The 2011 Acura RDX is considerably more fun to drive than most compact crossovers. The engine--a 2.3-liter i-VTEC turbocharged four-cylinder, making 240 horsepower--initially gives no hints (except if you spot the boost gauge in the dash) that it's the only turbocharged one in Honda/Acura's U.S. lineup, and the first for the automaker to ever bring to this market. It settles into an isolated, distant purr that's worthy of a luxury vehicle. Only when you take off the road at a moderate pace are you alerted to the fact that power delivery isn't quite as measured and predictable as you might have guessed. Since torque off the line isn't stupendous, you'll find yourself stepping on the gas a little too hard from stoplights or out of corners, only having to back off when the engine really comes alive and the boost arrives. The transmission--or rather, the way the transmission coordinates with the engine--can be a little balky and adds up to drivability that isn't up to the standards of V-6 crossovers, even if it's as quick. Lumpy first-to-second shifts, and an unrefined torque-converter shudder at highway speeds. From Drive, you can manually select a gear with the paddle shifters on the steering wheel, but it will hold that gear for just a few seconds unless you have the selector in 'S' (Sport).
Steering feel in the RDX is way better than you'd probably expect in a crossover vehicle--even one with a performance edge. The RDX's steering wheel feels very naturally weighted, actually gives some feedback of the road surfaces, and returns to center without ever feeling artificial. On-center feel is quite light, without that artificial heft you find in some newer vehicles, yet it doesn't require frequent adjustments. Brakes are perfectly boosted, too, with a nice, firm feel.
The RDX is now offered in front-wheel guise, but we strongly recommend the all-wheel-drive models, which don't cost much more. The RDX's SH-AWD system expertly sends more power to the wheels that can use it the most. It's very helpful on wet roads. It's all-weather confidence inspiring, and more fun than you'd expect in a crossover.