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2013 Acura RDX: Crossover refined, professional

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2013 Acura RDX: Crossover refined, professional

Starting prices range from $35,215 to $38,915. Acura expects the new, second-generation RDX to resonate with a slightly older driver, in his or her early 30s, married and approaching parenthood.

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POSTED December 12, 2012 6:37 p.m.

The redesigned 2013 Acura RDX has undergone a svelte rethinking and re-engineering.

This compact crossover is directed toward an overachieving group of well-employed young people in their late 20s. Acura expects the new, second-generation RDX to resonate with a slightly older driver, in his or her early 30s, married and approaching parenthood.

The previous RDX was powered by a 240-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder engine and was rambunctious in its ways. I won't call the 2013 RDX more "mature," but it is more refined to look at and more graceful to drive. After long days of work, this cabin is a sanctuary of quiet and smoothness. And those qualities were lacking from previous Acuras.

The new model seems to tiptoe on Michelin Primacy tires (with 18-inch alloy wheels) and the four-wheel independent suspension — as in a passenger car — uses new, rear amplitude reactive dampers. These specialized shock absorbers have a ride zone and a handling zone, which forgive and absorb bumps or harden and sharpen when pushing through a backcountry corner. The ride around town is remarkably cushioned, but the performance setting is still somewhat soft.

Size-wise, the RDX has about the same footprint as before but a longer wheelbase (1.4 inches), a wider track between the wheels (1.2 inches) and a lower center of gravity. It also is a little lighter (26 pounds) and more fuel efficient with a bigger engine.

The surprising upgrade is the 273-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6, which beats the turbo four-cylinder for fuel economy: 20 mpg city, 28 highway on premium. That's up by 1 mpg city and 4 mpg highway. AWD models are rated 19/27 mpg, an improvement of 2 mpg city and 5 mpg highway. Key to the improvements is variable cylinder management, which seamlessly switches between three, four or six cylinders depending on need. Overall cruising range is up despite the 16-gallon tank that is two gallons smaller than last year.

The horsepower is fluid and easily delivered with a new six-speed Sportshift automatic transmission. And along with more power came bigger front brakes, now 12.3-inch vented discs, which are up by a half-inch. The rear brakes are the same size at 12-inch solid discs.

Sold in two trim levels in front- or all-wheel drive, starting prices are $35,215 and $38,915, including the $895 freight charge from East Liberty, Ohio; AWD adds $1,400. Today's test car, the top-line RDX AWD with technology package, was $40,315.

The tech package includes a power tailgate, xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights, fog lights and voice-recognition navigation system and multi-view rear camera.

The navigation system is easy to set a destination and also integrates real-time traffic and weather with rerouting.

Standard equipment includes a power moonroof, remote locking, perforated leather upholstery, 10-way power driver's seat, four-way front passenger seat, eight-speaker (360-watt) audio system, rearview camera, Bluetooth phone connection and various media inputs.

Interior design is appealing and tasteful with quality materials, weaves and neat fitment of panels. There are larger door openings and incremental improvements to hip, leg and shoulder room. Headroom is crimped somewhat (38.7 inches) by the standard moonroof. The once busy instrument panel has been simplified and toned down for better eye-hand coordination. Sightlines are good and made even better with the rearview camera, which has large screen and sharp image with guidance lines.

The second row has a flat floor for more comfortable three-across seating. Cargo space is wide and accessible, expanded by a folding seatback.

The RDX shares a foundation with the Honda CR-V, but there is enough Acura luxury and styling separation to make them very different vehicles.

The redesign is an accommodating update that offers a refined definition of luxury, but it doesn't set any benchmarks.

If you liked the previous RDX, this one could be love.

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