Used 2009 Acura RDX Review

Edmunds expert review

Big S, little U, big V. The 2009 Acura RDX goes all-in for sport but comes up short when it comes to real-world utility.




What's new for 2009

For 2009, the Acura RDX gets a standard four-way power passenger seat and increased coverage for the AcuraLink real-time traffic system.

Vehicle overview

Think of the Acura RDX as a certain type of athletic friend: he's fun to play with during the game, but he can be annoying off the court or field. (Do you think Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman hung out at Bennigan's after shooting hoops? Um, no.) Just as many of us have friends for different situations, the 2009 Acura RDX also does its best work under limited, specific circumstances.

As Acura's compact crossover SUV, the RDX puts heavy emphasis on the sport part of the "sport-utility vehicle" name. Its muscular turbocharged engine, grippy "Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive" (SH-AWD) system and agile, firmly tuned suspension with big tires are clearly aimed at driving enthusiasts who'd like a little extra cargo room. On the flip side, there's not much utility here -- the cabin is on the tight side when it comes to both passenger and cargo space, the ride quality can occasionally be harsh and the ground clearance is hardly better than a regular sedan's.

Comparable in size to the Honda CR-V (but without the cabin versatility), the Acura RDX sports a number of upscale features to validate its premium branding, such as its advanced AWD system, leather sport seats, a high-power audio system and Bluetooth connectivity. The optional Technology Package adds an array of high-tech goodies that should please any technophile.

Essentially, the 2009 Acura RDX is a sport sedan disguised as a small SUV. Although some may lament that the RDX's sport-tuned focus comes at the expense of ride comfort, there's no denying that the RDX is one of the most nimble utes around. This design approach worked for the BMW X3, and indeed, the two models are prime competitors. The RDX is a bit quicker from zero to 60 mph (albeit at the expense of fuel economy) and has a lower price, but lacks the X3's extra interior space and elegant cabin ambiance.

Although we find a few aspects of the RDX's personality irksome, overall we have no problem recommending it to like-minded driving enthusiasts. That said, one should also consider the BMW X3 and the Infiniti EX35, as well as top non-premium picks like the similar-performing Mazda CX-7, Volkswagen Tiguan or the larger, more practical Toyota RAV4 V6.




Trim levels & features

The 2009 Acura RDX is a small five-passenger luxury crossover SUV. Standard features are plentiful and include 18-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights, a moonroof, full power accessories, heated front seats, a tilt/telescoping steering column, a power driver seat with memory, a power passenger seat, Bluetooth phone 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 audio jack is also standard.

The RDX's available 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 Panasonic/ELS premium surround-sound audio system.



Performance & mpg

Under the RDX's hood is a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine that makes a stout 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 AWD system (SH-AWD) similar to the one used for the larger MDX SUV as well as the RL and TL luxury sedans. It's not only able to distribute torque between the front and rear axles, but also between the left and right wheels, to promote optimum traction and better cornering performance.

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 EPA estimates of 17 mpg city/22 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined. Towing capacity is a minimal 1,500 pounds.

Safety

Every 2009 Acura RDX comes standard with front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags with a rollover sensor, active front head restraints, antilock brakes (with brake assist), stability control and traction control.

The RDX has proved to be very crashworthy; 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 its frontal-offset and side-impact crash testing.

Driving

The 2009 Acura RDX is so sport-oriented, it should come with a free subscription to ESPN HD. When the turbo kicks in with a minimum of lag, it does so with a delicious whooshing sound. The transmission is well matched to the engine's power delivery, though there is no rev-matching feature 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 cornering capability.

Interior

Thanks to its leather seating, metallic accents, blue gauge illumination and symmetrical dash design, the RDX's interior looks considerably more upscale than that of the average small SUV. There is a bit more plastic than expected in an Acura, but not enough to be bothersome. A deep center storage compartment between the front seats can hold a briefcase or laptop bag.

The chief demerit for the RDX is its lack of utility. Folding down the 60/40-split rear seat allows 61 cubic feet of cargo room, which is cavernous compared to a sedan but less roomy than other small crossovers. Rear passengers are stuck with the position of the rear seats, as they don't recline or slide fore and aft (unlike those in the RDX's plebian cousin, the Honda CR-V).

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.