Test Drive: 2013 Acura RDX, the Luxury SUV in a Compact Package

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The all-new Acura RDX has a completely redesigned exterior and new tech inside (Photos: Acura)

When you think “luxury” car you usually think larger and roomier. Rarely do you think “compact.” But over at Acura, they’ve taken the view that smaller doesn’t have to mean you can’t have the best in comfort and the latest in technology, and they’ve proven it in the all-new RDX.

Smaller and seating 2 passengers less than their top-rated 7-passenger MDX, the completely redesigned RDX takes advantage of the rise in popularity of “personal sized” SUVs, while delivering the high-end luxury touches people still want, even though they are looking to drive a smaller vehicle.

The first thing I noticed when my test driver was delivered, was the new, sleeker, exterior styling. There’s a definite resemblance to it’s Honda cousin, the new CR-V but imagined with refined, sharper, more sophisticated lines Acura buyers are drawn to. It’s the first compact SUV I’ve seen that looks less like a mom-mobile or college campus cruiser, and more like a cultured vehicle that just happens to also haul cargo.

Drop into the perforated, heated, leather-trimmed driver’s seat, strap in and push down on the pedal, and you understand immediately how well Acura has balanced the target driver’s desire for a sport-inspired ride, but with increased comfort. A 273-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine powers the RDX, while the SportShift automatic tranny glides through its six speeds.

The interior is larger with more shoulder and legroom, even though the exterior dimensions are the same as the 2012

Mashing down the throttle to merge into the insane traffic that inhabits the southernmost section of I-95, the RDX responded exactly how you’d expect a vehicle this compact hiding an engine that size to respond: quickly and efficiently. And you don’t have to worry about trading performance for the “personal” size or the need for a cargo area, winding through the traffic to get to the head of the pack was just as easy and stress-free as cruising down the beach on A1A.

For those who are fuel efficiency and eco minded, the RDX is EPA rated to get 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway/23 mpg combined. The AWD version that I tested rates just slightly lower at 19/27/22, so those of you who live in hilly/snowy/icy terrain can go all-wheel without spending significantly more time and money at the pump.

The Technology Package comes with a host of toys, including a multi-view rear camera

Inside? That’s where the RDX brings it. My tester came with the Tech package, the perfect set up for us toy lovers. (And the only available trim package on the fully-loaded-in-standard RDX.) The concept of the cockpit is a “dual personal” design that lets the driver and passenger riding shotgun to personalize their experience. The new 60GB hard drive-based navigation system comes with voice recognition and an 8-inch W-VGA color screen with four times the rez of the previous screen. And since I tend to make use of the maps and navi, I was loving the new, crisp look.

One of my favorite new tech features is the Multi-View Rearview Camera that produces three different views of what’s going on behind you, depending on what you need. The standard view shows the area directly behind you, with guidelines to assist in parking. Switch to wide angle when you need to survey a larger area behind you, and the top-down view is perfect for seeing the curb when parallel parking or lining up a trailer hitch.

The RDX has enough cargo space to handle your gear on a long road trip, and a power lift gate to let you get at it.

To keep your personal tunes at hand when you tire of listening to the satellite radio, there’s 15GB of dedicated music storage (that’s about 3,500 songs), so you can crank them through the 10-speaker, 410-watt premium sound system.

All of this is housed in an interior that has more leg and shoulder room for both front and rear passengers, and more overall cargo room than its predecessor, even though the exterior dimensions remain the same.

Starting at $34,320 ($38,020 with the Technology Package, $35,720 base for AWD), the all-new RDX delivers high value for those who want to shrink their footprint, but would rather do it in stylish leather wingtips, not a pair of flip flops.

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