They Cost the Same But Which is Better?
You may think that comparing these two medium sized, luxuriously equipped midsize family SUVs would be an exercise in futility as premium shoppers never cross shop mainstream brands. Besides, there is just no way that a Ford can cost about the same as a fancy pants luxury brand SUV from Acura, right? Well, the truth of the matter, as we recently discovered, is that both the 2013 Edge Limited AWD and the 2013 Acura RDX all-wheel drive model with the Tech option both sticker for just a bit over $40,000 fully loaded with a similar amount of goodies.
And on paper the Ford lacked for nothing when it came to competing with the Acura in engine power, utility, luxury features and even a touch of upscale style. Could it be true that the Acura RDX only seems superior because of its “luxury” brand badging? Well before you head off and blow $40,000 on your next family SUV be sure you know whether or not you are going to buy the best vehicle or just the one that might impress your neighbors more. Who knows? It could do both.
Our 2013 Ford Edge midsize family SUV was thoroughly overhauled for the 2011 model year so no changes are on the immediate horizon. That’s a good thing as we like the way the Edge looks. We also like the understated regal flow of Acura’s most recent exterior designs as well, with the 2013 RDX proving no exception.
But when buyers are shelling out $40,000 for a very luxurious and upscale family SUV, it is important that they don’t appear as offensive looking as the kin of child pageant/reality TV star Honey Boo Boo Child. But do trust us when we say that both of these are very handsome looking SUVs. In this case, however, it’s a close call but we give the nod to the more aggressive looking Edge. (Advantage: 2013 Ford Edge)
Interior Design, Layout and Execution
We mentioned that the Edge went under the knife recently for work on its exterior appearance but it was also treated to a full interior refresh which was at worst disastrous and at best misguided. First, they made no changes to the painfully flat front driver and passenger seats and they managed to introduce one of the most un-intuitive on board infotainment systems which served as an upgrade to Ford’s already impressive Sync called it MyFordTouch.
While the phone connectivity and voice activation functionality of the system is still top notch, controlling song selection functions via the center screen is less than straightforward as the arrow for scrolling through song playlists on your iPod is so small that it is hard to hit it accurately as you are driving. In fact, many of the touch screen buttons are small or don’t react very quickly when you hit them. It’s a niggle we have that could potentially cause an accident due to driver distraction.
In the 2013 Edge there are also two individual LCD electronic pods ahead of the driver in the dash where you can display navigation, phone, and audio functions or even program it to display an electronic tachometer. Unfortunately, the electro-tachometer was about as realistic as the one you used to see in the old 1980’s arcade game “Pole Position.” In addition, scrolling through the multitude of submenus via the steering wheel mounted controls means a lot of time with your eyes off the road when you want to use a different function.
We are sure Ford and Microsoft will no doubt fix this system which not only froze up twice in our tester but was also usually molasses-slow to respond. The few buttons found on the center stack are tiny and clearly meant for use by toddlers. Interior trim quality is impressive for a mainstream brand offering but won’t worry Lexus very much.
Interior trim quality and electronics system user friendliness in the RDX is unquestionably superior to the Edge and even cargo volume readings for both SUVs are within two cubic feet of each other. That’s true with the seats up or down, mind you. In other words, either the RDX or Edge will offer enough room for five with class competitive amounts of storage space.
Now even though the Ford’s interior quality isn’t as good as the Acura’s, only one interior design element horrified us to our very core. What do we speak of, you ask? The horrifically unrealistic wood trim that looked like it once belonged in a Lincoln coupe from the 1970’s. Perhaps Ford just found some left over in a warehouse and recycled it? (Advantage: 2013 Acura RDX)
Driving Impressions, Safety and Economy
No matter where we looked, both the Edge and RDX seemed to score top ranks be it either from the IIHS or NHTSA. Their roof strength levels are also high so in a rollover accident you will and your passengers should still be safe providing you are wearing seat belts! And not texting. (Advantage: Tie)
Driving Impressions and Fuel Economy
The RDX’s new 3.5 liter 272 horsepower V6 engine is not only a sporty sounding powerhouse but it also beats the Edge’s powerful yet oddly characterless sounding 3.5 liter 285 horsepower V6 when it comes to fuel economy. The Edge lags one mile per gallon behind the Acura in both city and highway rankings according to the EPA and during our week with each SUV we averaged 20.4 in the RDX and 18 miles per gallon in the Edge.
The Edge does have a very smooth and absorptive ride with wind and tire roar kept down to a minimum at all times even on LA’s roughest freeway sections. The engine is also very quiet on the motorway so this would make a very capable road trip car. But then, the identical thing could be said about the RDX which for 2013 is much more serene inside to drive. We do like, however, that Honda/Acura allowed the glorious engine noise to seep into the cabin when we were driving aggressively.
But when you start to push the Edge even a little bit past its performance comfort zone you will find steering feel that is more wooden than George Washington’s false teeth and a suspension that crashes and wallows during aggressive driving maneuvers. We know these two are just SUVs but only the Edge really drives like one. Thankfully, both the Ford and Acura have very smooth and imperceptible 6-speed automatics that equal the best in class.
But in the end, it was clear that the 2013 Acura RDX drove circles around the haplessly uncoordinated Ford Edge which is sad because the Blue Oval did a decent job of making this SUV appear sporty. The RDX’s steering feel compared to the Edge is so much more direct, communicative and pleasurable that it alone stands as a perfectly suitable reason to buy the Acura. The RDX’s stronger engine, smoother ride as well as greater cornering confidence all conspired to ensure the 2013 Ford Edge’s demise in this category. (Advantage: 2013 Acura RDX)
Conclusions and the Winner
In case you couldn’t add up the category wins, we’ll make it easy for you and say that the 2013 Acura RDX simply outclassed the Edge Limited and not just because of its premium logo. But the Edge is still a very family friendly SUV choice for those people out there who don’t really care for driving. It does the job and can get you from point A to point B.
But think about it for just a moment, now won’t you? You can get a 2013 Acura RDX for about $200 less than the Edge Limited we road tested. Hey, that can at least buy you the gas money for a fun Las Vegas road trip with your friends. That won’t leave enough money to buy tickets to see Cirque du Soleil, mind you, but it will be a fine opportunity to show your friends that you are, in fact, better than them. Isn’t that the point of buying an SUV from a premium brand nowadays? Clearly people aren’t being put off by the exorbitant pricing compared to mainstream brands. (The Winner: 2013 Acura RDX)
Other Medium Sized SUVs to Consider
In the mainstream field, excellent options include the 2013 Toyota Venza V6 or a 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee with Chrysler’s talented new Pentastar V6 as both can easily push to the $40,000 mark when loaded to the gills with features. Avoid the 2013 Nissan Murano if at all possible as its driving dynamics are hindered by a CVT automatic that neuters all performance you might hope for from its 3.5 liter V6 which once served in the mighty Z sport coupe.
On the luxury front, you might not be able to afford the optional V6 engine and get all the features you desire, but you can get a decently peppy 2013 Audi Q5 2.0T with a responsive and refined 2.0 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder mated to an 8-speed automatic. Also, don’t forget 2013 is the first year that GMC is offering a fully pimped out Denali V6 version of its already excellent Terrain SUV. Or if you want to save some money, check out the 2013 Kia Sorento SX whose excellent 3.5 liter V6 and 10 year warranty may help keep you from noticing some of the interior plastics that are less than upscale.