Review: 2013 Acura RDX

Acura’s baby is all grown up!

Remember how cute the RDX was when it came out? All small and cuddly?

Well, bid it a fond farewell, because the new one has become a big boy!

The completely redone 2013 RDX has taken a lot of people by surprise. The initial RDX was clearly a nod toward sporting driving. It was small-ish (unfortunately on the inside too), had Acura’s incredible torque-vectoring SH-AWD system, a turbo-charged 4-cylinder and generally got positive chatter in terms of what it could do on the road.

Acura is certainly catering to a different demographic with the revision. Let’s have a look, shall we?

The RDX starts at CDN $40,990. There is only one up-trim level, the Tech – it’s what I was driving, and it rang in at CDN $45.935 all-in. The base RDX comes very well-equipped – the Tech trim adds a bang-up stereo, an 8″ screen and navigation. There’s little more you can do, except add exterior or interior accessories.


Exterior/Under the Hood

Though some styling cues remain, it’s difficult to tell this is an RDX at first or even second glance. It’s that different. First of all, you’ll notice it’s significantly larger. This is not a small vehicle.

The styling follows Acura’s new movement, which has many creases and folds and angles. But the public outcry over the styling caused Acura to claw things back a bit, and tone them down. People were offended at the “beak” in the grille, and other more controversial aspects, and Acura has bowed to the pressure to make things more… more bland.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice looking vehicle – there’s nothing wrong with the exterior whatsoever. But I LIKED Acura’s somewhat offensive, extreme styling. I gave them kudos for stepping out and trying something new and different. You know what? When the TL looked different from everything else, at least you weren’t confusing it for another car, and it wasn’t a bad looking ride either. The RDX that we have here is a handsome SUV, yet it blends in with many of the others out there. It’s unremarkable, and that’s good in some ways, but it’s also a shame.

As big as it looks, the vehicle’s roof is actually lower than it first appears. It has nice 18″ rims with chunky tires – somehow the 18″ rims don’t look big on the RDX.

Acura also made big changes under the hood. Gone is the turbo-4. You’ll find a 3.5-Liter V-6, complete with cylinder deactivation technology. See where they’re headed here? It’s not about sport anymore. It’s about fuel economy. The V-6 is rated at 273 HP at 6200 RPM, and 251 lb.ft of torque at a lofty 5000 RPM. Even though those numbers beat out the previous RDX’s, the fuel economy has improved. It’s rated at 10.7 L/100 km (22 mpg) in the city and 7.2 L/100 km (33 mpg) on the highway. I averaged 12.3 L/100 km (19 mpg) with it, in almost purely city travel – mostly economical driving, a few stomps on the gas pedal and a couple of sprints down the freeway. It has a 60 Liter tank.

That power is routed through a 6-speed automatic, and hits the road through an Intelligent Control System all-wheel drive. Which is a nice way of saying the lovely SH-AWD is gone, and we’ll be driving the front tires for you until they slip in which case we’ll kick in the all-wheel drive.



I really liked the RDX’s interior. Materials are wonderful, with tons of soft-touch plastics and nice textures. With that said, it’s very business-like. The colors range from black to super-dark grey to grey. It’s nice, but it’s not a very happy place. Also, it’s big. It’s very noticeably bigger than the last generation RDX. Fit and finish seemed flawless.

The seating position is high so you get a commanding view of the road. The seats are very, very comfortable – leather is standard, and there are perforated panels, and other interesting textures going on there. Front seats are heated and power-adjustable and the driver’s seat has 2-memory settings. Interestingly, the seats in this SUV offer reasonable bolstering – more than in the performance-oriented SHO I just reviewed.

A fantastic steering wheel sits in front of a scultped dash, with a set of easily readable gauges. The wheel has buttons for the driver information system, media, phone, handsfree, cruise control as well as paddle shifters, and is manually adjustable for height and reach.

Front and center, there’s an enormous hood jutting out over the display screen. It’s not a touchscreen. It handles navigation, media and phone functions. The text and graphics are pretty good – fonts are a bit big and elementary looking, but it works fine. Below that is a pod that includes a fairly crowded media system, feeding off of a full complement of AM, FM, satellite, CD, auxiliary, USB, built-in hard drive and Bluetooth streaming sources, and it sounds very, very good. There are some hard buttons and a busy wide banner screen that covers some media information, a clock, inside temperature. Below that sits Acura’s strange joystick-surrounded-by-a-rotary-dial-and-hard-buttons-with-a-giant-ENTER-button-on-top user interface for the screen. It’s definitely not intuitive right away, but you get used to it. At the bottom sits a dual-zone, automatic climate control system. The screen also handles the basic back-up camera, which has distance markings – no audible distance sensors and no trajectory lines while you’re backing up. There are 3 different camera modes/views you can choose from.

The center console, which is wider than I might have expected, houses the shift lever and a nice, wide armrest.

There’s a keyless entry system with push-start ignition. Obviously the standard goodies are powered – doors, windows, mirrors. Same goes for the trunk opener, and the tilt/slide sunroof above. A handy 3-position HomeLink garage door opener sits overhead. The bright HID headlights are automatic.


Rear Seats

The rear seats are very good – no complaints on the comfort back there. That’s also aided by a very generous amount of space – leg and footroom are surprisingly good, and headroom is great too.

There are 3 seats, 3 seatbelts, 3 headrests. The middle seat is raised, narrow and hard – coupled with the slightly raised tunnel on the floor, makes for an uncomfortable place to be for adults. There are 2 LATCH anchors, and there’s plenty of space for 3 kids – we tried it out. The middle seatback folds down to make an armrest with 2 cupholders in it.

Things are a bit spartan back there, especially for a vehicle sneaking up on $50 grand. 2 seatback map pockets, bottle holders in the door and there’s a small storage bin at the back of the center console. No air vents. No 12V plug. Nothing.



At the front of the center console, you’ll find a carpeted bin under a large sliding lid – the auxiliary, USB and 12V plugs are in there too. The console also has two cupholders, and a large carpeted bin under the armrest lid – there’s an additional 12V plug and organizer tray. Hilariously, the carpet in this bin is deep enough to qualify as shag. Seriously, it’s as if they were upholstering it for disco days. I’m not complaining. I’m stayin’ alive. See what I did there?

The front door bins are useless except for holding a water bottle. The glove compartment is large, and has a divider in it.

The trunk is large (739 Liters – 26 cubic feet), and the load floor is comfortably high. The seats fold 60/40, and as per Honda’s excellent CR-V, there are latches on either side of the trunk – pull one, and the seat releases AND folds down. It’s a great system. Though the seats don’t fold level with the floor, there’s a gentle transition between the two heights. Fold those seats down, and you have a gargantuan 2178 Liters (77 cubic feet!) of cargo space. You could host your own music festival back there.

There’s no additional 12V plug in the trunk – an omission I’ve noted in the last few vehicles I’ve reviewed. Irritating.


The Drive

For everyday driving, the RDX is a very responsive vehicle. It’s got plenty of get up and go, and there’s no irritating delay. In regular drive mode, the transmission which is buttery smooth, hunts for higher gears sooner than later to conserve fuel. Remember, we’re not so sporty in the RDX anymore. Put it in Sport mode, and it’ll hold the shifts much longer and the driving experience is a bit tighter. I found the transmission did a good job in both modes, being mostly in the right place. There are also paddles which, in my opinion, don’t suit the character of the car and frankly, the shifts aren’t that quick anyway.

As satisfying as it is for commuting, the RDX never quite seemed to be as powerful as the numbers on paper suggest. If you’re already moving and step on it to pass someone, etc, it’ll certainly happen, but it does take a bit to get up there in speed. It’s not slow, by any means, but it’s not fast.

The ride was 50-50 for me. Much of the time, it was very good – well-dampened, soaking up bumps, etc. No complaints. But it’s firm, and that firmness isn’t so lovely when you hit some harsher road irregularities such as ruts, potholes, expansion joints and other goodies that we contend with all over this fair city of ours. I felt the suspension got a bit crashy and the tautness made it feel nervous and was actually tiring for me whenever the road was less than perfect as that feedback made its way to the seats in the cabin.

The much-lamented removal of the SH-AWD system didn’t make an enormous difference in driveability – the handling, relatively unspoiled by body roll, is very good. It feels tippy, only because you’re sitting high off the road, but it actually doesn’t lean very much. There’s certainly no lack of grip, and the RDX will play if you ask it to. It seems grumpy about it, and it will complain with some hearty tire squeal, but it takes quite a bit to upset it. You’ll never forget that this is a hefty vehicle though, and its 3800+ pounds will always be there, loading up the suspension as you make your way around those corners.

I don’t often comment on brakes, but the RDX’s were really impressive. Great linear feel and perfect power.

Road and engine noise are very well contained and the vehicle is very quiet, with the exception of the crashiness and jiggliness over imperfect roads.



I hated that I had to press the ENTER button on the input joystick every single time the car started up, to confirm that I accept responsibility for my actions while using the display screen. If you don’t hit ENTER, the screen beeps and turns off after a few seconds. Decided you need the screen after all? Go ahead and hit ENTER. Oh, and then read the dire warnings and hit ENTER again to turn them off. Also, I couldn’t find where to set a default screen – if you can change this, it would be great. Because it always sprang back to the navigation screen when the car was started. I had left it on media. Why can’t the car remember that?


The Verdict

Though I might be coming across as a bit harsh because Acura made the RDX a softer, pudgier version of itself, the fact that it’s less performance-oriented but more comfortable, bigger, more fuel efficient and … more North American is what many people are looking for. And it’s a great vehicle. It’s nicely appointed, equipped very well, and nice to look at. It drives well, and does most things quite adeptly.

I’m sad to see the sportier feel of this line go, but in the end, Acura is listening to what the market wants, and I’d be surprised to find many people who dislike this vehicle.

WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was very high for the RDX. She simply loved it. She liked the way she sat high up in it. She liked how it drove and that it was easy to handle and park. She liked the power liftgate, and that there was plenty of room for the kids. She, much like me, didn’t like the weird overly-busy banner display below the screen.

The RDX is simply a different vehicle than the previous iteration. It’s attempting to do new things, and it’s catering to a new group of people. Ironically, maybe it’s the same people who bought the previous one – if they have a couple of kids and a dog now, this will be much more suited to their lifestyle.

I give the RDX an 8 out of 10. The new RDX is a great vehicle with a premium feel to it and it’s a solid competitor in the category.

Disclosure:  Vehicle was provided by Acura.

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