The compact luxury crossover segment is hot. Of the top choices, two recently-revised competitors in this fierce field are the 2013 Acura RDX and the BMW X3. The RDX is significantly revised for 2013, with refined styling and a new engine, transmission, all-wheel drive system and interior that up the model's game significantly. The BMW X3 was redone for 2012, making these two competitors closely matched in age, but not so much in the bottom line.
The 2013 Acura RDX (MSRP $34,320*) offers value in the Acura tradition, besting both the standard equipment list and base price of the X3 xDrive28i (MSRP $38,500). For its price, Acura gives you 72 months or 70,000 miles of powertrain warranty, versus the comparatively stingy 48 months/50,000 miles you'll get from BMW. The RDX uses a 3.5-liter V6 that sends its 273 hp to the front wheels through a standard six-speed automatic transmission. The X3 xDrive28i has a more complex 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder with 240 hp, a power deficit that also has to contend with a 400-pound-heftier curb weight – 4,112 pounds for the X3 versus 3,717 for the RDX. Even with the extra power, the RDX bests the X3 in both city (20 mpg** for the RDX, 19 mpg for the X3) and highway (28** for the RDX, 25 for the X3) mileage.
The RDX is a true case of getting more for less when compared to the BMW X3. The RDX has a maximum cargo volume of 79.2 cubic feet, versus the X3's 71.0, and it has significantly more passenger space, at 103.5 cubic feet, compared to the 90.1 cubic feet of the X3. Five passengers will fit far more comfortably in the RDX, which bests the X3 in leg- and shoulder room, front and rear.
Despite the long-running association with BMW making drivers' cars, the RDX is the one that comes standard with a Sequential Sportshift™ automatic transmission with manual shift functionality and racy paddles. The RDX is also more maneuverable with its standard Adaptive Variable Suspension.
As befits a premium vehicle, the Acura RDX features standard leather upholstery, perforated for breathability. Over in the X3 camp, you're paying extra for leather. That's right; the X3 costs more and comes standard with vinyl seats. The RDX also features a standard rearview camera with a display integrated into the rearview mirror, power-adjustable front seats and a 360-watt audio system with eight speakers. A power moonroof is also standard, and only the RDX has available options like the ELS Surround® audio system with 15GB of media storage, and even a GPS-linked climate control system that senses the intensity of the sun and automatically adjusts cabin temperature in response.
The price gulf widens when you start adding expensive options to the X3 in an attempt to match what you'll get in the RDX as standard fitment. The $41,000 you'll have to cough up for an X3 with just leather and no option packages is essentially the same price as an RDX with every interior option box ticked. The way Acura equips its cars means ordering is simple, and the Technology Package is a very inclusive collection of goodies. Keep going with the options on an X3 and you'll eclipse $50,000. On price difference alone, the RDX pays for itself, if you were considering an X3. In fact, comparably equipped, the RDX comes in at $35,215 compared to the bloated $46,245 for the X3. That’s more than $11,000.
With more in nearly every metric – more features, more power, more standard equipment, more space and cargo room – the only place where the 2013 Acura RDX features less than the BMW X3 is the price tag. If you want a premium crossover that drives like a million bucks without costing that much, the choice is clear.
*Prices shown are Acura suggested retail prices only and do not include taxes, license or an $895 destination and handling charge.
**Based on 2013 EPA mileage estimates. Use for comparison purposes only. Your actual mileage will vary, depending on how you drive and maintain your vehicle.