2009 Acura RDX Review

2009 Acura RDX - Sporty utility.


The compact RDX crossover vehicle from Honda's Acura luxury division combines sportiness and utility and wears a racy body. It's sort of an upscale sports sedan with good utility.

The RDX arrived as a 2007 model. It was the first Acura with a turbocharged engine and the automaker's first premium crossover. It hasn't changed much and is in good company, with rivals such as the BMW X3, Infiniti EX35 and Land Rover LR2.

Acura really lays it on when it says the RDX was designed "as the ideal vehicle for drivers with energetic lifestyles who need a compact, sporty and responsive weekday ride and a weekend getaway vehicle with versatility to match their diverse and active recreational lifestyles." Sounds like that was written by someone who overdosed on caffeine, although the RDX should satisfy such seemingly breathless people.

The RDX still looks right in style, with such features as aggressively raked body sides, steeply raked windshield, short rear overhang and large wheel arches housing big 18-inch wheels and 55-series tires. Large dual exhaust outlets add to the sporty look.

A unique rear hatch is finished with a replaceable panel to reduce the cost of accident repair.

The 2009 model gets a power front passenger seat to accompany the power driver's seat and a few new colors, including the striking Grigio Metallic on my test RDX.

The RDX comes as a well-equipped $33,695 base model and as a $36,995 version with a Technology Package, which is its only option.

That package contains an upscale 10-speaker sound system designed by a Grammy award-winning sound engineer, besides information and communications features including a navigation system and traffic information to help RDX owners avoid jams on expressways in 77 metropolitan areas, including Chicago.

The package provides communication between Acura and the RDX -- providing owners with the latest service requirements -- and a rearview camera to make parking easier. Acura spokesperson Jessica Fini noted that the package's dual-zone automatic climate controls include a GPS-linked solar-sensing climate control that keeps one side of the interior cooler if the sun is hitting it harder. (Regular dual-zone automatic climate controls are standard.)

Comfort and convenience features include items expected in upscale vehicles. They include leather upholstery, heated front seats, power sunroof, cruise control, AM/FM radio with an in-dash 6-disc CD/MP3 changer and the usual power accessories.

Safety items include front- and curtain-side air bags with rollover deployment, traction control, anti-skid system -- and Acura's nifty Super Handling All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system. It maximizes traction while improving balance and responsiveness by distributing engine torque not only between the axles, but also between the left and right rear wheels for better handling in curves and during sudden lane changes.

The RDX is among the growing number of sporty crossover vehicles that are easier to enter and maneuver in traffic than regular SUVs. It comfortably seats four tall adults and has a large cargo area with a low, wide opening. The entire rear seat folds forward without removing headrests to enlarge the cargo area to an impressive 61 cubic feet.

There was no room for a potent V-6 in the RDX, so Acura gave it the next best thing that it could slide under the hood -- a turbocharged, intercooled 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine with dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. With 240 horsepower and an impressive 260 pound-feet of torque, the RDX does 0-60 mph in 6.9 seconds, although it's no lightweight with all its equipment at 3,924 pounds. Power delivery is linear, with virtually no turbo lag.

The engine works with a responsive five-speed automatic transmission with an easily used manual shift feature.

Estimated fuel economy is 17 mpg in the city and 22 on highways. Premium fuel is recommended.

Steering is quick and informative, although rather heavy at low speeds. Handling is sharp, with a suspension and all-wheel-drive system that makes the RDX feel tied to roads. However, rough side streets caused a jumpy ride. The brake pedal is rather soft but has a linear action for well-controlled stops. The powerful brakes have electronic brake force distribution and an assist feature for surer panic stops.

The RDX's low floor makes it easy to slide in and out of the quiet, futuristic-looking interior. Seats are supportive, and backlit gauges can be easily read under all lighting conditions. Climate controls are large, and the adjustable steering wheel has handy audio controls.

However, audio and climate settings are small readouts in a distant dash-top slit. A large central console knob and dashboard screen (that can be hard to read) set audio, navigation and other functions. Rear roof pillars somewhat hamper driver visibility, but large, heated outside mirrors (with turn signals) help here.

The front console has a large, covered bin, but the dual front console cupholders have a lid that partly blocks a driver's access to them when open. The glove compartment is small, but all doors have storage pockets. The rear armrest has dual cupholders and is best yanked down to cover the hard center-seat area. Hand grips above all doors are a nice touch, but the foot-operated parking brake feels dated. The heavy hood lacks a hydraulic strut, so it must be held open with a prop rod, which can get hot and dirty.

One need not be an "energetic lifestyle" person to appreciate the RDX. It has a blend of performance, technology and function that should satisfy sophisticated drivers with all sorts of lifestyles.

2009 Acura RDX 


Likes: Fast. Distinctive styling. Carlike. Sharp handling. Advanced all-wheel drive.

Dislikes: Occasional jumpy ride. Hood prop rod. Slit-like dashboard audio readouts.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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