2011 Acura RDX Tech, an Drivers Log Car Review

2011 Acura RDX Photo by: David Arnouts

2011 Acura RDX. Photo by David Arnouts.

2011 Acura RDX Photo by: David Arnouts

2011 Acura RDX. Photo by David Arnouts.

2011 Acura RDX Photo by: David Arnouts

2011 Acura RDX. Photo by David Arnouts.

2011 Acura RDX Photo by: David Arnouts

2011 Acura RDX. Photo by David Arnouts.

2011 Acura RDX Photo by: David Arnouts

2011 Acura RDX. Photo by David Arnouts.

2011 Acura RDX Photo by: David Arnouts

2011 Acura RDX. Photo by David Arnouts.

2011 Acura RDX Photo by: David Arnouts

2011 Acura RDX. Photo by David Arnouts.

Published on 7/21/2011

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ART DIRECTOR TARA KLEIN: This 2011 Acura RDX is considered a premium vehicle? Wow, could have fooled me. While the Acura RDX does feature a few niceties, it needs an overhaul to get it up to par.

The exterior design is . . . eh. I get a bit confused as I take it all in, moving from the back to the front. The halves seem a bit disjointed, with the extreme angles on the nose not really matching up with the look of the rest of the vehicle.

When I opened the door, Plain Jane greeted me with a typical composition executed with middle-market materials. While the ergonomics were adequate thanks to well-placed controls, I was too busy yawning to be really impressed with just that. I will say that the backup camera had a crisp, clear display, like that of our long-term Honda Odyssey, so that was a plus.

On the road, the turbo churned out plenty of power, making for a bit of fun, but the rough and noisy nature of the ride overshadowed that.

There is so much competition that is far superior to the RDX (even within some nonluxury brands) that I see it getting left in the dust.

DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: Ah, 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque flowing through the front wheels. That explains why this thing possessed the nastiest case of torque steer I've felt this side of a Dodge Omni GLH-S. Unfortunately for Acura, the RDX didn't feel particularly more refined than the Shelby econobox, either. The engine was remarkably coarse, and while I enjoy turbo whistle, the RDX had more of a water-rushing-through-pipes sound that seemed to come from the footwell. Not pleasant.

Turbo aside, the RDX was loud overall, with plenty of tire and wind noise at highway speeds. The interior was a pit of blackness; the plastics had good texture and grain, but they weren't much better than what you'd expect from Subaru--a company not generally known for premium interiors. And the entire SUV smelled like a sporting-goods store on the inside. It was exactly the scent of new athletic shoes--that's the only way I can describe it.

Another lasting impression the RDX left me with was its appallingly ugly front mug. The nose comes to a point and then falls off below the car, with no spoiler or grille or trim to give it any heft. It looked like the nose of an Amphicar, with its prowlike beak jutting way out over the front wheels.

Did I like anything? The brakes were excellent, with nice pedal feel and very progressive application. Pressure exerted by my foot translated into exactly the stopping action I expected; it seems like a small thing, but it's amazing how many cars get the brakes wrong, even if they have good panic-stopping distances.

Overall, I was as unimpressed with the Acura RDX as I had been impressed by the 2012 Acura TL just a few weeks earlier. There are still some demons to work out in the Acura lineup.

COPY EDITOR CYNTHIA L. OROSCO-WRIGHT: While I enjoyed the MDX that was part of ourlong-term fleet a couple of years ago, this RDX didn't elicit any strong feelings. It's a crossover. It carries you and your stuff in basic comfort; I certainly wouldn't call anything herein luxurious. But it served its purpose over a weekend when I needed space to transport a large graduation cake and to pick up some boxes.

Getting up to speed wasn't much of a chore, but you do have to put your foot into it a bit to get the turbo juices flowing. And the brakes satisfactorily slowed things down. The seats had good bolster. The overall ride was fine, but the crumbling roads upset the suspension quite a bit. I did like the big, clear screen for the backup camera and the nav unit, which was super easy to use.

There's nothing overly exciting about the RDX, from the odd lines of the sheetmetal to the power underhood. If you're looking for this kind of crossover/small ute, you certainly could find something that looks better and is more fun to drive, possibly for less money.

ASSOCIATE EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: Is the RDX a small luxury SUV? I would argue that it's a small entry-level luxury SUV, more compact than the likes of the Audi Q5 and the BMW X3, which are also more expensive. For the cost of this loaded FWD RDX with navigation and satellite radio, you would only get a bare-bones version of the Audi or the BMW.

A more direct competitor in terms of size and content is the Infiniti EX. When compared with that; I would tip my hat toward the Acura for sportier drive character with its tight chassis, responsive steering and muscular brake performance. Except for the front end, I also like the lines of the RDX better than those of the EX, but that's all personal preference. Neither interior is great, but they are nice enough for entry-luxury vehicles with some soft-touch surfaces sprinkled in among quality hard plastics. As with all Acuras, the front bucket seats are great, with good side support.

I will admit that the stiff ride and louder than expected tire noise can get annoying. By the end of a night of motoring around the beat-up roads in my area, I was wishing for more give in the suspension. Of course, the payoff for the stiff suspension is apparent in turns, improving the driving-fun factor. Along with the new grille added during the facelift Acura gave the RDX last year, the brakes, which were already good, got an update.

I'm also a fan of this turbocharged K-series engine. There's actually torque here, which is fun if you make sure to have the wheels on the FWD RDX pointed in your desired direction before rolling onto the throttle. The powerband is wide, and the five-speed automatic delivers quick and seamless shifts. Is there torque steer? Yes, but it isn't terrible at all. You want bad torque steer? Go drive the first-generation Mazda Mazdaspeed 3, and then come to talk to me.

NEWS EDITOR GREG MIGLIORE: The 2011 Acura RDX is a mediocre entry in this segment, considering that so many new crossovers can be loaded up and had for a similar price. The cabin does not feel very luxurious to me. Even basic vehicles can be dressed up with leather and electronics to get a similar result. Upscale crossovers should have differentiating materials in the cabin, and they are mostly absent or too subtle in this execution. Plus, the center console is busy and not very intuitive to use.

That said, this Acura does a lot of things well. The engine is strong and potent for aggressive launches and merging, and the chassis is well done and comfortable. Passengers remarked on the roominess, and the interior is reasonably pleasant aside from the other faults.

The turbo is a hoot, but as others note, the torque steer is, uh, present. It's almost fun, but you really do need to hold on. On the other hand, I doubt that's the feel people want for family hauling.

In general, the RDX is a nice vehicle, but the interior could use a facelift.

2011 Acura RDX Tech

Base Price: $36,880

As-Tested Price: $36,880

Drivetrain: 2.3-liter turbocharged I4; FWD, five-speed automatic

Output: 240 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 260 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm

Curb Weight: 3,752 lb

Fuel Economy (EPA/AW): 21/22.4 mpg

Options: None

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