2013 Acura RDX review:

2013 Acura RDX

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The stereo was pretty easy to hear in the well-insulated cabin of the RDX. True to Acura's premium intentions, road and engine noise are kept largely at bay, even with the larger engine now sitting under the hood of the RDX. Acura made a big change with this new model year, ditching the previous turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder for the company's 3.5-liter V-6, also used in the MDX and ZDX.

The rearview camera shows multiple views, such as a top-down look, good for close parking. Josh Miller/CNET

The engine swap shows that Acura recognized the failed experiment of its turbocharged four-cylinder. With its lower displacement it should have achieved better fuel economy, but the RDX proved too big for that engine. In CNET reviews, previous generations of the RDX turned in terrible real-world fuel economy. The V-6, which uses variable valve timing but not direct injection, makes more power and better fuel economy than the previous power plant.

By the numbers, the V-6 produces 273 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque, enough to easily propel the 3,300-pound RDX. EPA fuel economy comes in at 19 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. In CNET's testing, the car delivered 21.5 mpg, close to its combined economy number of 22 mpg, and not bad for a five-passenger SUV.

Acura gives the cabin a few touches to emphasize the "sport" in SUV, such as the red engine-start button and the paddle shifters on the steering wheel. These paddles are really unnecessary, as the six-speed automatic transmission that comes with the car doesn't have any sporting chops. There is a Sport mode, which keeps the revs just a little higher than normal, but each shift, whether manually selected or automatic, comes about with the usual lag of a torque converter-based transmission.

With the rear seats down, the cargo area is very spacious. Josh Miller/CNET

Besides stepping back to its tried-and-true V-6, Acura also took its Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) system away from the RDX. That means the RDX's optional all-wheel-drive system is very basic, acting as a front-biased system and shunting power to the rear wheels when needed. SH-AWD does neat things like torque vectoring across the rear wheels, making big vehicles such as the MDX corner like sport cars.

Taking away SH-AWD did not ruin the handling of the RDX, though. The suspension is rigid enough that the car can be put through high-speed antics in corners. Taking turns at speed, the car's tires made tortured sounds indicating the loss of a tread layer, but the body remained flat, with no wallow and not much lean.

That sport suspension tuning does have its drawbacks, however, with the RDX being jostled a little too strongly by rough patches in the road. The ride feels fine over smooth pavement, but potholes and cracks get communicated right through the seats.

In sum
Although a perfectly comfortable small SUV, the 2013 Acura RDX suffers from some tech flaws that will ultimately prove frustrating. Its engine and transmission work well enough, but do not use some of the latest efficiency technologies. The rigidly tuned suspension could do with some softening, given the likely buyers of the RDX. But overall it is an easy, no-hassle car to drive.

The cabin tech offers some nice features, but the lack of dynamic routing to avoid traffic in the navigation system is bizarre, considering how that feature has become standard in just about every other car with integrated traffic data. Likewise, it is very cool that Acura implemented voice command over iPods and music from the internal hard drive, but strange that it does not extend to letting drivers dial contacts from a paired phone by name. The speed-dial voice dialing is a poor substitute. The only real high point of the cabin tech is the stereo, with its many audio sources and excellent-sounding ELS system.

Tech specs
Model 2013 Acura RDX
Trim All-wheel drive, Tech package
Power train 3.5-liter V-6, 6-speed automatic transmission
EPA fuel economy 19 mpg city/27 mpg highway
Observed fuel economy 21.5 mpg
Navigation Standard hard-drive-based with traffic data
Bluetooth phone support Standard with contact list integration
Disc player MP3-compatible single-DVD
MP3 player support iPod integration
Other digital audio Onboard hard drive, Pandora, Bluetooth streaming, USB drive, satellite radio
Audio system ELS 410-watt 10-speaker system
Driver aids Rearview camera
Base price $39,420
Price as tested $40,315

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