By on May 11, 2009

Some vehicles are doomed from the start. Take the Acura RDX: a not-inexpensive CUV with aesthetically challenging looks nestling amongst Honda’s “Huh?” brand. The RDX seems carefully designed to appeal to the few, the proud, the pistonheads. You know: enthusiasts who absolutely must have a willing engine, a chassis that’s a suitable dance partner and the elevated driving position of SUV—all at a price that’s significantly higher than more sensible (if dull) alternatives made by brands whose street cred didn’t die with the Integra. You see how that doesn’t work?

The RDX shares design cues with every other Acura, done in bizarro-land supersized fashion. Like Toyota’s not-a-RX Venza, Acura’s not-a-CR-V tries hard avoid the whole chubby, tall station wagon thing. And fails. The RDX’s front is this awkward beastette’s best viewing angle, especially when compared to the hideous snow shovel prow blighting its brand brethren. At the other end, the RDX’s unnecessarily projecting rear bumper gives the Nissan Quest a run for its money in the “Saggy Bottom of the Year” award. It’s the sort of ugly that makes Subaru owners stand just a little taller.

The RDX’s interior sports strangely rubbery leather on most of the interior surfaces, with shiny faux-metal (or faux-shiny metal, hard to tell which) sprinkled about. A disgustingly plastic steering wheel that looks like it was lifted straight off a Honda Accord (but wasn’t) does the CUV’s upmarket aspirations no favors. Compared to standard brands, it’s a cut above. Compared to luxury marques, it’s the cruelest cut of all. The rear seats and cargo space are small for one so large. The trunk’s odd shape puts the “ewww” in “utility.”

As for luxury features, Acura abides by a strict don’t ask, don’t give policy. The technology package gets you the sort of stuff other luxury players have done for years, and there are no features to set it apart from any other maker. The voice recognition is a nice trick, especially since trying to find the right button to change anything will drive you insane. And like all Acuras, the RDX has impeccable safety ratings.

The RDX’s raison d’être—at least for those “in the know”—lies under the CUV’s hood. Honda put a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-banger therein. It’s everything you ever wanted to drive . . . in any other chassis. Push the RDX’s go-pedal and the mill sings like a fine Italian tenor, gracefully swooping its way through the rev range. Tip-in and acceleration are tightly regulated and perfectly balanced. You don’t feel like you’re driving a two-ton vehicle; the car feels a lot faster than it is.

The RDX sits on a bespoke unitized body; so it’s not so big, it’s just tall (that’s all). With independent McPhersons up front and a multi-link out back, the RDX handles like a Honda sedan through the corners. Relatively small 18″ wheels help the ride quality; the all-season shoes do not. Net: a bit of a rough ride around town. Net net: there’s a disconnect between luxury interior and pavement crashing, but Acura probably reckons the RDX’s sprightliness and handling prowess justify the compromise.

So explain this glaring omission from the sports-sedan-on-stilts gestalt: a manual transmission. The RDX’s gearbox does a fine job of picking its shift points, so you won’t miss rowing the boat too much—unless you’re one of those few people who knows how to drive a manual transmission. The RDX’s automatic can be manually shifted, but it’s joyless and quickly abandoned. In compensation, the RDX’s shift knob fits in your hand perfectly, as if reassuring pistonheads that it’s not that bad. But it is.

But wait! There’s less! I mean, more. All that power and weight yields punishing gas mileage. While the RDX is EPA rated at 17/22 mpg, user-reported mileage is far lower, and does not improve much after break-in. Not that I blame the users; I’d probably drive the RDX like I stole it too. Otherwise, what’s the point? And why not? Gas is (comparatively) cheap right now, and I like warm summers.

Back in October, Acura dealers couldn’t give the RDX away; you could buy a brand new example with all the trimmings for about $30K. And no one is buying now, either. Economic uncertainty, the prospect of skyrocketing energy costs, and a lack of overall value conspire heavily against this heavyweight.

Few cars leave me with such mixed feelings. The RDX’s engine and handling are the best you’re going to get short of the best you can get from the SUV set, but the brand’s invisibility, the CUV’s lack of practicality and efficiency, and the depreciation all steer you in a different direction. ANY different direction.

What I want is the RDX’s engine and AWD system in a 3,200lb car, not a 4,000lb tank. God only knows why Honda refuses to give us a properly turbocharged Integra replacement and hands us this instead. Wrong answer.

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61 Comments on “Review: 2009 Acura RDX...”

  • avatar

    This vehicle is a left-over of the SUV era. And SUVs had packaging efficiency questions anyway.

    Acura is wondering around trying to do several things. One is to create a unique style. And they have missed. Previous generation Acuras were neat-styled cars – nothing exotic or ugly – just neat. But now they have gone unusual and it’s not pretty. Second, they are trying to be upscale but haven’t really gotten there.

    My suggestion for a target for Acura is the Cadillac CTS-configuration (RWD). That would be a wonderful top sedan for Acura. But the current styling motif of Acura isn’t stylish.

    Turbo-charged engines have to be driven VERY carefully to get any decent gas mileage. A turbo just makes the engine behave like it’s bigger (and uses more gas).

    Finally, cut back on the buttons on the dashboard. It’s out of contol. I hate to say it but adopt some good form of the BMW I-drive.

  • avatar
    John R

    I don’t (didn’t?) get it either. The answer was staring them right in the face. On one end, Honda had one great turbo motor & a capable AWD system and at the other the first gen TSX. Why didn’t they put two and two together??? Who the NSFW knows. It completely baffles me.

    Ah, well. The saga continues Infiniti G > TSX/TL. Wake up, Honda.

  • avatar

    TrueDelta has just a few responses for the RDX, but from these the repair frequency appears to be low–something that cannot be said for the MDX.

    However, a couple of owners told me they got rid of the RDX because they couldn’t deal with the amount of throttle lag. I didn’t notice anything untoward in my own test drives, but these owners felt that sometimes they’d press on the accelerator and little if anything would happen for a matter of seconds. They each took the car to the dealer multiple times, but no problem was found in either case.

    Additional participants needed, for all models.

  • avatar

    Honda probably planned this one in 2002, when the equation was a little simplier: Go to parts bin + build compact CUV + put Acura badge on it and charge 30% more = collect worldwide revenue. It was working for everyone else, how could this not be a great idea?

    Sadly the brand is another that is damaged from neglect, poor planning, and dismal styling.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    Honda probably planned this one in 2002, when the equation was a little simplier: Go to parts bin + build compact CUV + put Acura badge on it and charge 30% more = collect worldwide revenue. It was working for everyone else, how could this not be a great idea?

    worldwide revenue? Did they sell Acuras anywhere else but in North America?

  • avatar

    I never found the styling to be offensive. It’s not beautiful, but it’s not ugly either. I think it’s biggest downfall is the Turbo4 and harsh ride. Give it a V6 and soften it a little and it would have sold a lot better.

    Acura developed the Turbo4 to see if it could produce better milage than a V6, and supposedly it did, while weighing less.

    As far as tech is concerned, Acura has been very forward thinking in terms of technology, while pricing it reasonably. It may not have all the newest toys, but it’s also not the newest toy on the block itself.

  • avatar

    It would seem like the Mazda CX-7 kills this vehicle in terms of price. You’re getting essentially the same vehicle: performance, economy, size, features (without Tech package) but for quite a bit less. However, I’d imagine the Acura is a little bit higher quality inside and maybe even better screwed together.

    This is basically a segment that answers a question no one is asking for…yet MB, Volvo, and BMW have put out their answers as well. And they’ve had similiar complaints. Fuel economy is no better than the bigger siblings (X5, ML), ride is worse than the sedans they come from, and utility is next to nil.

    Megan, have you driven the CX-7…if so, how does it compare to this Acura? Trying to get a relative idea in my head.

  • avatar

    I remember reading Edmunds (or was it Car and Driver?) full road-test of this vehicle when it debuted. What caught my eye was that it averaged a whopping 11mpg overall. That’s painful, doubly so in a four cylinder vehicle.

  • avatar

    When we were looking to trade in our ’04 TSX we looked heavily at the RDX. I did like the size, the handling and the engine were fantastic. I can get over looks as I care little about form where function is spot on (Love the Element and even found the Aztek a nice compromise for those soccer moms and dads that pose in their Hummers).

    I also came away with such mixed feelings after test driving an RDX several times. If it came with a real manual transmission we would have purchased it but since it did not we were still undecided. We wound up with an WRX instead as it gave us turbo awd in a lightweight package. Now if Acura actually gets it…they put the RDX drivetrain in the TSX and make that car a true sports sedan that can not be so easily beat out in drag races with minivans and SUVs (major problem with TSX was that 3,300lb 200hp car).

  • avatar

    First, a correction: The steering wheel in the RDX has never appeared in a North American Accord. The Accord coupe has a three-spoke too, but it’s different. The Civic’s actually is more similar to what appears in the RDX.

    Also, if you compare them back to back, you’ll find that the RDX’s wheel (with perforated leather where the hands usually go) is MUCH nicer to touch and look at then the Accord’s, which has slippery, cheap feeling black stuff all the way around and is very ugly to boot.

    Your opening comments apply with equal force to any luxury/sport SUV. Explain again why folks choose the RX350 over a Highlander, or for that matter, an X3 over a 3-series? And you are kidding yourself if you think the luxury competition (with the possible exception of the more expensive Q5) are far ahead of the RDX in interior quality. Again, compare them back to back.

    Finally, a disclaimer: my wife drives a leased RDX. But I can report that the powertrain is superb- unlike most other turbos I’ve driven it works well with the automatic, with very little lag. And it doesn’t just “feel” fast- most tests have it well ahead of the X3 and nipping on the heels of the much-more-powerful EX35.

  • avatar
    Cole Trickle

    A lay-dee reviewer? Where have I been? Nicely written. Got my wife an 08 G35 last year. Wanted the TL-S, but, like all Acuras…too many buttons, too fugly, not that quick for the money. An AWD TSX with a V6 might have done the trick. Now we’re preggars. Need something bigger to replace my A4, with a trunk and AWD/FWD. Hello M35x. Oh, and by the way, Acura dealership experience is wretched compared to Infiniti. Thanks for treating me like I’m shopping for a used civic, moron. I’m off to buy another Infiniti.

    p.s. All the pics are of an RDX. The MDX is slightly less fugly. From some angles.

  • avatar

    Megan has been reviewing for TTAC for quite some time. You should get a real NASCAR name…Dick Trickle. :P

  • avatar

    Ex-fanboy of the 90’s Honda products here. What the heck happened to you, Honda?

    I look at the Acuras today and see a bunch of ugly cars. Poor fuel economy. Nothing exciting or ground-breaking.

    Oh well, one less make to consider when I’m shopping around.

  • avatar

    I’ve seen several of these with 20″+ rims. They like them, that’s for sure.

    …are small for one so large.

    How large are you?

  • avatar

    The Acura brand in general is this way to me. You get a little more kit that you would in a comparably sized Honda, and you pay a whole lot more. The only cars that Acura had that made any sense to me are either gone, or completely FUBAR. The Integra was a great car with wide appeal, good performance, and a reasonable price tag. The RSX picked up where the Integra left off, even though Acura totally ignored all the name equity in the process. Then there was the 1st gen TSX, a nice little sedan with a great powertrain, a nice chassis, and just enough reason to buy it over a fairly similar Honda. Now it’s bloated and numb just like the rest of Acura’s lineup, and for less money you could buy a similarly numb and bloated Accord. IMO, Acura needs a total rethink, or will have no reason to exist in a few years. Infiniti reinvented themselves, Acura must do so as well.

  • avatar

    God only knows why Honda refuses to give us a properly turbocharged Integra replacement and hands us this instead. Wrong answer.


    The RSX and Integra were great cars, but they didn’t make Acura much money, and ostensibly dragged the brand down.

    I’ve theorized about this a few times, and I’ll repeat here: Honda thought that by eliminating the RSX they’d push new Acura buyers into the higher-margin TSX and much-higher-margin RDX and that people who really wanted an RSX would get a Civic Si instead. They thought, like everyone else, that since crossovers were popular, that people would flock to it.

    And they were so very, very wrong. The NSX may have been Acura’s halo, but the RSX/Integra was it’s heart. And more importantly, it’s on-ramp: aspiring buyers (young, urban, well-to-do, intelligent and loyal) bought Integras and RSXs and then moved to TLs and MDXs when they spawned or got soft. These same buyers would look at the TSX or RDX and then ask “why the heck should I lease this instead of a 3-Series/X3” (the “lease” part is important; RSX buyers could not swing finance or cash on a TSX/TL/RDX) and didn’t give the Civic Si a second thought (or if they did, gave third thoughts to Mazda and VW). In cutting the RSX and supplanting it with the RDX, Honda cut Acura off at the knees and handed a whole market to BMW, VW and Mazda.

    People complain about the lost-in-the-woods RL, but Acura’s true problem, unlike Cadillac, is at the low end, not the high. Buyers aren’t coming into the brand in numbers, and the entry point for those that do is being fiercely contested by BMW, VW/Audi and Nissan/Infiniti.

    For the record, I like the RDX. I think it’s a pretty cool trucklet, but it’s not good enough, tech’ed out enough or cheap enough to make me pick it over the X3, Tiguan or (my favourite) the EX35. It’s even a tough sell next to the faster, cheaper, actually-quite-nice-to-drive RAV/4 V6. And all these (save the RAV) are suffering greatly with the death of the not-quite-monied classes, leaving them all chasing a slice of a shrinking pie.

    If I were Acura and I wanted to address my sales problem, I would reintroduce the RSX and wait four or five years for those buyers to come back.

  • avatar

    A two tonne tarmac-only SUV with a hard suspension but not much space is simply an obese sports car – and I have yet to figure out what the appeal of that is.

    This is unfortunately yet another miscalculation by Acura which, in conjunction with the RL, the new TSX and the TL styling, brings them perilously close to rendering the brand worthless.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Are there no unemployed Italian car designers Honda/Acura can hire?

  • avatar

    That’s painful, doubly so in a four cylinder vehicle.

    It’s a turbo four. Drive a turbo four with a light foot and it returns amazing mileage. Push it, and it will return the kind of mileage a six or eight of similar power would when wrung out.

    It happens. Complaining about it is like complaining about rotaries burning oil, diesels having a low redline or V8s having more spark plugs.

    I used to own a Saab 9-3. If I was light on the throttle and stayed off-boost, it got amazing mileage for a car of it’s power and size, even in the city. I’ve had the same experience in a rented CX-7. Punch it and, well, either drank fuel prodigiously. Reviewers that don’t seem to get this (“I don’t understand, how could a four get 11mpg!?”) are either being stupid or disingenuous for the sake of drama.

  • avatar

    I had one of these as a loaner for my TSX a few months back.

    I have to admit if I was buying an SUV it would be this. Had more cargo space than my TSX (which I took advantage of in the 2 days I had it, by using it for a tailgate party at an nfl game which my TSX wouldnt have worked very well for).

    The engine is great, though not as smooth sounding as the NA version inthe TSX. And it handled and rode pretty well and had a very sporty ride in corners with its AWD.

    That said it did not get great gas milage (about 20mpg, the TSX was getting nearly 25mpg doing my normal driving). 20mpg combined on 80% or so freeway driving isn’t too fantastic, but its not horrific given the class of car. It was a loaner car and itslifetime mpg was about 20mpg as well, so most of the others who had it as aloaner so I wasn’t driving particularly conservative or anything. As others have said unless you are an idiot and don’t know how to drive (i.e. gunning every light, revving the motor randomly on the freeway) you can do fairly well with a turbo. YOu should only use the turbo when you need it not all the time. Its a 4000 pound suv, so I suppose given its weight the mpg was not that terrible responsibly driven.

    The price really isnt that bad considering what it comes with. But really they should just build a lighter wagon or sedan version with this engine and drive train setup.

    I honestly don’t think this is a bad looking car. Its probably the best looking acura now given how horrible the others are. If I could buy a used say 2006 one for say $18k with the tech package, I’d probably consider trading my 05 TSX for it.

    Also for comparison my father has an 06 x3 3.0 , and this is a vastly superior car to that having driven both. THe x3 3.0 with 225hp does not have the grunt of the RDX . A slightly smoother sounding engine, but not as powerful.

  • avatar

    Having driven the RDX a couple times, I’d agree 100% with Megan on this review…Even if they left the choice only choice with SH-AWD as 5 spd slushbox with flappy paddles, it would have been great in the Gen 1 TSX…I DREAMED about this drive train in the 2004 TSX I used to have…But like others suggest above, I just went ahead and got 2008 G35xS instead…Another lost Honda/Acura customer (owned 4 Honda/Acuras between 2001 and 2008 – NOW own ZERO).

  • avatar

    For me, a RAV4 Limited is a much better choice. The style is middle of the road, but the V6 moves the RAV4 quickly along and very well. From the numbers I have seen some users posting, it gets better MPG then the RDX. The dash is easier to use and Toyota engines seem to hold up very well.

    My biggest issue is the amount of plastic used on the dashes. Toyota needs to up their game in the interior section. The second row seats are okay, but for some people I have heard them complain about them being a little too firm. The RDX second row seats felt the same to me. The RAV4 third row seats are emergency use only. I would say skip the third row so you have the additional storage space under the back floor boards.

    I have driven the Ford Edge, Nissan Rouge, and the Mazda CX-7. I was unimpressed with the interior noise and quality of the CX-7. The Edge drove okay, but the interior felt inferior. The Rouge may not be as upscale, but the money you save is nice. Just do not expect to be impressed with the Rouge until you see the price, which is not bad. I had to go with Toyota in the CUV market because the RAV4 has a good track record. Nissan is kind of hit and miss.

    Honda/Acura seem to have lost their way when it comes to style that works. If Honda did not have the good reputation for long-term quality, their sales would be cut in half or more.

    If Toyota would redesign the RAV4 with a back door the swings up versus to the side, then it would be a clear winner for the CUV market. Acura/Honda needs to do a major overhaul of the CR-V and RDX.

  • avatar

    Great review. Favorite line of recent review history has to be “The trunk’s odd shape puts the “ewww” in “utility.””

    I used to be a big fan of Acura, but no more Integra, RSX or NSX and after what they did to the TSX… Not so much anymore.

    And the ugly stick has hit all of Honda (not sure about motorcycles or generators). I can see how some would like the look of the Civic (I don’t) and I do like the S2000, but the Accord, CR-V, Pilot, Ridgeline, and all Acuras are aestheticaly unpleasant to me. Overdone, disproportionate, and too many odd(as in wierd) angles. What I wouldn’t give for the boring designs of just 5 years ago.

  • avatar

    Great review of a car I don’t want–although see Psarhj’s comments above. Last paragraph, terrific summary. My sentiments exactly.

    I think Acura’s problem is that they decided to be Buick instead of Pontiac (in the classical, not the current sense). They should be Honda’s sporty division. The Accord could be the Buick, or at least have a hgh end version to serve as the Buick.

    The Integra is the Acura I want, and I probably would buy an Integra if they were available. I don’t want the RSX because I want four doors and a seat that an adult can sit in.

  • avatar

    I still think this turbo mill is the engine that should’ve been at least an uplevel option in the TSX. I also agree, the RDX isn’t offensive-looking but it ain’t pretty either.

    Why complain about there not being a manual transmission option? Unless you go for say, a Porche Cayenne GTS or the pricier segment competitor X3 you’re not gonna find much in the way of manual options in this segment.

    Ahhh who cares…I’ve lost respect for Acura.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    I was never so pleased with my wife as when she rejected the RDX in favor of a 2WD RAV4. The RDX felt excessively heavy and cramped. She saved us about 12 $K.

    The next Acuras:

    Acura Venza

    Not that you asked: TSX V6. No turbo though.

  • avatar

    I’d argue that with a 4000lb vehicle, it’s hard to stay off the turbo, especially in hilly terrain (like western PA). It’s just the wrong powertrain for this heavy, non-aerodynamic vehicle.
    Now if this engine were direct-injected gas (or a diesel), it might have enough ‘punch’ to keep up with traffic without having to drive like grandma to keep from spooling up the Exxon-friendly turbo.

    Oh, and it looks like any generic CUV, not special at all.

  • avatar

    Am a little surprised the RDX is right down there with the Subaru Forester, but for different reasons.

    Despite limited power, lack of manual trans, and weak roof, Honda’s CR-V continues to be the #1 CUV in the USA. The EX I drove pretty much mirrored the descriptions here.

    Other than older Subaru Foresters with Turbos (dem XT’s with Manual trans that Subaru claimed wouldn’t sell), I don’t know of any pure-sports CUV. Perhaps the new Mitsui or Subaru prototypes will fill the bill, assuming there’s enough customer interest to get them built.
    Or just take your favorite CUV to Cobb Tuning and have them rework it?

  • avatar

    despite all the negativity, the RDX is a vastly superior vehicle than that horrible excuse for a BMW, the X3.

  • avatar

    My wife has test driven the RDX – as she is thinking about trading in her 2004 TSX. I hate to say it but she is definitely in the demographic for this vehicle, almost luxury, sporty – but not punishing, cheaper then a Lexus or BMW.

    I liked the Turbo 4 in the RDX, however it just made me mad that this was not plugged into the new TSX.

    What ever happened to the Honda diesel that is(was) due for North America in 2010? Now, that might just be the ticket for the RDX.

  • avatar

    I looked at an RDX last year when the wife was in the market for a new “car” that was more capable of swallowing the stuff necessary to travel interstate with a toddler (previous was a Saab 9-3 Aero whose lease was up).

    I really wanted to like the RDX. It had a great sound system, was pretty roomy, handled very well for an SUV, was peppy, and nicely appointed. However, it had two fatal flaws – the cargo area was very small (smaller than most of the sedans we were looking at), and, direct from the GM school of stupid cost-cutting, they made the passenger seat on this ~$40K SUV manually adjustable, without any height/lower tilt adjustment. This meant that I was unable to lower the seat height to get enough space to prevent my left leg from rubbing the console where it angles towards the center of the car. I’m 6’4″ so I’m used to cars occasionally being a challenge to fit into, but this seems like a serious oversight on something so otherwise well-done.

    What did I end up with? An 02 Audi S6 Avant with 100 more HP and a V8 soundtrack, plus much more interior space, faster 0-60, and about the same fuel mileage, and because it’s not so tall, it handles better too.
    Station Wagons FTW!

  • avatar

    tced2 . . .

    I do want to throw out this little disclaimer about turbos & fuel efficiency. My ’90 turbo Mistubishi’s overall average is 30 mpg. Have seen as good as 38 mpg. Was amazed on a road trip on empty two lane roads in CO & WY at speeds varying between 70 & 110 mph, generally in the 75-95mph range, air conditioner blazing, and returning 36mpg on two successive fill ups.
    I’d say the brick shape, the frontal area, the porky weight, the awd drive train and the slush box tranny are what is pulling the RDX’s fuel efficiency down, not to mention the whole SUV genre.

  • avatar

    To start right out with a contradiction. I bash the latest gen Acura’s as much as the next guy. However, my wife drives this car. We shopped a BMW X3, Infinity EX, Lexus RX, and a Nissan Murano and Rouge before she picked this car with the technology package. I already drive an X5 and my wife didn’t want another BMW. We have two full sized dogs (greyhounds) and the EX, although very nice, just had no practical space in the back due to it’s sloping roofline. She wasn’t that interested in the Lexus and she kept calling it something her mom would drive. Nissan just didn’t want to deal on the Murano and the Rouge was too Spartan so we left. She loves the drive, she gets good gas mileage, she likes the fact we can get both of the dogs in the back, she likes the stereo, and she likes the size and the backup camera. We absolutely did not want a large car.

    The RDX is not without its problems. Some of the body panels just don’t seem to fit so well together. She hates the Nav system. It’s complicated and does not always give consistent results, not to mention the screen washes out in the sun. And yes, there are lots of buttons, but be honest… a week you just figure it out.

    A few sides notes. I’m 6’3″ and I fit easily in the car. We have 4 adults in the car often and it works just fine for comfort. It is peppy and fun to drive. I haven’t noticed any low gas mileage issues and I have not noticed any lag issues. Let’s not forget, this is a low boost turbo in an SUV. I’m not expecting high performance. We’re getting the advertised gas milage. We live in Northern Virginia, known for its potholes and bad roads, but the drive seems sporty and controlled. Again… is an SUV, not expecting a sports car. Overall, it’s not my personal choice, but it was a great choice compared to what we looked at and she likes it. She also loves the big, expansive center console between the seats that she can put her purse in. Go figure.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    “What ever happened to the Honda diesel that is(was) due for North America in 2010?”

    Diesel prices went above gasoline and stayed there.

  • avatar

    As an immensely satisfied 1st-gen TSX owner, I was so grossly disappointed not to see this drivetrain (the RDX’s) put in the new TSX. I’m talking about the 2.3L Turbo and the SH-AWD.

    That being said, with the way Acura let a whole Ugly Gang (cf. “ugly stick”) beat up on the new TSX, I wouldn’t be seen in one even if it had BMW’s sweet twin-turbo inline-6 in it.

    Oh, about the RDX. Yeah, it sucks. And it’s fugly. And clumsy. Next.

  • avatar

    Slightly off-topic, but too many post-ers made typed the same wrong thing for it to be just a “typo”.

    It’s R-O-G-U-E, as in “rebel”, not Rouge, as in “french for red”.


    Thank you.

  • avatar

    highrpm, agreed!

    Honda is losing it.
    Going mainstream is never good for a company.
    In general, years ago, Compared to other marques in any given category, Honda was the lighter vehicke , had higher rpm motors, had the more efficiency in all engineering parameters, and had more driver oriented vehicle dynamics.
    Beaver toothed Accuras, porky Pilots, bloated Accords, Avalanche jr. Ridgelines? No thanks. Only the Fit, S2000, in some ways the Insight, and perhaps the Civic have the Honda attitude of the 80’s & 90’s .

  • avatar

    “It’s R-O-G-U-E, as in “rebel”, not Rouge, as in “french for red””

    Like fingernails on a blackboard, so go The Blogs Of Our Lives… :-)

  • avatar

    This review is very timely, as we’re about to turn in an 06 TSX, and one of the cars we’re considering is an RDX. What we want is a new TSX or TL, but both have been uglified beyond comprehension. The TL is so bad it almost makes the TSX look good, but I’ve only to compare the new TSX to the previous model to think twice about that.

    So the only Acura that’s aesthetically working for us (not considering an RL…) is the RDX. What I’d give for a TSX/euro accord wagon that wasn’t ugly…

    Cross shopping vs. an Audi A4 Avant. The car is for my wife so she’s driven both, I’ve not. They both sticker for the same amount (audio w/out nav, rdx with…), and it seems to me if the actual price was the same, the Avant would be an easy winner. I think we’d only take the RDX if there was a significant price difference.

    I would expect, however, the actual price of the RDX to be considerably lower — thus far I’ve not gotten that from the dealer (and that’s including a pile of loyalty cash from Acura. I’m wondering if the days of 30k RDXs are behind us (have they constrained supply hugely?)… or maybe my Acura dealer just thinks I’m an idiot.

  • avatar

    I like the RDX – except that it needs a 6-speed auto and direct injection. Both would yield better gas milage and fuel economy – plus emissions. Otherwise the interior and handling are phenomenal for this type of vehicle.

    The RDX is currently the best looking product Acura makes – but as of 2010 it gets the bizarre giant silver schnoz like the rest of the line (spy pics have already been seen). That’s the end of Acura as we know and love it…

    Yes, the engine would be great in the TSX, but then the TSX no longer has any sporting intentions whatsoever.


  • avatar

    If this engine had been in the previous gen TSX, that car would be in my driveway. Oh and if the local Acura dealer didn’t seem exactly the same as the Honda dealer that it is attached to.

  • avatar

    worldwide revenue? Did they sell Acuras anywhere else but in North America?

    In Australia, there is no Acura brand. This does not mean there are no Acura cars. The NSX, Integra, MDX all sold there as Hondas with an ‘H’ on the bonnet (hood) rather than the ‘A’. I don’t think the TX or TL ever sold there but my memory of Honda’s alphabet soup is unreliable.

  • avatar

    The TSX started life as the Euro version Honda Accord. There’s even a wagon version.

    Engines are a bit smaller then North America, and there’s a diesel available, however it is the same platform.

  • avatar

    THANK YOU! My OCD was pushing me to say something but you beat me to it.

  • avatar

    Does Honda really even need the Acura brand any more? It seems like they do it more out of obligation (a response to Toyota’s Lexus)than necessity.

    Would the brand even be missed?

  • avatar

    Full Disclosure: I must fit into the Acura target demo…at 28 years old, I traded in my 98 Prelude for a new 03 TSX, which I traded in for a new 06 TSX, which I traded in for a new 08 TL – which I bought because Acura was practically giving them away last October and I wanted a new Acura before all that was left was Transformer-styled wierd-mobiles. I really like the TL and have put 12k miles on in 6 months.

    Unfortunately, Acura is at a complete dead end for me, as far as any future purchases go. They took what made them a great success and threw it away for completely inexplicable reasons

    I liked the days when Acura came fully loaded and at the time of purchase, you picked color and whether or not you wanted navigation for about $2k more. Simple. Easy. The cars were great, you could show up at the corporate environment during the week and have fun with it on the weekend – and Acura’s had the additional benefit of making you look like you spent more money than you actually did. Now you have to spend substatially more money to get navigation as part of a “tech package” – which is a complete 180 from where people are at, buying portable navi systems because the $2k was considered to be too much. So how does it make sense to lump navi into a $5k or $6k package?

    If I was where I was in life in my 20’s and Acura had it’s current lineup, I wouldn’t be able to get into the brand. At the time, the TSX was too much. It took the RSX experience to sell me on the brand and, when I could afford to move up, I looked at Lexus and BMW, but stuck with Acura because of the great expereince and the ease of buying. I wanted to like the RDX when it came out, but the styling is, for me, a bit too “feminine”. They either went too far or not far enough with the style. To me, it looks a bit bloated to speak to the supposed performance that lies underneath. I test drove one and had one as a loaner – it just didn’t seem worth the money. We were teased with drawings of a new, sleeker TSX with turbo and AWD and we got a bland boring-mobile that looked nothing like the drawings, didn’t address the lack of power of the original and actually softened up the handling! To be fair, some people like it, mostly older people, from my observations, but not for my money. The new TL is just bizarre. It’s a polarizing look, some like it, I don’t. I like to fly under the radar, as many people do. I want a good looking, quality vehicle that more spaceship than just “flashy.” Cars can be customized for flash, and, truthfully, thats the best way to get to individuality and extra attention – add wheels, add a body kit, etc. That’s why the dealership has an accessory catalog. Why do the new Acura’s need to come with expensive option packages, bizarre styling cues and sub-standard, “weak” looking wheels? The 08 TSX and 09 TL “base” models look like stripper models because of their wheel packages. The base wheels on these models do nothing to compliment the styling. Their predecessors simply had better wheels out of the gate – makes a huge difference in the parking lot, look-back-over-your-shoulder, do-I-want-to-buy-this appeal. I could go on, but I just don’t get the direction that Acura has gone in. I was locked into the brand but now I’m just floating free.

    So where, as a customer, do I go next? As others have said in these discussions, it looks like Infiniti G-series is the next step up for original TSX owners and a fine replacement for 08 and prior TLs. Sorry Acura, it was fun while it lasted!

  • avatar

    I just bought an ’09 TSX last week. I don’t really know why it gets so much hate from everyone for being “ugly.” I love it. My theory is that people grow attached to a front grille, and anything different from what they’re used to is ugly – the Mazda 3 owners are singing the same song when discussing the 2010 Mazda 3 (which I also prefer to the previous model, by a mile). I never paid much attention to pre-’09 TSX’s because, in my mind, they were completely vanilla and boring-looking, but the ’09 looks good to me. I’ve heard people describe the front grille of the ’09 as “a Pokemon” or “Transformer logo.” I guess I like Pokemon, because I think it looks awesome (although it looks better on the TSX than on the TL, in my opinion).

    I think one mistake people make consistently about the Acura brand is to lump it in direct competition with BMW, Infiniti, and Lexus and then ask the question “So, ignoring price considerations, which one of these is better?” But the fact is that to get into “the same” in those other brands, after configuration you’re typically looking at between $3k to $10k (or more) in additional costs. So I don’t find “Oh, the BMW 3 series is ‘better’ than the TSX!” to be a terribly persuasive argument. When talking about cars, “better” is a meaningless term if it doesn’t take price into account.

    I think Acura has discovered a seam in the market (especially in this economy) and is mining it to great effect. Certainly, their sales data back that up.

  • avatar

    Take the turbo out, give it to any car in the lineup. It’s a very good motor, but the on-off power curve plus the automatic is a whiplash special. Really great engine, totally wrong body. TSX material. Hotted up Accord material. Civic Si material.

    The RDX ride is a worse version of the oxcart the X3 is. I like firm rides-but the RDX and X3 are just stiff, not compliant.

    The MDX hits the mark perfectly for the class. The RDX misses the mark the same way.

    Great motor…..find it a home….attached to a proper manual transmission.

  • avatar

    I have no idea why Honda chose to name this vehicle after the main component of C-4 plastic explosive.

    That being said, if the B&B could design a vehicle that deserved to be named for a high explosive (in the good way), what traits would it have?

  • avatar

    Both the American Accord and TSX are sold in Australia. The TSX is known as the Euro Accord and it replaces the US-market bottle opener grille with a more generic “H” branded grille.

    I found it interesting that they get an Odyssey about 75% the size of ours. It uses a higher powered VTEC 4-cyl engine that looks like it gets decent mileage. I expected them to have the same sized minivan.

  • avatar

    peterb – the TSX is a bit ugly (enough to keep me from ever buying one, if ever I would buy a FWD vehicle of that nature, which I doubt) but the new Mazda3 is a joke. It’s actually painful to look at.

    The Japanese are doing a lot of really, really stupid shapes these days. There’s pretty much nothing in the Acura line I’d go near, Toyota’s cornered the market on the belt-pulled-up-to-the-nipples high-beltline-little-window look, etc.

  • avatar

    Hoedup, hoedup, hoedup.

    Let’s not just hide behind the grill about the TSX’s ugliness.

    Yeah the grill is ugly (and it’s spectacularly worse on the TL), but the TSX is ugly ALL OVER:

    – Disproportionate proportions.
    – nonsensical notches
    – terrible taillights
    – Seemingly completely random slashes along the sides… some where the sides meet the horizontal surfaces…
    – Visual *noise* everywhere, and its loud.
    – And just when you rush inside to escape all the visual noise, you’re assaulted by a cacophony of Ugly-Stick-Sculpted curves, colors, buttons, circles, dials inside.

    What a terrible, terrible waste.

    And put me down for GJCATL‘s analysis as well. I pretty much agree on those points — where is Acura going; they have lost me as an Acura devotee (’92 GS-R!+ ’04 TSX) and recommender.

    I’m actually in the market for a car, and realize I’m a bit lost without Acura in the market anymore. Where’s the fun-to-drive, personal-luxury (don’t flaunt it) value play? Not at Acura.

  • avatar

    Kman and JEM:

    Well, de gustibus non est disputandum and all that. I like the way the TSX looks, inside and out, and I like the new Mazda 3 a lot, and I stand by my point: most of the people I hear complaining about in the looks of these cars were someone (mentally or emotionally) invested in the previous models. I don’t think there’s an “objective” ugly here. I think there’s a reaction to the styling of the models being different. In other words, I think the car fan demographic (can we agree that all of us reading TTAC fall into that?) is overly conservative in their taste.

    Consider an analogy with the Prius. This is another car that “car fans” consider to be butt-ugly. Yet among my friends who own Priuses, I can tell you that the MPG performance is probably one of the last reasons they bought the car. The primary reason is that Toyota, however much I personally don’t like it, have created a car that, when you get in it, feels like a spaceship. It even looks like a spaceship. It’s a spaceship!

    So I respect that you want and like conservative styling on cars, but to some of us out here, that sort of styling is boring. It’s likely that the market is wide enough to accomodate both of our respective tastes.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Like the ’01 Highlander I married into I’m still trying to figure out what vehicles like this are supposed to be good for. Sounds like it squeezes out maybe 1 or 2 more MPG than my full size Tahoe but yet doesn’t have the room or towing ability. If you like Acuras why bother with this truck wanna be. Get one of their 4dr sedans and be done with it. Better fuel econmomy, ride, handling and performance. This whole Crossover SUV & CUV market needs to disappear.

  • avatar

    Seems like Acura gets a ton of criticism, from almost everyone, yet all i see on the road are the previous gen TL’s and a bunch of MDX’s. Seems like the people that actually buy cars love them.

    I considered a TL (previous generation 2004-2008), yet I heard bad things about it’s snow traction. Seems odd to have snow traction problems in a FWD car, so I shied away. The new TL looks horrendous and I’ve never liked the look of the RDX, the rear of the car just looks odd. The MDX is very nice looking and seems to have everything you want in a larger mid-size SUV, and it’s sales show that.

  • avatar

    Re dcdriver:

    I own a 2005 TL which came with summer Bridgestone’s as OEM. When temps drop to near freezing they turn rock hard and handling is ‘frightening’. Don’t even think about snow!

    However, with euro type, winter tires handling is fine. The stability control kicks in frequently when starting off from a light or stop sign after a good snow, however it is easily managed.

    A lot of people like(d) their earlier TL’s and TSX’s and were hoping that the new generation would be an evolutionary type update that freshened up the design, while fixing some of the weak areas of the cars performance.

    Unfortunately, we got cars with snowplows for front ends and Buick suspensions.

  • avatar

    The truth is, this isn’t a bad car. It’s well-built and well-equipped, somewhat of a value, and a decent performer, relatively speaking. What’s wrong with that? The only other car I can see directly competing with this car is the Mazda CX-7 (based on specs and price/value), because Acura’s product sure as hell doesn’t compete with the other ‘luxury’ makes, but that’s ok. A CUV that slots between the lesser CX-7 while offering a price/performance ratio that luxos can’t touch? Sounds like a buy to me, and sounds like traditional Acura product planning which, IMO they should never abandon.

  • avatar

    I am amazed at who likes the RDX and the TSX.

    Both vehicles.. are exactly the type Honda / Acura should have never made.. going back 5yrs.

    The TSX is the Accord for Japan and China. Its smaller, lighter weight, faster and has a better design. It also has a wagon option.

    Women driving X3s, Rxs, Muranos, Rogues… and they want the RDX? Every vehicle in that class is severly lacking in point. Each is dragging the brand down lower.. and lower to the point of deminshing what the brand stands for.

    The first gen TSX was a fantastic car.. Ive driven it for short time periods. Light weight good looking and fast. Fast forward to current gen.. and ya got a porky POS that SHARES its 3.5 motor with the TL?! Why are two vehicles in competing markets sharing the same motor? Ya cant stuff a turbo 4 into the TL, its just too big.

    And the current TSX.. man what an abomination.
    As for as the RDX… as much as I do like the CRV in theory.. its a painful execution. And to charge MORE money for it from Acura.

    I started driving in Accords, a 92 then a 96 then a 00. I was hopign for a 05.. but the current stuff, is too damn big. Its being yanked around by a underpowered 4cycl, yanking around a HEAVY ass car, and hoping for decent economy.

    I cant bear to see Honda go mainstream.. but its happening. And I cant buy a car from them.

    Id rather cut my ties and by a Mazda 3 hatch. At least I can enjoy driving, turn off the NAV system.. and work the CVs for once.

    They dumped the perfect size TL for the current gen.
    They screwed up the size for the RL.
    They made the MDX bloated and expensive.
    RDX isnt well thought out, and competes with other castrated garbage from BMW and MB, inaddition to the EX and VENZA.
    TSX.. is just an abomination.

    I can only wish they return to what made them great before people who want size and sleeping at the wheel turn Honda… into Toy*yawn*ota.

  • avatar

    The RDX tries to squeeze in between Santa Fe and Subaru, and fails. It’s a CUV-poseur. Where is the utility in a latte-sipping turbo four that can only pull 1500 pounds?

    Come on Honda. This powertrain belongs in a hot hatchback. Remember those? As for the RDX, give it a small six – or possibly a diesel four – and the ability to pull my 2000 pound camper.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    So, I test drove one of these (used) a few weeks ago. I am neutral on the styling and was pretty neutral about the interior.  I’m 6’4″ and I thought the back seat was acceptable.  In particular, it is noticeably higher off the floor than in either the TL or TSX of the same (’08) vintage and therefore would be more comfortable.  The cargo area did strike me as rather small . . . and I couldn’t imagine my Golden Retriever being happy in there, although he would fit.  I’m curious as to how 2 greyhounds ride in this, unless the second row of seats are folded.
    The trucklet did “drive small” and completely lacked the ponderous feel of the ’08 Pilot that I own.  I did not find the suspension objectionably harsh and the roads I drove on were worse for the winter’s wear.
    The turbo engine was less sucessful, IMHO, and compares unfavorably with the 2.3 liter 250 hp turbo 4 in the ’02 Saab 9-5, which I also own, in terms of how well it works with the auto tranny, etc.  The Acura turbo surged noticeably, so smooth driving required backing off the throttle a little bit after initially hitting the pedal to move the car from a dead stop.  The Saab doesn’t do this.  Where the Honda engine appears to be better than the Saab in in NVH.  The Saab motor has a coarse sound that the Honda, thankfully, lacks.
    Ultimately, what struck me about this car is that it didn’t carry any more people or stuff (or in any more comfort) than my 9-5 wagon, but manages to be only 2/3’s as fuel-efficient on the highway, while offering somewhat less performance.
    Sure, the Acura probably is leagues more reliable than the Saab . . . but if you want reliability, buy a Honda and save some $$$.

    • 0 avatar

      The problem is, there is no Honda comparable to RDX. CR-V? not enough power. Rav4? The interior looks old and is very unpleasant.

      I want a wagon so that my dog can fit in the back. Now with Outback being a size of SUV there are no options in 25-30k range. If I’m going to pay over 30k for V6 Outback, why not get a RDX with much nicer interior. Not as much cargo space, but that’s what I have my truck for.

      A4 Avant would be a great choice, but the price is killing it for me.

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