The Acura RDX was designed to be among the sportiest in its segment, and except for a couple issues, the driving experience of the 2011 model is engaging as with our 2007 RDX long-termer. And that long-termer didn't benefit from the changes Acura made for the 2010 model year.
Yes, the RDX now wears Acura's polarizing power plenum grille, but the changes are far more significant than a restyled exterior and attractive new 18-inch wheels. A rear-view camera, changes to the leather seating surfaces, more ambient lighting, and USB-port connectivity now come standard.
When the RDX was introduced, it was available only with Honda's super-handling all-wheel drive. That strategy was rethought and now there's the front-drive model we sampled. It boasts a cheaper entry-level price and better fuel economy with the turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine making 240 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 260 pound-feet of torque at 4500 rpm. The engine is plenty powerful, and the turbo surge makes the RDX feel quicker than it really is at times.
Back when we tested our long-term RDX, it sprinted from 0-60 mph at 7.0 seconds. Now that the front-wheel-drive crossover is 200 pounds lighter, expect a slightly improved time. RDX drivers will need to develop a lighter touch with the throttle or else fuel economy will suffer.
The brakes, too, were improved for the refreshed RDX. Acura says the upgrades result in more feel and less grabbiness to the binders, although they still are a touch on the sensitive side. Regardless, there's no arguing with revised rear brake pad actuation that translates to less drag and longer pad life.
The RDX's turbo makes it more responsive and engaging to drive than others in the segment, but if there's a second generation of this vehicle, fuel economy must be a higher priority. The front-drive RDX's fuel economy is rated at 19/24 mpg city/highway. For comparison, the turbocharged four-cylinder version of the all-wheel-drive 2011 Audi Q5 is rated 20/27 mpg, and the front- drive 2011 Volvo XC60 nets 18/25 mpg. The all-wheel-drive RDX does match the all-wheel-drive turbo XC60 in fuel economy, but the Volvo does it with two additional cylinders and more power and torque.