- Well-sized for both utility and urban maneuverability
- Smooth ride yet nimble handling
- Agreeable interior trim and build
- Powerful brakes
- Transmission hesitation in some situations
- Lack of available higher-end features
- Somewhat plain exterior styling
The 2013 Acura RDX improves on the sporty crossover theme with refined ride quality, more features, and better fuel economy.
All-new for 2013, the Acura RDX takes what was good about the previous model--its sharp lines, compact size, agile handling--and makes them better, while working on the rough spots. Those rough spots included a slightly too-rough ride, slack low-end power paired with a balky transmission, and ho-hum fuel economy. 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 seems like a step backward, it's better for gas mileage and performance, since the V-6 is smoother and doesn't have to work as hard as the former turbo-4. 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 compact-crossover SUV 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. Hit the gas and the RDX zips into traffic, readily passes on country lanes, and generally zips around like you'd expect a luxury crossover to do. It handles well, absorbing big bumps while it remains 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.
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. Six-footers will find lots of space in front, and the tilt/telescoping wheel and 8=way power seat almost guarantee a good driving position.
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, automatic parking assistance, and blind-spot monitors. What you will find, however, is standard dual-zone climate control, push-button start, cruise control, ambient lighting, a 7-speaker sound system, Bluetooth and USB audio, and more--all standard. A Technology Package gets navigation, a 10-speaker Acura/ELS audio system, and Pandora functionality.;
Most of this technology comes off well, notably the enveloping, rich sound of the Acura/ELS audio system. The nav system 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 fits perfectly in its segment, at 61.3 cubic feet with the back seats folded down, 26.1 cubic feet of space behind the rears, and 76.9 cubic feet in total storage, including the space under the floor. 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.