2010 Acura RDX Tech
2010 Acura RDX Tech. Click image to enlarge
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Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

Launched in 2006 as a 2007 model, the Acura RDX was the first vehicle to challenge BMW’s sporty X3 in the premium compact SUV market. A lot has happened since then. The segment is now congested with offerings from Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover, Audi, VW, Volvo, Cadillac, Infiniti and Mazda – and the term CUV (crossover utility vehicle) has come into favour.

For 2010, the turbocharged four-cylinder RDX, with a base price of $39,990, gets a mid-cycle refresh to keep it in the game. My tester was the Technology model listed at $42,990.

The biggest visual upgrade is the addition of Acura’s new corporate grinning metallic grille, giving the somewhat non-descript RDX a little more presence. New 18-inch 10-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels, updated HID headlights, a more aggressive rear bumper fascia, rectangular exhaust tips, revised taillights and satin finish trim round out the changes.

2010 Acura RDX Tech
2010 Acura RDX Tech. Click image to enlarge

New standard interior features include a rear view camera with display in the auto-dimming mirror, electronic compass, a pull handle to make closing the rear hatch easier, auto-function headlights, ambient footwell lighting, a centre console storage tray, improved cupholders, USB-port connectivity for iPods and iPhones, and Note function for XM Radio which stores song information for later reference.

Bluetooth connectivity, Homelink, dual-zone climate control, and multi-function display continue as standard equipment.

The RDX has always been a sporty number, and its personality goes unchanged for 2010. It is still arguably the most athletic in this group – the main ingredients being a punchy 240 hp, 260 lb.-ft. 2.3L turbocharged four, SH-AWD (super handling all wheel drive) and firm underpinnings.

You won’t mistake this CUV for the easy riding Mercedes-Benz GLK350 or the Land Rover LR2. Over the uneven streets of the GTA, the RDX pitched and jostled, making its sports-car-on-stilts intent quite evident. Get past that (some potential customers might not) and this thing does know how to carve a corner. The steering is well-weighted and communicative (not like the electric racks in the Acura TL and TSX), and it turns in sharply with little body roll. When putting the power down in the corners, the SH-AWD with its torque-vectoring rear differential (Acura was the first automaker to market with this technology) pushes the RDX through with alacrity.

2010 Acura RDX Tech
2010 Acura RDX Tech. Click image to enlarge

Adding to the car’s personality is the 2.3-litre turbo four-cylinder. It’s a surprisingly strong unit, and it doesn’t deliver power in the linear way of a V6 – there’s a hint of turbo lag before the Variable Flow Turbocharger (VFT) spools up, after which it delivers an escalating torque curve that peaks at 4,500 r.p.m. with 260 lb.-ft. The five-speed auto-box responds quickly to inputs from the paddle shifters, furthering the RDX’s sporting demeanour. This really is quite an entertaining little CUV, but then again, the raucous four-banger does not have the refinement of a V6, despite the use of a new thicker turbo inlet pipe claimed to reduce noise during high boost situations. The 2010 RDX also incorporates a dual-stage radiator fan to further reduce cabin noise.

The fuel economy ratings are improved eight per cent from 2009 due to higher-ratio 4th and 5th gears, better aerodynamics, improved lock-up clutch and other enhancements. It’s rated at 11.7 L/100 km city and 8.7 L/100 km highway. Of course, dipping into the boost regularly will sabotage any hope of attaining those optimistic figures. I was more into the low-twelve range. Premium fuel is required.

2010 Acura RDX Tech
2010 Acura RDX Tech. Click image to enlarge

The RDX has very good heated leather front seats offering exceptional comfort and support – eight-way powered with two position memory for the driver and four-way for the passenger. The steering column tilts and telescopes as well, so it was easy to dial in a comfortable driving position. Visibility is generally good all round.

The 60/40 split back seats offer decent leg and head room, and there is a generous 788 litres of storage behind them.

Along with the standard amenities found in the base RDX, the Technology Package adds a very good sounding 410-watt Acura/ELS Surround AM/FM/XM/6-disc in-dash CD changer premium audio system with 10-speakers, DVD-Audio, MP3, WMA and Dolby Pro Logic II, along with satellite navigation with bilingual voice recognition, off-road tracking, rearview camera and steering wheel-mounted controls.

The voice controls work well for the most part – you can ask the system for everything from the current time to directions to the nearest Japanese restaurant.

2010 Acura RDX Tech
2010 Acura RDX Tech. Click image to enlarge

The upgraded eight-inch screen still can get washed out in bright light however – it seems Mercedes-Benz knows something about this most other automakers don’t.

The Acura’s interior is well executed but a bit dull, especially when compared with the Audi Q5 or Infiniti EX35 which delight in their use of multi textures and fine detailing.

So where does the 2010 RDX fit into this ever expanding premium compact CUV landscape? If sports car-like handling and strong acceleration are high on your wish list, the RDX delivers, although the method in which these are achieved feels a tad dated. When the RDX was in development, Acura was obviously gunning for the BMW X3, which at the time handled well but rode like a rickshaw. The game has moved on, and offerings such as the Audi Q5 and VW Tiguan prove you can get engaging dynamics in a small SUV without having to loosen your fillings. Similarly, the turbo four is not the model of refinement and shows a thirst for premium fuel.

Nonetheless, the 2010 RDX Technology is well-priced, solidly built, loaded with gizmos, and is always ready for spirited run.

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