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When it was introduced for the 2007 model year, the Acura RDX was Honda's first turbocharged vehicle, and one of the first compact luxury crossovers to have a performance emphasis. While it hasn't changed much since, and it doesn't have quite the feature set of some rival models, it still delivers in driver satisfaction with a nimble, responsive feel behind the wheel.
The Acura RDX carries into 2011 with its styling and details essentially unchanged—and that's not a bad thing at all. The RDX has been on sale un the U.S. for four years and has received only a few updates along the way, last year, but it still manages to look fresh.
The RDX remains related to the Honda CR-V, but it's a very different vehicle in many ways—styling included. The design is sportier, with a more sloping rear end that sacrifices some cargo room for a sleek look. The interior is crisp and focused, though a bit conservative. Purely from a style and design perspective, the instrument panel is beautiful and well sculpted, with a two-tiered look complemented with well-placed brightwork and accents, along with the deep, hooded gauge cluster.
The 2011 Acura RDX gets a powertrain that strays from the norm: a turbocharged and intercooled 2.3-liter VTEC four-cylinder developing 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, teamed with a five-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. The energetic feel of the powertrain hasn't changed—it still seems a little spastic, thanks to turbo lag, and when the turbo does kick in, it comes on strong, making it difficult to modulate the power. However, Acura has tweaked some exhaust settings to tone down the engine's whizzy, dizzy feel. A new front-drive version doesn't feel substantially different from the all-wheel-drive model available last year and carried over for 2010; both are a joy to drive, compared to the more family-oriented crossovers in other auto lineups. Strong brakes are a part of the package, as is light, quick steering that cues up the least SUV-like driving experience in the class, though ride quality can be a little harsh.
In front, most will be happy with the seating and driving position. There's good headroom all around, but in back the cushions are rather hard and flat and only wide enough for two adults. Also, the backs of the front seats are finished in hard plastic, which adult knees will likely be up against. The downward sloping roofline cuts into the cargo area a bit, but fold the back seats forward for larger items and you're golden.
The Acura RDX has a plethora of handy storage places for things—and not only the small stuff. There's a false bottom to the center console [shhh...] with space enough for a purse, while the main compartment is lockable and large enough for a laptop. At the top there's a shallower tray that can be removed. In addition, there are smaller cubbies in the middle and side of the dash, and the doors have lidded compartments for other small items. Fit and finish in the RDX is excellent, and the RDX's interior spaces are fitted with lots of finely grained and silver-painted plastic. It's a look shared with lots of portable electronics, and it fits the brand's image well enough, though at the price point some shoppers will want lusher trim.
With a vehicle like the 2011 RDX, which has a suspension tuned for crisp handling, ride quality usually suffers somewhat. That's not so much the case here with the RDX. It feels quite firmly damped but moderately sprung, so while it turns in with relative crispness, it's designed to keep it safe yet satisfying for any sane driver's needs on a curvy road while also absorbing major heaves quite well. The downside is that the RDX's ride is busy; it's not jarring, but it gets thrown around by pitchy surfaces and there can be a fair amount of road noise
Standard features on the RDX include Bluetooth connectivity, a 7-speaker sound system, and a new USB port that allows the connection of (and charging of) items such as an iPhone or iPod. Acura also picks up standard CD changer and XM hardware, with DVD-Audio and real-time XM traffic info as options. An electronic compass, automatic headlights, and better cup holders have been added, and ambient footwell lighting, a compass, a pull handle for the hatch, and automatic headlamps are included. But while the RDX is lavishly equipped to some, others might be disappointed in the lack of safety-tech features, such as a blind-spot system, lane-departure, or active headlamps. Rear heated seats and a heated steering wheel also aren't on the list.