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Acura RDX Leaves Monster SUVs in the Dust

Acura has targeted the emerging market for small, luxury sport utility vehicles with the RDX, which is chock-full of all kinds of electronic wizardry.

This SUV niche is aimed at upscale singles and couples who want a nimble compact SUV with good performance and all the amenities.

The new RDX gets a big thumbs up. In fact, I think it is really the ideal urban assault vehicle , forget about the Hummer.

The RDX is well built, powerful and very agile. It will run rings around those monster SUVs. And furthermore, its modest footprint means that it can slip into a parking space that most other SUVs will have to forgo. The RDX delivers 61 cubic feet of cargo space with rear seats down, enough for the majority of SUV buyers.

While the base RDX with all-wheel drive at $32,995 (less destination and handling charges) is well equipped, the way to buy the RDX is with the Technology Package. The option includes surround-sound audio, Acura’s outstanding navigation system and rear-view camera.

The only aspect of the new RDX that warrants a negative comment is that it clings to a five-speed automatic transmission, when most other new models for 2007 are moving to a six-speed unit.

But this reservation seems theoretical at best because with its huge torque reserve, the RDX instantly puts a lot of power on the ground and delivers respectable fuel economy as well.

Acura’s parent, Honda, is renowned for squeezing lots of power from small engines. The RDX features a 2.3-liter, 4-cylinder engine that develops 240 big horsepower, thanks to its innovative variable-flow turbo and Honda’s advanced technology for valve actuation and timing control.

The RDX’s power delivery is very impressive. You just need to breathe on the accelerator to make the new Acura SUV surge forward. The 4-cylinder unit is a weight saver and, consequently, the RDX tips the scales at less than 4,000 pounds fully optioned.

The RDX also gets Acura’s latest all-wheel-drive technology that the company says will improve traction and control, and even improve on-road performance.

Conventional all-wheel-drive systems distribute torque between the front and rear wheels as conditions dictate. The Acura version adds the ability to redirect torque between the left and right rear wheels. In fact, the system can channel up to 100 percent of engine torque to the outer rear wheel when cornering, which means that you can take full advantage of the natural weight transfer to power around corners.

The RDX also comes equipped with Acura’s proprietary yaw and traction control. This should make the car virtually skid-proof on wet surfaces. The RDX is simply one of the best handling SUVs yet developed and is a huge amount of fun to drive.

And in case you’re concerned that its small size equates to compromised safety, the RDX has received a big endorsement from a respected third party.

It was one of only three luxury SUVs (out of 13) to earn a Top Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Communication technology includes an innovative system that supplies real-time traffic information.

The AcuraLink satellite communications system provides data on the speed of traffic flow, accidents and construction in 44 major metro areas, allowing drivers to take an alternate route, if such is available, to reach a destination.

Not only will the system display trouble spots on a map of your route, but another screen displays trouble spots in your geographic region as you plan a trip.

Acura’s navigation system has always appeared to be the best in the industry and the application in the RDX is no exception.

The system provides a guide to millions of points of interest in the United States and three-dimensional graphics for freeway interchanges and on- and off-ramps.

The unit also has access to the Zagat Restaurant Guide.

The audio system includes XM Satellite Radio, 360-watt premium amplifier, AM-FM tuner, 10 speakers and a six-compact disc changer. The multichannel unit provides surround sound for all seating positions.


Cordell Koland is an automotive journalist based in California’s central coast. He can be reached at cordellkoland@mac.com.


Acura RDX With Technology Package

Price as tested: $37,165.

Engine:

Type: 2.3-liter turbocharged inline-4.

Horsepower: 240 @ 6,000 rpm.

Torque: 260 foot-pounds @ 4,500 rpm.

Fuel economy, automatic transmission:

City: 19 mpg.

Highway: 23 mpg.

Curb weight: 3,924 pounds.

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