient, but things got cramped when 6-footers were seated in both rows. With an available 27.8 cubic feet, the 2010 Acura RDX has decent luggage capacity for this segment, outgunning its smaller rivals, the GLK350 (23.3 cubic feet) and the EX35 (18.6 cubic feet). In real-world usability testing, the backseat proved generous enough for a rear-facing child seat, and the trunk area easily accommodated golf clubs.
Design/Fit and Finish
Most of our editors weren't that wild about the look of the RDX, with some comparing its angular front fascia to the mug of a pterodactyl in mid-screech. Still, this Acura's sheet metal wasn't universally panned; some editors found its rising beltline and aggressive face to be an intriguing reflection of the crossover's sporty nature.
While reasonably attractive, interior design is less memorable than that of rivals like the swank Q5 and the elegantly austere GLK350. Gauges -- with their garish red, white and blue color scheme -- don't look special enough for an entry-level luxury vehicle, and there is a noticeable absence of the sort of rich woods and gleaming metal accents that make Acura's MDX crossover such an appealing place to be. Also, many of the knobs -- most notably the large interface dial that controls the nav system -- lacked the heavy, well-damped movement found elsewhere in this class.
Who should consider this vehicle
With lots of technology available at a relatively low price, the 2010 Acura RDX is a solid bet for all shoppers in this segment interested in getting the most for their money. Additionally, its superior handling makes it tailor-made for enthusiasts with small families who want a vehicle that offers room for the spouse and kids without sacrificing much in the way of performance and handling.
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