Read the full 2013 Acura RDX Review at AutoGuide.comNew RDX trades performance for, well, more of everything else
urn the key in the ignition and the crude powerplant comes to life like the firewall has all the sound deadening of a cardboard box. It's engaging but rather unrefined for a luxury machine. It is, however, a hoot to drive with a sophisticated all-wheel drive system and plenty of thrust from its turbocharged engine.
But this is not the 2013 Acura RDX. Rather, it's the car's predecessor, a 2012 model provided to journalists to gauge the level of improvement made to the all-new second generation compact luxury crossover during a launch event held in Scottsdale, AZ. A bold move by Acura, it's not unusual for an automaker to bring along a few competitive vehicles (in this case a BMW X3 and Audi Q5) to a drive event like this, but almost never is there a previous generation model, lest the improvements prove to be less than dramatic, or the previous generation car is better.
But "better" is a relative term. Acura targeted the first-generation at young urban males with a focus on performance and much less concern for fuel economy or ride quality - both of which the premium sport-cross lacked considerably. On sale for half a decade Acura's sales figures for the car reflect the fact that the folks in product planning got it all wrong. As a result, the RDX has done an about-face.
CAN COMPROMISE BE A GOOD THING?
Compromise may be valued in diplomacy, but in the auto industry it's a four-letter word. Still, every car is full of compromises, with success determined by a careful balance between opposing factors. The RDX is no different, although the creative minds at Acura prefer to replace "compromise" with what they call a "high contrast" philosophy.
Exactly what is being contrasted in the RDX? For starters there's the juxtaposition between fuel economy and performance, not to mention agile handling and ride quality, a dramatic design vs. a timeless one, and let's not forget compact size versus interior space - an area Honda brand vehicles (ZDX aside) always excel in.
Starting on the outside, the RDX, like all modern Acuras, has moved away from the brand's controversial styling cues of recent memory. Its lines are unlikely to wow anyone, just as they're also designed not to offend, with far too much CR-V in the window design. Larger than its predecessor, it's now much harder to distinguish it from the MDX. That perception of exterior size will, likely, help sell a few extra units. If the RDX does have a best angle, like much of the rest of the Acura lineup, it's from the rear.
The proportions are misleading, however, as the RDX is no wider than before, although its wheels have been brought out by roughly an inch side to side. Less of a handling gain, this helps deliver a more stable ride on the highway. With a new shock setup, further comfort gains are made by using slightly higher profile 235/60/18 tires.
It is an inch longer overall with an extra inch and a half between the wheels, although despite a more imposing presence on the road, it's actually a touch (5mm) lower overall. As a result, the center of gravity has been improved.