Like many Acuras, the RDX suffers for being a 'tweener. Its size and pricing put it roughly in the same category as the BMW X3 and Audi Q5, but its exclusive reliance on four-cylinder power and its overall disposition are much closer to the cheaper Mini Countryman and other "sporty" compact crossovers. This leaves the RDX ill-equipped to compete in either class -- it lacks the refinement and premium feel to compete with BMW or Audi, and yet is too expensive (and too big) to square off against sportier, cheaper crossovers. Acura hurts itself further by making its excellent all-wheel-drive system an extra-cost option while BMW and Audi make it standard. As such, our $36,480 test model suffers from steering-wheel-tugging torque steer not unlike what you find in a $20,000 Nissan Juke. As Joe notes, the ride doesn't help matters -- the rear suspension in particular jumps over speed bumps. The interior hews more toward the Honda Civic and CR-V than other Acuras.
Despite all this, the RDX isn't a bad vehicle. The interior, although lacking in materials quality, is very comfortable and well thought out. I particularly like the deep, lockable center console. Like many Honda vehicles, it's easy to see out of, thanks to a low beltline and relatively thin pillars. The steering is also typical for Honda -- accurate and quicker than most. The turbocharged 2.3-liter engine isn't as refined as Audi's class-leading turbo four but it provides excellent mid-range passing power and would, I suspect, benefit immeasurably if paired with a modern transmission and all-wheel-drive.
A redesign that addresses the interior quality and ride would do wonders for this vehicle. The real work, though, should be done in the marketing department. Acura needs to decide whether the RDX is a zippy, sporty compact crossover, in which case it needs a cut in size and price, or the brand needs to commit to competing against the big boys and develop a vehicle that can meet them head-on.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor