2013 Acura RDX AWD Tech review: Even better

2013 Acura RDX AWD Tech

2013 Acura RDX AWD Tech

The 2013 Acura RDX marks the second generation of Acura’s midsize entry-luxury crossover, and as such it’s almost all-new. Almost? Well, we’ll get to that. But Acura has not only updated the styling, the engineering and powertrain, it’s also changed the target market.

Not a lot, though. The target buyer of the 2013 has moved slightly upscale.  The first generation RDX was aimed at, according to Acura, “young professionals who were early in their career, without kids, who participated in a very active lifestyle, and who preferred a vehicle with a decidedly sport-minded driving characteristic.”

Acura refocused the 2013 RDX, however, to a slightly older age bracket (early 30s versus late 20s) and to married with almost children.  The 2013 buyer “will likely be well into their career and have a higher household income”–$125,000 versus $100,000. Acura has tailored the 2013 RDX for “sport minded driving” but the new RDX “also prioritizes increased comfort (with strong emphasis on premium interior appointments) and increased utility.”

2013 Acura RDX AWD Tech drive'r seat and dash

The 2013 Acura RDX dash is dominated by the large hood over the info screen. (click to enlarge)

The price has gone up in six years. In 2007, the Acura RDX with the tech package listed for $37,615, including destination fee. The equivalent 2012 Acura AWD Tech that we tested had a delivery-included bottom line of $40,315, including delivery.

That new price includes a new engine for the model. While the first generation was powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder, the 2013 Acura RDX comes standard with a 3.5-liter V-6. The six-cylinder makes more horsepower (273 vs. 240) but surprisingly, less peak torque (251 vs. 260 lb-ft).

Perhaps even more of a surprise is that the V-6 gets remarkably better fuel economy. The little 2.5-liter four (with all-wheel drive) had an EPA rating of 17/22 mpg city/highway. The V-6, however, is rated at 19/27 mpg city/highway. We recorded 21.2 mpg in mixed driving in a hilly area (which typically has a negative impact on fuel economy).

2013 Acura RDX AWD Tech back seat

The back seat of the 2013 Acura RDX is roomy but the door panels have a very busy design. (click to enlarge)

Both engines have the Honda Intelligent Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control (iVTEC) for intake and exhaust valves, which alters valve timing and lift for optimum power and fuel economy across the rev range, but the V-6 has a “variable engine displacement system” that can shut down one bank of its V-6 engine, making it effectively a 1.75-liter three-cylinder engine, or depending on power needs at the moment, the engine can operate on four cylinders. The fewer cylinders being supplied with fuel, even at light throttle at cruise, means better fuel mileage. And that’s how it beats the smaller turbo four.

That, of course, plus the six-speed automatic transmission replacing the five-speed of the first generation RDX. The six-speed allows the first five gears to be lower ratio for quicker acceleration while sixth gear is 17 percent taller than fifth gear of the old transmission. Despite the extra ratio, the new transmission is smaller and lighter, and lighter is good for fuel consumption. The new transmission also steps up control of the multi-disc lock-up assembly within the torque converter for less slip and improved efficiency. Like the five-speed before it, the six-ratio box has paddle shifting.

The engine and transmission combination is smooth as butter on a Dallas front porch in August (as least until it starts to boil) and quiet as a student who forgot his homework and doesn’t want to be called on. When called on, however, the engine/transmission launch the RDX in a way one might not expect, and merging isn’t a problem. The fat torque curve makes it easy to stay up with—or ahead of—local traffic without having to rev the engine obnoxiously.

The back seat of the 2013 Acura RDX folded

The back seat of the 2013 Acura RDX folds for added cargo capacity but the floor isn’t completely flat. (click to enlarge)

The transmission’s “Sport” mode is a mileage killer because, except at higher speeds, the transmission stays in the bottom four gears, and will not go into sixth at all. The tradeoff, of course, is quicker response and less waiting for the transmission to downshift. The transmission also has something called Cornering G Shift Control. It recognizes different wheel speeds between the inside and outside wheels and holds the transmission in gear so it won’t shift in the middle of the turn and upset the vehicle’s balance. In manual mode, the transmission is fully manual and won’t automatically (ha) upshift at redline.

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John is a veteran auto writer, first published in Custom Rodder magazine in 1980. Since then, he has been published in all the big car magazines, including Car and Driver, Road & Track, Motor Trend, Auto Week, Automobile, plus a variety of others, including but certainly not limited to Automobile Quarterly, Collectible Automobile, and Special Interest Automobiles. John’s work has also been featured in a number of consumer and general interest magazines such as Consumers Digest, Popular Science and others. John has written four books, including a history of the Mazda RX-7 (selling for more out-of-print than it did new), buyers’ guides for Mazda, Datsun/Nissan and Volvo cars, and is co-author of 365 Cars You Must Drive with Motor Trend editor Matt Stone, and his work has been translated into Italian, Estonian, Portuguese, Russian, and Bulgarian. John is recipient of the prestigious Ken Purdy Award for Excellence in Automotive Journalism, awarded by the International Motor Press Association, and the Golden Quill from the Washington Automotive Press Association. John has three adult daughters and has been married for more that four decades to Mary Ann, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania.