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  • 2013 Acura RDX

    Five-passenger crossover becomes a leaner, meaner machine

    By Nina Russin

    2013 Acura RDX

    If the recession of 2008 taught us anything, it’s the wisdom of downsizing. This year Acura embarks on a new corporate strategy, focusing more on smaller, less expensive vehicles. The all-new RDX crossover vehicle is one pillar of this strategy. A new compact sedan called the ILX is the other.

    Pricing for the base 2013 Acura RDX front-wheel drive model starts at $34,320. MSRP does not include the $885 delivery charge. The all-wheel drive variant with the technology option package is priced from $39,420.

    The new RDX maintains the active lifestyle focus of the original, with some new features which make loading and carrying gear easier. Pandora and SMS text messaging features appeal to tech-savvy customers, who want a deeper interface between their smartphones and the car’s infotainment system. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2012 Acura TSX Technology

    Sport sedan adds spice to the daily commute

    By Nina Russin

    2012 Acura TSX

    The TSX is the entry luxury offering in Acura’s lineup, competing against the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4, Lexus IS and Infiniti G series. Buyers can choose between an inline four or V-6 engines, with a five-speed automatic or six-speed manual gearbox.  The V-6 engine is available only for the sedan. Acura’s TSX sport wagon comes with the inline four-cylinder engine.

    Shift paddles on the steering wheel gives the driver the option of selecting gears manually for more aggressive performance. A sport mode holds onto gears longer to keep the engine in its power band.

    An available technology package adds an upgraded surround-sound audio system, hard-drive navigation with real-time weather and traffic updates, and dual-zone climate control. Base price for the four-cylinder TSX sedan with technology is $32,910. An $885 destination charge brings the price as tested to $33,795. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2012 Acura TL Advance

    New model gets a refreshed exterior and fuel economy enhancements

    By Nina Russin

    2012 Acura TL

    The TL is one of three sedans Acura builds, positioned between the high luxury RL and smaller TSX sport sedan. The 2012 TL, revealed at the 2011 Chicago Auto Show is the third iteration of the model, which originally debuted in 2004. Designers refreshed the exterior with a new grille, front fascia and headlamps, a new rear bumper and revised tail lamps.

     A new six-speed automatic transmission provides better fuel economy but adds some appealing performance characteristics as well. A double click downshift feature can drop up to two gears during aggressive driving. The feature formerly available only on the all-wheel drive model is now standard on the front-wheel drive TL as well.

    This year, Acura offers two platforms: a 280-horsepower front-wheel drive sedan and the 305-horsepower all-wheel drive model. The test car is the front-wheel drive advance grade. The advance option package upgrades the standard 17-inch wheels to 18-inch rims, adds blind spot monitoring and ventilated front seats. A technology option includes hard-drive navigation with voice activated controls and a premium audio system. Navigation includes real time weather and traffic updates and rerouting.

    MSRP is $41,535. An $885 delivery charge brings the price as tested to $42,420. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon Technology

    Dynamic performance meets active lifestyles head on

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon

    Being a car enthusiast with an active lifestyle can be an exercise in frustration. Cars and trucks designed to hold large cargo don’t necessarily burn up the road. I’ll admit it: horsepower is like a drug to me. Slow cars don’t make me happy.

    Imagine my delight when the new Acura TSX sport wagon arrived in my driveway. Could this be the best of all possible worlds? The athlete-friendly version of Acura’s sport sedan combines the fuel economy of a four-cylinder engine with Acura’s unique talent for designing steering and suspension systems driving enthusiasts crave.

    The best part is, the sport wagon can hold a bicycle in the cargo area, and a kayak up top. The wagon’s low lift-over height makes it ideal for smaller drivers, who might struggle to load similar gear into a high-profile sport-utility vehicle. The test car even has a power liftgate. How cool is that?

    The test car is the upscale Technology model, which adds navigation, a premium surround-sound audio system, real-time weather and traffic updates, automatic climate control and the power liftgate. Base price is $34,610, not including an $860 delivery charge, bringing the MSRP to $35,470. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2010 Acura RDX Tech

    Five-passenger crossover with sport sedan performance

    By Nina Russin

    2010 Acura RDX

    Acura has a talent for filling a car buyer’s practical needs without compromising the visceral aspect of driving. The RDX crossover vehicle is a case in point. By combining the sporty performance of the TSX sedan with a larger, more versatile interior, Acura gives buyers with active lifestyles a means to enjoy the road as much as the destination.

    Power comes from a turbocharged four-cylinder engine and five-speed automatic transmission. For 2010, Acura adds a two-wheel drive model, giving buyers who don’t need all-wheel drive a less expensive option.

    Base price for the two-wheel drive RDX is $35,620, not including the $860 delivery charge. The crossover comes standard with most of the comfort and convenience features buyers want, including Bluetooth connectivity, a power moonroof, 18-inch wheels, a ten-way power driver’s seat, XM satellite radio and a USB port.

    An available technology package adds navigation with real-time travel updates, a premium surround-sound audio system and dual-zone climate control. Acura simplifies the buying process by including the cost of the upgrade in the RDX Tech model. Price as tested is $36,480. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2010 Acura MDX Advance

    All-wheel drive gives Acura’s luxury SUV four-season performance

    By Nina Russin

    2010 Acura MDX

    Acura’s sport-utility vehicle for active families has come of age. The original Acura MDX rolled out in 2001, combining luxury performance and four-season capability. A 3.2-liter V-6 engine and four-speed automatic transmission produced 240 horsepower, rivaling some competitive V-8 products. Three rows of seating held up to seven passengers.

    While the MDX filled the needs of a growing market, the product lacked refinement. The seats weren’t particularly comfortable, and the cargo area was difficult to configure. All of that has changed with the current model. In addition, engineers refined the powertrain with a more powerful, fuel efficient V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission.

    Acura’s super-handling all-wheel drive system distributes power between the front and rear axles as well as between right and left wheels. By controlling yaw, the all-wheel drive system reduces understeer to improve the car’s cornering capability, especially on wet and snowy roads.

    Designers refreshed the MDX exterior for 2010, and added an advance package that includes 19-inch wheels and tires, and an active damping system that instantaneously adjusts the suspension for the road conditions. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2010 Acura ZDX Tech

    Five-passenger crossover vehicle with four-season performance

    By Nina Russin

    2010 Acura ZDX

    2010 Acura ZDX

    Crossovers have replaced sport-utility vehicles as the go-to cars for young, active buyers: the more androgynous the styling, the better. The new Acura ZDX is a perfect example: a five-passenger crossover vehicle with visual affinity to a sports coupe.

    While the ZDX may look like a dressed up version of the Honda Crosstour, it is a completely different car. The Crosstour is based on the front-wheel drive Honda Accord, while the ZDX is based on the Acura MDX: a dedicated all-wheel drive design. Power comes from a 300-horsepower V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission with manual gear selection.

    Acura’s super-handling all-wheel drive can transfer engine power side-to-side as well as between axles to enhance traction in challenging conditions. Stabilizer bars on both axles keep the chassis flat in the corners. Aluminum wheels minimize unsprung weight for more nimble handling.

    Rather than confusing buyers with an abundance of option packages, Acura offers three trim levels: each fully equipped with comfort and convenience features. A tech package adds navigation, a rearview camera, keyless ignition, sport seats, an audio upgrade and dual-zone climate control to the base model.  The advance package adds adaptive cruise control, active suspension damping, a blind spot monitoring system, upgraded leather upholstery, and collision mitigated braking.

    All models come with standard nineteen-inch alloy wheels, bi-xenon headlamps, a high-flow dual exhaust system, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with redundant audio controls and Bluetooth interface, satellite radio, USB and AUX port connectivity.

    The test car is the mid-grade model with the tech package, priced at $49,995 not including the $810 delivery charge. Standard safety features include front, side and side curtain airbags, stability control, daytime running lamps, active front head restraints, and a body structure designed to mitigate pedestrian injuries. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2010 Acura TL SH-AWD

    Luxury sedan has the heart of a sports car

    By Nina Russin

    2010 Acura TL SH-AWD

    2010 Acura TL SH-AWD

    It took me about thirty seconds behind the wheel of the Acura TL to conclude that its development team had hit their target spot on. With its sleek styling and precision handling, the TL is a sexy, hot performer. New this year is an available six-speed manual gearbox, giving driving enthusiasts better opportunity to enjoy the TL’s wide array of talents.

    All-wheel drive enhances four-season performance by automatically delivering engine power to the wheels with the best traction. It also enhances the sedan’s steering feedback on challenging roads.

    The new manual gearbox is lighter than the standard five-speed automatic. A short-throw shifter makes it easy for the driver to snap between gears. While the close-ratio box is engineered for high-performance driving, the gears have plenty of range to function well in stop-and-go traffic.

    A self-adjusting clutch reduces fatigue during commutes. Cars equipped with the manual gearbox come with a hill-start assist feature, which automatically applies the brakes on hills to keep the sedan from rolling backwards.

    The SH-AWD grade comes with a 3.7-liter V6: the larger of two available engines. The bigger engine adds 25 horsepower and 19 foot-pounds of torque compared to the 3.5-liter engine. The manual transmission improves the bigger block’s fuel economy, making it comparable to the smaller engine with the five-speed automatic transmission. 

    Standard nineteen-inch wheels give the TL a wide, stable footprint at speed. The test car comes with Z-rated summer performance tires. Buyers in four-season climates should expect to purchase a set of winter tires for the snow season. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2009 Acura TL SH-AWD

    Flagship sedan gets new styling and all-wheel drive

    By Nina Russin

    2009 Acura TL

    2009 Acura TL

    Acura’s flagship sedan is new from the inside out this year, with  available all-wheel drive. The ‘SH’ in the model designation stands for ‘super handling.’ The all-wheel drive system can transfer torque from side to side, as well as between the front and rear axles.

    There are two available engines: a 3.5-liter V6 in the front-wheel drive model, and a 3.7-liter V6 in the SH-AWD. The bigger engine is a bored out version of the 3.5-liter block. Aluminum cylinder liners in place of iron on the base engine are a weight-saving measure that also improves cooling. 

    Electronic throttle control saves weight over traditional mechanical systems. It also eliminates some parts that wear out over time. An electronic steering pump is lighter than hydraulically-actuated systems that can deteriorate and leak.

    All cars share a five-speed manual transmission. F-1 style paddles on the steering wheel allow driving enthusiasts to manually select gears. A hill-start assist feature prevents the car from sliding backwards on steep hills. Software holds gears in the corners to prevent upshifting. Shift logic also eliminates hunting on hilly roads. Read the rest of this entry »