The Cult of Cars, Racing and Everything That Moves You.
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This Boring Acura RDX Built for SEMA Is Everything Wrong With Acura

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Right now you can buy a car called the BMW X3 M40i. It has 355 horsepower, it’s got hustle in a straight line, and it can probably take a mild corner without toppling over. It won’t set your hair on fire, but it’s fine. The X3 M40i doesn’t set a very high bar to clear. Acura has seen that low bar for SEMA, and tried extremely hard to got as far under it as possible.


It’s not that Acura is a company that’s about making “bad” cars, per se. But Acura is a company for people who have secured their place firmly in the lower middle management of life, and are content never budging from that position. It makes cars for people who have done okay in life, and that’s fine, and maybe they want to treat themselves, but they can’t sacrifice things like reliability or practicality for anything crazy like “fun” or “so help me God I am so bored I could die.”

It’s a car for people who, when they’re feeling really crazy, reach for the Diet Sierra Mist. Every night. And every night, at dinner, which they’ve cooked at home, they always make sure there’s a salad, and when their spouse reaches for the stash of Little Bites brownies in the back of the pantry in their all-white kitchen, they say, “you sure you should be eating that?”


That is who Acuras are made for.

(The NSX is excepted from this rant, by the way. It is a blessed machine of light and being, and is like nothing else that Acura makes. Also, historic Acuras are not included here. We’re talking about Acura in the here and now.)

And this world is full of people like that. There are millions, if not billions of people in this world, who aspire to nothing more than that. It’s a nice life. It’s a comfortable life. It’s a safe life.

Which is exactly what this... this thing... is.


Don’t get me wrong here. In a vacuum, in a world where there are no other cars besides this one and maybe the first car ever, the Acura GRP RDX would be outstanding. It’s been tuned, somewhat, by Graham Rahal Performance, which is owned by that Graham Rahal guy you might be vaguely familiar with from IndyCar, a racing series you may be vaguely familiar with, but don’t bother to actually watch. It’s been lowered two inches by some Eibach springs, and it’s got new six-piston brake calipers from a company called “StopTech,” and you know that they make brake technology to stop your car because hey, it’s right there in the name.

It’s got a new steering wheel with a stripe, and some carbon fiber trim.


The Acura RDX’s normal, 2.0-liter 272 hp turbocharged engine has been fiddled with, too, Acura says in a press release:

GRP upgraded the RDX’s factory 2.0-liter DOHC VTEC® Turbo engine with a new turbocharger, intake and exhaust manifolds, and downpipe. PRL Racing fabricated a custom intercooler and intake setup, while GRP developed a custom lightweight cat-back exhaust system. Ensuring everything works in harmony, KTuning created a custom ECU map for the boosted RDX.


And all that adds up to 345 horsepower. Or, if you’ll notice, 10 horsepower less than a BMW that’s already on sale.

Which is what drives me nuts about this whole dumb exercise. SEMA is pretty terrible, but if there’s anything that it’s for when it comes to regular, run-of-the-mill car people, it’s for companies to show off their wildest, most absolutely unhinged dreams. It’s for the Toyota Rally Camry. It’s for all-wheel-drive, four-rotor Mazda RX7s. It’s for turning your regular pickup truck into an MRAP. It’s for Scion iA lowriders.


SEMA is for going nuts. For leaving nothing on the table. Instead, Acura’s wildest dreams for its RDX mid-size SUV are still slightly more boring than a real-life BMW.

Okay, so Acura put a marijuana leaf on the front, which I guess is “goofy.” But SEMA is in Las Vegas, which is in Nevada, which is a state where recreational marijuana is legal. So it’s not even quite rebellious. And I’ll probably get an email after this blog goes up anyway from an irked Acura rep to tell me that Actually, the GRP RDX Is Cool, And That Is Not A Marijuana Leaf.


But, whatever, this RDX is what it is.

It’s some Diet Sierra Mist.