Acura RDX Review

William C Montgomery
by William C Montgomery

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.

William C Montgomery
William C Montgomery

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  • Energetik9 Energetik9 on Feb 27, 2009

    I should have clarified some. All Acura front ends (with the exception of the truck and Pilot) to my knowledge have been moving in this direction with the V shaped front end for a few years now. Yes, my wife has the same front end as pictured. All I was saying is that the most recent Acura front ends have taken a decent shape and exaggerated it to an obnoxious shape as seen in the most recent TSX and TL.

  • Ever_green Ever_green on Apr 05, 2009

    **** excellent car, best i have ever owned. looks sexy (i have it in black) and performs great. Has enough cargo for me and NAV system was a savior when i traveled to NYC. Sound system is the best out there period. Fuel economy is bad however, im not sure why. Probably the turbo and the heavy weight reduces fuel efficiency here. I hope Acura improves fuel economy on this car in the future models. Weight is i think the main issue with this car, they used heavy metal plates for improved safety. This car weighs at a whopping 4000lbs! The rav4 weighs just 3650lb while being about 10% larger in size. Maybe they should look a bit more towards Toyota next time as well. RAV4 having a bigger 3.5L engine has better MPG. This is because of weight mainly. Acura can fix this issue by reducing weight, using a smarter AWD system and an option to reduce turbo usage?? I mean it does have an S mode, why not make it less aggressive on D and more Aggressive on S? Diesel would also be a could choice of fuel for future models. Oh and Tighter steering is desired. It turns too damn wide.

  • Rochester I wouldn't obsess over the rate of change, it's happening whether we want it or not.
  • EBFlex At the summer property putting boats in the water, leveling boat lifts, cleaning the lots for summer, etc. Typical cabin stuff in the most beautiful place on the planet
  • Lou_BC I've I spent the past few days in what we refer to as "the lower mainland". I see Tesla's everywhere and virtually every other brand of EV. I was in downtown Vancouver along side a Rivian R1T. A Rivian R1S came off as side street and was following it. I saw one other R1S. 18% of new vehicles in BC are EV'S. It tends to match what I saw out my windshield. I only saw 2 fullsized pickups. One was a cool '91 3/4 ton regular cab. I ran across 2 Tacoma's. Not many Jeeps. There were plenty of Porches, Mercedes, and BMW's. I saw 2 Aston Martin DBX707's. It's been fun car watching other than the stress of driving in big city urban traffic. I'd rather dodge 146,000 pound 9 axle logging trucks on one lane roads.
  • IBx1 Never got the appeal of these; it looks like there was a Soviet mandate to create a car with two doors and a roof that could be configured in different ways.
  • CAMeyer Considering how many voters will be voting for Trump because they remember that gas prices were low in 2020–never mind the pandemic—this seems like a wise move.