Brenda's shooters caught a psychedelic-camo'd RDX out testing in the desert over the weekend. Here's what she had to say about it:
First Photos: 2013 Acura RDX!
You might have to wait till next summer if you want to see the all-new RDX without psychedelic appliques, but we caught a running prototype over the weekend, and except for the black and white dizzy tape, the revamped crossover looked like it could be ready to roll down the assembly line any day.
And speaking of assembly line, production of the RDX will move to East Liberty, Oh., alongside Honda's CR-V. The RDX will likely go on sale shortly after it's Honda sibling, and will be available in both front-wheel and all-wheel drive versions.
We've heard conflicting speculation regarding powerplants – everything from the return of the first generation's turbo, to a 2.5-liter inline-four. There's also been talk about a hybrid offering, but again – there have been conflicting reports as to when the hybrid will be available, but we are anticipating a six-speed automatic transmission.
More details should be trickling out over the next few months.
The Chinese luxury car market has become a battle ground of immense proportions for luxury cars, in 2011 it was the only segment of the market that saw considerable growth although that might change in 2012 if the Chinese economy slows. Acura have been in the Chinese market for a number of years, but the brand has never been able to compete with Western luxury names such as BMW, Audi, or Mercedes, or even Jaguar-Land Rover.
Acura has seen some success with the launch of the MDX in the Chinese market, but other SUV models have been slow in arriving to the PRC, however it looks like the latest generation of RDX is likely to be launched in China very soon as it has been spotted testing in China ahead of its Detroit Auto Show launch in January later this year.
The introduction of the RDX at the bottom of the Acura totem pole will give the Acura brand a wider audience, the RDX is likely to be targeted at other compact luxury SUV’s such as the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and also the Mercedes GLK, pricing is expected to be around 400,000 – 500,000rmb when launched.
Executives freely admit the first-generation Acura RDX exudes a “boy racer” personality — but that won’t necessarily be the case for long. The new 2013 RDX will still be a powerful small crossover, but the entire package feels far more mature than its predecessor ever did.
How so? Certainly, the softer styling certainly helps. The exterior still boasts some rather sharp and strong character lins, but surfaces are smoother and far less cluttered than before. In many ways, it almost looks like a smaller version of the midsize MDX crossover, albeit with a smoother front fascia.
Yet the RDX also matures mechanically. Gone is the hairy turbocharged 2.3-liter I-4; in its place is the 3.5-liter V-6 used elsewhere in Acura’s lineup, including the TSX and base-level TL models. With 273 hp on tap, it actually boasts 33 more horsepower, but thanks to a new 6-speed automatic, it may even be a bit more fuel efficient than previous RDX models. Additionally, the SH-AWD system — which helped improve turn-in and cornering by vectoring torque between the rear wheels — is no more, replaced by a less expensive conventional all-wheel-drive system shared with the Honda CR-V.
The all-new 2013 RDX crossover SUV will go on-sale at Acura dealerships in early Spring with a manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) starting at $34,320 Acura announced today.
"The right-sized 2013 RDX adds increased comfort, utility and power, along with class-leading fuel economy," said Jeff Conrad, vice president of Acura sales. "Based on changing consumer preference, small is becoming big in the eyes of today's consumers."
The 2013 RDX significantly ups the game with its all new looks, increased comfort and new technology. In addition the RDX features a new 3.5L V-6 engine with 33 more horsepower than the outgoing model, a new 6-speed automatic transmission and a new all-wheel-drive system (available as a $1,400 option). The RDX exterior incorporates a sleek (more aerodynamically efficient) body and chassis updates abound in the form of a longer wheelbase with increased track, all-new Amplitude Reactive Dampers and a new motion adaptive electronic power steering system.
Inside the 2013 RDX, occupants will appreciate a new interior design with increased utility, rich interior materials and generous use of noise insulation. Standard features on RDX include leather seating surfaces, heated power front seats, a power moonroof and a 360watt audio system. New technologies such as Pandora® internet radio interface, an SMS text messaging function, a Keyless Access System with pushbutton start, an Active Noise Control system and a rear view camera system with three unique viewing angles are also standard on all RDX models.
Available for $3,700, a Technology Package brings the RDX owner even more high tech appointments including items such as the AcuraLink® Satellite Communication System, Acura Navigation System with Voice Recognition™, a hard disk drive (HDD) with 60 gigabytes of storage capacity, AcuraLink Real-Time Traffic with Traffic Rerouting™, AcuraLink Real-Time Weather™, a GPS-linked solar-sensing, dual-zone automatic climate control system, Acura/ELS Surround® Premium Sound System, a power actuated rear tailgate, projector beam headlights with Bi-Xenon High Intensity Discharge (HID) bulbs and front fog lights.
The 2013 RDX will be produced (using U.S. and globally sourced parts) exclusively by the company's East Liberty, Ohio plant— home to 1 of 4 Honda plants ranked among the top 5-rated assembly lines in North America in the J.D. Power and Associates' 2011 Initial Quality Study (IQS).
The redesigned RDX reflects lessons Acura has learned in the fledgling entry-premium crossover segment, which other luxury brands are only now entering.
The new RDX is larger than the 1st generation, and the turbo-4has been replaced with a V-6. The price has also been jacked up by nearly $1,500, even though the RDX is built in East Liberty, Ohio, and somewhat immune to the effects of the strong yen.
The basics: Acura customers gave a lot of pushback about driving a jerky turbo-4, especially those who had downsized from larger vehicles with smooth V-6 engines. So for this model change, Acura dropped in a V-6 with 33 more horsepower and better fuel economy, thanks to variable cylinder management. Its 0-to-60 mph time is 0.3 seconds quicker, at 7.3 seconds for front-wheel-drive models.
The new RDX adds a 6th gear ratio. The 5 lower gear ratios are much shorter, for quicker acceleration, but 6th gear is taller for freeway cruising.
2013 vs. 2012 Acura RDX
2013 Acura RDX 2012 Acura RDX
Wheelbase 105.7 in. 104.3
Length 183.5 in. 182.5
Width 73.7 in. 73.6
Height 66.1 in. 65.1
Engine 3.5-liter V-6 2.3-liter turbo-4
Horsepower 273 hp at 6,200 rpm 240 @ 6000 rpm
Torque, lbs.-ft. 251 lb-ft at 5,000 rpm 260 @ 4500 rpm
Fuel economy 20/28/23 19/24/21
Curb weight 3717 lbs. 3743 lbs.
Base price $35,205* $33,780*
* incl. destination charges
Notable features: The electric power steering and some front suspension pieces like the torsion bar and lower A-arm are shared with the Honda CR-V. But the shock absorber pistons have secondary reactive dampers for a better ride than the CR-V.
Little else is common between the 2 similar-sized vehicles. Besides the engine, the front subframe, rear subframe and suspension also are different.
The instrument panel and center console follow the Acura design ethos: technical, smartly laid out, with a premium feel in the stalks and buttons.
Standard features include a moonroof, 18-inch wheels, keyless access, heated leather power seats, SMS text messaging and a 360-watt CD stereo with USB link and Pandora Internet radio. The back-up camera display is now integrated into the monitor, rather than the rear-view mirror.
The instrument panel and center console follow the Acura design ethos: technical, smartly laid out, with a premium feel in the stalks and buttons.
What Acura says:"Empty-nest MDX owners don't want to go back to a 4-cylinder engine," said Ichiro Sasaki, the RDX large project leader. "The turbo-4 and 5-speed transmission meant lag and slippage in the torque converter, which hurt fuel economy. A V-6 with variable cylinder management is much better suited for this car."
Compromises and shortcomings: The V-6 has less torque than the turbo-4— made obvious in the V-6 torque curve's flat spot between 2,500 and 3,500 rpm, which was implemented for fuel economy. Also, this is an old V-6, shared with the Odyssey minivan. A new-generation V-6 arrives later this year with the Honda Accord, and executives said a midcycle freshening may include the new engine family.
The market: Acura predicts the entry-premium crossover segment will grow from 186,000 units this year to 337,000 units by 2017. The RDX, an established nameplate, will be well-positioned to take advantage of this growth.
Acura will aim for young couples without children, as well as empty-nesters. But Acura missed the mark with its 1st-generation RDX, aiming for "urban achievers" in their 30s but instead attracting suburban baby boomers.
Acura hopes to sell 30,000 units a year, up from 15,196 last year and a peak of 23,356 in 2007. The new RDX goes on sale today, April 2.
The skinny: Despite some shared components, it doesn't feel like a CR-V. The doors close with a reassuring thunk. 2nd-row legroom is surprisingly spacious for a compact crossover, without sacrificing a commodious rear cargo area. The navigation system has a weather-warning overlay, which came in handy as the test group drove smack into a spring snowstorm. Driving both front- and all-wheel-drive versions in the snow, the RDX performed capably. This is a strong effort and a good sign for a brand needing a home run.
Turn the key in the ignition and the crude powerplant comes to life like the firewall has all the sound deadening of a cardboard box. It's engaging but rather unrefined for a luxury machine. It is, however, a hoot to drive with a sophisticated all-wheel drive system and plenty of thrust from its turbocharged engine.
1. All-new RDX trades its turbo 2.3L 4-cylinder for a more powerful, efficient and refined 3.5L V6..
2. Gone is SH-AWD in favor of a lighter, lower-tech solution.
3. Standard equipment includes leather, heated seats, a backup camera and keyless access with a push button ignition.
4. Pricing starts at $34,320 for front-drive or $35,720 for AWD.
But this is not the 2013 Acura RDX. Rather, it's the car's predecessor, a 2012 model provided to journalists to gauge the level of improvement made to the all-new 2nd generation compact luxury crossover during a launch event held in Scottsdale, AZ. A bold move by Acura, it's not unusual for an automaker to bring along a few competitive vehicles (in this case a BMW X3 and Audi Q5) to a drive event like this, but almost never is there a previous generation model, lest the improvements prove to be less than dramatic, or the previous generation car is better.
But "better" is a relative term. Acura targeted the 1st-generation at young urban males with a focus on performance and much less concern for fuel economy or ride quality - both of which the premium sport-cross lacked considerably. On sale for half a decade Acura's sales figures for the car reflect the fact that the folks in product planning got it all wrong. As a result, the RDX has done an about-face.
CAN COMPROMISE BE A GOOD THING?
Compromise may be valued in diplomacy, but in the auto industry it's a 4-letter word. Still, every car is full of compromises, with success determined by a careful balance between opposing factors. The RDX is no different, although the creative minds at Acura prefer to replace "compromise" with what they call a "high contrast" philosophy.
Exactly what is being contrasted in the RDX? For starters there's the juxtaposition between fuel economy and performance, not to mention agile handling and ride quality, a dramatic design vs. a timeless 1, and let's not forget compact size versus interior space - an area Honda brand vehicles (ZDX aside) always excel in.
Starting on the outside, the RDX, like all modern Acuras, has moved away from the brand's controversial styling cues of recent memory. Its lines are unlikely to wow anyone, just as they're also designed not to offend, with far too much CR-V in the window design. Larger than its predecessor, it's now much harder to distinguish it from the MDX. That perception of exterior size will, likely, help sell a few extra units. If the RDX does have a best angle, like much of the rest of the Acura lineup, it's from the rear.
The proportions are misleading, however, as the RDX is no wider than before, although its wheels have been brought out by roughly an inch side to side. Less of a handling gain, this helps deliver a more stable ride on the highway. With a new shock setup, further comfort gains are made by using slightly higher profile 235/60/18 tires.
It is an inch longer overall with an extra inch and a half between the wheels, although despite a more imposing presence on the road, it's actually a touch (5mm) lower overall. As a result, the center of gravity has been improved.
That should help improve the overall driving dynamics of the RDX, was it not now a much softer vehicle. That's not necessarily a criticism either. Sure it's no longer something we'd take on a canyon road, but it is vastly superior as a daily driven machine that will bring you to your destination in luxurious comfort. Compared to the BMW X3, the RDX soaks up bumps easily. Acura even designed to electric power steering specifically to offer less resistance at low speeds, acknowledging this as a preference for female drivers. In low speed driving around town or on the long sweeping highways running through Arizona's Tonto National Forest the new RDX makes the old 1 feel downright crude.
Another sign that Acura has tossed aside any sporting ambitions for its crossover is the removal of the brand's impressive Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system. A high-tech and heavy unit, it was axed in the name of cost and fuel economy. The "high contrast" factors being fuel economy versus performance. SH-AWD was a trend-setting technology, distributing power not just front-to-rear but up also side-to-side in the rear, allowing the car to essentially rotate on just 1 wheel. Perfect for serious performance, that's not what buyers want in this type of vehicle.
The new all-wheel drive system moves power front to rear with as much as 100% of the torque going through the front wheels for cruising, or a 50/50 split for under certain low traction circumstances.
Dropping SH-AWD has helped reduce the car's AWD weight by 100 lbs. That diet also helps in the fuel economy department, with the new RDX climbing in fuel economy by 5-mpg highway and 3-mpg combined for a total 19/27 or a combined 22 mpg rating. Front-drive models are also up to 20/28 and 23 mpg combined.
GOOD BYE TURBO, HELLO FUEL ECONOMY
Of course the biggest factor in improving fuel economy is the engine. While most automakers are trading 6-cylinders for turbocharged 4-bangers, Acura is, oddly, doing the opposite. Apart from what are likely some financial constraints behind building an all-new engine for just one model, there's the fact that Acura's turbo 4 is the opposite of efficient - though it is incredibly fun
In its place now is a new 3.5-liter V6 making 273 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque. Acura boasts a 23 hp improvement, though doesn't like to mention it's also down 29 lb-ft of torque. Lacking in that turbo thrust, it's still more than enough power for a vehicle like this. No acceleration times have been announced but an engineer present at the launch did tell us it will do the sprint to 60 quicker than the old motor.
Helping make the engine so efficient is Honda's cylinder deactivation system that allows the V6 to run on 4 or even 3 cylinders when possible. The use of a 6-speed automatic over a 5-speed doesn't hurt either.
VASTLY IMPROVED AND WELL-EQUIPPED INTERIOR
Another of Acura's buzz phrases is a "man-machine synergy", which conjures up ideas of a well-balanced and intuitive sports sedan - something you won't feel when driving the RDX. Sitting behind the wheel, however, it's hard to deny the brand's "smart luxury" mantra with a handsome and modern interior, that's ergonomically sound and quieter than the X3. With standard leather, as well as heated front seats with a memory function the interior hits all the premium benchmarks. A sign of the car's change in identity, however, there's little in the way of side bolstering on the seats.
Other standard goodies include a moonroof, a multiview backup camera, Bluetooth, USB and iPod connectivity, a 360 watt audio system and perhaps best of all, the Keyless Access system with a push button ignition - a shiny red button too.
Keeping it simple, Acura offers front or all-wheel drive and the choice of a Tech Package on either, which adds a 410-watt 10 speaker audio system, HID headlights, a power tailgate, Acuralink traffic and weather updates plus a navigation system on a big and bright 8-inch monitor - not the old pixilated system used before.
As for functionality, the added space between the wheels translates into the best front and rear legroom and shoulder room in the segment. A wide rear opening allows access to the plentiful 26.1 cu-ft of rear cargo space, which expands to 61.3 cu-ft with the rear seats down.
A package to rival the best in the business, Acura sticks it to the Germans in the pricing department. Roughly $1,500 more than last year's model, the 2013 RDX starts at $34,320 or $35,720 for the all-wheel drive version. Models equipped with the tech-package are $38,020 (FWD) and $39,420 (AWD).
Acura discovered with the 1st-generation RDX that young males aren't buying these cars. Instead, couples are, both pre and post family. As a result, gone is the turbo and high-tech all-wheel drive. In essence, gone is the fun. In its place, however, the car has gained, well, more of everything else. It's lighter and more fuel-efficient. It's also significantly more refined. There's less of what people didn't really use and more of what they want.
With segment growth pegged at 12.6 percent through 2017, the RDX is poised to capture much more of that pie. A more mainstream option than in the past, about the only thing holding the RDX back is a more compelling design.
The folks at Acura can call it "high contrast" if they like; the RDX proves that as far a compact premium crossovers go, when it comes to the balance between performance and luxury, compromise isn't always a bad thing.
Quit, calm, smooth ride
V6 delivers plenty of thrust
If you've driven the previous Acura RDX, you know the definition of compromise. While it was, in many ways, ahead of its time, the RDX was rough, balky, and awkward as much as it was peppy, fun, and high-tech. Times have changed.
The 2013 Acura RDX doesn't look all that much different from the last on 1st glance. Nonetheless, it's all new, with different exterior and interior styling, a new powertrain, and a vastly different character--and it's aiming at a new target market.
As a member of the previous RDX's target market, I understand why it didn't succeed. Late 20s and early 30s professional men with a taste for both luxury and sport sound like good buyers. We're not. We buy modern classics gently used, we buy sport and forsake luxury, or we buy above our means and cut corners elsewhere. We don't make the compromise the last RDX required.
Disclaimer: Acura flew me out to a pretty sweet resort in Scottsdale for this drive, put me up for a couple of nights, and fed me surprisingly well. Despite all of that, I managed to keep my wits about me.
The new RDX may succeed where the last did not, as it requires far fewer compromises. In maturing into a more complete vehicle, it has also set its sights on younger pre-children couples, older empty-nesters, and those between that don't need as much kid-and-gear-wrangling capacity.
But how does it drive?
Not having a chance to really live with the RDX in our short stint with it in Phoenix on Acura's dime, we can't speak well to its longer-term qualities. On the road, both canyon and highway, however, it's surprisingly good.
I should note that I dont like crossovers much, as they seem like needlessly tall and tippy hatchbacks. I'm not a normal person in that regard. But the Acura RDX rises above that simple epithet to deliver something more akin to a cross between a luxury sedan and an SUV, much like the BMW X6, though not quite so large or nice. The exterior design even mimics the X6, in a way, with a more coupe-like top and a more SUV-like bottom.
Powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 engine rated at 273 horsepower, the 2013 RDX is anything but slow. It's not exactly quick either, and the 240-horsepower 2.3-liter turbo it replaces actually has considerably more torque--more area under the curve--until about 4,500 rpm. The new engine is more efficient, rating 20 mpg city and 28 mpg highway in FWD trim, and 19/27 mpg in AWD. Acceleration, however, is quick and relatively effortless. Part of this comes from the RDX's less-than-portly 3,700-3,900-pound weight, depending on equipment and choice of front- or all-wheel drive, and part comes from lower gear ratios through fifth, with a taller sixth for gas mileage. Thanks to this combo, it'll reel off 0-60 mph times conservatively claimed in the 7-second range, per Acura.
At each corner, a trick new damper helps even out ride quality while providing more firmness in sportier moments. It does it through a curious spring-and-piston arrangement, and it mostly succeeds.
2 pistons ride in the damper, 1 for normal duty, handling smaller displacement bumps and dips. A 2nd, tethered to it by a light spring, comes into action when the shaft moves farther. This 2nd piston greatly increases damping forces, essentially doubling them, to provide the firm, settled handling most of us associate with sportiness. A secondary spring, more powerful, resides within the damper as well, aiding rebound forces.
The problem with the system, however, is that it relies not on the speed of the damper's movement--the frequency, as it were--but on the amplitude. This means a certain amount of body roll is required before the secondary piston engages, taming the soft and comfortable ride into sporty submission. The result is a crossover that will, ultimately, handle very well approaching the limit, but provides little in the way of confidence-inspiring feedback at initial turn-in.
Fortunately for most, it's the comfortable mode that functions 99 percent of the time, ironing out even rather impressive bumps with ease. The well-weighted electric power steering's lack of sensory feedback will further discourage any sport sedan-imitating histrionics.
The 6-speed automatic transmission functions as another minor deterrent to truly sporty behavior, despite its paddle shifters. When giving it a solid boot, whether merging onto the freeway or attempting to slingshot out of a tight corner, in sport mode or regular, there's a momentary hesitation--not major, but enough to feel the deceleration briefly--before it kicks down a gear or three and takes off with proper gusto and a fair howl from the V-6 under the hood.
All of the drawbacks aside, driven back-to-back with the BMW X3 and Audi Q5, we might find most of these faults to be compact crossover traits, rather than flaws specific to the RDX. In fact, after nearly wearing out the event's support staff, the RDX proved to be tied with the X3 for most fun-to-drive.
So it's fun, but is it any good?
Inside, the RDX, like many other of the sub-TL portions of the Acura range, comes off as a very, very well-done mainstream car, and less so as an entry-level luxury car. Contrasted with the Audi Q5's interior, the difference is stark.
While the Q5 offers few materials improvements, the design, fit, and finish of the same raw matter is miles better, at least to my eye. It's like the difference between a higher-end off-the-rack suit (the RDX), and an entry-level custom tailored alternative (the Q5). Both are nice, but you'll pick the tailored suit from your closet first every time.
That said, the Q5, and the BMW X3 for that matter, are quite a bit more expensive than the RDX, which roams around in the $35,000-$40,000 range--about 10 to 20 percent more expensive, depending on the equipment chosen. And at similar price points, the RDX offers some things standard, or as part of the Technology Package, that the X3 and Q5 lack, like sunroofs, higher-end audio systems, or GPS-linked climate control.
On the other hand, the X3 and Q5 have truly high-end technology that's simply not available on the RDX: things like adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, and parking assitance.
At the end of our day with the RDX, I'd come to the conclusion that while it wasn't fully into the luxury realm, it was competitive with the entry-level players, not just on the spec sheets, but in the real world.
Driving down the road, listening to a truly excellent Acura/ELS sound system in utter quiet, occasionaly dicing a curve a bit faster than the posted limit, then backing off and cruising in comfort, I was happy. Happy as I was in the X3 or the Q5. Perhaps not as full of myself when I had the German badges at my compass points, or when I glanced down to the controls, but eyes up, out the windshield, soaking in the saguaro and the sunshine, happy.
All-new for 2013, the Acura RDX takes what was good about the previous model--its just-right size, nimble handling, and attractive design--and makes them better, while working on the rough spots. Those rough spots included a slightly too-rough ride, laggy power delivery paired with a balky transmission, and somewhat lackluster gas mileage. They're mostly smoothed over in the 2013 RDX.
It's not often that a car manufacturer gets so far out ahead of the curve that it's forced to retrace its steps, but in some ways, that's exactly what happened to the Acura RDX. Offered in turbo 4-cylinder form well before that was the happening thing in luxury vehicles, let alone crossovers, many eschewed the smaller Acura for the MDX or went to rival brands offering 6-cylinder models.
Fast forward a few years, and those rival brands are now bringing out their own turbocharged 4-cylinders and Acura has moved to a 273-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 engine. While that might seem like a step backward, it's actually more fuel efficient, slightly more powerful (at peak) and noticeably smoother in its power delivery. All of those things make the move away from turbocharged small-displacement engines back to V-6 territory a sensible one, despite the shifting sands of the rest of the market. Fuel economy of the new V-6 picks up as much as 5 mpg highway over the previous 2012 RDX.
Behind the wheel, the new RDX feels nearly as peppy as the previous model off the line, though the surge of the 2012 model's turbo added some excitement that's not present in the linear power delivery of the new V-6--though that's not really a criticism. Under full throttle, the RDX willingly merges with speedy freeway traffic, readily passes 50-mph 2-lane slow pokes, and generally zips around like you'd expect a luxury crossover to do. It also handles the road well, absorbing big bumps with ease while remaining composed in windy sections. It owes this behavior to its new 2-stage dampers, which include a secondary floating piston that activates in certain driving conditions to control body motion and improve handling without sacrificing ride comfort.
The transmission, on the other hand, lags slightly behind driver inputs, particularly when a 2- or 3-gear downshift is required (hard acceleration from moderate speeds, as in passing), balking for just a moment before grabbing the gear and accelerating as desired. The issue was noticed in both all-wheel drive and front-wheel drive models, indicating it's not a problem of the on-demand distribution of torque to the rear wheels.
Exterior design of the 2013 RDX is slightly changed from the 2012 model, though not markedly so; the prominent grille is made slightly less noticeable, the fender arches are slightly more pronounced, and the overall design is smoother and more mature. Inside, the interior is all-new, with characteristic Acura high-tech style, but thankfully less reliance on bright, hard plastic elements and more soft-touch, matte-finish items. A preponderance of bright-finish chrome in the center stack is eye-catching, but clashes slightly with the look and makes sunny days a chore of avoiding reflected glare, seemingly catching the sun from every angle.
The cabin itself is quiet--very, quiet, in fact, and comfortable. Front-seat space is ample for even those over 6 feet tall, yet an 8-way power adjustable seat and tilt/telescoping steering column offer adjustability for most heights and body types.
Technology abounds, as you expect with Acura, undercutting the competition on the equipment available for the price--though you won't find some of the higher-end features BMW and Mercedes-Benz offer on the list of available upgrades, such as adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, and parking assistance. What you will find, however, is standard dual-zone climate control, cruise control, keyless entry with push-button start, ambient lighting, a 7-speaker sound system with USB/MP3/Auxiliary support, Bluetooth handsfree calling, and more--all standard. An available Technology Package adds navigation with voice controls, real-time traffic and weather, a 10-speaker Acura/ELS audio system, GPS-linked climate control, SMS texting support, and Pandora app functionality.
Most of this technology comes off well, notably the excellent Acura/ELS audio system, which produces clear, enveloping sound even at very low volumes. The navigation system is relatively easy to use, and functions well, but the display--though high-resolution--looks a bit dated in comparison to the large, wide-aspect screens in BMWs and the sharp, color-coordinated displays from Audi.
As a crossover, it's not all about passenger comfort and tech goodies, however. There's also the matter of cargo space and utility--that's what sets it apart from an equivalently-priced sedan, after all. Here, the RDX is right in the zone for its compact crossover class, with 26.1 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats, 61.3 cubic feet with the seats folded flat, and 76.9 cubic feet including under-floor storage. Even so, it's aimed at younger pre-children couples and slightly older couples with children off to college, not so much at families, kids, and the attendant gear.
The current, now outgoing, Acura RDX was a pretty rad small crossover for car enthusiasts that mostly care about a vehicle being fun to drive. With a punchy, roaring, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, stickum and grace thanks to Super Handling-All Wheel Drive, and the sort of puggish good looks than only a fanboy could really love, it was a crossover that largely defied the standard formula.
That all sounds like high praise to us, whose Involvement Index-flavored outlook on life generally finds us lukewarm about “standard” crossovers. But the truth is that Acura had aimed the 1st RDX at a young, hip, male demographic, but found that most actual buyers were older, empty-nest Boomers. With that information clear, and a next-generation RDX due up, the automaker set its sights on a vehicle that was a bit larger, more comfortable, and far more traditional than the punk-rock first-gen car.
With that as background, it would be difficult to rate this 2013 RDX as anything but a direct bullseye for Acura’s development team. This new crossover sort of “joins the herd” in terms of overall character and performance, and then immediately attempts to gain separation in the more traditional arenas of ride quality, content, fuel economy, and price.
Apart from the alteration of the exterior appearance—we’re guessing that the new RDX will probably be more loved for its looks than the last 1, but you can judge that for yourselves—the most obvious revision to the RDX formula lies with its 3.5-liter V-6 engine. The larger V-6 puts out 273 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque, which is a gain of 33 horses relative to the old 2.3-liter turbo, and a loss of some 9 pound-feet of torque.
Perhaps the biggest difference between old and new, though, is character. The turbo motor felt punchier and harder-worked than the new 6, and seemed, especially in the middle of the rev range, to be more responsive. Much of that feeling is undoubtedly due to the old car’s louder, more visceral power delivery, because the truth of the matter is that the 2013 RDX is a match for the old in terms of Acura-measured 0-60 time (just under seven seconds).
In our drive from suburban Scottsdale, through some meandering (if not exactly winding) roads, and with lots of time on the freeway, we generally enjoyed the smooth and laidback V-6 powertrain. The RDX feels rather fleet for this class of SUV, the 6-speed auto transmission unobtrusive, and our monitoring of the fuel economy gauge over around 40 highway miles led us to believe that the speculated 28 miles per gallon (highway) for the front-drive version will be easy to achieve in real life. For those keeping score on the econ front, RDX’s 20/28 city/highway mpg numbers are about as good as it gets in this segment, as long as you leave the hybrids out of the equation (which we’re happy to do).
It seems a good time to mention that, while we did get some miles in in the AWD version of the RDX, the bulk of our test drive was spent in the front-drive car. Now that Acura has moved away from the performance-oriented, torque-vectoring SH-AWD system in favor of a less complex AWD setup, our general impression is that the all-wheels-driven car simply feels more “front-drivery” than did the last car. Acura has tuned this system to be just as competent in low-traction situations, but without as much dynamic grip in the dry. We’ll be sure to test out that last part when we get the AWD version in our office and on a good road, and that 1st part if we’re able to drive the new RDX come next winter. Stay tuned.
With the power and speed quotient about the same in this new Acura, it’s fair to say that the suspension tuning and attendant ride quality is the biggest single dynamic change to the RDX. The engineers have gone all-in on the feeling of luxury here, and the result is a glass-smooth ride that aids overall comfort in a massive way. Surface imperfections from the road, even big cracks and bumps, were dialed out almost completely. Even still, the softer RDX didn’t seem to “float” overly much when cresting larger bumps and small hills at speed. When cornering effort is ramped up, there’s plenty of softness in the suspension, as well as a CUV-standard amount of roll. You won’t be confused into thinking you’ve slipped behind the wheel of an NSX, that’s for sure. The RDX is well-suited to smoothing out the rough places of the world—if not driving through them aggressively.
Steering feel is lacking overall, which matches the rest of the ride/handling balance from a character standpoint. The tiller has a good amount of heft to it, even if the dead-ahead and on-lock feedback is very minimal. The oft-used but accurate phrase “video game-like” is very apt here. Despite this dynamic deficit, and noting that turn-in and response are both pretty lethargic, we’re forced to admit that the tuning strategy here fits well with the car as a whole.
Seriously complementing this ultra-smooth ride and relaxed steering is an ultra-quiet cabin for the RDX. Road, wind, and engine noise have all been banished from the cabin in large measure, creating a vehicle that should compete with the best of the segment here.
The feeling from the driver’s seat is a kind of “smart-luxury” vibe that is typical of Acura. The company has streamlined its HVAC/entertainment interface relative to other new products in the lineup, and materials quality generally feels up to snuff in the segment. As always, those looking for outright plushness will prefer the confines of a BMW X3 or Mercedes-Benz GLK, but will pay more, feature to feature, than will the Acura buyer. Moreover, we’d put the optional ELS sound system up against the up-sale offering from any other high-end crossover peddler—the stereo sounds great, and we can’t wait to get 1 into the shop for a full audio test.
In short: while we’re a little sad to lose the quirky RDX of the last few years, there’s no question that this new, plushy version is set to do serious damage in the premium crossover world. We think that Acura is poised to do very well with this 2013 RDX, even if the enthusiast buyer is left to ponder other options.
VS: Lexus RX350
Somehow, despite the RDX having smaller dimensions overall (it’s more than 4 inches shorter in total length), Acura claims to have almost exactly as much room for passengers, and even more useable cargo space than does the RX350. A neat trick, to be certain.
Answering the space issue is a great start for the Acura, which absolutely faces the stiffest in-segment competition from its Lexus rival.
A base RX350 FWD carries an MSRP of $39,075, while an RDX with all-wheel drive and Acura’s technology package is expected to start at $39,420 (the base Acura has an MSRP of $34,320). That means an awful lot of content for the RDX versus its primary competitor, even though the Acura’s price has jumped up by a few grand versus the outgoing version.
We also think that the RX comparison is especially apt, because it’s very clear that the new thinking and engineering of the Acura has been geared toward a Lexus audience (i.e., a comfort-seeking rather than excitement-seeking driver).
Cost of ownership, residual value, and overall satisfaction may still trend in favor of the dominant RX, but the RDX at last poses a realistic cross-shop for this buyer.
VS: BMW X3 xDrive28i
The X3 with the 35i engine is more of a straightforward comparison, in terms of power, for the newly V-6-equipped RDX, but the slightly slower BMW still offers a more engaging driving dynamic.
For a bit less than the asking price of the new RDX, the X3 offers a willing engine, nice handling, and faster, more responsive steering. Of course the BMW is smaller, less frugal, less capacious, and a bit heavier, too.
A straight comparison test would be needed to iron out exactly which 1 is more compelling overall, but on paper the RDX presents 1 hell of an argument here.
2013 Acura RDX FWD
Engine: V-6, 3.5 liters, 24v
Output: 273 hp/251 lb-ft
Fuel Economy, City/Hwy: 20/28 mpg
Cargo Capacity: 61.3 cu ft
Base Price: $34,320
On Sale: April 2, 2012
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