2013 Acura RDX
2013 Acura RDX. Click image to enlarge

First Drive: 2013 Acura RDX
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Manufacturer’s web site
Acura Canada

Review and photos by Grant Yoxon

Photo Gallery:
2013 Acura RDX

Acura’s luxury compact SUV, the RDX, has grown up. It is no longer the exuberant adolescent. It has become a quiet, confident adult.

With a peppy turbocharged four-cylinder engine, tight suspension, and Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD), the first-generation RDX (2007–2012) appealed to drivers and affluent young buyers. But Acura wanted to appeal more to a slightly older demographic—pre-family couples and empty nesters, predominantly—people who are often more affluent than the young. To get a look from this more mature buyer, the RDX had to mature as well.

These buyers might have traditionally shopped the mid-size segment, including the MDX, but as fuel prices rise and even wealthy people become a little concerned about waste, these folks are shopping down. But they want the same level of comfort, just in a more fuel efficient package.

2013 Acura RDX
2013 Acura RDX. Click image to enlarge

Acura hopes the changes made to the RDX for 2013 give these buyers what they are looking for. The luxury compact SUV/CUV segment is heating up with competition from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Infiniti, and Audi, and more are probably coming.

And what does more mature mean for an SUV? For the RDX it means increased comfort, both on the road and inside the cabin, a more powerful, more fuel efficient, and smoother operating engine, and increased utility.

For owners of the old RDX who might be looking to renew, it could mean disappointment.

Both comfort and utility start with an imperceptibly larger vehicle: the RDX is 25 mm (1 in.) longer and higher, a hair’s width wider and runs on a wheelbase that is 35 mm (1.4 in.) longer than previous. Nothing that you would really notice.

2013 Acura RDX
2013 Acura RDX. Click image to enlarge

But the exterior has been seriously smoothed out and tweaked to cut the air more cleanly and to appeal to a ‘better’ clientele. If the old RDX was comfortable in jeans and a T-shirt, this new model prefers a jacket and tie. But it is all about meeting expectations and the 2013 Acura RDX is certainly dressed to impress with 18-inch 5-spoke aluminum wheels, matching Star Wars grille, and chrome window surrounds. I wondered if it was enough to distinguish itself from a well-dressed Honda CR-V, a lesser vehicle with which it has much in common.

To find out, one must lift the hood, then get behind the wheel.

While the CR-V has always had a four-cylinder engine to pull it along, the RDX benefited from a turbocharger that enabled its four cylinder to reach 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque—really good numbers for a four-cylinder. Naturally with torque like that the RDX would jump off the line. But it was also known to be a bit thirsty for a four.

Under the hood of the 2013 RDX is a big surprise, big as in a 3.5L, normally aspirated, single overhead cam V6 with 273 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque. Considering most of us believe fewer cylinders use less fuel, this seems odd.

2013 Acura RDX
2013 Acura RDX. Click image to enlarge

This 3.5L engine really does use less fuel than the 2.3L four, and by a little more than 1.0 L/100 km. Energuide rates the 2013 Acura RDX at 11.7 L/100 km city and 8.7 L/100 km highway. In a few days of around-town driving, I recorded a respectable 9.2 L/100 km on the car’s driver information centre.

What the 3.5L loses in low-end grunt—and really nine lb-ft of torque is nothing—it more than makes up for with its smooth, strong and quiet operation. It is quick enough when pushed and passing is impressive, but at highway speed it is way more relaxed and quiet than the old turbo-four.

The larger engine also makes the car feel more refined, more mature, even more expensive. The new RDX has the kind of quiet, confident power one expects with a luxury SUV. It makes the compact RDX feel more like a mid-size SUV.

To get the fuel consumption numbers down, the 3.5L engine has been combined with an efficient six-speed transmission that has one goal in mind, to get the vehicle into the highest overdrive gear as quickly as possible. Should that not be your goal, the steering wheel–mounted paddle shifters put you in control.

And once in top gear, completely unbeknownst to the driver, the RDX’s engine management will shut down two or three cylinders, depending on the engine load, to save fuel. I didn’t realize this until reading about it after the road test.

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