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Redesigned 2013 Acura RDX SUV grows up, gains manners

Consumer Reports News: May 23, 2012 12:38 PM

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When Acura entered the small, upscale SUV market with the first-generation RDX, their target customer was a 30-something yuppie, with a sense of style and enough disposable income that something like a basic Honda CR-V just wouldn't be on their shopping list. But alas, according to Acura, they never found that buyer.

To meet that elusive customer's needs, the RDX arrived with a host of electronic and luxury features not found on the similarly sized CR-V, along with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a highly sophisticated all-wheel drive system, and an overly stiff suspension.

What Acura found out was that their target customer wasn't as taken by their stylish SUV as much as older folks were. Consequently, the bulk of sales were to grey hairs and empty nesters who wanted luxury in a small package but objected to the high-strung little turbo and harsh ride. So much for product planning.

This time around, the redesigned RDX grows up a bit, both in size and refinement. A smooth-and-polished V6 engine and a gentler-kinder suspension are aimed at pleasing folks who would be looking at the fashionable Audi Q5 and BMW X3. A simpler all-wheel-drive system may be less helpful on race tracks, but it saves weight. The rear seat is roomier, and the cabin is quieter with more electronic amenities.

Matched with a new six-speed automatic transmission, Acura claims that the new V6 will deliver better fuel economy than the old four-cylinder engine, along with quicker acceleration. A choice of front or all-wheel drive is available; we bought the AWD version for testing.

As the pre-test break-in miles have been rolling up, we've found the redesigned RDX to be a major improvement over the old one in just about every respect. As touted, it is roomier and quieter, and the new powertrain lives up to promises of increased performance and fuel economy, based on our observations. Inside and out, the new RDX is a more conservative and relaxed package than the one it replaces, and while the more restrained interior design is well finished and appointed, it doesn't convey the levels of premium ambiance found in some competing models.

We'll be back soon with the results of our full road test.

Jim Travers

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