The MDX is a mid-size luxury crossover SUV built by Acura since the 2001 model year. As the first crossover SUV to have third-row seating, MDX is still popular with buyers who enjoy a midsize luxury crossover with sporty performance and a touch of luxury.
The MDX has been completely redesigned for 2014, but continues to illustrate the benefits of careful evolution. Smart and selective upgrades have produced a more refined version.
Last year's MDX shared its platform with the Honda Pilot and previous-generation Odyssey. The new MDX gets a new platform that offers a slight increase in interior room. It is offered in one well-appointed trim level with progressive add-on packages.
According to Acura the exterior is more aerodynamic reducing drag by 16 percent. The headlights are Acura's Jewel Eye LED design, first introduced in the current RLX. Each headlamp uses five separate LED sources with three used for low-beam and two for high-beam lighting. LED bumper mounted fog lamps are available. The dual exhausts have been replaced with a new single pipe that’s hidden behind the rear bumper,
MDX is powered by a 3.5-liter, direct-injected V6 that produces 290 hp and 267 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard, and all-wheel drive is available as an option. Whether in Sport mode or through the steering-wheel-mounted paddles, shifts aren’t as quick as with state-of-the-art seven- or eight-speed automatics offered by German competitors.
EPA-estimated fuel economy with front-wheel drive is 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined, while the AWD version rates 18/27/21. Properly equipped, the MDX can tow up to 5,000 pounds.
The cabin is a pleasant and luxurious place to spend time with high grade materials and fit and finish that are an improvement over last year's model. Better sealing and insulation and thicker acoustical glass quiet the cabin enough that you’ll be able to hear what’s going on back in the third row. The center stack has been simplified, with a cleaner layout and two display screens that largely replace the previous generation's plethora of buttons.
Front seats are comfortable and supportive, but have only basic adjustments. As in almost any SUV or wagon, the third row is best suited for kids. Power-sliding second-row seats that move forward with the touch of a button make it easier to get to the third row and can also make rear legroom generous. When all three rows are in use there’s only 15.8 cubic feet of cargo room behind the third row. That’s about the same as in a mid-size sedan. However, when you fold the second and third rows, cargo capacity increases to 90.9 cubic feet.
The navigation system can be frustrating and distracting. It lets you to look up destinations with the central control dial, a new 7-inch touchscreen interface that’s mounted below the 8-inch navigation screen or with the voice recognition system. However, while in motion, you can’t enter a destination manually.
You can enter destination information any time by voice control, but each part of the address, such as city, street and house number must be entered in a separate operation. Adding to that inconvenience voice control is not available to the front seat passenger. The microphone is directional, and pointed at the driver.
The 2.7-inch wheelbase increase helps improve the ride quality and adds a bit to cargo capacity. The new model sits an inch closer to the ground, lowering its center of gravity, but reducing off-road clearance. The more than an inch reduction in width was intended to make the MDX easier to park. This does tighten up the passenger compartment, but it’s still comfortably roomy.
Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive continues to be MDX’s signature feature, and a new calibration in Sport mode is intended to send even more torque to the outside rear wheel, speeding directional changes. It works well during aggressive driving maneuvers, but while driving normally you won’t know it’s there. Selecting Sport on the MDX’s integrated dynamics system sharpens throttle response.
The old model’s rear multilink suspension has been replaced with a more compact arrangement with coil-over shocks. The damping is so firm, and body motion so buttoned down that you can feel every imperfection on all but the smoothest pavement.
With a new system that moves from hydraulic to electric assist, steering is quick and has just the right weighting to feel good. The brakes feel improved with an immediate bite and a more linear modulation.
Since the MDX was designed for family transportation, it’s seems somewhat incongruous that a 4350-pound vehicle with seating for 7 is being promoted as sporty and fun to drive. Buyers will have to decide if they want high-end comfort and convenience or something that sacrifices ride quality so it can be driven aggressively?
Prices range from $42,290 for the base vehicle to $56,505 for the MDX SH-AWD with Advance and Entertainment Packages.