Once ahead, now even
SCOTTSDALE, Arizona - Straying off the beaten path can occasionally yield interesting if not fantastic results. The opposite can also be very true.
Quite likely the most evident example of success while trying something new is Chrysler's Magic Wagon. Today, minivans are dying a slow death, but Mr Iaccoca created something. On the other hand, the Pontiac Aztek was nothing if, well, nothing good.
Acura, in Honda's image, started off 25 years ago to the beat of their own drum. In no time flat, they had established themselves as the cool Japanese alternative to the German and American luxury brands. Success was at hand. Being original was paying off. Then, things went sour.
The blended breed
Acura resisted as long as they could to the SUV now CUV trend, but eventually caved in. The MDX knocked the socks off its competition and so, they returned with a compact version and dubbed it RDX. If the MDX was mainstream, the RDX wasn't.
Powered by a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with an emphasis on handling, the compact CUV's turbo lag and stiff ride did not win over as many buyers as it should have. Commercials like the one showing the Acura RDX cornering with the help of a grappling hook left shoppers perplex but not the media which quickly fell for the RDX's charm and attributes.
Five years ago, the concept may have been foreign to potential buyers; Acura was ahead of the curve. It's a strange thing that as the old RDX's competitors are closing in on it, the new 2013 Acura RDX is off in a different direction.
For 2013, fortunately or unfortunately, in an effort to get back into luxury CUV buyers' good books, the new RDX has gone mainstream.
Old is new
That reads wrong, but the point is that the new RDX looks more like a slightly shrunken MDX than its distinct predecessor. As I noted, the MDX recipe has been a smash hit with consumers, so hopefully this is a good move.
Acura, Japan's first luxury car brand (were you aware?) is predicting a near 50% increase in deliveries in North America in 2012. They must have done their homework with the 2013 Acura RDX (and the ILX - review coming April 20th) to present such an audacious forecast.
There's no doubt that Acura was searching to create a more mature RDX when I stand near it and study its body lines. The looks are clean and pretty much what the next-generation MDX could have been. Beyond that, there's no flash and no pizzazz and somehow it works. Admittedly, the subtle very-Acura styling is growing on me.
The cabin is also familiar Acura territory. In other words, the sombre, serious environment is very tekkie, all business and extraordinarily crafted. I, for one, like the dark monochromatic presentation while I know that others feel as though they are stepping into a funeral home.
As always, Acura offers up some excellent seats, fore and aft. Acura may be coming out of an exterior-design warzone but they've always been able to put together passenger quarters that were appealing, comfortable and luxurious. The 2013 Acura RDX has it all plus a sizable trunk.
No mo' turbo
While many manufacturers are moving towards turbocharged 4-pots, Acura has decided to move away from theirs. It's a strange move as BMW and Audi have clearly caught on to the trend. My gut feeling says that it was far too expensive to build the 2.3T for only one vehicle. The new V6, on the other hand, is everywhere.
The 3.5L V6 is not new (from the Accord to the Pilot and on to the TL) but it is good and well established. The horsepower rating is of 273 which is a significant bump up from the 240 generated by the 2.3L turbo-4. Torque is down by 9 to 251. The end result is a vehicle that is slightly quicker in most respects than the old.
Despite the power increase, the 2013 Acura RDX's fuel consumption drops slightly. The V6 benefits from the second generation of Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) and from an MDX and TL-sourced 6-speed automatic transmission. Now rated at 10.7L/100km city and 7.3L/100km highway, the Acura-dubbed sexy CUV consumes 1L and 1.4L less fuel, respectively. Yup, the V6 guzzles less petrol than the 4-pot...
Fuel consumption improvements also come from low rolling-resistance tires, a revised braking system that reduces pad-disc drag, electric power steering and improved aerodynamics.
About the brakes, pedal feel and response is nothing short of amazing. The required effort is minimal as is pedal travel but without affecting the entire system's smooth operation. Steering is equally good precision-wise; however, the driver is completely isolated from the road.
Without a doubt, the achieved result of all of Acura's efforts related to the new 2013 RDX is refinement.
The RDX's ride is improved to a more sedan-like quality. The RDX gets amplitude reactive dampers that not only "smoothen" out the road but do little to negatively affect handling. What the 15% softer damper springs have done is generate more roll on turn-in than with the previous RDX. Nothing to worry about.
The RDX's track is now wider and the wheelbase is longer. As well, portions of the chassis have gained in rigidity and layers of sound-deadening materials have been added everywhere. This thing is quiet, smooth are very comfortable.
I enquired about Acura's primary target in redesigning the RDX and the answer I got was the Audi Q5. I managed a quick tour in the Q5 and although it seems as though Acura is on right track, I found that they've actually put a bulls-eye on the Lexus RX.
To capture a more youthful market, or so says their proposed marketing efforts, I think they may have overshot the younger crowds and landed in the laps of the empty-nesters, the secondary target of the 2013 Acura RDX.
No more SH-AWD
Decidedly, Acura has chosen to put performance and handling off the front burner, as they have replaced their famed SH-AWD with a more conventional AWD with Intelligent Control.
The system is good, as my driving partner and I did wander off the beaten path on a few occasions and noticed first-hand that the new AWD demonstrates a fine balance between capability, traction and all-weather performance. Torque split can go as far as 50/50, which is more than sufficient for this type of urban family vehicle.
The 2013 Acura RDX has become "more" to or for a broader audience. It's got appreciable styling, decent fuel economy and, what Acura calls "high density packaging" or lots of stuff in a compact package.
The issue I maintain for the new RDX is that, despite Acura's desire to once again want to be an object of desire, as it once was, it stirs no emotions. It does nothing especially well, far from bad, is not striking aesthetically nor is it exhilarating to drive. The NSX, still roughly three years away, won't do any good for the brand in the short run...
I like the new RDX, but I can't say that I'd pick it over an Audi Q5 and BMW X3. I would consider it if I was in the market for a Lexus RX only because of Acura's perceived youthfulness that Toyota's luxury brand does not nor will ever have.
Prices are up for 2013 but content is up further. There is no "base" model for 2013; starting price is of $40,990 and the Tech package adds an extra $3,000. Acura expects that the Tech version should represent 60% of the total take. The 2013 Acura RDX will go on sale on April 2, 2012. It is built at East Liberty, Ohio and Acura Canada expects sales of 4,500 units in the next year.
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