Super Street - - First Drive - WORDS Sam Du

Did you mix up my email ad­dress with some­one else’s? Are you sure you have the right per­son? These were the thoughts go­ing through my mind as I re­ceived an in­vi­ta­tion to Whistler Black­comb (you know, home of the 2010 Win­ter Olympics) to test­drive the new Acura RDX. It re­ally caught me off guard, as I don’t have too much busi­ness driv­ing an SUV, be­ing the ed­i­tor of a silly lit­tle tuner mag and liv­ing in sunny South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. But, the pow­ers that be at Acura had their rea­sons: They wanted me to check out their third-gen com­pact lux­ury SUV to see if it was truly some­thing car-savvy folks like your­selves might be in­ter­ested in.


VTEC and turbo? How could you not dig it? The 2.0L, four-cylin­der mill rated at 306 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque out of the Civic Type R has taken new form in the RDX. The en­gine’s ba­si­cally the same ar­chi­tec­ture of the CTR, how­ever, it’s de­tuned to 272 hp and 280 lb-ft. Though it has less peak power, ac­cord­ing to Acura, there are changes such as a smaller turbo and dif­fer­ent in­take piece to help with more in­stan­ta­neous torque and bet­ter daily drive­abil­ity. Speak­ing of torque, it’s a 40 per­cent in­crease from the pre­vi­ous­gen RDX in re­gard to low-end power start­ing from 1,600 rpm. Help­ing with down­shift­ing and launch­ing is a new 10-speed auto that has a 67 per­cent wider gear ra­tio range and 15 per­cent lower first gear. When asked about a six-speed man­ual, I was nearly es­corted away. Go fig­ure!

Front-wheel drive is avail­able, but chances are if you’re think­ing about an SUV, you want all-wheel ca­pa­bil­i­ties. The new RDX comes with what Acura calls “Su­per Han­dling All-wheel Drive” (SHAWD) with torque vec­tor­ing al­low­ing 70 per­cent power dis­tri­bu­tion to the rear and 100 per­cent from side-to-side–mean­ing your abil­ity to power out of tough road con­di­tions and cor­ners is im­proved, plus get­ting the tail end loose is eas­ier (which they let me go ba­nanas on in the dirt).

We had no com­plaints about the RDX’S chas­sis and sus­pen­sion. There’s a long list of im­prove­ments from the pre­vi­ous gen, such as a five-link rear, forged con­trol arms, and new dual pin­ion steer­ing rack—all of which im­prove nim­ble­ness and stiff­ness. For the Ad­vance model, there’s even ac­tive dampers that con­sist of var­i­ous driv­ing modes–sim­i­larly used on the NSX and Civic Type R. I felt it wasn’t a ne­ces­sity, but a cool fea­ture avail­able.


The looks of the new RDX in­voke a “love it or hate it” type of feel­ing. It sports a more mod­ern de­sign, longer wheel­base, and wider track, but you have to pre­fer things like the mas­sive pen­tagon-shaped front grille and even more mas­sive front em­blem. I will say, I don’t mind the re­turn of the “Jewel Eye” LED head­lights and the all-led tails.

The in­te­rior was per­haps one of my fa­vorite parts of the RDX. Touch and feel ev­ery­thing, and you’ll no­tice high-qual­ity ma­te­ri­als, in­clud­ing the grainy leathers, brushed alu­minum, and real wood. I can’t com­plain about the sporty seats, in fact, the higher mod­els are 16-way ad­justable. There’s also a 10.2-inch HD dis­play screen and re­vised touch­pad de­signed to keep your eyes on the road more, and less on the but­tons.

While only of­fered in the Ad­vance and A-spec mod­els, there is a 16-speaker, 710watt stereo that’s pretty le­git. There’re even four speak­ers in­te­grated into the roof for a fuller lis­ten­ing ex­pe­ri­ence! I ac­tu­ally needed to ditch XM and reg­u­lar Spo­tify for 320-kpbs au­dio files to ap­pre­ci­ate the awe­some sound qual­ity of this ELS Stu­dio 3D sys­tem.

Speak­ing of A-spec, it’s the trim level Acura plans to of­fer on all of its up­com­ing mod­els. It’s akin to what M Sport is to BMW, with up­grades in aes­thetic form. Some of the sell­ing points of the A-spec RDX were the LED fogs, 20-inch wheels, black­out treat­ment, red il­lu­mi­nated gauges, and suede in­serts.

Now, don’t go all run­ning to your lo­cal Acura deal­er­ship quite yet. As I stated ear­lier, I was shocked to even be in­vited to this ve­hi­cle launch. Af­ter a full day on the road, ap­pre­ci­at­ing the RDX’S in­her­ited de­sign cues from the NSX, not to men­tion the tur­bocharged pow­er­train from the Civic Type R…if I was in the mar­ket for an SUV, this would def­i­nitely ping my radar.

A-spec model pic­tured here.

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