THE Acura RDX was always a different kind of a car.
Designed to provide great performance and superb handling, the previous generation RDX was perhaps a bit too aggressive in its approach to maximize performance while somewhat compromising comfort and luxury.
The turbocharged engine and European-like handling provided immense driving pleasure for an SUV but this dynamic package did not deliver as much "luxury value" to traditional, upscale SUV customers who were more drawn to softer, smoother riding vehicles such as the Lexus RX 350.
For 2013, Acura decided that it was time for the RDX to become more mature.
The redesigned 2013 RDX features refinements to every aspect to the vehicle. The exterior lines are softer, the interior is more plush, the drivetrain is smoother and the engine is more powerful yet more efficient. Most important of all, the new RDX looks and feels much more expensive.
Acura hopes these refinements will welcome a whole new generation of young customers into its comfy yet stylish mode of transportation.
As already mentioned, the 2013 RDX's image is more mature with understated elegance. The smoother exterior lines are partnered with traditionally sensible colours. The design in general is much more upscale and gives that luxurious feel that was lacking in the 2012 version. The design is unmistakably similar to the popular MDX model.
Inside, the grown-up design continues with a pleasant combination of curvy lines and flowing elements. The hard plastics that dominated the cabin of the previous model have been mostly replaced by softer, more elegant materials. This is probably the single most noticeable aspect of the RDX's maturation process. The cabin now feels like it came from a car that costs twice as much.
The revamped 2013 RDX did away with the 240 horsepower, 2.3-litre turbocharged inline four and replaced it with a 273 h.p., 3.5-litre naturally aspirated V6 that's already widely used in the Acura lineup. It's mated to a new six-speed automatic transmission which gets 10.7-litres/100 kilometres in the city and 7.3 l/100 km on the highway, which is a vast improvement over the 2012 number; 12.4 l/100 km city, 9.8 l/100 km highway. This is also done with a new all-wheel drive system which is lighter to help aid the fuel economy numbers.
The new V-6 is much more refined cruising around town and handles the highway curves comfortably, though it does not have the sportiness of the previous model. Also on that note, the suspension is softer and smoother, again moving away from the more aggressive nature of its predecessor. The only disappointment is the steering feel, which - while accurate in its ability to track the road - is light and somewhat artificial. It will likely please the average Lexus-type SUV drivers (which is Acura's targeted competitor anyways) but it will not steal sales away from BMW or Audi owners who are used to more road feel.
Even though the actual amount of added interior space is not that much, the interior feels more spacious. Looking about the cabin, the Acura meets all the prerequisites for an entry-level luxury vehicle with no overwhelmingly unusual features. All five seats are plush while providing adequate support and comfort. The spacy feel is consistent throughout as legroom and headroom are plentiful for the average adult in the rear seats.
Acura also refined the RDX's technology interface. Many features such as
automatic climate control, Bluetooth, iPod connectivity and rearview camera remain somewhat similar, but they simplified their use and even added an SMS text messaging function. With the upgrade to the Technology Package, the five-inch monitor grows to eight inches and gains a navigation system with voice recognition and improved surround sound system.
Fortunately, the more advanced system found in the Tech package remains simple and intuitive to use.
While the luxuries are nice, the RDX is still a functional SUV and needs to fulfill the utility portion of the title. The rear door opens high offering sufficient head clearance to the expansive opening. The low floor also aids loading and unloading and its 739 litres of cargo space allows you to carry more than average SUVs in this category. But suppose you need a bit more space, the rear seats split 60/40 and fold down conveniently with two releases for each seat; one on the shoulder of the seat and another just inside the cargo area. The seats fold down to increase the space to a generous 2,178 litres.
The 2013 RDX starts at $42,935 with an available Technology Package adding $3,000 to the asking price.
Standard equipment includes four-wheel ABS with EBD and brake assist, front and side curtain airbags with rollover sensor, tire pressure monitoring system with location and pressure indicators, Vehicle Stability Assist with traction control, eight-way power adjustable driver seat, four-way adjustable front passenger seat, heated front seats, five-inch colour information display, dual-zone automatic climate control system, Bluetooth with steering wheel-mounted controls,
SMS text message function and rearview camera.
The Technology Package adds an eight-inch LED backlit VGA display, navigation system with Voice Recognition, 410watt premium audio system, GPS-linked, solar-sensing, dual-zone automatic climate control system and power tailgate.
Fuel efficiency numbers are 10.7 l/100 km city and 7.3 l/100 km highway.
Quality interior materials and the easy-to-use electronics make the cabin a fine place to spend time, while under the hood improvements make the 2013 RDX vastly improved compared to its predecessor. The 2013 version simply feels more expensive.
The changes to the engine and transmission may be welcome but the new electric steering lacks feedback. Not much else to complain about. The bottom line
The new RDX represents a marked improvement over the previous model and it now represents a great luxury value that could really hurt the competitors' sales.
Competitors Audi Q5
The Audi has been the benchmark of the luxury small SUV segment for some time now and it is reasonably priced too, starting in the low $40,000s. The base 2.0litre, 211 h.p. turbocharged four-cylinder engine has less horsepower than the RDX but fuel economy numbers are similar: 10.6 l/100 km city and 7.7 l/100 km highway. The 2013 model also offers a supercharged 3.0 litre for extra power and performance.
The Audi Q5 is the truly grown-up option for those looking to settle into a luxury small SUV.
Starting at $39,900, the EX is cheaper but is also a little smaller (especially in the rear legroom area). It is, however, more posh than the RDX and it boasts slightly better handling. The 3.5-litre V-6 produces 297 h.p. while using 12.3 l/100 km in the city and 8.5 l/100 km on the highway.
If cargo space is less of a concern and you desire a more exhilarating commute, then the Infiniti is a notable alternative.
For those needing more cargo space the XC60 comes up trumps with 873 litres of cargo capacity. At $38,950, the Volvo's starting price is also lower than the RDX, however the base 3.2-litre inline six-cylinder trades a little horsepower with only 240 h.p. Also, the added weight hurts the fuel economy numbers: 11.2 l/100 km city and 7.8 l/100 km highway.
The only issue is the Volvo brand no longer represents the same level of luxury or performance as other brands such as BMW and Lexus.