Say hi to high tech driving in Acura’s RDX

When it’s done right, high tech has much in common with a wellofficiated sporting event. If the fans don’t notice the officials, it generally means they did an efficient job.

The same goes for some of the subtle but effective technical advances in today’s automobiles. When they’re working well, you not only don’t notice them but you also might not even realize they’re part of your vehicle.

Today’s test vehicle—the 2013 Acura RDX “personal-sized” SUV— is a case in point. One of Acura’s calling cards is “smart luxury,” something the RDX has in abundance.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The RDX, first introduced in 2007, is completely redesigned for 2013 with a new engine, new transmission, new sleeker looks, longer wheelbase, new interior, and a new all-wheel-drive system.

It comes in one well-equipped base version with two options for the buyer: all-wheel-drive and a technology package. Our test vehicle had both and an MSRP of $40,315 (including destination charge).

The tech package includes a multi-view rear camera and navigation system with real-time weather and traffic (where available), power tailgate, GPS-linked dual-zone automatic climate control, Xenon headlights, and fog lights.

On the road, RDX drivers likely will never notice either the seamless AWD system or some of these other features at work, including:

1.Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) system: It’s part of the new 3.5-liter V-6 engine that replaces the previous turbocharged 2.3-liter four. The new engine has 33 more horsepower and better fuel economy (23 miles per gallon in AWDmodels in combined driving compared with 21 for its predecessor, though all recommend premium fuel). Variable cylinder management (a seamless technology that can let the engine run on six, four, or three cylinders) and a new six-speed automatic transmission are major factors in the improved fuel economy. Unlike previousVCM systems, this one truly is seamless. We never detected its changes or would have suspected it was part of the deal without reading the enclosed literature.

2. Active Noise Control: Acura has a new system that basically creates its own noise to counteract engine and road noise droning. Somehow, the offsetting noises equal quiet.

3. SpeedVolume Control (to automatically adjust audio system volume): I didn’t notice it at work; however, I did notice that Mrs. G wasn’t making volume adjustments as we traveled.

4. Solar-sensing automatic climate control: A solar sensor and GPS monitoring of the sun’s position combine to adjust the dual-zone automatic climate controls to maintain the desired cabin temperature.

Acura says the target buyer for the RDX is in his or her early 30s, is married, and approaching parenthood with a household income in the $125,000 range.The target buyer prioritizes increased comfort (premium interior appointments) and utility.

We took the RDX to visit an Acura family (our own daughter and son-in-law) over Labor Day Weekend. In their garage were a 2010 MDX SUV with 45,000 miles and a 2004TL midsized sedan with 140,000 on the odometer.

Son-in-law Steve took one look at the RDX and noted,“It looks a lot like the MDX, but the interior isn’t quite as nice and it doesn’t have the third-row seat.Why not pay the extra $5,000 and get an MDX?”

It’s a fair question. However, the price difference is more like $7,500. And the RDX is noticeably lower, narrower, shorter, and about 750 pounds lighter.

Carrying five passengers—four adults and a five-year-old in a car seat—is easy in the larger MDX because the car seat can go in the third row. In the RDX, it’s an extremely tight squeeze.

But the RDX is fine for four and has plenty of legroom front and rear. On the road, it’s plenty stable, the ride is refined (thanks at least in part to a longer wheelbase), and the dual cockpit interior style is quite contemporary with intuitive backlit (LED) gauges.

Maybe that’s why it appeals to young marrieds and also to empty-nesters like us. Mrs. G says simply,“I like it. ”Those fewwords mean she likes the seats, the ride, the styling, the inside layout, and the sound system.

We asked the navigation system to find a rural, lakeside address in NewHampshire. After first giving us a“not on the digital map” response, it proceeded to pinpoint the location and take us there with outstanding voice guidance, alerting us to turns we’d have otherwise overshot or just plain dismissed with, “That couldn’t be the right road.”

Because there’s no third-row seating, the normal cargo space is generous at 26.1 cubic feet and more than enough to accommodate the stuff we took away for a five-day weekend.

We didn’t run afoul of any referees (highway patrols) and the onboard IT department was working in the background.