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By Katrina Ramser San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

The Acura RDX continues to bask in last year’s impressive makeover that brought a whole new drivetrain, exterior design and interior arrangement to this smaller-sized crossover. Its angle is offering V6 power and a level of refinement and technology not found in cheaper counterparts.

I drove a 2014 Acura RDX with the standard 273-horspower 3.5-liter i-VTEC V6 engine matched to a six-speed automatic transmission with Sequential SportShift and paddle shifters along with all-wheel drive. Available in one model – without or without the Technology Package and all-wheel drive – my loaded RDX came with the following standard features: leather-trimmed sport seats; XM radio; USB audio interface; push-button start; ten-way driver’s power seat; heated front seats; Bluetooth; steering-wheel mounted controls; moonroof; and eighteen-inch alloy wheels. Total price as described without options came to $35,920.

The RDX is unchanged from last model year and is a strong contender as smaller crossovers gain more recognition as an economical and fuel-efficient alternative to the larger SUVs. Competitors include more luxurious nameplates like the BMW X3 and Buick Encore, and also the more affordable specimens like the Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai Tucson.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: One experience inside and you’ll pass up on the more sensible competitors: a beautifully constructed interior using only the finest materials, firm seating and an orderly center stack layout with a hooded navigation screen and separate audio touchscreen. The Tech Package option consists of Acura’s voice-recognizing navigation system, a ten-speaker upgrade audio system, a GPS-linked dual-zone climate control, a power tailgate, Xenon headlights and fog lights. The system can be complex but remains user friendly, delivering traffic updates and configuring destination changes in just a few turns and clicks from a magical master dial. Second row doesn’t have all the bells-and-whistles found on larger SUVs (no heated seats, climate dials) and headspace is limited. You get far more cargo room than the Buick Encore. Also, there are handles on the second row that fold the seats down nicely in seconds.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) delivered the RDX the highest ratings of “Good” in all crash-test areas. Standard safety equipment includes Vehicle Stability Assist, an advanced airbag system, anti-lock brakes, ACE body structure, LATCH for child seats, side-impact door beams.

Cost Issues: Starting price for the RDX without all-wheel drive is $34,520. An RX with the Tech Package and all-wheel drive climbs to $39,620. The Tech Package is always a highlight with any Acura and highly recommended due to practicality of features.

Activity & Performance Ability: The V6 engine is responsive and satisfying in a way turbocharged four-cylinders can’t touch. Handling is solid – overall the RDX is a perfect feel. A new six-speed automatic transmission replaces a five-speed for smoother gear changes. Steering is engaging and visibility is excellent. The Variable Cylinder Management feature aids in gas conservation by shutting off cylinders in cruising speeds and using lower-friction pistons rings.

The Green Concern: Here the downside of the RDX is exposed: an EPA-estimated fuel economy with all-wheel drive is 19 miles-per-gallon city and 27 highway for 22 combined. The Honda CR-V and Kia Sportage can deliver a combined 25 miles-per-gallon with their four-cylinders and all-wheel drive systems.

With the design, attitude and comforts of a larger SUV, the performance-oriented 2014 Acura RDX luxury crossover is a reminder good things do come in smaller packages.

2013 Katrina Ramser