2013 Acura RDX Review: What Is It
It is said that you only get once chance to make a first impression, but the 2013 Acura RDX proves that first impressions can be overrated. When the Acura RDX first came out in 2007, it was an edgier luxury crossover with a sportier attitude that attempted to stand out from the crowd, and it generally did... for all the wrong reasons. Now back for its second generation, the new 2013 Acura RDX has gone a little more mainstream while still keeping some of the edginess of the original model. Aside from the platform and name, the two RDXs share almost nothing with each other, which Acura is hoping will lead to increased sales. We had the chance to drive the 2013 Acura RDX for this weeklong road test and review to see how far a new suit, firmer handshake and a more confident smile can go in giving the RDX a much-needed second impression.
2013 Acura RDX Review: Pricing and Trim Levels
Assembled in East Liberty, Ohio, the 2013 Acura RDX is essentially offered in four different models (FWD, FWD w/ Tech Package, AWD and AWD w/ Tech Package) with a starting price of $34,320. The vehicle used for this review was the RDX FWD w/ Tech Package which starts at $38,020 adding only the $895 destination charge for an as-tested price of $38,915. Compared to the outgoing model, the 2013 Acura RDX has seen its base price increase by $1,425, but this new price still represents a decent savings when compared side-by-side with some of its key competitors and even fully equipped models are still priced well below the bigger Acura MDX.
2013 Acura RDX Review: What It's Up Against
The compact crossover segment continues to be one of the hottest vehicle segments, and the same is true for the higher end CUVs with the 2013 Acura RDX going up against the likes of the Lexus RX, Cadillac ZRX, Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class, Infiniti EX and the Audi Q5. While the previous RDX was marketed more as a niche, sporty crossover, the new 2013 Acura RDX is a more conventional utility vehicle aimed primarily at empty nesters. This new focus should help Acura take a bigger chunk of sales away from the segment-leading RX, and initial sales figures look promising with a 36 percent increase in sales so far this year compared to 2011. In fact, with May sales of 3,301 (a 192 percent increase over May 2011), the Acura RDX was actually among the top sellers in the luxury compact CUV segment.
2013 Acura RDX Review: Exterior
What's New for 2013:
- all-new exterior styling
- best interpretation of Acura's now-signature grille
How It Looks:
Like the 2013 Acura RDX itself, Acura's design language seems to have matured on this new crossover and the related and new ILX sedan. The large, metallic grille and angular headlights are still in place at the front of the Acura RDX, but this is easily the best interpretation of Acura's once-controversial grille. A more upright front end, larger fog light bezels and more pronounced front fender arches all help give the new RDX a look that seems much more in tune with other compact luxury crossovers. The rear end also gives the RDX a cleaner look, but admittedly, we miss the exposed dual outlet exhaust. As much as chrome is overused these days, the old RDX definitely need some exterior shine, so Acura tossed in some much-needed chrome accents around the daylight opening (DLO) and spanning between the taillights to complete the RDX's transformation from sport crossover to luxury crossover. Finally, a newly styled set of 18-inch, ten-spoke alloy wheels wrapped in all-season tires finish off the crossover's new upscale appearance. Opting for the RDX's Technology Package also includes fog lights and HID headlights as standard equipment.
2013 Acura RDX Review: Interior
What's New for 2013:
- styling is more luxury than sporty
- more passenger and cargo volume
- optional power liftgate
How It Looks and Feels:
One of the biggest shortcomings of the old RDX was its cramped quarters and plebian design, but Acura has definitely stepped up its game inside the 2013 Acura RDX with improved comfort and a much better interior design. Although the new RDX is only slightly longer and wider than the previous model, Acura has managed to squeeze in plenty of extra passenger space including more headroom, hip room and shoulder room for all passengers and some additional headroom for rear occupants; overall passenger volume and cargo volume are up for the 2013 RDX compared to the 2007-2012 model.
Aside from the gain in cabin space, the styling inside the new Acura RDX is downright impressive. The interior design of the old model looked like something that most buyers would expect in just about any compact crossover on the market, but the 2013 RDX benefits from an improved design and cabin materials that finally let this crossover look - and, more importantly, feel - like a luxury crossover. The front seats (wrapped in perforated leather) provide about the same level of support as the previous RDX's seats, but the rest of the cabin helps make them feel like more luxurious thrones. Improvements include soft-touch door panel inserts for armrests on all door panels, a more stylish dual-brow instrument panel design and a simpler center stack with fewer buttons. The coolest button of course is the bright red "engine start" button that brings the peppy V-6 to life. As far as technology goes, all RDX models come standard with Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, Bluetooth audio streaming with a Pandora interface and a USB port with iPod connectivity.
2013 Acura RDX Review: The Extras
All 2013 Acura RDX models come impressively equipped, but buyers looking for a little extra should check out the optional Technology Package that we were able to enjoy on our test vehicle. For the extra $3,700, the Acura RDX FWD with Technology Package adds in navigation, the upgraded Acura ELS Surround audio system, 15-gigabyte media storage, a power liftgate and a GPS-linked, solar-sensing temperature control (for when a dual-zone automatic climate control system just isn't enough). Sadly, while there is plenty of new technology offered on this new model, the 2013 RDX does not offer advanced features available on many crossovers in this class such as lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control or rain-sensing wipers. Overall, buyers should appreciate how simplified the new Acura RDX is to build with choices limited to exterior and interior colors, the Technology Package all-wheel drive and a handful of á la carte accessories.
2013 Acura RDX Review: Powertrain and Fuel Economy
What's New for 2013:
- ditches the turbo four for a more powerful, efficient V-6
- new six-speed automatic transmission
- electric power steering
How Does It Go:
In place of the turbocharged engine that came in the old model, the 2013 Acura RDX steps up to a more powerful and refined 3.5-liter V-6 as its sole powertrain producing 273 horsepower and 251 lb-ft of torque. This engine not only delivers smoother acceleration, it is also more efficient than the smaller engine it replaces thanks to its Variable Cylinder Management cylinder deactivation system. Our 2013 RDX FWD model had EPA fuel economy estimates of 20 miles per gallon in the city, 28 mpg on the highway and a rating of 23 mpg in combined driving, but adding the optional all-wheel drive will drop each of these figures by 1 mpg. Another big change for the new Acura RDX was the fact that Acura's advanced torque-vectoring Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system was replaced on the option list by the AWD with Intelligent Control which is smaller, lighter and more efficient than the previous system, but we did not have the chance to experience this system. In terms of downfalls that we noticed on the new RDX, it was pretty much limited to the 1,500-pound towing capacity that remains the same and is far behind rivals like the RX and SRX which both offer 3,500 of maximum capacity.
2013 Acura RDX Review: How It Drives
Just like the turbocharged engine and sport-oriented SH-AWD system, the new 2013 Acura RDX also has a much more refined ride quality. Buyers who are looking for the same corner-carving RDX that was previously offered might be disappointed, but we were still plenty impressed with its acceleration and handling capabilities. One of the new RDX's biggest advantages is its low curb weight which is about 20 pounds less than the old model, 500 pounds lighter than a BMW X3 and a whopping 600 pounds less than the Cadillac SRX. Enthusiastic drivers will surely miss the SH-AWD and responsive hydraulic power steering, but the new RDX improves its efficiency and drops weight using a lighter AWD system and an electric power steering system. Our front-wheel drive tester did a great job balancing comfort and sportiness when it came to the chassis and suspension tuning, but we were most impressed with how quiet this cabin is which Acura credits to addition sound insulation and a new noise cancellation system. Regardless of how Acura did it, this has got to be one of the quietest interiors among all crossovers and SUVs.
2013 Acura RDX Review: Is It Safe
Acura prides itself on safe vehicles, but while the redesigned 2013 Acura RDX has yet to be crash tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has already named the luxury crossover a 2012 Top Safety Pick. Standard safety features on all 2013 Acura RDX models include six airbags, active front head restraints, electronic brake-force distribution with brake assist, four-wheel anti-lock disc brake system, Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) with traction control system and tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS).
2013 Acura RDX Review: Final Thoughts
Much like Cadillac learned with its first-generation SRX, the 2013 Acura RDX seems to have figured out that the best way to stand out is sometimes just to fit in. Losing its aggressive suspension tuning, lag-happy turbocharged engine and the all-wheel drive system geared for performance driving, the new Acura RDX has become a more refined luxury vehicle and has seen initial sales increase dramatically with the new design. This might mean that buyers shopping for a sporty crossover might look elsewhere, the new RDX will surely be able to attract a growing number of "regular" buyers who just want a small utility vehicle with plenty of luxury. So far, the increase in sales is evident of this, but even after the newness wears off, the 2013 Acura RDX should be a much better weapon for Acura to take on this highly competitive segment.
2013 Acura RDX Review: Pros and Cons
- quiet interior
- added driving refinement
- more power from V-6 with smoother delivery
- improved fuel economy
- fewer cabin technologies compared to the segment
- not as nimble as previous RDX
- towing capacity trails newer rivals
Acura provided the vehicle for this review
Photos by Jeffrey N. Ross