Quick Drive: 2010 Acura RDX 2WD

Colin Chapman? In My Luxury Crossover?

Carlos LagoSep 3, 2009
To Sunbelt residents, all-wheel drive is essentially useless. It presents little more than a complex mixture of driveshafts and differentials that bleed energy from the drivetrain. The safety net it provides comes with a cost, straining wallet and gas pedal. And since 2007, it has been the only choice for the Acura RDX. This year, along with a host of other upgrades, Acura's adding to the model line a front-drive RDX, which, in an oddly Colin Chapman-esque move, offers less, but gives more.
Unsaddled by Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive, the front-drive RDX is more fuel efficient, faster, and less expensive. It's not decontented, mind you: Standard goodies new for 2010 include a rearview camera, electronic compass, auto-headlights, ambient footwell lighting, USB-connectivity, and Bluetooth with audio capabilities.
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Other updates consist of a slight exterior restyling, including new 18-inch wheels, front and rear lights, exhaust tips, and the grafting of the infamous Acura corporate grille to the nose. Acura has also revised the brakes, changing the booster and servo to remove "grabbiness." A result, says the automaker, is less drag and longer pad life. There's also a new, large center console for storage, a feature notoriously absent from our 2007 AWD long-termer.
Our RDX was no slouch even with the added drivetrain mass --- we likened it to the Evo of crossovers when we said goodbye. Acura's SH-AWD is impressive; through planetary gearsets and electromagnetic clutch packs, it's capable of overdriving the outside rear wheel to create yaw, which reduces understeer. The downside is the roughly 200 pounds it adds to the curb weight. Without it, the RDX's fuel economy rises 2 mpg, up to 19/24 mpg city/highway. It's livelier on its MacPherson front and multilink rear suspension too.
All the weight does come out of the rear though, slightly worsening the distribution. The front-drive RDX balances at 59/41 front/rear, whereas the all-wheel drive offers 57/43. But, because the RDX isn't a featherweight Lotus, the change is imperceptible. A two-percent difference means little, if anything, on the commute. Instead, you'll notice the turbocharger at work. Acura claims to have thickened the plumbing to reduce noise, but a faint whistle under throttle becomes apparent, providing a satisfying accompaniment to the surge in acceleration. With 240 horsepower at 6000 rpm, output remains the same from the 2.3-liter inline-four. The torque numbers don't change either -- 260 pound-feet at 4500 rpm -- but its delivery, now through one axle, requires a little getting used to. From a stop, stomping the gas while making a turn leaves curved black stripes on the pavement. Those not careful with the go pedal at low speeds can expect to replace their front tires soon.
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Even with bald tires, the base RDX represents a bargain against the luxury crossover competitors Acura is aiming at. At $33,330, it's $2000 below the SH-AWD model and is the least expensive of the BMW X3, Infiniti EX, Audi Q5, and Mercedes-Benz GLK350. The sole option, the Technology Package, which adds navigation with voice recognition, navigation, and an upgraded sound system, bumps the price to $36,430.
Sound like a deal? Acura agrees and plans for the front-drive RDX to account for 30 percent of the model's sales. Sunbelt residents can hardly weight.

2010 Acura RDX 2WD
Base price$33,330
Vehicle layoutFront-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 5-door CUV
Engine2.3L/240-hp/260 lb-ft DOHC 16-valve turbocharged I-4
Transmission5-speed automatic
Curb weight3743 lb (mfr)
Wheelbase104.3 in.
Length x width x height180.7 x 73.6 x 65.2 in.
EPA city/hwy fuel econ19/24 mpg
On SaleCurrently

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Acura RDX

Fair Market Price
$33,026
Editors' Overall Rating
Basic Specifications
MSRP: $35,095
Mileage: 20 / 28
Engine: 3.5L V6
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