Sinisterly sweet

On paper, the Acura doesn't appear that imposing. Under its hood resides the only four-cylinder in this group, mated to the test's sole five-speed automatic. And horsepower is rated at just 240, bettering only that of the LR2. But stomp on the drive-by-wire throttle and that paper flies right out the window-0-to-60 takes a mere 6.5 seconds and the quarter mile just 15.1 at 90.7 mph, handily smoking the other three.

Credit the RDX's variable-flow turbocharger and 13.5 psi of maximum boost, which musters the most torque (260 pound-feet) of the bunch. Of course, the RDX isn't just swift in a straight line. In lateral acceleration and the figure eight, the Acura boasts the most brisk numbers-0.83 g and 27.7 seconds at 0.62 g, respectively-verification that the SH-AWD system, which distributes torque not only between the front and rear axles but also the left and right rear wheels, is indeed "super handling." Compared with the MKX, the RDX feels like an NSX. According to St. Antoine, "There's more understeer than I expected, but the SH-AWD helps pull the RDX out as the corner progresses." On sand, the SH-AWD doesn't skip a beat, turning the RDX into a capable off-roader, although its 6.3 inches of ground clearance and fussy traction control (we couldn't disable it with the tires deflated to 15 psi) make it more of a soft-roader.

On the open highway, the RDX loves to run all day. "Freeway driving is a breeze, with seamless boost for passing and climbing," says Voehringer. The rigid and sometimes coarse ride is akin to the X3's, the light and linear steering similar to the LR2's. While the five-speed is plenty intuitive, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters are at the command of the most impatient drivers. They're especially useful for a last-second pass or impersonating a Formula 1 driver on a mountain road. As St. Antoine adds, "The shifters are very useable, unlike other units that seem added for decoration."

Inside, the RDX is standard Acura: clean, well-executed, and of the utmost quality. Voehringer notes, "Overall, the interior is the most appealing. It's well integrated all around with a diversity of textures. The center stack is positively futuristic looking while easing interface."

And despite being the coziest of this quartet, the RDX is plenty comfy for four and offers more cargo volume than the LR2. Better still, at $37,165-$2785 less than the LR2 and $1610 less than the X3's base price-the RDX is the easiest on the wallet yet the most entertaining on the road. Cheap and fun-who wouldn't feel devilish?