2013 Acura RDX
2013 Acura RDX Review:
Actually, you can walk that cat back.
Just ask Acura about its sport-oriented crossover utility vehicle, the RDX. Added to the lineup just six years ago, it complemented Acura’s upscale, full-size crossover, the MDX.
But it never quite caught on. Its best year was 2007, its first full year on the market, when 23,356 were sold. In 2011, sales totaled just 15,196.The RDX’s driving dynamics were spot-on, at least in the eyes of enthusiasts. But in an effort to distinguish the RDX from the larger V6-engine MDX, Acura installed a 240-horsepower, 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. With its parent company Honda, Acura had experience with fours before but this was either’s first turbo in the United States.
It had plenty of punch but in practice delivered lousy fuel economy. Also, because of its handling-oriented suspension system, the RDX transmitted a molar-rattling ride on rough road surfaces.
So of all the vehicles in the Acura portfolio, the RDX was most in need of a replacement or, at a minimum, major surgery.
That has now been accomplished with the all-new 2013 model, which is so unlike its predecessor that it could have come from another manufacturer, although it is roughly the same size.
The original was 15 feet 1 inch long, with passenger/cargo space of 101/28 cubic feet and a curb weight of 3,935 pounds. The 2013 version is 15 feet 4 inches long, with passenger/cargo volume of 104/26 and a lighter weight of 3,852 pounds.
There’s a family resemblance in the design and styling, of course. But where the earlier RDX had a punishing ride, the new one is almost creamy, while still retaining decent handling from a more rigid body structure and more sophisticated steering and suspension system tuning.
Where the former turbo four-banger had power peaks and valleys, the new V6 engine pulls strongly throughout its range, and actually delivers way better fuel economy than the original four.It delivers 273 horsepower from 3.5 liters of displacement, and employs cylinder deactivation to enhance fuel economy. Depending on the circumstances, it runs on three, four or six cylinders. The toggling back and forth among the different modes happens automatically and is unobtrusive.
As a result, the RDX gets an EPA city/highway fuel consumption rating for the all-wheel drive model of 19/27 miles to the gallon, while the front-drive version does slightly better at 20/28.
The original RDX with all-wheel drive had a fuel consumption rating of 19/24. But that was using the EPA’s earlier, more generous and unrealistic ratings, which were subsequently cut back by about 10% across the board.
Contributing to the new RDX’s performance and fuel economy is a six-speed automatic transmission. Acura and Honda have lagged behind other manufacturers in moving to six-speed automatics. Though the former five-speed versions worked well enough, they gave up bragging rights to competitors.
On the road, the tested RDX with the all-wheel drive had a solid, planted stance with tactile feedback through the steering wheel and good straight-line tracking. The power steering is electric, sensitive to vehicle speed and enhanced by a thicker and more rigid steering column. It also uses sensors to automatically correct the RDX’s attitude in cornering.Though not what an enthusiast would consider to be sports sedan handling, the RDX attacks twisting roads with precision, despite its noticeably softer and more comfortable ride. With new technologies that include a shorter pedal stroke, the brakes also deliver a confident, progressive feel.
Large and supportive front seats are particularly suited for long hours at the wheel. The back seats are similarly comfortable, especially in the outboard positions. Even the center-rear seating position is marginally acceptable, unlike many other vehicles that completely disrespect middle riders.
Unaccountably, the rear seatbacks do not recline—a flaw carried over from the original RDX. You can get adjustable rear seatbacks on many economy cars but not on this near-luxury crossover.
The RDX also is remarkably quiet on the road, with little intrusion of wind, road or mechanical noise. The cabin solitude benefits from a new tire tread design as well as strategically placed insulation and active noise canceling under the hood.
Acura considers the RDX’s main competition to be the BMW X3 xDrive 28i and the Audi Q5 2.0T. Both are near-luxury crossovers of about the same size but with less interior room and, when comparably equipped, higher prices. And now that the RDX has a six-speed, they come with eight-speed automatic transmissions.
The base price of the tested all-wheel drive RDX was $36,605, which included full safety equipment plus automatic climate control, leather upholstery, power sunroof, a rear-view camera with three display modes, pushbutton starting with remote keyless locking, Bluetooth communications, Pandora Internet radio and 18-inch alloy wheels. Headlights turn on and off automatically with the windshield wipers.
The tested all-wheel drive RDX also had a technology package that included navigation with voice recognition, an ELS premium audio system, solar sensing climate control, satellite radio with real-time weather and traffic, and a power tailgate. It had a suggested sticker price of $40,305. If you don’t need the all-wheel drive, you can save $1,400 by ordering the otherwise identical front-drive version.