Acura RDX Cruises to Milwaukee

Sponsored By Zimbrick Acura

The Acura engineers outdid themselves. They took a fine 2012 Acura crossover SUV-RDX, tweaked and tuned it, put it in a sleek classic package and delivered a vehicle that hits all the sweet spots on the what a perfect SUV should be chart. Quick, sporty, safe, comfortable, powerful, all-wheel-drive (optional), economical, spacious, easy to handle, luxurious, high-tech, well-appointed, responsive, fun to drive. 

And they nailed it. 

Our test-drive weekend had us headed for Milwaukee. We know some of those streets “need some attention.” However, our first torture test happened almost immediately, the result of human error. Ours. After a briefing at Zimbrick Middleton, we decided to cruise through the neighborhoods into Madison. The voice-activated Acura Link Navigation system guided us flawlessly, turn-by-turn. Concert-quality Mozart played on the 410-watt ELS Premium Sound System. Ooops! We had forgotten Madison’s Highway of Perpetual Construction, University Avenue. Thanks to Acura engineers, we had the new suspension system which saved this elegant coach from being shaken into pieces. The Amplitude Reactive Damper system smoothed out most spine-bending bumps into hardly noticeable jiggles. We smiled. Bring on Milwaukee!

We started the weekend with a visit to the vibrant Brady Street area. On a friend’s tip we stopped at Zaffiro’s and ordered the award winning, extra-crispy cracker-thin-crust pizza (excellent!) along with their plentiful Zaffiro’s salad. This family operation, more than 50 years old, serves until midnight so if you arrive late, no worries 

Next we instructed the RDX navigation system to take us to our headquarters, The Ambassador Hotel. We pulled into the entry and were greeted warmly by two gracious, knowledgeable doormen. The Ambassador consistently earns glowing reviews as one of those elegant urban-retro hotels you have to experience. We were delighted to give it a try.

This 1927 Art Deco jewel was rediscovered by a Marquette University alum under layers of commercial carpeting and dropped- down ceilings. Lovingly shined up, today’s Ambassador preserves the best of Art Deco elegance with marble floors, signature plaster-work and gleaming nickel sconces. Spacious rooms offer all the modern comforts, feather pillows, flat-screen televisions, free Wi-Fi and turn-down service. Envoy, the in-house restaurant, serves all three meals and proves that sometimes you should eat at the hotel! Caffé Deco serves Starbucks and The Envoy Lounge is a classy place to meet friends and enjoy expertly crafted cocktails. The Wisconsin Avenue location is convenient to Marquette University and the Ambassador often offers specials to alumni. Downtown Milwaukee is a short drive east. 

Getting around town is easy using voice- activated navigation. On the freeway, the RDX cruises like a luxury sedan and, surprisingly, economically. Acura engineers replaced the 240-horsepower four-cylinder turbo with a 3.5- liter V-6 packing 273 horsepower and Variable Cylinder Management. It gives you all the power you need, as you need it. It automatically shuts down two or three cylinders to achieve 19 mpg city and 27 highway with AWD, the best V-6 fuel economy in its class. 

Milwaukee is brimming over with neat museums and tours. This trip was meant for catching up on some we’ve missed. Of course, a brewery tour is a must. We’d heard Lakefront Brewery is always fun so who were we to argue?

A repurposed coal-burning power plant on the Milwaukee River is award-winning Lakefront’s home. We’re not sure who has more fun on the Lakefront Brewery tours, participants or guides. Brian, our beer-loving leader, claimed title to “worst tour guide”. However we learned a lot about beer making and Lakefront’s history. They make the first certified organic beer, offer New Grist, gluten-free beer, and just released Wisconsinite, a tasty, light summer brew using all Wisconsin-sourced ingredients. You will see the original Bernie Brewer Chalet and big mug-o-beer rescued from old County Stadium. For $7 you get four beer tokens (for before, during and after the tour!) and a souvenir glass. Consider a Friday afternoon tour and stay for the fish fry and polka band.

Driving around Milwaukee, you appreciate that RDX is fitted with plenty of smart creature comforts, well-tuned bells and creative whistles. Seats are premium leather and five Wisconsin-sized adults ride comfortably. The 60GB stereo has Pandora Radio capability. Dual voice-activated climate controls, push-button keyless ignition and Active Sound Control ensure a comfortable, quiet ride. Multi-view rear video camera, Vehicle Stability Assist and motion-adaptive electric power steering keep you safe

A brief visit to Historic Third Ward uncovered an amazing leather shop. Carrying on family tradition, David Mitchell crafts custom handmade premium leather briefcases, belts and purses using a 1936 Singer sewing machine. He addresses today’s consumer with briefcases in four sizes and full-grained cases for electronic notebooks and iPads. Ask for a tour. Mitchell is delighted to show you the work room and hides upstairs in his former tannery building. He proudly notes that former Governor Tommy Thompson and former Mayor John Norquist own Mitchell briefcases.

Heading back to museums, it was time to see the Calatrava. The iconic Milwaukee Art Museum building earns as much attention as its contents. The wings open daily at 10 a.m., flap at noon and close as the museum closes each day. Inside take a Naughty Bits tour or the You Think You’re Having a Bad Day route. Ask at the front desk for a guide.

Touring builds an appetite. The Travel Channel featured Ward’s House of Prime so we decided to try it. The classy restaurant has an easygoing, Rat Pack, retro nightclub ambiance with classic Deano and Frank tunes setting the mood. Ward’s earned a reputation for prime rib, though it also serves excellent steak, chicken, veal, seafood and vegetarian dishes. In fact, it lured the TV producers with cuts ranging from 8oz. all the way up to 40, 88 and 160 oz. If you can consume one of those in one sitting you’ll join Ward’s Wall of Fame. We found the (much) smaller cut delicious and enjoyed ahi tuna steak prepared perfectly as well. Ward’s also serves a full bar menu and maintains a superb wine list. 

The Ambassador’s Envoy Sunday Brunch at $14.95 for endless individually prepared plates is among Wisconsin’s finest brunch values. We recommend crab cake benedict, huevos rancheros and cinnamon brulee French toast. Sadly, we didn’t have room to try steak and eggs, waffles or the Grand Avenue omelet. Start with a bloody mary from the lounge. It comes loaded with Slim Jim, mozzarella stick, veggies, asparagus and beer chaser.

Fueled by brunch, you’re ready for the new Milwaukee Museum Mile, five excellent facilities on a two-mile stretch on the historic East Side near Milwaukee’s lakefront. Sundays are a great for this tour as all museums are open.

Visit Jewish Museum Milwaukee, telling the story of Milwaukee’s Jewish community and featuring the nation’s first Chagal tapestry. Nearby is Museum of Wisconsin Art at St. John’s On the Lake. Through a partnership with the West Bend museum it brings quarterly exhibits to this retirement community. Across the street a century-old Tudor-style mansion holds the Charles Allis Art Museum featuring art collected by the Milwaukee philanthropist. Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum stands on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan and features 19th century ironworks by Milwaukee master, Cyril Colnick. Finally, North Point Lighthouse traces maritime history. It’s been in service since 1855 and has a 74-foot tower visitors climb for spectacular views of Lake Michigan. 

As we discovered on the way home, we’d be doing the RDX a disservice if we just kept it in town. This crossover has some strong sport sedan DNA. It loves darting around back roads. Push the pedal down and 273 horses want to run and AWD grips corners like the Hulk. Acura engineers know there’s a little Andretti, Kenseth or Patrick in all of us. They got it right. 

- By Gary and Mae Patrice Knowles

Gary and MaePatrice Knowles live in Madison where he is a freelance writer and marketing consultant to clients in travel, food, hospitality and entertainment and she is a public relations and communications consultant.


Ambassador Hotel and Envoy Restaurant

2308 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee

(414) 345-5000

Charles Allis Art Museum

1801 N. Prospect Ave., Milwaukee

(414) 278-8295

Jewish Museum

1360 N. Prospect Ave., Milwaukee 

(414) 390-5730

Lakefront Brewery

1872 N. Commerce St., Milwaukee

(414) 372-8800

Mitchell Leather Factory & Store 

226 N. Water St., Milwaukee

(414) 272-5942

Milwaukee Art Museum

700 N. Art Museum Dr., Milwaukee

(414) 224-3200

Milwaukee Museum Mile

North Point Lighthouse

2650 N. Wahl Ave., Milwaukee

(414) 332-6754

Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum

2220 N. Terrace Ave., Milwaukee

(414) 271-3656

Visit Milwaukee

(800) 231-0903 

Ward’s House of Prime

540 E. Mason St., Milwaukee

(414) 223-0135

Wisconsin Museum of Art

at St. John’s on the Lake

1840 N. Prospect Ave., Milwaukee

(414) 831-7300

Zaffiro’s Pizza & Bar

1724 N. Farwell Ave., Milwaukee

(414) 289-8776

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