Edgy RDX Challenges Crossover Competitors | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 14 June 2012 14:28

Acura’s 2013 model features a peppy 3.5-liter V6 engine

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The 2013 Acura RDX boasts a sleek, more aerodynamic body, evolving the second-generation RDX from a sporty, compact SUV to a more formal SUV appearance with a longer, sculpted hood.

By Steve Schaefer

San Leandro Times

I just spent a week with the 2013 Acura RDX. All-new but familiar at the same time, it’s a compact luxury crossover, combining the practicality of a wagon and the tall proportions of an SUV with all the comforts of an upscale sedan. Lots of folks buy crossover vehicles now, because they seem to provide for every need. On the family tree, it’s the junior sibling to Acura’s midsize MDX and a cousin to the Honda CR-V.

This is Acura’s latest salvo in the battle for moderate-sized families with larger-than-moderate incomes who might be shopping the Lexus RX, BMW X3 or Infiniti EX. Yes, there is a battle in that segment — as there seems to be in every part of the auto industry these days.

The RDX’s face shows the evolving concepts from Honda’s upscale division. The sharp beak that appeared a few years ago is relaxing throughout the line, and this new car has a softly formed crossbar that might not be out of place on a 1950’s vehicle (but coated in real chrome in that case, not faux brushed nickel). The overall body shape is edgy — the Acura look for today — and fits into the corporate family portrait just fine.

Inside, more edges everywhere — the styling is overt and even a little overwrought. There is a carefully integrated set of aggressive shapes all over the door panels, for example. To keep this from becoming a distraction, Acura has rendered all of the surfaces all the same matte “Ebony,” which would feel a little sober if not for the energy contained in the shapes themselves.

The driving experience is just as stimulating as the design. There’s plenty of pep when you step on the gas pedal, thanks to a 3.5-liter V6 that churns out 273 horsepower. The six-speed automatic transmission provides smooth shifting and also allows you to select the gears — a common arrangement today.

The EPA rates the new RDX at 19 City, 27 Highway, with an average of 22 mpg.   I averaged 20.8 mpg in my test week, which was significantly freeway driving. Green Vehicle Guide numbers are 5 for both Greenhouse Gas and Air Pollution — right in the middle.

Getting nearly 21 miles per gallon is OK, but I’d just stepped out of a hybrid test car and it seemed like I spent more time at the gas pump than I should with the RDX. But last week’s tester, at just over half the price of the Acura, didn’t supply any of the performance, comfort or the styling of the RDX.

You can get the RWD in front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive configurations. Mine was the latter, and it was inconspicuous. It would be nice to avoid putting on chains on the roads to the ski resorts, I guess.

061412a2My car also had the Tech Package, which added things Acura seekers covet, such as a navigation system with voice recognition, Real-Time Traffic and Weather, and a 10-speaker Surround-Sound audio system. I got spoiled with all that, and actually used the Real-Time Traffic when things clogged up on my morning commute. It told me where the problems were and described the issues — a small comfort, but at least it left no mystery. I dug deeper into the sound system to calm myself as traffic slowly inched along.

The RDX is built in East Liberty, Ohio, with 65 percent U.S. and Canadian parts. It has an American engine and transmission. It used to be that only the Civic and Accord were built in the U.S. Questions of whether Japanese or American manufactured vehicles were different appear to have subsided. These cars are good.

The RDX is an upscale vehicle. My Crystal Black Pearl test car came to $40,315, which seems like a lot. I guess when you add in all the goodies it totals up fast. There’s really nothing I can think of that was lacking. The least you can pay for one of these is $35,215; just drop the all-wheel drive and the Tech package.

The crossover SUV configuration is very handy, which is why it’s so popular today. The Acura RDX is enhanced with remote levers in the rear compartment that let you drop the second-row seats while you’re standing at the liftgate — without opening the side doors at all. And, with a 1/3 by 2/3 split in the second-row seating, I could slide in my upright bass and still leave room for one rear-seat passenger. That’s a bonus.

Despite its intense interior design, the RDX is very comfortable, and I got happier and happier in it as the week went by. There are some things you just don’t get in a $25,000 car that a $40,000 one is more than able to supply.

 

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