published Saturday, September 15th, 2012

New Acura RDX: slick, sleek and stylish

The 2013 Acura RDX offers a smooth drive.
The 2013 Acura RDX offers a smooth drive.

FAST FACTS

Model: 2013 Acura RDX.

Exterior color: Graphite Luster Metallic.

Interior color: Parchment.

Engine: 3.5 liter V-6.

Horsepower: 273.

Transmission: six-speed automatic.

Fuel economy: 28 highway, 20 city.

Dealer: Pye Acura.

Price (as tested): $36,210.

Sometimes you slide into the driver’s seat of a new car and it feels like slipping on your favorite ball glove.

The seat bolsters cradle your ribcage, the steering wheel feels molded to your fingers, the smell of leather finds your nose. That’s the sensory blast I got last week while test driving the Acura RDX, a sporty crossover SUV redesigned for 2013.

The previous RDX was powered by a peppy, four-cylinder turbocharged engine. It felt like a car a young Honda CR-X owner would buy when he got his first job promotion.

By comparison, the new RDX, which has a 3.5-liter six-cylinder engine, feels like a grown-up’s alternative to, say, the classy Volkswagen Tiguan or the slick Volvo XC60.

Greg Black, sales manager at Pye Acura, said the 2013 RDXs have been moving briskly off his lot since arriving on Chapman Road a couple of months ago.

It’s easy to see why.

STYLING AND COMFORT

Outside, the RDX has sculpted lines with horizontal creases in the door panels and a U-shaped bulge in the hood, resulting in an “armored” look, according to Acura. The company says it was going for a clean, timeless design. No quibbles here.

One recent reviewer noted that the RDX looks more like a wagon, and the rear third of the SUV does look a little like a Toyota Venza or a Ford Edge.

Our test car comes with 18-inch alloy wheels and dark-gray, Graphite Luster Metallic paint. A rounded rear and chrome outlines on the side windows complete the modern exterior look.

Inside, our tester has an attractive parchment-and-black color scheme, featuring off-white leather seat surfaces. The interior is generally uncluttered and all the switches and dials do their jobs with buttery perfection.

The edgy dash has a few more peaks and valleys than would be my preference. Thankfully, there are no faux wood panels in the center stack, which have become cliché on most of today’s high-content cars.

I especially liked the push-button ignition, comfortable armrests and the short throws of the gear shifter. The RDX is bigger than before and provides comfortable seating for five adults.

With the rear seat lowered, the RDX has more than 61 cubic feet of cargo space.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

The new 3.5 liter V-6 engine is not as quick off the mark as the old turbo engine, but power increases exponentially at 1,500 rpm and above.

I took the RDX to a rough patch of pavement on Harrison Pike to try to get it to shake, rattle or roll. No luck. The RDX is a fortress of sound insulation. It even includes a space-age noise canceling system that negates unwanted engine rumble by emitting opposing frequencies.

Acura touts the RDX for getting the best V-6 fuel economy in its class: 28 mpg highway, 20 mpg city. This accomplished by technology that shuts down two or three cylinders when they are not needed. At full acceleration, the V-6 makes 273 horsepower. All-wheel drive is optional.

BOTTOM LINE

The RDXs price ($36,210) is at the sweet spot in the segment, making it a solid value when measured against its rivals.

By making the RDX bigger and more powerful, Acura has opened new markets for its sporty compact crossover. Or as the company notes confidently, “small is the new big.”

If that sounds mildly absurd to you, reserve judgment until you test drive the excellent new RDX.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is a Times Free Press columnist and editor. He writes the "LIfe Stories" human interest column for the City section and the "Family Life" column for the Life section. He also writes an automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for ...

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