Driver's Seat: Acura, Infiniti AWDs square off for road test

2013 Acura RDX AWD Tech
2013 Acura RDX AWD Tech
Posted: November 22, 2012

2013 Acura RDX AWD Tech vs. 2013 Infiniti EX37 Journey AWD: When price, passenger room, and driving excitement are not big concerns.

Catching up: Last week, we compared prices, features and interiors of the RDX and EX37. This week, we take them for a spin.

Similar prices, different vehicles: Buy a bare-bones Acura RDX two-wheel drive, and the power comes from the front wheels. A cheaper EX37, however, drives only the rear. So from the bottom up, these two crossovers travel different paths.

Under the hood: The Acura offers 273 horsepower from its 3.5-liter V6. The acceleration is a delight; my notes include the scrawl, "This Acura really kicks."

A larger 3.7-liter V-6 differentiates the 2013 EX37 from the previous EX35 (3.5 liters). The engine produces a rocking 325 horses for speed aficionados. Yet because the Infiniti tips the scales at a beefy 5,024 pounds, it's more lethargic than the comparatively lithe 3,852-pound Acura.

Getting in gear: The EX37's power is transferred through a 7-speed automatic gearbox with shift capability, while the RDX has just six gears.

Though I have to say the shift capability does not translate into shiftability. It's just not all that fun to row through the gears in some vehicles, and the EX37 is one of them. And don't get me started on steering-wheel paddle shifters like those offered in the RDX. Click. Wow. I shifted. Snore.

Sturgis Kid 4.0, age 12, notes that the EX37 always sounds like it's going fast, so the hum of the exhaust note is nice. The Acura is a more sedate soundtrack.

On the curves: The handling in the Acura is crisp and has good feedback from the road, but it's not extremely sporty. The EX37 is even a bit more mundane. That surprised me because the RDX stands a full four inches taller than the EX37. But the Infiniti's extra weight makes a difference.

Neither had the taut steering of, say, the Mazda CX-5 or the Volkswagen Tiguan crossovers.

Driver's seat: Driver comfort in both vehicles was phenomenal. Gauges are easy to read; controls are thoughtfully designed and easy to reach.

Night shift: The lighting available to EX37 occupants throughout the vehicle is helpful and not too bright. But people searching for cargo in the rear at night will need a flashlight: The tiny light on the door offers little assistance, and the searcher can eclipse what little illumination it offers.

The RDX's lighting did the job for passengers as well as cargo hunters.

Technology: The AroundView Monitor that drew my raves in the review of the Infiniti JX35 comes as part of the $3,050 Infiniti EX37 Premium Package (which also adds navigation, larger LCD monitor, Bose premium sound, advanced climate control, and more). The AroundView's four fish-eye cameras and software almost give drivers a Google Earth view of the vehicle when backing up.

Acura has a backup camera, too.

I spent my time with the EX37 during Hurricane Sandy, and I learned that this (and probably every other) camera system needs a feature added: a drier/defroster. Water on the camera renders it almost completely ineffective, though Infiniti's little sonar wave drawings, which change color depending on an object's distance, adds a fail-safe.

Fuel economy: The Acura RDX posted just under 24 m.p.g. I observed about 22 m.p.g. in the EX37. The mileage was recorded in a mix of highway and suburban driving. Feed both vehicles premium only.

Where/how they're built: The Acura comes to us from East Liberty, Ohio, while the Infiniti hails from Tochigi, Japan. Both vehicles get above-average marks in Consumer Reports reliability testing.

In the end: Lovers of the tried-and-true who need a real back seat would find the Acura a more rewarding purchase, while people interested in pushing the envelope and not carrying passengers or cargo might find the EX37 a better choice. Me? I don't find enough delight in either to not save almost half my money and get a Mazda CX-5.

But if I had to have luxury from these makers, I'd go for the Acura TSX wagon or spring for the Infiniti JX35.


Contact Scott Sturgis at 215-854-2558 or ssturgis@phillynews.com.

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