2013 Acura RDX

Acura’s second attempt at a midsize, midpriced luxury crossover, the RDX, is dead on target. The original version tried so hard to be sporty that it turned off many buyers; it was also undermined by its obvious derivation from the Honda CR-V. For 2013 it has become more mainstream, and in this case, that’s a very good thing.

The RDX no longer looks odd; gone is the narrow, upright stance, replaced by a toned-down version the company’s previously polarizing styling. It handsomely reminds one of the last-generation Lexus RX350. It also feels like that incredibly successful vehicle inside, with high-quality plastics and soft, cushy seats. Aside from dated looking navigation graphics, everything feels thoughtfully modern and is easy to fathom. Size-wise, the Acura hits the five-seater sweet-spot as well, with a cargo area that is usefully shaped and excellent seating comfort for four.

Dynamically, the RDX is much more conservative too, with well-damped ride motions (the old one was stiff and prone to hobby-horsing over concrete highways) and a generally cosseting demeanor; the only knock is that a bit too much road noise penetrates the sound deadening at higher speeds. This RDX has lost the previous version’s love of corners, with a cheaper, conventional all wheel drive system (which is optional) replacing the “Super handling” set up that made the old one such a corner-carving crossover.

Acura has actually gone against the grain in offering only a normally aspirated V6 when most competitors are going to turbocharged four-cylinders—which the older RDX had. Yet the choice to bring in the corporate 3.5-liter engine, with figures of 273hp/251lb-ft channeled through a six-speed automatic, comes across as a very savvy move. It is more efficient in both EPA ratings and in real-world use (low-20s is the norm with AWD), still turns 0-60 times in the low six-second range, and has none of the low-rev lethargy or turbo lag of its predecessor’s powerplant.

Usually critics reward car companies for being adventurous and forward thinking; paying customers are by nature rather more conservative. In the case of the RDX, the move to the mainstream is correct from both perspectives. That Acura priced it quite aggressively, undercutting most of the established luxury players makes it that much more attractive. Combine with the firm’s penchant for building very reliably vehicles that hold onto a high percentage of their original purchase price and it’s hard not to see the new RDX as a great value.

EPA ratings: 19/27; 22mpg combined (AWD)
Price as tested: $40,315
Here’s what Acura has to say.

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