Not Your Boomers' SUVs
Two 2007 SUV debuts carve new niches in the expanding landscape of light truck choices. The Acura RDX, a small crossover that reaches showrooms in August, targets 30-something, upwardly mobile urban males looking for a combination of style, performance and utility. The Toyota FJ Cruiser, on sale since spring, is aimed at a slightly younger guy whose active lifestyle of mountain biking, backpacking or rock climbing takes him off-road.
Women, you're welcome to purchase these vehicles, too. It's just that auto marketers have trouble envisioning diversity in their target audience. In fact, my female colleague, Jessica Anderson, test drove and reviewed the more macho of the two, the FJ Cruiser.
Acura RDX: Sporty to the max
Acura chose San Francisco for the launch of the RDX, a small SUV (on sale August 10 with a base sticker price of $33,610, including the $615 shipping charge) that's close in size to the Honda CRV but closer in spirit to the BMW X3. Acura deems the RDX an "entry-premium" crossover, aimed at "high-energy urbanites who spend the work week in the confines of the city and then decompress on the weekends by getting away from it all."
A lot of SUVs claim sport-sedan stripes, but the RDX delivers. Because the RDX is a crossover, it has unibody construction, like cars. And when I drove it along California's famously curvy Highway 1 along the Pacific shoreline, the RDX hugged the road thanks in part to Super Handling All-Wheel Drive. That technology, also on the Acura RL, distributes the optimum amount of torque between the front and rear axles as well as between the left and right wheels.
The front and rear anti-roll bars keep body lean to a minimum. MacPherson strut front and double wishbone rear suspension systems are also tuned for flatter cornering.
The RDX features Acura's first turbocharged engine, a peppy 2.3-liter four-cylinder that delivers 240 horsepower. Fuel economy is about 19 mpg in the city and 24 on the highway and the engine meets California ultra-low emission vehicle (ULEV) standards. Safety features include standard side and head-protection airbags and stability control, which helps prevent skids.
Inside, heated leather seats are standard, storage is ample and a lockable dual-level center console between the front seats can accommodate a briefcase or laptop. XM Satellite radio is also standard.
The only option is the technology package ($3,500). This includes a tempting menu of high-tech features, including a navigation system with real-time traffic updates and a rear-view camera and a premium ten-speaker sound system that plays DVD-Audio (and allows you to hear tracks you didn't know were recorded on music you've listenened to all your life).
My only quibble with the RDX is its price, in the mid 30s. It's bumping up against the sticker of the MDX, its larger SUV sibling. Even so, regardless of whether you fit the upwardly mobile urban profile, the RDX is worth a hard look. But don't restrict your comparison shopping to the BMW X3, which starts at $37,500. Test drive Mazda's new CX-7, a sporty new SUV similar in size and power. It starts at only $24,300.