New-gen­er­a­tion model is bet­ter look­ing and bet­ter driv­ing

The Phoenix - - AUTOMOTIVE - By David Sch­midt Auto Writ­ers Ink If you have any ques­tions, com­ments or ideas, please send them to com­ment@ Au­toWrit­er­sInk.com.

WHISTLER VIL­LAGE, BRI­TISH COLUMBIA » As Acura in­tro­duces their third gen­er­a­tion of the en­try-level lux­ury cross­over, they are rais­ing its level of lux­ury and per­for­mance.

Re­mem­ber that the first-gen­er­a­tion of the RDX, when in­tro­duced in 2007, joined BMW’s X3 to in­vent this mar­ket seg­ment.

While never a slouch, the third it­er­a­tion will per­form bet­ter while cos­set­ting oc­cu­pants com­fort­ably. It’s a quite mod­ern and ag­gres­sive cross­over ute. It’s at­trac­tive and clearly com­mu­ni­cates it’s a new, and bet­ter, RDX. Not that there’s any­thing wrong with the pre­vi­ous model, but it wasn’t dis­tinc­tive.

One of the things that I liked most about the new de­sign is they got rid of Acura’s ugly front grille and re­placed it with a mod­ern, if not so­phis­ti­cated, de­sign. The large cen­ter em­blem en­sures you know just who build this car.

Since this gen­er­a­tion is an all­new, ac­tu­ally a clean-sheet de­vel­op­ment. It is cur­rently the only Honda or Acura ve­hi­cle on this plat­form. This RDX was de­vel­oped, de­signed and will be built in the U.S. The de­sign is quite dy­namic, and even sporty. This RDX is longer and wider than the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion. Be­cause of th­ese pro­por­tions, Acura of­fi­cials would want peo­ple to see it as kind of a “taller” sports sedan.

The in­te­rior is equally mod­ern and has moved to­wards a more high-end look and feel. For ex­am­ple, the in­te­rior uses real metal and wood. The leather is good, and the crafts­man­ship seems high. The dash­board is straight-for­ward. Us­ing rather thick acous­tic glass for the wind­shield and acous­tic glass on the front side win­dows, I was im­pressed with quiet the car is. En­gi­neers also paid at­ten­tion to body seal­ing and that keeps bad noises out of the cabin.

All the seats are com­fort­able, as I spent an hour rid­ing in the rear. But the front seats are more so, although a new thin­ner and lighter de­sign. This again is the first use of th­ese seats and they will be seen on fu­ture mod­els. The user in­ter­face in the cen­ter of the dash­board is a 10.2-in. “touch­pad” screen to con­trol the in­fo­tain­ment, telem­at­ics, nav­i­ga­tion and cli­mate con­trols. Un­for­tu­nately, the touch­pad is ac­tu­ally a pad on the cen­ter con­sole. It also doesn’t work quite in the

way you ex­pect it to.

Dur­ing the time my col­leagues and I were driv­ing the car we had difficulty mak­ing it do what we wanted. Per­haps this is some­thing you quickly learn, but ini­tially it was rather ir­ri­tat­ing.

The au­dio sys­tem, on the other hand, is sim­ply ex­tra­or­di­nary. El­liot Scheiner, win­ner of eight Gram­mys as a mu­sic pro­ducer, has been the guru be­hind Acura’s au­dio sys­tems for years. He has out­done him­self. This one is per­haps his best, us­ing 16 speak­ers and 710-watts to make the sound truly three-di­men­sional. This is en­hanced by hav­ing speak­ers lo­cated in the car’s ceil­ing.

He uses com­puter power to con­trol the sound and where it’s com­ing from. The sys­tem also bright­ens the dy­nam­ics and in­creases the range mak­ing it sim­ply stun­ning. Nat­u­rally it can’t be any bet­ter than the in­put, but even satel­lite ra­dio and FM sounded bet­ter. I won’t say this is the only rea­son you need to buy this ve­hi­cle but it’s close.

The per­for­mance is also a step up. The en­gine is a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylin­der gen­er­at­ing 272-hp. and 280 lb.-ft. of

peak torque. It pulls very nicely, thanks to a 10-speed au­to­matic transmission which al­lows for lower gear ra­tios, im­prov­ing ac­cel­er­a­tion in the lower gears, while stretch­ing out the “cruis­ing” at the top of the gear­box. With that, the EPA rates the RDX’s fuel ef­fi­ciency at 22-mpg in the city and 28-mg on the high­way.

Should you choose an all­wheel drive model the power goes to a fourth-gen­er­a­tion AWD pow­er­train. The torquevec­tor­ing in this AWD is quite so­phis­ti­cated, able to flow 70 per­cent of the power to the rear from its nor­mal front-wheel drive mode. It will also move up to 100 per­cent from side-to-side, help­ing to keep the car go­ing where you aim the steer­ing wheel.

The sus­pen­sion in front is a McPher­son strut and in back there is a new five-link setup. This gives this RDX a much more car-like ride. The sus­pen­sion is re­spon­sive and keeps the car rel­a­tively flat on the road. At the top-of-the-line you can get an ac­tive damp­en­ing sys­tem to make the sus­pen­sion even more smooth and ca­pa­ble. It does have vari­able-ra­tio steer­ing, some­thing that seems al­most nec­es­sary in this class a ve­hi­cle. All mod­els have 19-in. wheels. The brakes at up to the task of stop­ping the RDX. They are smooth and pull straight, even at heavy lev­els of brak­ing.

There is a three-set­ting dy­namic con­trol sys­tem for how ag­gres­sive the car drives.

In Sport model every­thing be­comes more ag­gres­sive, es­pe­cially the power, and it also be­comes a great deal more fun to drive.

There is an Eco mode, but some­how, I for­got to test it as we drove through lovely roads north of Whistler, north of Van­cou­ver.

Nat­u­rally all the safety el­e­ments re­quired on a new-gen­er­a­tion to­day are on the RDX. The Acura Watch suite of tech­nolo­gies comes stan­dard on all RDX mod­els. In ad­di­tion all get a multi-an­gle rearview cam­era, and the Tech­nol­ogy Pack­age and higher grades add blind-spot in­for­ma­tion, front and rear park­ing sen­sors and rear cross traf­fic mon­i­tor.

The RDX with the Ad­vance Pack­age in­cludes a head-up dis­play and sur­round view cam­era sys­tem for the first time.

While Acura is aim­ing at Euro­pean mod­els, the com­pe­ti­tion in­cludes the BMW X3, the Mercedes-Benz GLC, the Al­pha Romero Stelvio, the Lexus NX, the Audi Q5, Volvo’s XC 60, the In­finiti QX 50, and the Lin­coln MKC.

There are three mod­els of the RDX. The Ad­vance is the top-ofthe line and should make up 20 or so per­cent of sales. The mid­line model is the Tech, which plans to ac­count for 40 per­cent of sales and the A-Spec cos­metic pack­age of that trim will add another 20 per­cent of sales. Acura of­fi­cials ex­pect the base RDX model to be re­spon­si­ble for 15 per­cent of sales.

The RDX starts at $37,300 and the all-wheel drive adds $2000 to the price of each trim level. The top-of-the-line Ad­vance starts at $47,400. The RDX is in show­rooms now.

Acura ex­pects their cus­tomers are go­ing to be empty-nesters and younger buy­ers who are com­ing out of sedans and want to buy an RDX be­cause of the life­style rea­sons.


The front sus­pen­sion com­bined with the five-link setup in back gives the RDX a more car-like ride.

The in­te­rior is high-end, us­ing real metal and wood and qual­ity leather.

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