The Soccer Mom-Mobile Comparison
by Colum Wood
Projected to be one of the largest growth segments in the auto industry, Acura is looking to go from a back marker to a major player with the launch of its second-generation RDX. A solid offering, how does it stack up against stalwart German competition like the Audi Q5?
Always one of the sporty players in the segment, the RDX was perhaps too athletic for its own good, with not enough focus on luxury and too much on sporty driving dynamics. Itís now quite the opposite and is completely reengineered, starting under the hood.
Powering the new Acura is a 3.5-liter V6 which delivers 23-hp more than the old turbocharged 4-cylinder at 273-hp, though is down 29 lb-ft of torque for a new total of 251.
Audi offers a choice of a turbocharged 4-cylinder or a V6 engine and while the 3.2-liter six might seem like the obvious choice for a fair match-up, itís not. Instead itís prohibitively priced, with the 2.0T is a closer competitor, though it is down on power at 211-hp but with superior torque at 258 lb-ft.
Formerly a fuel-thirsty machine, the RDX is now more efficient, due in part to a six-speed automatic transmission, with fuel economy officially rated at 20-mpg city and 28-mpg highway for a combined 23-mpg. Our test model being equipped with AWD, however, the numbers read: 19/27/22.
Audi has followed the same philosophy of adding gears, and has taken it to the next-level, offering two more than the Acura. The 8-speed auto-box helps the German crossover earn a nearly identical 20/27/22 rating. Had we opted for the V6, the fuel economy section of this comparo would have been a no contest win for the Acura.
Similarly, V6-equipped Q5ís are spendy at $43,000 while 2.0T models begin at a vastly more reasonable $35,600 while our Premium Plus tester clocks in at $39,900.
Base RDX models begin at $34,320 while to be fair (considering all Q5 models come standard with Quattro AWD) an AWD RDX retails for $1,500 more at $35,720. Our test car with the tech package and AWD was nearly identical to the Audi at $39,420.
Note: for 2013 Audi is introducing a Q5 with a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 with 272-hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. Starting at $43,900 no EPA fuel economy numbers have been released yet.
DRAMATIC OR RESERVED
Recently revamped, the Q5 is looking somewhat dated in the segment. While its bulbous look can be less than appealing, its massive chrome grille is certainly the opposite. Bold, masculine and luxurious itís proud to be German. Plus there are Audiís trademark LED eyebrows, an increasingly common sight in the right neighborhoods across America.
Conversely the Acura is progressive and handsome, though not exactly dramatic with little in the way of a visual touch point. Mimicking the larger and vastly more popular MDX, itís also now nearly indistinguishable from it.
Style criticisms of the Q5 exterior donít carry through to the cabin thanks to Audiís commitment to interior refinement and materials. The leather isnít top grade, however, and looks slightly less luxurious than that in the RDX.
The second-generation RDX manages to be elegant and yet rather busy, with an excessive number of buttons on the dash. Overall, itís a close match to the Audi, something that never could have been said of the previous generation modelís finishing.