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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 four-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 six-cylinder models.
Fast forward a few years, and those rival brands are now bringing out their own turbocharged four-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 two-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 two-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 two- or three-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 six feet tall, yet an eight-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 seven-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.
- Well-sized for both utility and urban maneuverability
- Smooth ride yet nimble handling
- Agreeable interior trim and build
- Powerful brakes
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- Transmission hesitation in some situations
- Lack of available higher-end features
- Somewhat plain exterior styling