5th Place: 2013 Acura RDX, by Mike Schlee

2013 Acura RDX
2013 Acura RDX
2013 Acura RDX. Click image to enlarge

Four of the luxury crossovers showed up for this comparison test dressed in their best suit and tie; the X3, GLK, EX 37 and Q5 all featured their own brand of distinct, alluring styling that screamed “I am premium!”  The Acura RDX, on the other hand, looked like it just woke up from an afternoon nap and still sported a white t-shirt and sweat pants.  This isn’t to say the RDX is ugly, but it’s so much plainer, and lacks any flair or prestige in its design, that it could easily gets lost in the crowd with the likes of the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, Ford Escape and Volkswagen Tiguan; not good for a premium brand.  But being the plain Jane of the luxury compact crossover segment isn’t enough to be relegated to the back of the pack, there must be more; and sadly for the RDX, there is.

But before we get to that, let’s talk about the good.  The RDX is the largest vehicle of this group in both length and height, and it accordingly felt very spacious and airy inside.  It was rated best in test for rear seat comfort with three abreast as well as the king in cargo carrying abilities.  The front seats were rated as some of the most comfortable in the test thanks to the soft, premium feeling leather, and the rest of the interior materials are of great quality; on par with most of the competitors and better than those found in the BMW X3.

The HVAC and infotainment controls are logically placed and easy enough to use, but they look about a generation behind in terms of design.  This dated theme continues with all of the menu, infotainment and audio screens, with the exception of the navigation screen, which looks to be more like two generations behind.

But where the RDX really fell behind was on the road.  In our eight ‘mechanical’ categories, which include things like drivetrain, easy to drive, fun to drive, ride comfort, handling, etc, the RDX finished last six times.  The suspension was the weakest point as it offers a rough ride that clumps harshly over large bumps.  The usual trade-off for a stiff ride is good handling, but here the RDX also finished at the back of the pack.  The word ‘unrefined’ kept creeping up when comparing the general ride of the RDX to the other four crossovers in this test.

The 273-hp 3.5L V6 is powerful and responsive, providing more than enough thrust for this crossover.  The gearbox, however, feels a bit outclassed here, not just due to the fact it gives up a gear or two to all of its competitors, but also in operation.  It is potentially the least refined of the group and was as sluggish as the Infiniti’s seven-speed unit.  It is also shocking that a Honda product can have steering this loose and disconnected; at times it does not feel like the wheel in your hands is connected to the front wheels.

2013 Acura RDX2013 Acura RDX2013 Acura RDX2013 Acura RDX
2013 Acura RDX. Click image to enlarge

Having read this, you might think the RDX is a poor vehicle; it is not.  In this company it is just overmatched.  However, with an as-tested price undercutting the rest of the competition here by $6,000 to $10,000, the RDX is a great deal.  This raises the question of whether or not this deal is good enough to overcome the RDX’s shortcomings in looks, content and refinement.  In our opinion the answer is no.  But potential shoppers in this segment should ponder it, especially those who value, well, value and practicality over any dynamic facets.

Pricing: 2013 Acura RDX Tech
Base price (Tech): $43,990
Options: None
Freight: $1,945
A/C Tax: $100
Price as tested: $46,035

Observed fuel consumption: 12.6 L/100 km

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