Mountain Wheels: Right-sized Acura RDX provides power and great looks
Properly equipped for the winter, which we have an abundance of in Colorado, even the fanciest import sports SUV or sedan makes sense.
That was the much happier experience I had with a 2022 edition of Acura’s RDX, a one-size-smaller rendition of the ever-popular MDX, which was delivered with a set of high-performance winter tires. I cannot stress how much that amplified the driving experience and the sense of security, especially as it was the fancier A-Spec Advance Package edition of the vehicle.
After driving a reasonably similar Lexus NX and a larger RX sandwiched around the Acura, I feel confident in saying that it’s probably exactly the vehicle I might invest in, if my circumstances called for a flashy, rock-solid and speedy five-passenger SUV. It’s not so tall and gigantic that you can’t brush snow off the roof, it’s got tons of visual appeal, and its 272-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo setup pretty much blew away the NX in every circumstance.
I also got to enjoy Acura’s “super-handling” all-wheel-drive system and its active torque vectoring during snowy outings and then again on a very busy trip to Loveland Ski Area last Sunday. Both circumstances showed the Ohio-assembled, $52,845 vehicle to be the right size and the right power for the job.
Your feelings on the Acura’s very quiet but hyperstyled cockpit and its overly busy center stack could be an issue, however. Things are still focused around a giant drive mode knob that either lightens the throttle for snow or throws you into hyperspace in sport, plus still-curious vertical shift buttons and a broad display screen controlled by a wide, slightly weird touchpad. Unlike most other manufacturers, its traffic data was also 100% accurate between the tunnel and Idaho Springs.
The A-Spec rendition gets more dark trim around the starburst-styled grille, window frames and body panels, plus beautiful multi-spoke 20-inch wheels, and its seats are even sportier than the standard model, with suede inserts and pretty aggressive bolstering. In the back, slightly silly oversized chrome exhaust ports convey the RDX’s somewhat boisterous, sporty character; the seven-lens jewel eye LED headlamps are an equally pleasant (and bright) touch.
I mostly liked that fact that RDX’s mass was never overwhelming or made it feel cumbersome, either on icy surfaces or while running up that horsepower on dry roads. The 10-speed automatic transmission can be pretty actively engaged via paddle shifters, and steering feel and braking capabilities are both accurate and effective.
The 2022 model included the very tangible suspension and dynamics system upgrades, plus wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and built-in Amazon Alexa.
I have a feeling you might get a similar though certainly lower-to-the-road and alarmingly quick winter experience with Acura’s TLX, which I drove last summer, if you were able to swap out the tires. Even better, mine was a flat-out performance machine, the new Type S edition which gains a 355-horsepower turbo V-6 engine, and was set up on performance tires.
The result, priced at $54,625, was hilariously awesome, and my belief is that its super-handling all-wheel-drive system plus the best winter tires you could find for its 20-inch, light-weight alloy wheels, might turn it into a four-season barn burner.
The 2021-model-year TLX was the first of the Acura family to get this new generation of Type S upgrade — something you may remember from 2001 to 2008 — and this winter also saw the release of the MDX Type S. A very low-numbers NSX supercar with Type S tweaks is also being crafted, while its upgrade pushes it to 600 horsepower.
In practical terms, this very sharp-looking race car for boyish dads is a long, low, wide vehicle that provides a major alternative to Acura’s mostly SUV-based sales volume. Amping up the horsepower, adding oversized and sound-enhanced exhausts, red brake calipers and a mildly garish black splitter on the trunk, definitely transforms it from upscale family vehicle to a much faster upscale family vehicle.
In a more tangible fashion than even the A-Spec SUVs, the hyperspace setting on the drive mode knob will indeed throw you into another dimension. It’s a real race engine with a twin-scroll supercharger and engineering that allows the full 354 pound-feet of torque at minuscule RPMs, meaning fast and consistent power.
I also experienced what I felt might have been the stiffest suspension I’ve found on a non-Mercedes-AMG-type automobile, the car consistently sitting up on a couple of wheels while crossing speed bumps and getting actual air on the freeway. That was kind of awesome.
Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Golden. Contact him at email@example.com.
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