Acura’s RDX: The Goldilocks Crossover
Five days after getting into Acura’s mid-size, 5-passenger crossover SUV, it dawned on me. The RDX is not too big, not too small. It’s eager, but not aggressive. The ride is neither squishy nor hard. It’s not bad-looking, though no knockout. The cabin is quite nice, but not so plush you wouldn’t put the dog in it. This is Goldilocks’s car: not too hot, not too cold, but just right. Furthermore, the RDX is put together with traditional Japanese attention to fit, finish and detail, and it is a modern Honda, so undoubtedly it will last years longer than anyone can possibly stand to look at it.
Forgive me, but the RDX is a crashing bore. Oops, shouldn’t say “crashing” about a car. Especially this one, which Acura (i.e., Honda) says is a “top safety pick” by IIHS, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Insurance companies have only our best interests at heart, so try to stay focused here: They say the RDX has earned its “highest possible score of GOOD in all four Institute tests”—including, you’ll be happy to know, “the rigorous roof-strength test.” So presumably we can carry an Ariel Atom or a Caterham Superlight up there on a rack, to offload and roar away in when the boredom becomes terminal.
No, it’s not rental-car boring, but . . . if the RDX were a male human, it would be the sort you’d want your daughter to marry. Staunch, dependable, good through all sorts of heavy weather and in it for the long haul.
Bo-ring. Let’s hope she doesn’t run off with an Alfa Romeo.
The 6-cylinder, 3.5-liter motor in the RDX makes 273 horsepower and 251 pounds of torque, and it feels refined, in that low-friction kind of way. The engine is hooked up to a 6-speed automatic transmission that shifts itself with perfect competence. One may choose Sport mode for a bit more zing, or shift it oneself with the paddles behind the wheel. But why bother? It’s not like we could do it better, and there’s little reward for even trying.
Most of the time, all the power goes to the front wheels. Hit the gas hard, though, in this loaded $39,000 AWD model and 25 percent of it gets shunted automatically to the rear wheels, just in case. On a slippery road, the computer may decide to split the power 50/50, front and rear. Go into a corner too hot, at less than racetrack speed anyway, and the machine tracks sure and true, with no sense of nose-heaviness. This is what Honda means by AWDIC, All-Wheel Drive with Intelligent Control.
The suspension plays a big role in this too. I could bore you with the details, but never mind. It works. Again, the near-perfection.
The RDX needs some curry powder in its soup, a Cindy Crawford mole, a little junk in its trunk to relieve the blandness. Something to point to and say, “Lookit my new RDX. It’s really [fill in the blank]!” Instead of, “My new RDX? There isn’t a darn thing wrong with it.”
Back in the bad old days, whenever the feds announced new mileage or safety or emissions standards, Detroit would send mobs of lobbyists and lawyers to fight them tooth and nail. Honda, at the back of the room, would demurely raise its hand and say, “Oh, we did that last year.” But lately Honda seems to be just phoning it in. The CRX-Si is long gone. The fabulous mid-engine NSX is gone (although due back in a couple of years, better than ever). Where’s the old magic? Where’s the rocket science that made Honda seem so brilliant?
Oh, here it is, in the HA-420 HondaJet. Anybody in the market for an ultra-slick $5 million, 6-seat personal twin-jet plane by Honda? Nope, didn’t think so.