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Why do I have to pay for synthetic oil and premium gas?

2013 Acura RDX


Gentlemen: We currently have a 2009 Acura RDX that comes off lease in November. We will be looking for replacement options at that time and was hoping you can help. What we don't like about the 2009 RDX: 1) Terrible fuel economy 2) Premium gas 3) Expensive synthetic oil and maintenance costs 4) A bit of a bumpy ride, but we recognize this comes with the sports handling.

What we will be looking for: 1) An SUV (or, at minimum, car with AWD). We use the trunk of the SUV to house the family dog; 2) Our family will also be expanding with our first child in November, so safety is a key, and storage is important; 3) Decent size trunk space (in line or slightly larger than the RDX); 4) Car is driven on the highway 40 km each way to work every day, so a car with good fuel economy – and not reliant on premium gas and synthetic oil – is very important. Appreciate any direction. – Shane, Richmond Hill, Ont.

Vaughan: Shane, congrats on the forthcoming offspring, but get over your synthetic oil phobia. The stuff is great and provides better high- and low-temperature engine protection. Plus you can run it much longer than conventional oil, so the cost difference is slight. Premium gas? Well, that's another story.

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Cato: Shane's woes with his 2009 RDX read like the mea culpa that came from the lips of Acura executives when they first showed me the reinvented 2013 RDX ($40,990). Take the engine. It's nothing like the jittery, thirsty turbo four-banger that had few fans and many detractors, including Shane. The new RDX has a smooth, 273-horsepower V-6. That's the good news. The bad: even this engine, even with its cylinder deactivation to safe fuel, wants premium.

Vaughan: Yes I seem to recall you used the word "buckboard" to describe the ride of the last RDX as we drove one up one of Quebec's fine highways. The new one is a lot softer and generally better, but only comes with that fairly thirsty six. And the exterior design? Let's say an acquired taste.

Cato: I'll tell you this, Shane: Acura is desperate to prove to people like you that all its mistakes are a thing of the past. Honda's luxury brand is on the cusp of the most complete new-model blitz in the brand's 25-year history.

The Acura types tell me that they understand that for too long Honda treated Acura as a place to sell better-equipped Hondas. And they swear up and down they are committed to investing in Acura and its vehicles.

To a point. Keep in mind this RDX shares bits and pieces from Honda's CR-V, though the engine, front subframe, rear subframe and suspension are all different.

Vaughan: Shane, perhaps it's time for you to move on to something else, something bigger and something from one of Acura's competitors: the 2013 Infiniti JX35 ($44,900). Nissan built this one to go right after not the Acura RDX, but the fancier Acura MDX.

The JX is definitely more luxurious than what you're driving and the ride and quietness are light years ahead. Now Cato doesn't like any continuously variable transmission (CVT), but I think this one is fine. It definitely helps with fuel economy.

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Plus you can get Infiniti's device that employs a camera to monitors rear blind spots and shows you an image in the screen. If you're about to collide with a car (or a kid) and you don't hit the brakes, the JX does it for you. I think new parents would like that.

Cato: Here again is the rub: The JX35, with its 265-hp V-6, also wants premium gas. Sure, this is a smooth engine, but the premium part grates.

And Shane, watch out for the extras that Vaughan is encouraging you to buy. The base tag of $44,900 seems quite reasonable, but…

Well, if you want all the extra bells and whistles, you could spend as much as $13,500 more! That gets you the Theatre Package, the Technology Package, the Premium Package, the Driver Assistance Package, and the Deluxe Touring Package. Vaughan may be happy spending your money, Shane. You?

Vaughan: Shane, I want to throw you a bit of a curve. My bet is you've never, ever considered the Detroit auto makers, but now consider the Lincoln MKT. Big crossover SUV with very good quality and loads and loads of features.

Cato: Yes, but what Vaughan leaves out is the deal. I love it. The powerful EcoBoost V-6 – 355 hp – is decently fuel-efficient, though like these others it uses premium gas. The kicker here is the $6,000 factory-to-dealer cash on the hood, plus another $1,000 if you're a Costco member.

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Vaughan: Shane, Acura wants your business so they'll discount deeply to sell you a much improved vehicle. The Infiniti is very classy if you have the dough and the Lincoln is the sleeper here. Sorry about premium gas but rest easy with synthetic oil.


2012 Lincoln MKT EcoBoost2013 Infiniti JX352013 Acura RDX

Wheelbase (mm)


Length (mm)


Width (mm)


Track, front (mm)



3.5-litre V-6, turbocharged3.5-litre V-63.5-litre V-6

Output (horsepower/torque)

355/350 lb-ft265/248 lb-ft273/251 lb-ft

Drive system

All-wheel driveAll-wheel driveAll-wheel drive


Six-speed automaticCVTSix-speed automatic

Curb weight (kg)


Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

13.4 city/8.9 highway11.5 city/8.5 highway (est.)10.7 city/7.3 highway

Base price (MSRP)


Source: car manufacturers

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which appears Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.

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