2013 Acura RDX first drive review

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If you've driven the previous Acura RDX, you know the definition of compromise. While it was, in many ways, ahead of its time, the RDX was rough, balky, and awkward as much as it was peppy, fun, and high-tech. Times have changed.

The 2013 Acura RDX doesn't look all that much different from the last on first glance. Nonetheless, it's all new, with different exterior and interior styling, a new powertrain, and a vastly different character--and it's aiming at a new target market.

As a member of the previous RDX's target market, I understand why it didn't succeed. Late 20s and early 30s professional men with a taste for both luxury and sport sound like good buyers. We're not. We buy modern classics gently used, we buy sport and forsake luxury, or we buy above our means and cut corners elsewhere. We don't make the compromise the last RDX required.

Disclaimer: Acura flew me out to a pretty sweet resort in Scottsdale for this drive, put me up for a couple of nights, and fed me surprisingly well. Despite all of that, I managed to keep my wits about me.

The new RDX may succeed where the last did not, as it requires far fewer compromises. In maturing into a more complete vehicle, it has also set its sights on younger pre-children couples, older empty-nesters, and those between that don't need as much kid-and-gear-wrangling capacity.

2013 Acura RDX

2013 Acura RDX

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But how does it drive?

Not having a chance to really live with the RDX in our short stint with it in Phoenix on Acura's dime, we can't speak well to its longer-term qualities. On the road, both canyon and highway, however, it's surprisingly good.

I should note that I dont like crossovers much, as they seem like needlessly tall and tippy hatchbacks. I'm not a normal person in that regard. But the Acura RDX rises above that simple epithet to deliver something more akin to a cross between a luxury sedan and an SUV, much like the BMW X6, though not quite so large or nice. The exterior design even mimics the X6, in a way, with a more coupe-like top and a more SUV-like bottom.

Powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 engine rated at 273 horsepower, the 2013 RDX is anything but slow. It's not exactly quick either, and the 240-horsepower 2.3-liter turbo it replaces actually has considerably more torque--more area under the curve--until about 4,500 rpm. The new engine is more efficient, rating 20 mpg city and 28 mpg highway in FWD trim, and 19/27 mpg in AWD. Acceleration, however, is quick and relatively effortless. Part of this comes from the RDX's less-than-portly 3,700-3,900-pound weight, depending on equipment and choice of front- or all-wheel drive, and part comes from lower gear ratios through fifth, with a taller sixth for gas mileage.  Thanks to this combo, it'll reel off 0-60 mph times conservatively claimed in the seven-second range, per Acura.

At each corner, a trick new damper helps even out ride quality while providing more firmness in sportier moments. It does it through a curious spring-and-piston arrangement, and it mostly succeeds.

Two pistons ride in the damper, one for normal duty, handling smaller displacement bumps and dips. A second, tethered to it by a light spring, comes into action when the shaft moves farther. This second piston greatly increases damping forces, essentially doubling them, to provide the firm, settled handling most of us associate with sportiness. A secondary spring, more powerful, resides within the damper as well, aiding rebound forces.

2013 Acura RDX

2013 Acura RDX

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