The original Acura RDX debuted in April of 2006 at the New York International Auto Show. Tabbed as an "Entry Premium" CUV, the RDX's clearest competitor at the time was BMW's X3. Originally, the X3 laid down a brusque formula - one that was long on "sport" and short on "luxury". This largely meant a kidney-splitting ride paired with a nice stereo, and the RDX pretty much followed this formula as well. Six years down the road, the competitive landscape has expanded considerably and the X3 and RDX have traded off the harder edged "sport" side in favor of adding more to the "luxury" side.
With the first RDX, Acura aimed to grab the attention of the "Urban Achiever" - a 30 year-old male who was single, or part of a DINK household. Acura's idea was to provide a vehicle that was useful for city dwellers during the work week, but offered SUV utility and "sport sedan handling" for weekend getaways. At the time, there was a strong belief that there was a large market for this. The RDX and X3 were similar in mission, but Acura attempted to differentiate the RDX from the X3 a number of ways. One was Acura's innovative "Super-Handling AWD" (SH-AWD) torque vectoring all-wheel-drive-system. Another was Acura's first turbocharged engine: a 2.3L 4-cylinder that delivered 240hp and 260lb-ft of torque. At the time, it was the torquiest engine ever offered by Acura (or Honda). And the DVD-Audio 5.1 channel surround sound ELS Audio system was Acura's ace in the hole.
In the end, Acura ultimately failed to attract the RDX's target buyer, and instead attracted mostly empty nesters: the median age of buyers was 53 years old, 52% female, with a $163000 annual household income.
How did Acura miss the mark by so much? It's possible that 30-year old males weren't really that interested in Entry Premium CUVs with "Sport Sedan Handling", but it didn't help that the original RDX didn't deliver so well on many of the promises that were originally made. The 2.3L turbocharged engine was supposed to deliver better fuel efficiency and better performance than a 6-cylinder, while suffering little to none of the "turbo lag" that plagued prior turbocharged engines. In reality, fuel economy was akin to terrible, with "real world" city numbers hovering in the mid teens and highway numbers in the low 20s, if you were deliberate. Turbo lag was anything but absent, and due to this and the limitations of being exclusively coupled to a conservatively geared 5-speed automatic transmission, acceleration was generally uneven and unpredictable, particularly in warmer weather. And these powertrain related shortcomings meant that it was rather difficult to fully realize the benefits of Acura's amazing SH-AWD system. For the torque vectoring to work, you need TORQUE, immediately. Between turbo lag, transmission lag, inherent chassis understeer, etc... SH-AWD was largely wasted on the RDX.
With the 2013 RDX, Acura is finally recognizing that Empty Nesters represent the meat of the audience for these Entry Premium CUVs. These people (and most people in general) want a car that responds quickly and faithfully to their inputs. And in this respect, the new RDX does not disappoint at all.