Thursday, May 17, 2007

Acura, Honda’s luxury division, enters the highly competitive crossover utility vehicle (CUV) marketplace with an all-new premium entry-level model that features a host of “best-in-class” attributes, combining superlative styling, luxurious appointments, and super handling all-wheel drive in a technologically advanced ride.

The vehicle is the Acura RDX, which technically falls into the light-truck category, but more closely resembles what one would normally refer to as a minivan, albeit a highly stylized minivan, with SUV capabilities. The RDX is based on a global light-truck platform that was initiated in California and developed in Japan.

It is not only Acura’s first vehicle for the entry premium SUV market, it is also its first turbocharged and intercooled engine, the first adaptation of an SH-AWD system to an SUV, and Acura’s first standard offering of 18-inch wheels and tires (19-inchers are optionally available).

At the heart of the RDX is a special powertrain that provides the efficiency of a four-cylinder engine but with six-cylinder power. The engine is an all-new 2.3-liter DOHC, 16-valve, in-line four-cylinder with i- VTEC valve control and variable flow turbo that delivers 240 horsepower and 260 foot-pounds of torque to the AWD system. The motor mates to a five-speed automatic transmission featuring Sequential SportShift as standard, allowing fully automatic operation or manual gear selection via steering-wheel-mounted paddles.

In terms of aesthetic exterior appeal, the RDX displays an extremely athletic form that is sleek and muscular, suggesting instant readiness for spirited, energetic driving performance both in acceleration and nimble split-second maneuvering. It leads off with Acura’s aggressively flared grille, featuring a sharply creased leading edge, followed by an aerodynamically designed body, set on a long wheelbase with a wide track. The distinctive character lines are styled to reflect motion, with muscular wheel arches between short front and rear overhangs.

Inside, the RDX showcases a contemporary treatment utilizing high-quality materials in a highly functional and upscale manner. Seating is for five, but caters to the driver and front passenger with standard leather seating surfaces. The rear seats are split 60/40 and fold flat, offering the ultimate in versatility.

The RDX is so well appointed that there is only one optional package — the Technology Package, which is truly “wired.”

The Technology Package adds:

• A 10-speaker Acura/ELS Surround Premium Sound System with multiformat six-disc DVD-A changer, AM/FM tuner, and XM Satellite Radio.

• HandsFreeLink wireless telephone interface.

• AcuraLink Satellite Communication System with Real Time Traffic.

• The Acura Navigation System with Voice Recognition.

• Rearview camera.

• GPS-linked, solar-sensing, dual-zone, automatic climate-control system.

The test Acura RDX came with the Technology Package, finished outside in a Charcoal Gray metallic and matching interior with a window sticker of $36,495 that totaled $37,165 after tacking on the destination and handling charge.

It really doesn’t matter what you call the RDX, or how you categorize it, it may arguably be considered the ultimate urban sports vehicle, suitable to do duty as simple, comfortable transportation or for spirited adventure treks.

The turbocharged 2.3-liter four-banger delivers instant acceleration off the line or at highway speeds, thanks to the broad torque curve.

The ride quality is on the firm side, befitting the RDX’s performance orientation. Handling characteristics are crisp, and indeed more sport sedanlike than light trucklike.

The overall size of the RDX is well suited to zipping through traffic with ease, while offering the versatility on par with, or exceeding many competitors.

The Acura/ELS audio system places the RDX in the transportation concert hall category in terms of entertainment and sound quality, so parked, or on the move, your favorite tunes take on new life.

As always, Acura may not always be the first to the fray, but when the battle is over, Acura vehicles seem to reign supreme.

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