DriveApart Review: 2013 Acura RDX

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Category: DriveApart

DriveApart Overview
The Acura RDX in its previous generation used to be a bit of the odd man out among luxury SUVs thanks to its turbocharged and rev-happy 4-cylinder engine, hot hatch levels of agility and somewhat lacking the utility of your average Lexus RX350. But for 2013 all that has changed as the RDX has now morphed into the son of MDX and now is the current sales leader for the brand thanks to a more tractable 3.5 liter 273 horsepower V6 and styling that is elegant instead of challenging. But will we like it? Read on to find out.

What We Like
If you have a family and responsibilities and routinely an SUV load of passengers and cargo, then the 2013 Acura RDX is a definite improvement over the original. It is also a nicely proportioned shape and the size of this SUV is near perfect meaning you won’t have trouble maneuvering tight parking lots as it could easily still squeeze into many compact spots. Our favorite part, however, is the new 3.5 liter V6 which offers up such ample power that it renders rivals like the Lexus RX, Mercedes GLK, BMW X3 and Audi Q5 2.0T which feel in comparison like bears caught up in so much molasses.

The roomy cargo space of the RDX.

What’s not to Like
To some, the unique powertrain and polarizing look of the first generation RDX are missed in this much more mainstream and in the end more appealing second generation variant. While we were fans of the last model’s turbocharged 4-cylinder, it wasn’t the most frugal motor when you kept the turbocharger on the boil but it made up for it with exceptional handling courtesy of Acura’s exemplary SH-AWD system. This second generation borrows a simpler full time all-wheel drive system as an option based on the unit used in the CR-V. Now, mainly it is just helpful in inclement weather and not on dry, twisty mountain roads. But then, aren’t those what your motorcycles are for?

Tow and Haul
Due to the lack of a specific “towing package,” even the all-wheel drive RDX model tested here is only listed as rated for 1,500 lbs. of tow capacity. We do understand that the RDX is based on CR-V mechanicals but we think that with the beefy 3.5 liter V6 with its 273 horsepower/251 lb. feet of torque could handle hauling a lot more with the proper equipment. Seems to us like an option opportunity missed by Acura.

The Drive
Admittedly, the 2013 Acura RDX has less of a VW GTI on stilts, hot hatch vibe when you are driving it but then again this version is smoother, quicker and just might have the superior steering system. No matter, the 2013 RDX’s helm communicates nicely especially considering this is an SUV and when mated to a smooth yet controlled ride you can always trust this thing will head where you point
it. Body roll is well kept in check and, yes, fun can be had with this luxury SUV if this is your daily driver.

The 3.5 liter V6.

Engine and Drivetrain
We absolutely loved the searing growl emanating from the sporty 3.5 liter V6 in the 2013 RDX with its 273 horsepower/251 lb. feet of torque channeled through a perfectly integrated standard 6-speed automatic. Shifts were smooth and there was never any hesitation or harsh triple downshifts like you can get with some 8-speed automatics we can think of just off hand. More gears don’t necessarily make for a better transmission just a more complicated one should it ever need repair. Seriously, how many gears do you need? Regardless, the 2013 Acura RDX always has plenty of power in reserve and never struggles like the motors in some versions of the BMW X3 and the Mercedes GLK.

Interesting Vehicle Features
When you order the Tech Package you not only get in-dash navigation but you also get a built in Zagat restaurant rating guide. So there’s no excuse when you own an RDX to eat at bad restaurants. Also, there is a voice activated system called “Song by Voice” which allows you to merely say aloud the song, artist or album you want to listen to that is on your iPod or the built in-music multi-gigabyte storage system and the car will start playing it without you having to touch a button.

Gas Mileage and Safety
The EPA rates the 2013 Acura RDX AWD at 19 city/27 highway and our led footed testers managed a still decent 22 miles per gallon but do keep in mind that Acura recommends Premium Unleaded only be used with this motor. The fuel tank is 16 gallons and the RDX was also named a “Top Safety Pick” in impact safety by the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety).

The Driver's view of the interior.

Interior and Exterior
The 2013 Acura RDX shares much of its appearance with the upcoming and now larger 2014 Acura MDX SUV so it’s not hard to tell what with its signature silver shield grille which brand sells this luxury vehicle. It is not too bold nor is it overly conservative an exterior design either so while you won’t get noticed often, it is a look that fits in anywhere.

The interior of the RDX is also very cleverly designed to maximize space efficiency and ease of use. The navigation system, for instance, is controlled by a rolling center dash mounted knob that makes entering addresses much easier than in a touchscreen unit. Interior materials are first rate with the plastics and leather looking ready for a decade of abuse. Cargo capacity behind the second row is 26.1 cubic feet and when the easy to fold second row goes flat you are left with 76.9 cubic feet of cargo room.

Pricing
Prices for the 2013 Acura RDX in front wheel drive form start at just $34,520 very generously equipped with leather covered powered and heated front seats, premium audio, back-up camera, dual zone climate control, Bluetooth, USB/iPod interface and pretty much everything else you need.

Our nicely loaded all-wheel drive tester came equipped with the tech package which brings the cost to $39,620 and adds a terrifically intuitive in-dash navigation system, the amazingly crisp and clear Acura/ELS super premium audio system, xenon headlamps, a power tailgate, a built in music hard drive and voice activation for most anything you might need to do besides steer the SUV. All in all, a similarly equipped Lexus RX would cost about $10,000 more.

The RDX in the setting sun.

The Verdict
While we love how the 2013 Acura RDX AWD drives on the road we can’t say we weren’t more than just a little disappointed with this luxury SUV and its 1,500 lb. tow rating. That will really limit you as far as how many or what kind of motorcycles you can haul especially when you have to consider the weight of your trailer as well. Otherwise, this is a spacious, well built, fun to drive and relatively affordable luxury SUV option.

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