2013 Acura RDX Review
It's more powerful, more comfortable and gets better fuel economy than its predecessor — what's not to like?
- Improved power and fuel economy
- Controlled, almost sporty handling
- Plenty of space for five
- Not quite as sporty as last model
- Generic looks
- Not as many tech features as some rivals
Meet Jason. He's a 30-year-old architect who lives in a fashionable loft in the big city. He works hard for his $100,000-plus salary. He plays just as hard as he works. And Jason's the competitive type, who's into fitness and cars. He wants drive something sporty, but it must have space for his all his active-lifestyle gear.
Jason is the type of active-lifestyle character that automakers like to think make up the bulk of their sales. Jason was a composite Acura customer made up to represent the RDX's target buyer when it introduced the small sport-ute in 2007.
In reality, Jason's parents and newly married friends ended up buying the RDX and only in limited numbers. It seems the RDX was tuned too aggressively, like a high-riding sports car with a harsh ride and quick steering and throttle responses.
For 2013, Acura is rethinking the RDX, making it more appropriate for its true buyers; i.e., it became bigger, has a softer ride, and is easier to drive (read: less sporty and high strung, more bloated and lethargic).
We think Jason's friends and family will like this new RDX even better.
The 2013 Acura RDX is offered in one basic trim level with front-wheel drive (starts at $34,320) or all-wheel drive (starts at $35,720). Standard equipment includes keyless access and starting, leather upholstery, heated front seats, sunroof, 360-watt AM/FM/CD stereo with USB port, Bluetooth connectivity, multiview rear camera and 18-inch alloy wheels. An available Technology package ($3,700) adds a hard-drive-based navigation system with real-time traffic and weather, a 410-watt ELS surround-sound audio system with 15 gigabytes of music storage, a power tailgate, HID headlights and fog lights.
Under the Hood
The RDX trades a high-strung turbocharged 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine for a 3.5-liter V6, adding both power and fuel economy along the way. The engine makes 273 horsepower, a gain of 33 horses, and 251 lb-ft of torque, which is down 9 lb-ft. The lone transmission is a 6-speed automatic instead of a 5-speed in the last model. The transmission has manual shift capability through the gearshift or standard steering-wheel paddle shifters.
Fuel economy is an EPA-rated 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway with front-wheel drive and 19/27 mpg with all-wheel drive. Those numbers compare to 19/24 mpg with FWD and 17/22 mpg with AWD in the 2012 model.
The RDX's interior is typical Acura; i.e., it's a quality environment, with standard leather upholstery and soft-touch materials on the dash, door panels and armrests. The center stack is a bit intimidating, though, with the audio controls set high above a central controller that is similar to BMW's iDrive. This system consists of a central rotating knob flanked by buttons marked Map/Guide, Info, Dest/Route and Cancel. Like other such systems, it is a bit complicated to learn, but owners will get used to it after a few weeks.
The Technology package comes with navigation, an 8-inch color screen, and a 410-watt Acura/ELS surround sound audio system. The hard-drive-based system includes 15 gigabytes of space for music storage. iPhone users can also stream Pandora. And thanks to an SMS text-messaging feature, the stereo can also read texts aloud and drivers can respond with one of six preset replies.
Seating for five is quite comfortable. The front seats are wrapped in quality leather and they have enough side bolstering to keep passengers from sliding around in turns. The driver's seat has enough adjustments to make most drivers comfortable, thanks in part to a standard tilt/telescoping steering wheel. Both seats have enough headroom and legroom for most occupants.
The rear seat is among the best on the market, thanks in part to the 2013 RDX's longer wheelbase. The seats are sculpted to provide support, there is plenty of headroom, and legroom is increased by 0.6 inch, making it rather generous. Adults can now sit behind adults, and the vehicle is wide enough to fit three across.
The seat splits 60/40 and folds quite easily. With the seats up, there is a decent 27.6 cubic feet of cargo space. With the seats down that expands to 61.3 cubic feet, which is almost 5 cubic feet more than the BMW X3 and Audi Q5. That area is easier to access, too, as the rear opening is 6.5 inches wider.
On the Road
For its first generation, Acura tuned the RDX like a sports car. That didn't work too well for what amounted to a family vehicle. This time around, Acura has fixed those issues.
The sharp, direct steering is gone, replaced by steering that is lighter and lazier, but still predictable. We miss the sharper steering, but we don't miss the harsh ride. That's gone as well, thanks to the longer wheelbase, a stiffer body structure, taller tires, and new amplitude reactive dampers. These shock absorbers are soft in most conditions and firm up in corners. The ride is as smooth as any vehicle in the class, and handling is stable, well controlled, and agile for a vehicle of this size.
The engine is a vast improvement, too. Even though it's larger and has two more cylinders, fuel economy is up about 10 percent. Aiding the cause are the addition of direct injection, a new 6-speed automatic transmission instead of a 5-speed, and variable cylinder management, which lets the engine run on six, four or three cylinders, depending on the conditions.
Power is also up 33 horses, making the RDX downright quick from a stop and willing to pass at highway speeds. Acura isn't providing a zero-to-60-mph figure, but we estimate it is in the mid six-second range. And the 3.5-liter V6 engine delivers its power in a smoother and more linear fashion than the peaky turbocharged 4-cylinder in the last model.
Right for You?
The 2013 Acura RDX is now a very comfortable vehicle for up to five. It offers a premium driving character with agile handling, a smooth ride, and plenty of power. The buyers Acura has identified, empty-nesters and DINKs (duel income no kids), will like the 2013 Acura RDX much better than the last model. With prices $3,000 to $6,000 less than its Audi Q5 and BMW X3 competitors, they will also like the value.
(As part of an automaker-sponsored press event, Dodge provided MSN with travel and accommodations to facilitate this report.)
Kirk Bell has served as the associate publisher for Consumer Guide Automotive and editor of Scale Auto Enthusiast magazine. A Midwest native, Bell brings 18 years of automotive journalism experience to MSN, and currently contributes to JDPower.com and Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com.