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The Daily Drivers | By Peter Couture and Lyra Solochek, Times Staff Writers

The Daily Drivers: Acura RDX SH-AWD Tech offers performance and utility

When Lyra was looking for a replacement for her family's 11-year-old Honda CR-V last year, she discovered her perfect ride: an Acura RDX. It had the versatility of a CR-V, but with the much-needed power for interstate driving and the agility of a sports sedan. Not much has changed for 2010. Acura kept all the goodies and made the SUV even better.

Appearance: The five-point metallic shield in the grille is more pronounced than the previous version, but it seems to blend better on the RDX than on other cars in the Acura lineup. The compact luxury ute looks edgy, with the top that tapers down to the roofline spoiler. The rear hatch blends into the bumper for a smooth line.

Performance: The RDX has the only turbo engine in the Acura lineup. The 2.3-liter four-cylinder i-VTEC puts out 240 horsepower with minimal turbo lag. We love the "whooshing" sound it makes when the boost kicks in. Combined with the Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system, this SUV drives more like a sports sedan with responsive steering and tight cornering. (New this year is the front-wheel drive that comes in the base RDX with the SH-AWD as an upgrade.) The five-speed automatic transmission is equipped with paddle shifters that operate in the sports mode or in on-demand mode. But why not a six-speed? That might help the lackluster mpg numbers — 17 city and 22 highway for the AWD models. Another minus: You need premium fuel.

Interior: Inside, this luxury compact SUV is more sporty than plush. For example, the blue-and-white gauges with red needles aren't what you might expect in some of the other luxury SUVs. The dash and door materials are simple with faux-metallic accents. The front and rear leather seats are perforated so you can stay cooler in the summer. In the winter, the front seats can be heated. The seats were comfortable with plenty of adjustments. Peter had enough headroom, even with a moonroof. The new RDX has iPod integration, Bluetooth music-streaming and auto lights. The controls are simple and seemed less fussy than some other consoles. The tech package adds more gadgetry, including the navigation system with voice recognition and real-time traffic and weather, a backup camera, auto climate control and surround-sound system.

Our 3 favorites

Peter Couture

Fun factor: This little turbo is simply fun to drive, a claim you can't always make in this SUV class.

Armrest console: It's so deep you'll hear echoes in there.

Rearview camera: Available with the tech package.

Lyra Solochek

Woosh! Feel and hear the turbo kick in. The 240 horses come in handy when you're merging onto I-275.

SH-AWD: It really is "super," with minimum body lean.

Practical: Plenty of room to haul people and stuff.

The bottom line: The Acura RDX is the perfect small luxury SUV for those who value performance as much as utility. If you like the optioned-out small SUV, but want more power under the hood, this ride is worth a look.

2010 Acura RDX SH-AWD Tech

Price: $38,430 as tested

Powertrain: 2.3-liter 4-cylinder i-VTEC Turbo with 5-speed automatic, Super Handling AWD

Horsepower: 240 at 6,000 rpm

Torque: 260 pound-feet at 4,500 rpm

Curb weight: 3,942 pounds

Dimensions

in inches:

Wheelbase, 104.3

Length, 182.5

Width, 73.6

Fuel economy:

17 miles per gallon city, 22 mpg highway

Fuel type: Premium unleaded

Safety features: Air bags, side curtains with rollover sensor, vehicle stability assist, ABS, electronic brake distribution, brake assist, side-impact door beams, ACE body structure.

Trim levels: FWD with and without tech package, AWD without tech package.

Options worth considering: Tech package with navigation system with real-time traffic and weather, backup camera, Bluetooth phone connection, surround sound.

Website: acura.com/rdx

The Daily Drivers: Acura RDX SH-AWD Tech offers performance and utility 04/23/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 22, 2010 6:25pm]

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