2013 Acura RDX Road Test Review
The 2013 Acura RDX effectively balances functionality, luxury and value
Scores High: Refined demeanor, comfortable and spacious cabin, costs less than European competitors
Scores Low: Not as sporty or luxurious as European competitors
Total Car Score Analysis
For its second generation, the 2013 Acura RDX is all grown up. Acura has decided, based on the buyer demographics of its first-generation RDX, that this luxury crossover isn’t the vehicle of choice for young, hip urban dwellers. Instead, they see the target audience as dual-income, no kid (DINK) couples and empty nesters. As such, several trademark features from the last RDX are gone on the 2013 version. For instance, the former 2.3-liter turbocharged engine (the first turbo for an Acura product) has been swapped out for a normally-aspirated 3.5-liter V6. And the performance-oriented Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) has given way to a traditional (i.e. less sporty) all-wheel drive system.
Inside, the new RDX has greater passenger and cargo capacity along with high-tech features like push-button start, full iPod/iPhone integration and voice-activated text messaging. It also gets better fuel economy while costing less than many of its entry-luxury crossover competition. Does all this add up to a better Acura RDX for 2013? For the crossover’s new target audience the answer is undeniably “yes.”
Acura describes the new RDX as having “high contrast styling” but most buyers will find it relatively standard fare for the luxury crossover category. The traditional Acura “metallic-V” dominates the front end while a sloping roofline and rear spoiler lend it the tall “sporty wagon” appearance we’ve come to expect in this segment. The body does have a 5.8 percent lower co-efficient of drag compared to the previous model, and these smoother exterior panels conceal a more rigid frame that should help the RDX achieve top ratings in crash tests.
That same rigid frame is the basis for the 2013 RDX’s ride and handling improvements over the previous model. The MacPherson strut front suspension and multi-link rear suspension uses a new dual-piston shock design that is supposed to filter out pavement imperfections while providing responsive handling. In our test drive we noticed the RDX effectively neutralized all but the largest of bumps in the road, though enthusiast drivers will likely find the crossover’s handling less thrilling that its German competitors due to increased body roll.
A similar description (effective, if not thrilling) applies to the 2013 RDX’s engine performance, as its 3.5-liter V6 is fully capable of thrusting the Acura up to 60 mph in around 7 seconds. At 273 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque the larger engine is more powerful than the old turbo four cylinder, yet creative gearing in the six-speed automatic helps give the RDX better fuel economy as well. Rated at 20 mpg city, 28 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined with front-wheel drive, or 19/27/22 with available all-wheel drive, the RDX utilizes everything from variable cylinder management to electric power steering (not to mention that smoother body shell) to improve fuel efficiency.
Taken as a whole the 2013 Acura RDX achieves its goal of providing a confident and luxurious driving experience. Everything from subtle-yet-effective steering feel to hushed road noise contributes to its premium nature. However, when driven back-to-back against an Audi Q5 or BMW X3, it’s clear the German entries lean more toward the performance end of the premium crossover spectrum.
Interior Design and Function
If there’s an area where the Acura trumps its competition it comes in the form of effective space utilization. By widening the crossover’s track and extending its wheelbase during the redesign the new RDX offers not only confident handling but increased interior volume. Measurements in front leg room (42 inches), rear leg room (38.2 inches) and overall passenger volume (103.5 cubic feet), put it at the top of the entry-luxury crossover segment. Cargo volume behind the second-row seat is also up, as is the amount of storage options in the center console (including a rear seat storage pocket at the back of the center console).
Beyond its roomy interior the RDX provides comfortable seating and intuitive audio and climate controls. The metallic red engine “start” button, along with brushed aluminum trim between the dark upper and bright lower dash, contributes to an airy and upscale interior design. Once again, this is in stark contrast to the black, monotone interiors typically found in the German competition.
Primary Features and Options
Value is one of the traits Acura is banking on for the 2013 RDX, as the standard version includes many features that cost extra on competitive models. Items like 18-inch aluminum wheels, a power sunroof, leather seats, a rear camera and audible text messaging aren’t typically included in the base price, even for luxury vehicles. Stepping up to the one and only Technology Package ($3,700) adds navigation (with voice recognition), a 10-speaker ELS surround sound system with 410 watts and hard drive music storage, AcuraLink with traffic and weather alerts, a power tailgate and HID headlights.
It’s Perfect For…
While neither the most thrilling nor the most luxurious model in the entry-luxury crossover segment, the 2013 Acura RDX arguably offers the best value. Its target audiences comprises both the young, pre-kid couple and the older post-kid couple, neither of which is likely to be concerned over (or even aware of) the RDX’s relatively subdued performance.
Sure, the seat leather won’t feel as supple, the reaction from the throttle pedal won’t be as dramatic, and the body roll in corners won’t be as well controlled as the sportier models from Europe. But the monthly car payments won’t be as high and the included technology (either in base form or when ordered with the Technology Package) will feel like a lot of bang for the buck.
Vehicle Tested: 2013 Acura RDX All-Wheel Drive Luxury Crossover
Base MSRP of Test Vehicle: $34,320
Options on Test Vehicle: Technology Package (includes navigation, AcuraLink with weather and traffic alerts, Acura ELS Surround Sound Audio, GPS-Linked/Solar Sensing climate control, power tailgate, HID headlights, fog lights -- $3,700), Destination Charge ($885)
MSRP of Test Vehicle (including destination charge): $40,305
2013 Audi Q5
2013 BMW X3
2013 Cadillac SRX
2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK
The manufacturer provided Total Car Score this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Photos Courtesy of the manufacturer.