New Car Reviews

2009 Acura RDX

The launched in 2007 with Acura‘s first production turbocharged gasoline engine. In place of the six-cylinder units normally found in compact premium SUVs (like the ) the Acura’s turbocharged sixteen-valve four-cylinder whistles while it works.

Although “four-cylinder” has become a buzzword in these days of expensive fuel, the RDX isn’t exactly a fuel miser. Its EPA city rating of 17 mpg equals that of the BMW X3, but the BMW is rated at 24 mpg on the highway, an almost ten percent bonus over the Acura’s 22.

It’s likely that some of the BMW’s highway fuel economy prowess is attributable to a six-speed automatic transmission (in place of Acura’s five-speed). The RDX’s 2.4-liter four offers about the same thrust as the X3’s 3.0-liter in-line six: Acura 240 hp, 260 lb-ft; BMW 260 hp, 225 lb-ft.

Both the BMW and the Acura-as well as the Infiniti EX-will have their work cut out for them, as they’ll face increased competition this year when the Mercedes GLK, Volvo XC60, and Audi Q5 debut. The RDX, which debuted for the 2007 model year, is well-poised to compete as the only four-cylinder model in the group.

In typical Acura style, it comes very well equipped, offering only one option – a technology package that includes a ten-speaker, 410-watt sound system, navigation with real-time traffic, and Bluetooth. Our fully-loaded test car had a sticker price of $37,755.

The RDX is acoustically proud of its turbocharging; you’ll hear the unmistakable sound of its turbo spooling up as you’re pulling out of your parking spot. It’s never intrusive, but the sound will serve to remind you why the RSX feels a little non-linear off the line. Once moving, turbo lag isn’t a big issue, and the Acura will scoot up to highway speeds with the ease and refinement of a V-6. The automatic transmission shifts smoothly in normal driving, though its shifts are a bit rough in manual mode.

The ride quality is very good (especially compared to an X3) at high speeds, but can be a little nervous when trundling around town. That stiffness, however, translates into stable handling and well-controlled body motions.

Acura‘s SH-AWD all-wheel-drive system can vector up to 70 percent of the engine’s torque to either rear wheel, helping to guide the SUV through corners rather than allowing it to understeer. It works very well, allowing full-throttle launches around tight, ninety-degree bends without embarrassing wheelspin or head-bobbling stability control interventions.

The RDX‘s two biggest flaws are to be found in its cabin. A bright and airy place to be, the RDX’s interior is let down by some inexpensive looking (and feeling) materials. The lower door panels, for example, are made from hard and scratchy plastic, and the speaker grilles look like they’re from a Fisher-Price toy. The second shortcoming is the navigation system. Though it includes most functions present in modern nav systems, Acura’s system is particularly difficult to use. The menus are displayed in a somber, non-contrasting grey, and are easily washed out in the sun. The big controller on the dash is sometimes counter-intuitive in its function. Worst of all, many of the radio and climate control functions are displayed in a narrow LCD strip atop the dash – a strip that becomes invisible in bright daylight, and one which we didn’t even notice for the first few miles. Acura’s ergonomic engineers would do us a favor by concentrating the displays for each function closer to where the controls are. And, like every other Acura vehicle, the Bluetooth doesn’t work properly with many phones, and is full of background noise.

Still, these are some eccentricities to which many owners would become accustomed. The RDX is a capable entry-level upscale SUV, and one that will remain successful in the face of its forthcoming competition. Especially if consumers keep getting excited at the prospect of owning a four-cylinder vehicle.


Engine: 2.3-liter DOHC I-4
Horsepower: 240 hp at 6000 rpm
Torque: 260 lb-ft at 4500 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Drive: All-wheel


L x W x H: 180.7 x 73.6 x 65.2 in
Legroom F/R: 41.8/37.7 in
Headroom F/R: 38.7/38.3 in
Cargo capacity (seats up/down): 20.1/102.4 cu ft
Curb Weight: 3933 lb
EPA Rating (city/highway): 17/22 mpg

{{{2009 }}} MSRP: $34,455 (including $760 destination)

Buying Guide
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20 City / 28 Hwy

Cargo (Std/Max):

26 / 77 cu. ft.