First Drive: 2007 Acura RDX luxury cars first drives acura
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Review and photos by Paul Williams

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It’s been on the international show circuit in various concept and
prototype forms since 1999. In September, the production 2007 Acura RDX, a sport-luxury “crossover” utility vehicle, hits the showroom floors.

The RDX introduction is timed perfectly to coincide with the new wave of SUVs that focus on performance and panache, rather than off-road prowess and rugged duty. The RDX is the first Acura (in fact, the first North American-sold Honda product) to use a turbocharger. Developed as a joint venture between Honda, Mitsubishi and Japanese specialist Aisin, the variable flow turbocharger with air-to-air intercooler is attached to a 2.3-litre, i-VTEC, four-cylinder engine that makes 240-horsepower at 6,000 rpm, and 260 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,500 rpm. Note the substantial amount of torque at comparatively modest engine speeds, a departure from Honda/Acura’s propensity to offer engines that develop high horsepower at very high engine speeds, with low torque.

First Drive: 2007 Acura RDX luxury cars first drives acura
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The result? The RDX is designed to accelerate quickly from standstill, and to readily access its power for passing when required, while giving better fuel economy than an equivalently powered V6. The engine is mated to a five-speed “sequential” automatic transmission with paddle shifters, and features advanced shift-hold control and grade logic control to enhance cornering and downhill manoeuvres.

Acura estimates fuel economy of 12.4/9.8 litres/100 km, city/highway, using premium grade fuel.

First Drive: 2007 Acura RDX luxury cars first drives acura
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The RDX uses a version of Acura’s Super Handling All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD), first used on the RL luxury sedan. This system progressively distributes the optimum amount of torque between the front and rear axles, and also between the left and right rear wheels. In practice, up to 90% of available driveline torque can be transferred to the front wheels during high-speed driving, and during straight-

First Drive: 2007 Acura RDX luxury cars first drives acura
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line, full-throttle acceleration, up to 45% of available torque can be transferred to the rear wheels. In hard cornering during acceleration, up to 70% of available torque can be directed to the rear wheels for enhanced vehicle dynamics, and up to 100% of the torque sent to the rear axle can be applied to either rear wheel as conditions dictate. This system is standard equipment on the RDX, and no front-wheel drive version is offered.

Designed to combine SUV functionality and sports sedan handling, the RDX is built, first and foremost, for urban use and an urban buyer. Acura describes its typical buyer as male, “competitive, aggressive, edgy.” Well off, too.

First Drive: 2007 Acura RDX luxury cars first drives acura
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The exterior design theme is an “athletic armour” concept, with sharp body lines, standard 18-inch wheels (19-inch are an available option), and a tailgate surface that is flush with the rear bumper. The front fascia features a main opening that feeds the aluminum engine radiator, and a separate cold air inlet for the aluminum turbocharger intercooler. The cold air inlet uses simulated vortex diffusers to suggest its functionality, and while the rear design is very pleasing, the front may seem busy to some, what with the three air inlets, and multiple angles and surfaces.

Other standard exterior features are high intensity discharge low beam
headlights, a rear spoiler above the tailgate, strakes located in front of the rear tires, and mirrors mounted to the doors, rather than the
A-pillars (to increase outward visibility). A sunroof is also standard.

Around the base of the RDX, the lower door panels use a discrete plastic cladding that’s easily replaceable in the event of damage. The front and rear bumpers use the same type of panels that can be replaced if damaged, rather than the entire bumper assemblies.

First Drive: 2007 Acura RDX luxury cars first drives acura
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The interior features premium leather surfaces on its sporty and very comfortable seats. The cockpit is set up primarily for the driver, with all controls and instruments directed to the driver’s seat. Even the huge storage container between the front seats (which will easily contain a laptop computer in its case) opens outward from the driver. Unfortunately, this makes it difficult to use by the passenger!

The instrument panel is a festival of switches, buttons and dials which will appeal to techno-savvy people who like to finely adjust their
electronic/automotive equipment. The steering wheel alone has 13 controls on it, plus the two paddles to shift gears. The driver’s seat is powered, but the passenger’s is not. Seat memory is not available.

First Drive: 2007 Acura RDX luxury cars first drives acura
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Rear seat room is good as long as the front seats are not set all the way back. The rear windows are short, which can make it a little dark in the rear seat, although some may find this gives them a feeling of security, especially with the overall high beltline of the RDX.

Room behind the rear seat is considerable, with rear cargo space designed to accommodate two 19-inch mountain bikes standing up, with the rear seat folded down. Two full-size golf bags will easily fit in the cargo area behind the rear seat.

First Drive: 2007 Acura RDX luxury cars first drives acura
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Safety equipment is comprehensive, with anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution, traction control and vehicle stability control standard, along with side impact airbags and side curtain airbags. The RDX is also designed with a front bumper and elevated hood that reduces severity of injury to pedestrians in case of an accident.

The RDX uses a MacPherson strut front suspension and multi-link rear
suspension with front and rear anti-roll bars to achieve what Acura
describes as “best in class” cornering. The platform is all-new and is exceedingly rigid (Acura says it has “best in class” torsional rigiditiy). Internal testing gives a result of 0.85g on the skidpad, which exceeds cornering of the BMW X3 in the same test conditions. Indeed, Acura sees the BMW X3 as its main competition in this market segment.

First Drive: 2007 Acura RDX luxury cars first drives acura

First Drive: 2007 Acura RDX luxury cars first drives acura
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On the road, the RDX feels very quick, and the steering is sharp and
precise. There’s no doubt it’s a fun to drive SUV. The suspension, however, can be choppy, and even though Acura
indicates that the RDX handles like a car, at 1800 kilograms, its weight is felt especially on uneven surfaces. Weight distribution is a
commendable 52/48 percent front/rear, however, and I found the RDX completely stable on the twisty country roads northwest of Montreal. Under hard
acceleration, the exhaust note could be sportier, though, and the shift points
through the gears could be better defined – snappier – if Acura wants to further accentuate the sporty character of the RDX.

Compared with the Mazda CX-7 – a similar vehicle not mentioned by Acura as a direct competitor, but a legitimate contender nonetheless – the RDX feels much less high-strung, and more tractable at low to medium speeds. But there are real similarities between the vehicles (horsepower, torque, drivetrain, type) and the CX-7 is considerably less expensive, although the Mazda will lack the valet cachet of the Acura brand.

First Drive: 2007 Acura RDX luxury cars first drives acura
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The 2007 Acura RDX arrives virtually fully equipped, although there are
several accessories (bigger wheels, spoilers, running boards, auto dimming mirror, etc.) available, and one trim line that can be selected, called the “Tech Package.” It includes the Acura navigation system with voice
recognition, a reverse backup monitor, Bluetooth hands-free telephone, and Acura’s premium ELS-DVD audio system with six-channel surround sound.

The RDX is designed to be the SUV version of the sporty and high-tech TSX. Its innovative drivetrain, numerous safety features, high-tech components, sporty platform and practical interior should find favour with fans of the emerging “crossover” segment. Pricing is not yet finalized, but expect the 2007 Acura RDX to start at around $45,000.

Manufacturer’s website
www.acura.ca




About Paul Williams

Paul Williams is an Ottawa-based freelance automotive writer and senior writer for Autos. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).