2010 Acura RDX SH-AWD

Acura’s RDX is the only luxury crossover that delivers on its fun-to-drive promise

2010 Acura RDX SH-AWD

If you’re looking for a luxurious premium-brand compact crossover, might we suggest the Audi Q5. How about a stylish one? Mercedes GLK. Or perhaps a well-balanced one that does a good job in all areas? The Lexus RX350 comes to mind. But if you’re in the market for an entry-level luxury crossover that’s fun to drive, there’s really no other choice than the Acura RDX.

FAST FACTS

1. The RDX is powered by a turbocharged 2.3-liter 4-cylinder with 240-hp and 260 ft-lbs of torque.

2. SH-AWD models can distribute up to 70 percent of the power to the inside rear wheel for optimum cornering grip.

3. For 2010 Acura now offers a front-drive RDX, with improved fuel economy of 19/24 mpg (city/hwy) and a lower base price of $32,520.

4. SH-AWD models start at $34,520.

While there are numerous qualified competitors in this growing segment, only the RDX delivers when the category at the top of your shopping list is “fun to drive.” In a world where every automaker insists its crossover has “car-like” driving qualities, the RDX is the only one we’ve actually ever had fun in.

TURBOCHARGED 4-CYLINDER DELIVERS

There are so many reasons for the RDX’s high fun-quotient. For starters there’s the engine, an exciting turbocharged 2.3-liter 4-cylinder that makes 240-hp at 6000 rpm and 260 ft-lbs of torque at 4000 rpm. There’s so much right with the power deliver on this mill that we’re shocked Acura has yet to introduce it in any of its other models. Plant your foot and rev the engine up and we’d classify the feeling as downright exhilarating. Try and say that about any other crossover.

INNOVATIVE SH-AWD

Next up, there’s Acura’s Super Handling All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system. This setup really doesn’t get as much credit as it should and for those who don’t know, it’s far more than just a fancy description for sending power to all four wheels. Not only does SH-AWD distribute power between the front and rear, but it can also send as much as 70 percent of the engine’s thrust to just one of the rear wheels – when so required. This means that in a hard corner, when you need the rear wheels to push you out, most of the power will go to the inside rear.

We’ll admit that most drivers really aren’t likely to take advantage of the capabilities of SH-AWD, but we managed to get a good feel for it on some snowy-slushy roads, where traction was at a minimum. Combined with some good winter tires you can really feel the system working and with the VSA shut off, the RDX is a genuine hoot when the weather gets rough.

Top off these two amazing attributes with Acura’s usual driving dynamics, pedal and steering feel and the RDX is the only premium crossover that delivers on it’s no compromises promise.

RDX IS NOT WITHOUT ITS FLAWS

While it would easily be our top choice in this ultra competitive segment, the RDX isn’t perfect. In fact, it’s not hard to find criticisms. While the large 18-inch wheels and low profile rubber do deliver excellent road holding capability and driver feel, the ride quality does suffer as a result. The engine, while incredible as a performance tool, is less refined that those found in much of the competition and can most certainly be heard inside the cabin. Outside, the already lost-in-the-crowd styling gets a makeover for 2010, and while the new Acura beak does help it get noticed – it’s not in a good way. Finally, fuel economy is decidedly weak at just 17/22 mpg (city/highway), something that could no doubt be improved through the use of a six-speed automatic transmission, rather than the 5-speed box currently used. This is certainly a bit shocking as most non-premium cars have even switched to six-speeds.

Where the RDX returns to our good graces is on the inside. We’ll admit that the interior isn’t exactly luxury, but rather what the European’s so rightly term “premium.” In other words, it’s not lavish, but it is excellently executed and definitely sporty. The thoroughly well bolstered seats help keep you in place if you do decide to turn off the electronic nannies and have some fun on a snow covered parking lot, while the large sporty gauges are a constant reminder that Acura is a “performance first” sort of brand. We’re also glad to see the paddle shifters, which, while mostly unused, are great when you want them.

Still, there are drawbacks here as well. For starters, the audio system, like in all Acuras, is rather unimpressive. Worse, however, is the LCD screen and its outdated 8-bit graphics display.

As for passenger and cargo room, both are adequate but nothing special. The rear seat provides enough legroom for adults and we were pleased to see a few extra trim touches that are often forgotten on vehicles like this. As for cargo room, it’s rated at 27.8 cubic feet for groceries and a total of 60.6 cu.-ft. with the rear seats folded. There are also plenty of storage compartments.

Along with the revised look, which also includes a new rear end design as well as modified headlights, taillights, and exhaust finishers, the RDX has been given a full mid-cycle refresh for 2010. Added standard equipment includes a rear view camera, ambient footwell lighting, auto function headlights, as well as iPhone hookup and USB memory stick port.

The interior continues to include expected luxury features like a moonroof, heated power seats with lumbar control, a driver’s seat memory setting and dual-zone automatic climate control. What’s really missing, however, is a smart key with a push-button ignition.

For 2010 Acura also decided to add a new entry-level RDX model, without SH-AWD. The result is a lighter vehicle that also gets much improved fuel economy at 19/24 mpg (city/highway). It also costs a few grand less at $32,520 to start, compared to $34,520 for SH-AWD models. We like the sound of that, but as SH-AWD is such a big part of what makes the RDX a winner in our books, we hardly see the point.

THE VERDICT

As much as we’re begging Acura to please deliver the RDX in a more attractive package, even with its flaws, we’d rather drive it over any other vehicle in this segment. Simply put, it does an all-around reasonably good job in every area plus, it’s fun to drive. Sure there are days when we’d prefer the looks of the GLK or the well-rounded advantages of the Lexus RX350, but if sport is your priority, this is your best choice.

With how much fun this crossover is, it did leave us with a few nagging questions, like, how amazing would a 2.3-liter turbocharged SH-AWD TSX be and why isn’t Acura headed in that direction instead of building the ZDX?

RELATED READING

2008 Infiniti EX35 Review 2010 Lexus RX350 Review 2009 Audi Q5: First Drive 2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 2009 BMW X3 xDrive 3.0i 2010 Cadillac SRX Luxury AWD Review 2009 Infiniti FX35

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