After Germany’s unconditional surrender to Allied forces in 1945, the allies stripped the country of all its patents. Germany’s former Axis ally, Japan, eventually exploited this situation by plagiarizing and mass-producing legendary German cameras and lenses. Today, Japanese manufacturers continue to look to Germany for “inspiration.” Case in point: the 2007 Acura RDX. It couldn’t look more like a BMW X3 if it tried, and by God, it did.
The RDX Crossover Utility Vehicle (CUV) is one inch longer and a fraction wider and shorter than its German inspiration. Stylistically, the RDX is only a nip-tuck away from the baby Bimmer. The RDX’ steeply raked windshield, blackened B and C-pillars and tailgate spoiler all say BMW– and signal the Acura’s shared distaste for the rough stuff. The RDX is, in fact, another deeply metrosexual machine: a handsome manly form attired in delicate garments, whose manicured toes are meant for polished wingtips, not hiking boots. If you know what I mean.
Inside, Toto, I get the feeling we’re not in Bavaria anymore. The RDX’ cabin offers the all hushed minimalism we’ve come to expect from Honda’s upmarket homonyms. In fact, the CUV’s attention to tactility– from the meaty steering wheel bulges at the ten and two positions to the sensually shaped leather shift knob– takes us deep into Audi territory. That said, you can take the Acura out of Japan, but you can’t take the Japanese out of the Acura. The RDX’ three-ring gauges’ red-on-blue lighting strikes just the wrong note of Japanese spizzarkle. And the RDX’ climate control/media center shares Infiniti’s predilection for a high and mighty backwards tilting dash position.
The RDX’s traffic aversive satellite navigation system is voice controllable– which is just as well. The widescreen display is difficult to read in daylight, especially when the future's so bright you're wearing shades. The nav system and on-board computer are controlled by a distinctly phallic nubbin protruding through the center of the dash. Despite the gizmo’s indelicacy, its intuitive ergonomics put BMW’s iDrive to shame (as if it needed any help in that regard). As is the norm for this “so not an SUV” genre, cargo storage space is sacrificed on the altar of passenger comfort. Drivers with longer legs will find lots of room for their stems in either the front or rear seats, which provide much-needed lateral support.
The RDX is propelled by a turbo-charged 2.3-liter four-cylinder powerplant producing 240hp @ 6000rpm and 260 lbs-ft of torque @ 4500rpm. The much ballyhooed variable flow turbos keep the engine spinning at low revs, but it’s still not enough. The engine must climb above 3500rpms before it can get its boogie on. Fortunately, like all the best Honda power plants, this baby loves to twirl, redlining at 6800rpms. To keep the mill in the grunt zone, the RDX’ brushed-aluminum accented steering wheel (all the rage this year) sports F1-style paddle shifters. Unfortunately, the steering is a little slow; cornering tends to put the paddles out of reach.
Should you be so churlish as to engage in a little stoplight sprinting, the RDX makes the zero to 60 dash in a shade less than eight seconds. That’s respectable acceleration for a vehicle that weighs one Labrador retriever less than two tons and stands nearly 5’5” tall, but you’ll pay the price at the pump, diminishing the official 19/24 EPA mpg by a considerable margin. Worse yet, the new RAV4 V6 will best the RDX to 60 by more than a second.
A mid-day tear through the winding hills of Irving, Texas proved that Acura’s taut front strut / rear multilink suspension makes their cute ute feel light and tight– until you come to a corner. There’s no masking the leaning tower of SUV effect, or the vehicle’s tendency to nose-dive during hard braking. Acura’s Super Handling All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD), Vehicle Stability Assist and ABS systems conspire to keep the RDX’ wheels firmly gripped to the pavement, despite all the leans, pitches, rolls and yaws. For what it’s worth, the RDX is the best handling Crossover in its class.
The RDX goes head-to-head against the similarly sized and priced fraternal twins, the Nissan Murano and Infiniti FX35, and the aforementioned BMW and RAV4. The RDX out-luxuriates the Nissan and Toyota, but still seems a little austere compared to the BMW and Infiniti. It straightens corners better than the others but has the least amount of straight line oomph.
Thanks to its superb build quality and [optional] mind-blowing surround sound, mp3-compatible stereo, I can’t imagine anyone sitting in an RDX, regretting purchasing Acura’s X3 knock-off instead of the “real deal.” Still, as I walked away from the RDX, I was left longing for a vehicle that holstered that sweet-spinning turbo four in something shorter, lower and lighter. Something like the Acura RL. Sometimes it’s best to just copy yourself, and call it good.