2011 Acura RDX CUV

While not all new, the 2011 Acura RDX underwent a minor facelift for the 2010 model year. Even though the changes were not earth shattering, they did manage to keep it contemporary. Along with the refreshed front (meaning the addition of the familiar Acura “shield”, aka the beak) and rear fascias come some sharper tailpipes and a few new standard features. The RDX now includes Bluetooth, automatic headlights, a USB input, compass and a back-up camera with the view appearing in the rear view mirror. These items add to the overall ease of operation.

2011 Acura RDX CUV

One of the biggest changes currently taking place in the auto industry is the shift away from V8 and V6 engines and towards turbocharged (and, occasionally, supercharged) sixes and fours. The shift is being driven by the need to improve efficiency and reduce both fuel consumption and emissions without giving up on power. Acura was one of the first to embrace the turbocharged mantra when it launched the RDX as a 2007 model. Today, Ford has its EcoBoost lineup, Audi its TFSI range and Kia has the Sportage with a turbocharged four replacing the traditional V6.

The advantage to this strategy is simple. When driven as though there’s an egg between the driver’s boot and the gas pedal a blown four delivers the same sort of fuel economy as its naturally-aspirated counterpart. Pour on the coals, however, and the turbo spools up to delivers the performance of a six and then some. In many cases, the turbocharged four actually outdoes a similarly powered V6 because the torque turns up for work much earlier.

In the RDX’s case, the 2.3L turbocharged four produces 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, and it does so in an impressive manner. The power is delivered in a linear fashion, and it arrives without the engine getting flustered as it reaches for redline. It is sufficient the RDX puts 100-km/h on the clock in 7.8 seconds and it turns the 80-120-km/h trick in a speedy 5.8 seconds. The advantage showed up as a test average of 11.1 L/100 km, which is better than many sixes offering similar performance. In fairness, I could have dropped the consumption appreciably had it not been so much fun winding up the turbo.

The five-speed manumatic transmission helps overall performance, as the ratios keep the engine in its sweet spot for more of its working life. That stated this CUV would put six speeds too much better use. Adding an extra gear and re-jigging the ratio spacing would bring a faster launch off the line and easier highway cruising.

When it comes to handling the RDX is impressive. There is little body roll, understeer is benign and the feel and feedback afforded by the steering is razor sharp. Beyond that, the large P235/55R18 tires deliver a ton of lateral grip and the electronic stability/traction control system reins in the driver should they get carried away. The brakes are also strong, delivering short 40.3-metre stops from 100 km/h.

The unspoken advantage is the stability the Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH AWD) system provides. As well as overseeing the power split front to rear, it actively alters the amount of power directed to the left or right rear wheel when cornering. Over-speeding the outside wheel turns the vehicle into the corner, which reduces the likelihood of understeer and the amount of steering wheel input required. It is a wonderful system that works seamlessly. It is this dynamic combination makes the RDX is a hoot to drive.

Inside, the boldly bolstered front seats provide the needed lateral grip and some welcome support. The inclusion of an eight-way power driver’s seat and tilt/telescopic steering wheel adjustment then make the correct driving position a snap to establish. The ease of operation continues as the key controls, including the paddle shifters, all fall readily to hand. The inclusion of a boost gauge adds an unexpected twist – keep the boost needle at the bottom of the scale and the driver is enjoying the best economy. No, it’s not designed to give the driver this information, but it works.

If there is a nit to be picked it is in the number of knobs, button and sundry controls dotted about the driver’s space – there are 18 functions on the steering wheel alone if one includes the paddle shifters! This and the fact the overall design is beginning to show its age are the lone disappointments.

The RDX fulfills the utility side very nicely. Raising the liftgate reveals 27.8 cubic feet of space with the 60/40-split-folding seat backs upright and 60.6 cu. ft. with them flat. A reversible hard privacy cover and the needed tie-downs finish things off nicely. The Acura RDX remains one of the more entertaining entrants in the entry-level luxury CUV class. The boosted engine has plenty of pep without being a hog on gas and the road manners are far more sports car-like than many of its competitors. It also brings the right blend of comfort and convenience – the blend is such the only option, the Technology package ($3,000), is really not needed as the only real benefit is the navigation system.

Type of vehicle: All-wheel-drive compact SUV

Engine: 2.3L turbocharged inline four

Power: 240 @ 6,000 rpm; 260 lb-ft of torque @ 4,500 rpm

Transmission: Five-speed manumatic

Brakes: Four-wheel disc with ABS

Tires: P235/55R18

Base price/as tested: $39,990/same

Destination charge: $1,825

Fuel economy L/100 km: 11.7 city, 8.7 hwy.

Standard features: Dual-zone automatic climate control with air filtration, power locks, windows and heated mirrors, power moonroof, steering wheel-mounted cruise and audio controls, heated leather seating, 8-way power driver’s seat with two-position memory, 4-way power passenger’s seat, 360-watt AM/FM/6-disc CD/MP3/XM satellite radio with 7 speakers and auxiliary/USB inputs, back-up camera, rear washer/wiper, Bluetooth, Homelink, trip computer, outside temperature, compass, keyless entry, anti-theft system with immobilizer, high-intensity discharge headlights, fog lights