In the compact luxury SUV world there really doesn’t seem to be room for the Molly Brown types of the world anymore if you were to look at the banal offerings from BMW (the X3), Lexus (RX) or Mercedes-Benz (their bargain basement GLK which feels about as well built inside as a flooded Midwestern basement which once offered “views of the Mississippi River). So has the 2013 Acura RDX been given the “mainstream appeal” treatment to the detriment of what made the original so special? In some ways yes, but in other ways this compact luxury SUV is all the better buy and the smarter design because of it.
Sure, it may wear rather “conservative” fashions that ex-first lady Laura Bush would like to see her wild child daughters start wearing but we found that the sporty, engagingly fun to drive heart still beats under the more sedate lines of the 2013 Acura RDX. You may now shop at stores like Lane Bryant but that doesn’t mean it has to kill your spirit. The 2013 Acura RDX proves that by offering up everything we expected and a whole lot more. Read on for more details!
What’s New for 2013? Pricing, Choice, Features and Value!
The 2013 Acura RDX is completely restyled inside and out and is aiming for a larger chunk of the compact luxury SUV pie. Cue a toned down front grille/beak and mini-MDX luxury SUV styling cues making this little puppy ready-made to tackle the upscale gated communities of our great nation. The interior is solidly built but this year feels much roomier especially around the driver’s knees while cargo hauling ability is also improved thanks to improved cargo hold accessibility.
[Also all new for 2013 on the RDX is a standard 3.5 liter i-VTEC 273 horsepower/251 lb. feet of torque V6 mated to the familial 6-speed automatic that does service in the latest TL and MDX. Last year Acura bucked luxury brand convention and only offered the RDX with a turbocharged and less fuel efficient 4-cylinder motor. For 2013 power and torque figures are way up and EPA fuel economy estimates are 19 city/27 highway/22 combined for all-wheel drive models and 20 city/28 highway/23 combined for front drive RDX models.
Lastly, the other big change made by Acura to the 2013 RDX was to stop offering its highly sophisticated SH-AWD system which made the last generation SUV such a tremendous handler on twisting roads. Instead, to keep a lower cost of entry into RDX ownership, Acura is offering a simpler, more efficient and less sport minded full-time all-wheel drive set-up much like the one used in the 2012 Honda CR-V
The 2012 Acura RDX
will go on sale here on April 2, 2012 and production will be handled exclusively at Honda/Acura’s East Liberty, Ohio production facility. Base front-wheel drive RDX models start at just $34,320 with AWD bumping the price to $35,720. The only factory option is the “Tech Package” which gives buyers in-dash navigation, a power rear tailgate, HID headlamps and Acura’s nearly essential ELS Surround Sound 410-watt audio system with 15-GB of songs storage—truly the Acura/ELS upgrade is something any music lover must spring for at least once in their car buying
life. Front wheel drive Tech Package equipped models are $38,020 whereas all-wheel drive keeps you under $40,000 with an MSRP of $39,420.
Now that we have reported all of that we dare you to head down to your local Audi dealer for a lookie-loo at the Q5 3.2 liter V6 model or Lord almighty a BMW X3
anywhere near equipped like this 2013 Acura RDX in base trim (leather seats, power/heated front seats, multi-view back up camera, power moonroof, Pandora, Bluetooth, USB/i-Pod integration, 18-inch alloys, a key-less start/go system and everything a self-respecting luxury brand buyer would expect.
Funny, but BMW and Audi still charge extra for Bluetooth and USB/i-Pod integration on many of their models which we think many level headed moms we know might refer to as, “blue eyed bandito-style highway robbery.” Or perhaps that’s just our moms who tend to be, shall we say, a bit more colorful with how they word things? Blue eyed banditos or no, offerings from Audi, Lexus and BMW as priced ridiculously for the amount of content included. But then, you get that logo which may be the one thing missing in your soul that will finally makes you feel complete, centered and meaningful.
Not that we would judge that “need for luxury SUV validation,” but we have always liked Acura’s for being luxurious and sporty without being obnoxiously in your face about it. Acura models are more affordable, are easy to specify thanks to simple options packages and their maintenance costs run far below the industry average even after your “special warranty” runs out. Just ask a BMW owner whose 4 year/50,000 breakdown and maintenance plan just expired and you will understand what we are talking about.
Acura covers mechanical failures for that same length of time but does not offer free maintenance but having had personal experience with this brand we can guarantee that routine oil changes and inspections never seemed much higher than those found at mainstream brand dealers. And Acura dealers always have better snacks and coffee machines which, you have to admit, is part of the luxury brand appeal.
Exterior and Interior Design Impressions
Acura seemingly can’t win with the automotive media when it comes to how it approaches exterior styling and the 2013 Acura RDX is a fine example of that. Cases in point: when the TL, RDX, MDX, ZDX and TSX all had the very pronounced silver shield beak designs out front on their individual noses and auto journalists screamed that it was time Acura brought its “children” in to the plastic surgeon for some rhinoplasty. Now that’s okay when we do it to a child actor or celebrity we don’t like but to force a poor and innocent luxury car
to have surgery is as inexcusable as Lindsay Lohan’s acting ever since she peaked in “Mean Girls.”
Under pressure to not alienate buyers and keep sales going strong for this second go round, Acura toned down the front logo so it now sits flush with the hood on most models and this “new look” was first shown off to the world with the unveiling of the mid-cycle refresh for the current 2012 TL sedan. Now, some have said that lopping off an Acura’s schnoz was akin to “Dirty Dancing” star Jennifer Grey decided to get a nose job which so famously ended her acting career as no one recognized her afterwards without that one very distinguishing characteristic. To us, if you worry that much about how you look inside your car perhaps you need to see a plastic surgeon or a therapist.
Now, there is nothing wrong with the way the 2013 RDX looks but it’s just that we had personally come to love the youthfully brash, in your face look of the old RDX and how menacingly evil it looked when specified with black exterior paint and the black interior. Truly, that SUV was designed for VW GTI owners who needed something bigger but always carried around within them a desire to be at least half as bad-ass as Darth Vader. Or something like that. We, of course, thought nothing of the sort.
While the 2013 Acura RDX may appear a tad more suburban and family friendly, do make no mistake that this was no accident. Acura learned through extensive research that compact luxury SUV buyers were usually couples looking to or who had already started a family. They were not, unfortunately, the single, cool Gen-Y hipsters who lived in lofts and loved turbocharged engines as Acura imagined would be the average buyer of the first generation RDX. Anyone ever think that companies are really just taking wild guesses when it comes to whether or not their car will resonate with certain buyers? Hopefully we aren’t the only ones who think that and Acura is not the only brand guilty of this kind of car buying guesswork.
So while Acura is sure that this 2013 RDX will resonate with both “Empty Nesters” and “D.I.N.K.S.” (Double Income, No Kids), one part of this vehicle’s interior will have [everybody cheering and that is its class leading front/rear legroom and front/rear shoulder room measurements. Truly, sitting anywhere in the RDX is a pleasant and comfortable affair with ease of entry/exit aided by notably larger door cutouts front and rear. Lastly, the 2013 Acura RDX also boasts 76.9 cubic feet of storage space when you fold the split 60/40 rear seat which is an improvement of 16.3 cubic feet over last year’s model. Unless you absolutely need a third row, the RDX should be big enough for most [families who can’t afford an MDX.
Otherwise, interior material quality is top notch leaving nothing lacking in regards to luxury feel for those tempted to buy a Lexus
, Audi or BMW that can easily cost $10,000-$15,000 more for a similarly equipped model. Really, one of the greatest luxuries afforded by the RDX is that you don’t have to go through a ridiculously expensive, confusing and long options list for your new compact luxury SUV only to find there aren’t any models configured that way coming in any time soon. With Acura’s simple optioning system, it’s easier to get the model you want in the color you want right at your local dealership.
Driving Impressions and Expected Safety
Thanks to the increased use of high tensile steel throughout the body of the 2013 Acura RDX which helps improve lateral chassis rigidity by 142%, Acura is quite confident that their latest luxury SUV will get top safety marks from both NHTSA and the IIHS. This SUV also now boasts a lower center of gravity, a longer wheelbase and wider rear track which all help to minimize body roll around corners and increase the 2013 RDX’s high speed stability.
Now, all this talk would be fine, dandy and utterly without merit if we didn’t actually enjoy our very, very long drive across a multitude of diverse desert terrains. You know things are going badly during a press launch drive when you are, in fact, counting the miles until you get back to the hotel. Thankfully, the newly much more refined 2013 Acura RDX not only struck us as very smooth riding but it also managed to hug the curvier sections of the cactus and McMansion lined Arizone back roads better than most every SUV we have ever driven. Yes, dear readers, the RDX still feels a bit like the corner pub hooligan always itching to get into a bit of a scrape and relive that misspent youth but somehow now he has a job on Wall Street and wears custom made Italian suits.
As is the case with any Acura, the RDX’s suspension tuning is nothing short of exemplary with only the Lexus RX absorbing bumps better but with the penalty being a sensation that you just ran over the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Thanks for the 2013 RDX’s “ride and handling magic” comes from its new Amplitude Reactive Damper System which automatically adjusts back and forth between a comfort and sporty setting based on changing road conditions. Unlike other luxury brands with adjustable dampers, the driver never has to go into a submenu to pick which suspension setting is right for that particular moment. Honestly, four damper settings is a confusing overabundance of choice to most drivers so we like Acura’s approach here.
As is also always the case with most every Acura, the steering feel is perfectly set-up for comfortable long distance cruising as well as to be very responsive when cornering aggressively. Although Acura lightened most of the braking system components in the 2013 Acura RDX as a way to slightly lower the curb weight of last year’s model, pedal feel was always strong without even the slightest hint of fade in the Arizona desert heat.
But as we have said earlier and will no doubt say again, the 2013 Acura RDX’s trump card is found in the snarling noises that emanate from the deceptively powerful 3.5 liter i-VTEC V6 that is now standard with this vehicle. Not only does the V6 aid in cruising speed refinement but it also gives the RDX an effortless ability to pass most other traffic which is rare in any SUV. Lastly, let us repeat again what an awesome noise that this engine makes as it rockets you in a heady rush to the redline.
Thank goodness that 6-speed automatic is there to cool things off and lower the engine speed with a well-timed upshift. Frankly, this 6-speed autobox may lack 8 or 9 gears but we would rather have this telepathic and transparent unit and the knowledge that we don’t have such a ridiculous number of gears that try and keep in mind may one day need replacing.
The 2013 Acura RDX is a smart, safe, supremely spacious yet still very sporting compact luxury SUV choice that should find wide appeal in the marketplace thanks to savvy pricing and an inescapable family friendly appeal. However, we are glad to report that this compact luxury SUV exists as further proof that Acura still can engineer excellent steering, ride, handling and engine tuning compromises into any of its models ensuring their appeal to both the enthusiast and quiet seeking luxury lover.
The RDX was one of the first compact luxury SUVs on the market and its unique take on that concept is still being felt today. On the winding back roads of Sedona, Arizona we happily discovered that even when Acura puts on a more conservative looking evening gown as part of one of its core model redesigns that we should never assume that they would give up on involving and engaging the driver in what should be considered by all the ultimate luxury—true driver enjoyment behind the wheel.
Admittedly, the 2013 Acura RDX may not be wearing a wild-looking mid-1970’s Halston gown as its exterior style statement but it looks tasteful and elegant in an understated way that reminds us very much of Vera Wang circa 2012. So while we apparently aren’t hip enough to the looks of these conservatively styled times, the 2013 Acura RDX is nothing but the best compact luxury SUV available for the price right now and we think that this is very important news for every new car buyer’s bottom line.
What we Love About the 2013 Acura RDX
- The interior Feels Much Roomier than Last Generation, Design and Build Quality Feel also is a Step Up from last RDX, Junk Hauling Ability Much Improved by Easier to Access and Larger Cargo Hold
- More Efficient, More Powerful and Sporty Sounding Standard 3.5 Liter 273 horsepower/251 lb. feet of torque V6 engine is more Powerful than the Competition and comes Mated to an Ultra-Smooth 6-speed Automatic Gearbox that was Lifted from the TL and MDX.
- Interior Noise, Vibration and Harshness Levels Vastly Improved Yet Acura Lets the Sporty and Fun Noises Into the Cabin so You Won’t Think You Have Been Buried Alive in a Leather-lined Sarcophagus.
What We Loathe About the 2013 Acura RDX
- Acura played it safe with this model’s all new exterior redesign but that’s the norm in this class.
- No Inclusion of High Tech SH-AWD System for superior dry/wet weather handling but rather 2013 Acura RDX uses low friction, high efficiency, low cost all-wheel drive mechanicals taken from 2012 CR-V to keep costs down.
- Someone needs to figure out a way so customers can upload all songs from MP3 players onto multi-gigabyte in-dash song store units. Loading all of your CDs in and out is so…1993. You could picture Alicia Silverstone from the era-specific film “Clueless” spending hours on this project. And we really don’t want our new suv making us feel as dumb as Alicia Silverstone circa 1993.