New & Used Acura RDX: In Depth
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The Acura RDX is a luxurious compact crossover that can seat five passengers. It’s more conservative than the previous sporty generation, which makes it more attractive to the mainstream market. The RDX may share a few of its components with the Honda CR-V, but it competes with the Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class, Audi Q5, and the BMW X3.
For its first three years (2007-2009), the first-generation RDX only offered one powertrain. The 2.3-liter four had a single turbocharger, letting it blast out 240 hp and 260 pound-feet of torque--remarkable numbers for such a small engine. The resulting vehicle was peaky and whizzy and sounded like a turbo all the time, even if buyers might occasionally want a quieter engine. Paddle shifters gave the five-speed automatic in the RDX a sporty feel, and the taut ride made it among the most athletic, edgy performers in its class.
That first RDX also shared the "Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive" system that puts power to all four wheels in the larger Acura MDX. For the 2010 model year, Acura added a front-drive RDX to the order sheet, significantly boosting its fuel-economy numbers (at 19/24 mpg, versus 17/22 mpg)--though it was still as thirsty as vehicles like the massive Lincoln MKT.
Just when other makers are replacing large V-6 engines with smaller turbocharged fours, Acura has taken the RDX in the other direction. The 2013 Acura RDX is now powered by a 273-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6, paired to a six-speed automatic transmission. The new powertrain should maintain the prodigious power of the earlier model while making it easier to drive. It also delivers better fuel efficiency, with a combined EPA rating of 23 mpg for front-wheel drive models and 21 mpg for all-wheel drive versions--both improvements on the outgoing 2012 model.
But the newest RDX aims more toward families than sporting enthusiastic drivers. Leather seating, heated/power front seats, a power moonroof, and a 360-watt audio system are on the standard-features list, while the top Tech Package includes navigation with real-time traffic and rerouting; a power rear tailgate; and an Acura/ELS surround sound system. All that equipment will cost you, though; the top RDX all-wheel drive model with the Tech Package now totals more than $40k.
As before, the Acura RDX competes in the luxury crossover segment: vehicles like the BMW X3, Mazda CX-5, even the Land Rover LR2. But its more luxurious interior also puts it up against the Mercedes-Benz GLK, perhaps the Infiniti EX, and an upcoming compact Lexus crossover. Indeed, the earlier model's sporting SH-AWD system has been replaced in 2013 models by a more ordinary front-biased all-wheel drive system.
Behind the wheel, the new V-6 cures the peaky, laggy power delivery that characterized the first-generation RDX. And its greatly refined ride makes it appealing to a much wider audience. The cabin remains somewhat tight, particularly in the second row, but improved materials and design make it a more pleasant environment.
Inside the RDX, while acceleration and cornering are strengths, the cabin is tight if you aren't one of the front passengers. But the back seat is notably small for adults, with leg and head room at a premium. The rear seat folds forward to create a 60-cubic-foot cargo area, and still there's about 27 cubic feet of space with the seat raised. The RDX doesn't have the sense of luxury applied to other crossovers in the class--the Volvo XC60 comes to mind, along with the Cadillac SRX--but the dashboard and console are handsome, with ample electronic goodies. Those include satellite radio, along with Bluetooth and USB connectivity for music players. Its safety scores have made the RDX one of the best in its segment, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) has repeatedly named it a Top Safety Pick.
The 2014 Acura RDX carries over from the all-new 2013 model, though it sees a slight price increase to $35,415 for the base model.