Turbocharged language lessons By Donna DeRosa Date posted: 09-13-2006 Turbo engine - SH-AWD - Surround-sound audio system Attenzione, per favore. While driving the all-new 2007 Acura RDX, we were listening to Italian language CDs. It might seem odd to be studying Italian while driving a Japanese SUV but we figured Honda is learning to speak a new language with its first turbocharged engine, so why shouldn't we? After one minute in the charismatic new RDX, we realized we should have been brushing up on our German. The RDX is a Japanese SUV, made for the American market, but it drives like a German sport sedan. When the RDX's turbocharger kicked in, we actually giggled in four languages. Il mercato nuovo More than just the MDX's feisty little brother, the RDX takes Acura into new territory. This is a small sporty crossover SUV, the likes of which have fast become the rage. Although similar in size to the more expensive BMW X3, the closest thing to the RDX thus far is the new Mazda CX-7, which is much less expensive but has like dimensions and is also turbocharged. Fast? Yes. Quick? Hells yeah, for a small luxury SUV, that is. The Acura RDX is equipped with a 2.3-liter DOHC i-VTEC four-cylinder turbo engine capable of 240 horsepower at 6000 rpm with 260 pound-feet of torque at 4500 rpm. Redline is a sports-carish 6800 rpm. Despite some turbo lag, the RDX boosted from zero to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds and completed the quarter-mile in 15.2 seconds at 90.4 mph, much quicker than the last BMW X3 3.0i and Mazda CX-7 we tested, both of which took at least 8 seconds to reach 60 mph and more than 16 seconds to cover the quarter-mile. Turbo lag is kept to a minimum and when the turbo kicks in, it does so with a delicious whooshing sound. And when the RDX is whooshing, it's sweet. A five-speed automatic is the only transmission choice. Although a gear short of the transmissions in the Acura's competition, shifts are smooth and paddle shifters are standard for added fun-ness. Tecnologia Our RDX was equipped with the Technology Package which includes a navigation system with voice recognition, real-time traffic and a rearview camera. An impressive 10-speaker surround-sound audio system with CD changer is capable of playing DVD-A and will make you feel like you're at the theatre. Also included are such modern necessities as a wireless telephone interface with Bluetooth capability, a steering-wheel-controlled multi-information display that shows tire-pressure readouts and a visible diagram showing the Super Handing All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system in action. Rumors abound that the RDX shares a platform with the Honda CR-V, which in turn started with the Civic platform. But Acura assures us that the RDX's platform is unique, as it can't share with its siblings due to its SH-AWD. Acura's SH-AWD system redistributes power between the front and rear axles and between the rear wheels. It not only helps in slippery conditions, it also works to correct oversteer and understeer while cornering by sending power to the rear outside wheel and rotating it faster than the front wheels through a turn, encouraging Mamma mia-style performance driving. Divertimento As a result, the RDX posted 0.80g of lateral force during our skid pad testing. Impressive for this type of vehicle, the RDX feels like a sport sedan and has the same driver/car bond and excitement factor that, say, the BMW 3 Series has. You're gonna want to drive it hard. It made it through our 600-foot slalom at a wicked 65.7 mph. For the record, the CX-7 navigated the slalom at 63.6 mph. The Acura's four-wheel independent MacPherson struts up front and multilink in the rear are tuned for sporty driving. This suspension handles bumps with ease, but the ride is stiff. Your bum will feel every variation in the road. Torque-sensing variable power-assist rack-and-pinion steering is precise and confidence-building. We loved the shape and feel of the multitextured steering wheel with tilt and telescoping adjustability. It manages to be smooth and grippy at the same time and sits comfortably in the hand. Braking was repeatedly sure and straight. The four-wheel disc brakes brought the RDX from 60 mph to zero in 127 feet. It has a nice firmness to the pedal and the sticky 18-inch Michelins held fast. However, the X3 with the optional sport package did the same in less than 118 feet and the CX-7 managed it in 123. La macchina è bella We've had mixed emotions on the RDX's looks. Some editors thought the exterior looked agile and aggressive; some thought the lines a bit too angular. We all agree on the appeal of the Acura's modern and techy interior. We found it inviting and perfectly put together, with comfortable and supportive front seats covered in finely textured leather. The driver seat is eight-way power-adjustable, while the passenger seat has manual controls. There is a bit more plastic than expected in an Acura, but not enough to be bothersome. A hugely deep center storage compartment between the front seats can hold a briefcase or laptop bag. There are no rear passenger amenities, however. The middle of the seat back pulls down to reveal two mediocre cupholders but there is no pass-through to the storage area. The back of the front seats are hard plastic and there are no A/C vents for rear passengers. Il camion è piccolo The RDX is about a foot shorter than Acura's other Super Handler, the midsize MDX. Both have similar legroom dimensions although the MDX is fitted with a third row. Front legroom is a comfortable 41.8 inches. Glancing over the shoulder to the rear seats, there doesn't appear to be a lot of knee room. But after you climb in the rear, even with the front seats back, there's plenty of leg-, head- and foot room for rear passengers. With all seats in place, cargo room is an adequate and competitive 27.8 cubic feet. Fold flat the 60/40-split second row and you get 61 cubic feet, a full 10 fewer cubes than the X3 but two more than the CX-7. Non perfetto Alas, it does have some faults. A loud cooling fan can be heard constantly on and off. It's very loud outside the vehicle, when the windows are open and can be heard inside, too. The fantastico sound system can be used to drown it out. EPA fuel economy estimates are 19 city/23 highway but those figures are a bit optimistic. We averaged 11 mpg a citta and 17 a l'autostrada but we were admittedly heavy-footed. The turbo boost is just too much fun to drive conservatively. Please note: The RDX drinks premium 91 octane gasoline. Conclusione Priced under $37K with the Tech package and no options necessary, the RDX won't eat all your Iire. The BMW X3 starts around the same price, but similarly optioned would add at least another $10,000. The Mazda CX-7 starts around $8,000 less but doesn't offer the luxury or the tech features. Optioning it up to be close to the "technocharged" RDX, adds more than $5,000 but doesn't come near Acura's features list. The RDX sits nicely between these two vehicles in price but ranks very high in comfort and toys. And the Acura's turbo boost speaks the language of love, my friends. Bravissimo. What Works: Fun, fun, fun to drive; powerful engine; exceptional handling; outstanding seat design; cutting-edge electronics. What Needs Work: Small amount of turbo lag, lacks rear-passenger amenities, light on luggage capacity, ride too stiff for some. Bottom Line: Technology translates into fun in the all-new 2007 Acura RDX.