One of the more surprising things about motherhood is how two beings, sprung from the same font, can be so entirely different. They might look alike, but that's as far as the resemblance goes. This is also true for Acura's crossover siblings. The 2009 Acura RDX is the little brother to the more familiar MDX. It pretty much looks like a smaller version of the seven-passenger MDX, but don't let that fool you. The RDX is its own man...er...car. The Acura RDX is a small crossover that's designed for performance, of all things. Who knew, right? Apparently crossovers can kick butt, too, and the RDX does just that. Its all-wheel-drive system is built for serious driving, and I'm not talking about the offroad kind. All its gearing and suspension stuff is about going fast, handling curves and getting me into trouble. While this turbo engine doesn't quite leap off the starting line, it accelerates fast enough to make this speedy mama nervous. You see, I step on the gas, and the RDX obliges, and then, before I can take a breath, the turbo kicks in and there's this whole other launch that's frankly, uh, surprising. I never got used to that two-part acceleration, and I found myself going much faster than I'd intended (and I usually intend to go pretty fast). The RDX is a blast to drive. The ride is balanced somewhere between smooth and rock-hard in a way that lets me forget about my suburban mommy-hood. Corners and freeway onramps beg me to indulge my inner teenager. If I'd had an infant in the backseat, I'd have had considerably less fun in the RDX. I would've worried about hitting turns at too-fast speeds or gunning it up hills, but my kids go to school during the day, so I had plenty of time to play on the way to the grocery store. And I played, people. On the less fun side, my test car had noise issues. I don't know if they were unique to my car, like a loose something in the door, or if the RDX is just kinda noisy. And there's definitely a lot of engine noise when the turbo kicks in. The RDX also doesn't do so well with its mileage. I only got about 12 mpg during my test period, which included a mix of city and highway driving. My low mpgs were probably a result of all that "playtime," but I have to think that most people won't drive the RDX with an economical frame of mind, which would help when they have to put that premium 91 octane gas in there.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Great Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Groove On
The RDX is really cute. There, I said it. I promised myself that I wouldn't call it "cute," but I did. I know, no self-respecting performance vehicle wants to be called "cute," but I couldn't help it. The RDX looks like a little MDX, so much so that I want to say, "Awww." It has a smaller body and facial features (by which I mean the grille and stuff), and it sits on its big tires like a boy who hasn't grown into his feet yet. It's cute! Of course, it also seems to sit back on those big tires like it's about to launch itself at me for calling it "cute," so maybe I'll find a new adjective. Getting in and out of the RDX was easy for me, but my littlest guy had a hard time opening the doors. Once I helped him out with that the door, he climbed in with no problem, because the RDX doesn't sit much higher than a sedan. Its low ride height was a big help, as the rear cargo door doesn't have a power function. When I reach up to close the liftgate, it's nice not to need a ladder.
Life inside the RDX is fun, too. Acura has pulled together a sporty, luxurious interior that feels pretty good. A mix of subtle textures and neutral colors is pleasing to the eye, and the soft leather is lovely to touch. The Technology Package includes navigation, satellite radio, a rearview camera and tons of other cool stuff. I found most of the nav system pretty easy to use, with its mix of touch-screen and joystick/knob. The Bluetooth link worked beautifully, once I figured out that I needed to use voice control to set it up. I'm always annoyed when I have to break out the manual instead of being able to figure things out, but the RDX's Bluetooth setup was the only instance of that. I had less fun with the seats, which, while heated and adjustable in 10 ways, just never seemed to fit perfectly. The perforated leather has a great sporty look, but I couldn't help but think of all the disgusting tidbits that my kids could grind into those teeny little holes. The firm seats and sporty bolsters were slightly uncomfortable, and they made turning around to see behind me difficult. I had to turn around a lot, because the rearview camera wasn't all that helpful. It seemed to have a weird zoomed perspective so I couldn't tell how far things were from the car. Also, there was a perpetual glare on the screen. Not helpful. There are lots of helpful items in the RDX. The center console storage bin is enormous and has fold-down shelves to help keep things organized. My large purse fit perfectly inside, and most standard laptops will fit as well. The fabulous 10-speaker audio system sounded great, and the auxiliary jack had my iPod working beautifully alongside the satellite radio and six-disc CD changer. I had no problem finding my way, thanks to the navigation system that also shows traffic information and Zagat-rated restaurants. In the backseat, my little guys were happy and comfortable. The booster seat fit nicely without any tilting or sliding, and everyone could find and buckle their seat belts without my assistance, even with a third passenger in the center seat. I love when the kids can find their own buckles-it just makes my life that much easier. There are two cupholders in the rear armrest for a combination beverage containment/boundary marker that also makes things easy. Easy is fun.
In the RDX, as in all its cars, Acura has made safety a priority. And you can tell, because all its safety features, except the rearview camera, come standard. The active head restraints and seat belts react to cushion and stabilize your body in an impact. Plus, there are six airbags, including side curtain airbags for the first and second rows, so everyone's protected. Of course, no one wants to be in a crash in the first place, so the RDX has tons of computerized stuff to help keep you on the road and in control. The sophisticated antilock braking system includes an Electronic Braking Distribution system to give each of the four disc brakes the best amount of brake force. Acura's Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive makes sure each wheel is maintaining traction during performance driving or slippery driving situations. And stability control helps keep the RDX on the road. Acura's safety features protect our kids, too. The two sets of Latch connectors are easy to get to and make installing a child-safety seat simple and safe. All four windows are equipped with pinch protection so nobody loses any fingers. That wouldn't be fun for anyone.