2013 Acura RDX Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Nelson Ireson Nelson Ireson Senior Editor
April 12, 2012

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.

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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.

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2013 Acura RDX

Styling

While its styling will never be called bold, it will appeal to many with its understated and clean lines.

All-new for 2013, the Acura RDX has reinvented itself, with a similar but fresh exterior, a new interior, and a new purpose. No longer seeking the young professional male with a taste for a touch of sport with his crossover, the 2013 RDX is going after pre- and post-children couples. The design reflects that, with a stylish but not flashy look that tones down the somewhat controversial bright grille. Smooth curves and sleek proportions give the RDX the look of a smaller vehicle in some ways, especially the arch of the glass along the roof line. More powerful fenders and a standard crossover ride height give a sense of off-road capability, though the RDX is no true SUV.

 

Inside, the RDX trades some of its flashier bits from the previous generation for more mature matte-finished items, though there's still chrome and shiny plastic to be found. The overall look is sculpted and modern, and rather car-like, without the claustrophobic wrap-around feeling some other sporty crossovers get.

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2013 Acura RDX

Performance

The new V-6 engine replaces laggy turbo torque with smooth and linear power that highlights a well-handling chassis.

Once ahead of the game--perhaps too far ahead--with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the RDX, Acura has made an about-face, offering only a 3.5-liter V-6 engine in the 2013 model. The new engine is actually more powerful and more efficient, despite being a larger, normally aspirated V-6. While it gives up some of the torquey low-end feel of the previous turbo engine, as well as the sudden surge as boost builds, it's a much smoother, quieter, and more luxury-oriented combination. The six-speed automatic transmission offers slick and easy shifts, though it will hesitate on multiple-gear downshifts when sudden acceleration is requested. Steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters come standard.

 

In the corners, the 2013 RDX is less brittle and harsh than its predecessor, but it also exhibits more initial body roll. Once that first bit of roll has started, however, an ingenious new double-piston design engages, increasing damping force and making for a surprisingly capable crossover. Steering isn't perfect, being a bit over-light and vague at lower speeds, but it weights up nicely as speeds rise.

 

The all-wheel drive system for 2013 is no longer of the SH-AWD variety, but a simple automatic biasing system that delivers torque to the rear as front wheel slip is sensed, or as the angle of ascent changes.

 

Braking force is reduced with a new system that also shortens pedal stroke, and while it makes around-town driving easier, it takes away some of the feel and modulation in sportier driving.

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2013 Acura RDX

Comfort & Quality

Though it's compact in the second row, the 2013 RDX is comfy up front, with competitive cargo room and a quality interior.

Being up against the likes of the Audi Q5, BMW X3, and Lexus RX is a tough task for any vehicle--even those mentioned. All of them work to include the most technology, luxury, and quality in a compact crossover at a competitive price. Acura's RDX has its work cut out for it. For 2013, the RDX makes some strides over the previous model in this regard, and some inroads against the competition as well, with a very competitive price. For a given dollar amount, chances are the RDX will be the best-equipped luxury crossover available. But there are some compromises.

 

The front seats are comfortable and relatively spacious, with enough adjustment to fit both taller and shorter passengers, though the length of the seat bottoms is a bit short for longer-legged drivers. The second row is more cramped, but still suitable for all but those in the six-foot-plus club.

 

Materials are generally very good, equivalent to Lexus in most regards, and even BMW in many aspects, though plastic plays a more dominant role on the dash, and the fit and finish aren't quite as tight and tidy as the Audi Q5's. The cabin is well-laid-out, too, with cubbies and nooks for storage, ergonomically-placed controls (with the exception of the large central controller for the Acura navigation/infotainment unit on equipped models), and generally well-built, solid-feeling panels in all locations.

 

Ride quality has improved significantly over the previous RDX, and actually matches or exceeds even the BMW and Audi offerings, blending a smooth, comfortable ride over rougher roads with a capable and confident feeling in sportier moments. Noise, likewise, is very low--whether road, wind, or tire.

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2013 Acura RDX

Safety

Official safety ratings haven't been released for the 2013 Acura RDX, but it offers a solid standard set of equipment.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hasn't yet tested the 2013 Acura RDX, nor has the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The IIHS did test the 2012 model, however, rating it top marks of "good" in front and side-impact tests, but only "marginal" in roof strength. It remains to be seen if the 2013 model can improve on these results. Standard safety equipment includes front, side, and side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, daytime running lights, a backup camera, and a rollover sensor to trigger appropriate airbags.

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2013 Acura RDX

Features

Though it lacks some of the high-tech gadgets of the competition, the 2013 RDX delivers lots of bang for the buck.

For the 2013 Acura RDX, just two core variants are available: front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. Both share the same basic standard equipment, though an optional Technology Package can be had with either.

 

While the RDX misses out on some of the latest high-tech gear even with the Technology Package (things like radar adaptive cruise control, night vision, and pedestrian detection), it does offer a strong base spec and a media-centric upgrade path.

 

All 2013 RDX models come standard with perforated leather seats, a CD/USB/iPod/satellite radio audio system, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, pushbutton ignition, Bluetooth handsfree connectivity, and a multi-view rearview camera.

 

Upgrades in the Technology Package include: navigation with real-time traffic and weather, a 410-watt Acura/ELS surround sound system (which our editors highly recommend), voice recognition, remote power-operated liftgate, GPS-linked climate control, and Xenon HID headlights.

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2013 Acura RDX

Fuel Economy

More efficient than the previous model and on par with the best in its class, the 2013 RDX is a fair choice for an efficient luxury crossover.

The EPA hasn't yet rated the 2013 Acura RDX, but Acura estimates the front-wheel drive model to achieve 20 mpg city, 28 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined. The all-wheel drive model is estimated at 19 mpg city, 27 mpg highway, and 22 mpg combined. Those figures put it on par with or ahead of the best luxury crossovers in its class, though still somewhat shy of a typical midsize luxury sedan.

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May 13, 2015
2013 Acura RDX FWD 4-Door Tech Pkg

Perhaps the best car I have ever owned (Incl. new Cads, a BMW, et al).

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One fantastic car! 27 months, 40,000 miles of trouble-free driving. I was considering the Jag KE, Porsche Macan, but don't have to wait for the 2016 RDX...it just came in this weekend, and I intend to have... + More »
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March 29, 2015
For 2013 Acura RDX

Fantastic car for people who don't have the deepest pockets.

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I bought the 13 RDX when it first came out in 2012, it was the first one the dealer sold. Over the course of the 2+ years I've owned it, I've only put 26k miles on it. I am thankful for the warranty because as... + More »
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