First Drive: 2011 Acura RDX

#Acura, #RDX

That interior space may be usable, but it certainly isn't very visually exciting. The two-tiered dashboard is patterned after the TSX, and although clean and balanced, it lacks the visual pizzazz found in both competitors and other Acura offerings. There's a surprisingly high quantity of hard plastics throughout, but areas frequently touched by users (i.e. armrests, upper door panels, etc) do receive small infusions of softer materials.

One unique touch lies with the center console. At first glance, the design doesn't appear to be anything special -- open it up, however, and you discover a cavernous compartment that is easily able to swallow purses, cameras, small backpacks, and even a 17-inch laptop computer. Better yet, the compartment is lockable, allowing valuables -- including any iPods plugged into the USB interface located within -- to be secured.

Forced Induction Four
Rear-seat passengers are treated to ample leg and headroom, but unlike the second-row occupants in the MDX, they're not treated to any significant lateral bolstering. That's too bad, considering the turbocharged four-banger underhood may encourage the driver to fling the MDX around.

Power continues to be provided by a turbocharged 2.3-liter I-4. Essentially the same engine found in four-cylinder TSX models but fitted with a turbo, the forced-induction powerplant is rated at 240 horsepower at 6000 rpm, and 260 pound-feet of torque at 4500 rpm. Those figures eclipse many four-cylinder competitors, and actually come close to the naturally-aspirated 3.0-liter I-6 used in the BMW X3 xDrive28i, but unlike several of those engines, the turbo 2.3-liter is very peaky, and is doesn't respond in a linear manner. Unlike the Audi's 2.0-liter turbo-four, offered in the Q5, Acura's engine doesn't benefit from a long, flat torque curve -- maximum torque is only delivered after revving the mill halfway through its rev range.

While some competitors -- notably Mini's Cooper S Countryman All4 -- offer drivers the choice of a manual transmission, the RDX makes do with only an automatic -- and an aging five-speed unit, at that. Though the gearbox is sufficiently smooth and quick to respond to throttle input with a downshift; it isn't quite as refined as the six- and eight-speed units found in competitors. It's also no friend to fuel economy, either -- the EPA rates front-wheel-drive RDXs at 19/24 mpg (city/highway), while all-wheel-drive models achieve a 17/22 mpg rating. For perspective, the larger (and heavier) Q5 3.2 V-6 earns an 18/23 mpg label.

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