Sweaty Spice, the other Spice Girl

In 2008, I bought a lightly used (about 9K miles) Honda S2000. It was my “mid life crisis” splurge. Having recently deciding to give up motorcycling (I was 43, and my reflexes were sucking, so I chose to make my wife happy and give up the two wheeled pursuits) the S2000 was a true sports car. A 2.2l inline 4, that made an honest 100+ BHP per liter, in a light-ish package, typical of Japanese engineering, a perfectly balanced car.

honda s2000
2005 Honda S2000

Over the next 11 years, I used it as my daily driver, and put about 70K miles on it (my commute wasn’t very long, and for the last 3 years I owned it, I worked where I could ride the train in every day, so it became a garage queen.)

Flash forward, I am in my mid 50’s, my body no longer enjoyed the aggressive seating position of the Stewie. But the catalyst is that I was the executor of my stepfather’s estate, and I spent a few months driving around in his 2017 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk.

I will have to admit that the medium sized SUV grew on me. I knew I wanted something in that form factor. When one of the heirs decided they wanted the Jeep, I decided to make the change in my personal car.

The Stewie was an incredible car, and because of the popularity of the Too Fast, Too Furious franchise, they had a achieved cult status, and I was able to trade it in for $16K. Astonishing for a 14 year old Honda.

I looked at the Cherokee’s and I will be honest that the hard core off roading made it attractive, but truth be told, I would probably never or rarely take it on anything more aggressive than a dirt road.

So I looked at the familiar. I gravitated towards the Hondas, because while I had some shitty experiences with the local dealer (don’t get me started on the jackassery at service departments in the South Bay Area) I completely respect the engineering and the technology that Honda builds.

So, the CR-V was on the list. I also looked at the Mazda CX-5, and for grins and giggles I looked at the smaller Lexus models (the RX is too big, and the NX line look like garbage to me).

After test driving the CR-V, and being somewhat underwhelmed (the CVT is a red flag for me) the sales person recommended that I give an Acura RDX a try. Down the block was the local Acura dealer, and I took it for a test drive.

I will admit that I thought about something European, Audi Q5, or the baby Benz. However, the advice I heard over and over was to lease those, and return them after the lease was up, or be stunned by the maintenance costs.

I test drove a few other cars, a comparably equipped Mazda CX-5, and the Lexus NX200 the comparable crossover SUV. The Mazda was the closest, but its wow factor was pretty off.

What I ended up with

In late summer 2019, the 2020’s were arriving, and I knew I wanted the RDX, in blue exterior, and preferably the light interior, with the Technology package, and with the SH-AWD drivetrain. But that was the rarest configuration and there were literally none of them in California, and none due for several months.

But they did have an A-Spec version in the blue, with dark interior.

So I grabbed it.

I wrote the check for the full amount (thanks to my modest inheritance, no payments! Woo hoo!) and drove it home. The first couple of months I got to do some road trips. Did a family vacation with my sibs to some cabins on Lake Shasta. Also a couple of trips to San Diego to spend time with my ailing father (late 80’s, deep into Alzheimers, and fading fast), and the car has been epic.

The A-Spec is mostly a trim package. It has the Technology package, but adds the better sound system from the Advanced Package, larger wheels and tires, more dark trim “bling” and wicked cool seats. Literally, the seats have both heaters and cooling.

My impressions

This is my first Acura (really it is a Honda, and thus it is my third car that was built by Honda), and my first turbocharged car. I will admit that I was a bit skeptical of the 2 liter inline 4-banger. Sure, on paper it says it has 272 BHP, and 280 FT-LBs of torque. Coupled with a slick shifting 10 speed transmission, I anticipated it “feeling” underpowered and pokey.

Not the case.

One of the benefits of modern engine control systems, and small, efficient power plants with well designed and executed turbo programs is that the engine gives an amazing amount of low end grunt. Something that the S2000 just didn’t have. While it won’t yank your shoulder out of its sockets like a huge hemi v8 drag strip monster, it does pull early and with authority. Put it into sport2 mode, and the engine is kept in the meat of the power band, making the car lively and fun to drive.

It handles well, for a moderately sized SUV. It will never be as nimble or aggressive as the S2000 was, but to be honest, I am not a track guy, and there were so few places to drive the S2000 to the level of “excitement” that it deserved, that I don’t miss it.

The A-Spec package does make the car fun to drive, and the torque vectoring AWD gives the RDX a very planted feel. Yet switch the drive mode to comfort, and it is very relaxing and enjoyable.

It has all the expected modern driver assists, including lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, collision avoidance, and plenty of other goodies. I thought I wouldn’t like these goodies, but alas, after a handful of trips to San Diego, I can say that they are lifesavers (not literally) helping keep me focused on driving.

The Apex Blue (an A-Spec exclusive) looks sharp, and distinctive. Almost a Cobalt glass blue, it draws you in to it.

Today

Last week, it got its second minor service. COVID kept it in the garage most of the last year, so it is light milage, but it will be used extensively as we plan on taking road trips to several of the western states in the coming couple of years.

I had one issue, a nail punctured the inside sidewall of a tire, a place than can’t be patched.

Crap, that was a $300 oops. C’est la vie.

I wish it got better fuel economy. 23 mpg seems what it just gets day to day, and I can get 27 mpg or so on the freeway for long drives.

I will add that it is very sensitive to cheaper gas. I filled up at a local Calco (independent station) with premium before one of my trips, and the freeway mileage was barely 22 mpg. First fill up, and I was back to 28+, so it really was cheap gas.

The motor is spectacular. I am simply dumbfounded by how much power and torque comes out of that puny 2L package. Hats off to the engineers at Honda.

From reading the forums, many people complain about the infotainment system, mostly grumbling about the poor support for Android phones. It does work great with my iPhone though.

A lot of people hate the Goodyear tires on the A-Spec, many of whom replace them immediately. Sure, I guess the Pirellis or Michelins might mean a better ride, but I am not serious enough to notice the difference (and more importantly, I am not about to drop $1300 to replace brand new tires).

Final thoughts

While I loved my S2000, it was time for a change. My body no longer fit or was comfortable in the cockpit, and while it drove like it was on rails, it was an ill-suited daily driver.

The RDX is better for me, where I am at in life, and for the future. I do miss the uncompromising sportiness of the S2000, but I got a pretty damn good trade in for it ($16K) and I am sure some twenty-something will buy it and either turn it into a 2F2F car, or a serious driver.

The only thing I wish it had was a spare tire. It comes with a sealant kit and pump, and while that is probably good enough, it makes me nervous. But for 4 years, I get roadside assistance free, so if I need it, I will call them.

No regrets.

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