How The Acura RDX Got Swallowed Whole By A $9200 Tuscan Villa


By @autobusiness

Do you remember the old Acura RDX? The cute one? With the turbo?

Well, forget it.

This, what you see above, is the new Acura RDX. It no longer looks like a bolder and distinctively taller Honda Fit from the future. It’s now gentler, less boyish than before. Acura’s latest tweaks are their most comprehensive yet, but they’ve lead to a far more anonymous iteration of their smallest crossover.

Where the 2007 model was discretely handsome, the 2010 facelift scarred that beauty with silver bird bits. Now, for 2013, the RDX is back to being discrete, except the square chin and dimples have been buffed out by design committees. With renewed inoffensiveness, it would blend seamlessly next to the Equinox at the Chevy dealer. Having found that unique appearances and thirsty turbo engines don’t move metal, the new RDX is more mainstream from beak to tail. It seems like a withdrawal, a reversal of tactics, from more aggressive to more defensive. But where the old RDX swam in a pond of one, the new one is being plopped in the middle of the Atlantic.

So can this softer bird swim?

The 2013 Acura RDX starts at C$42,935 and levels up to C$45,935 with the Technology package. Further options include 18” alloys for C$2,600 and a remote starter for C$979.56, among other bobs and bits. Perhaps the biggest news for 2013 is the new 3.5L i-VTEC V6 engine that, despite being both more efficient and stronger than the old 2.3L turbo-4, manages to feel no faster than the 4-cylinder Honda CRV. The 3.5L is tuned to be as inconspicuous as a butler and about as exciting. There’s no confusing this engine for the Nissan’s VQ-series of throaty pulse-raisers. Speaking of the lauded CRV, it’s the identically sized Honda that presents the strongest competition to the refreshed Acura. In-fighting in the house that Sochiro built? You bet.

When we compared the CRV to the VW Tiguan in March, we found the Honda to be thoughtfully constructed and a sure-footed proposition that didn’t take any wild gambles. We found the CRV to be better value and more practical than the German, so it came as no surprise that it won that comparo despite being less fun to drive. But how does the reigning compact crossover, the 4th-generation Honda CRV, champ stack up against its premium sibling, the 2nd-generation Acura RDX?

For no other reason than that these two offer essentially the same features, are the exact same size, and offer an indistinguishable driving experience, this battle begins and ends with the window sticker. At C$9,200 more than the CRV, the RDX is truly outmatched. For that difference in price, even the exceptionally crisp Acura/ELS 410W, 10-speaker Premium Audio System seem like an indulgent rip-off. Nine large! That’s enough cheddar for you and the missus to spend an entire month at a remote Tuscan villa, airfare included. Just imagine! Enjoying the fresh pasta, local wines, and charming countryside while your Honda waits for you at the airport valet when you get home… It doesn’t get better than that.

With less badge appeal than the Germans, evaporative styling and the extreme competency of the CRV taken into account, the RDX completely fails to differentiate itself in the burgeoning compact crossover market. By eschewing the entertaining niche it previously occupied, the 2013 Acura RDX has been swallowed whole by the meatier segment of the market.

If you’re looking for a smarter choice, head for Honda of Tuscany.

This vehicle was generously provided by Acura Canada for the purposes of this review.

[Photo credit: KelleyBlueBook/Flikr]