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2014 Acura MDX refines crossover SUV luxury and performance

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2014 Acura MDX SH AWD

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The 2014 Acura MDX seven-passenger luxury performance SUV, in its third generation, has refined and set a new standard with their re engineering directly focused on obtaining class-leading fuel economy ratings with new levels of prestige and luxury comfort.

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Our experience with many premium or luxury crossover SUV vehicles is that they have all of the premium or luxury trappings, but when the rubber hits the road, they frequently deliver a drive and ride experience short of that mark. We think that Acura has come as close to that mark as anyone has recently – especially at a price ranging from $42,290 to $54,505 for the FWD models with AWD being just $2,000 more.

Our test top-line MDX AWD came in a fresh Forest Mist Metallic with the Eucalyptus leather interior. The 2014 MDX AWD Advance with Entertainment has a MSRP of $56,505 – and, adding delivery of $895, it drives off the lot with everything you want or need, for $57,400.

The Acura pricing includes Technology, Entertainment and Advance package features, it comes loaded with a full line of standard premium level features plus a plethora of available features, functionality and high end elements that make the MDX a desirable choice for discriminating luxury SUV buyers.

Some of those premium features on our MDX worth noting included: 10-spoke 19-inch Alloy Wheels, Jewel-Eye LED headlamps with Auto On/Off, Power Moon Roof with Tilt, and Speed Sensing Variable Speed Intermittent Windshield Wipers with Auto Headlight function, Remote-link Power Tailgate, Smart Entry and Push Button Start and Power Heated Side Mirrors with Reverse Tilt-down feature.

Other features inside our MDX included Sport Style Heated Driver Seat and Passenger Seats featuring a 10-way power adjustment, Leather Wrapped Steering Wheel with Controls, Center Console with segment leading storage capacity, Tri-Zone Automatic Climate Control with Air Filtration, Front Seat Ventilation integrated with the air conditioning, LED Overhead Reading Lamps (all three rows) with Integrated Blue LED Ambient accents and Second-row Seats with Fold-down Armrest and Cup Holders.

Without a doubt, the new 2014 Acura MDX is a complete remake of the MDX and, based on our test drive of the MDX over the week, we think they pretty much nailed it.

From top to bottom and front to back, this new 2014 Acura MDX is seriously superior to previous generation versions.

Improved Platform
Starting with the basics, Acura abandoned their previous global light truck platform for the MDX and created a whole new platform (both body and chassis) to build a new, more refined and better performing seven-passenger mid-size luxury SUV. The new sleeker body shape is longer, wider and has a lower roof line than the previous-generation MDX - all which improve the aerodynamics of the MDX.

With the longer wheelbase and some key suspension changes, the MDX has a 4.5-inch wider foot entry point and 1.8-inch lower step-in height at the doors making second row entry much easier. The second-row seats now have five-position reclining seatbacks, and a new Extended Slide feature provides 5.9 inches of total fore-aft seat travel, giving easier access for second- and third-row passengers. A new One-Touch Walk-In feature makes for easier one-button operation of the second-row seats – further easing third-row entry and exit.

The new body and chassis utilizes uses lightweight materials like high-strength steel, aluminum and magnesium that enabled a 275-pound weight reduction compared to the previous model. The use of the new materials also improves dynamic response and provides better isolation of road noise and vibration leading to a much quieter riding the 2014 MDX.

A totally new suspension design (front and rear) includes new Amplitude Reactive Dampers that use variable damping rates to deliver outstanding ride compliance and responsive handling – together, giving the 2014 MDX new levels of comfort and driving performance.

New Power Train and Ride Dynamics
The new 2014 MDX is powered by Acura’s first direct-injected engine that incorporates a new i-VTEC valve train. The 3.5L aluminum V-6 engine produces 290 horsepower with 267 lb.-ft. of torque. It also features two-stage Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) which enables the engine to run on all six cylinders when needed and seamlessly shift down to three cylinders for economy when conditions warrant.

The 3.5L V6 is mated to a reengineered 6-speed automatic transmission with Sequential Sport Shift for faster and smoother gear changes. On all-wheel drive models, power to the wheels is managed by Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system, which automatically distributes engine torque between the front and rear axles and the left and right rear wheels for traction and control. Additionally, the Sequential Sport Shift automatic transmission, with Normal and Sport modes, provides full manual control of gear changes via the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters when desired.

The all-new 2014 MDX AWD, with its new and more efficient power train, gets a 17-percent increase in its combined EPA fuel economy rating versus the previous model - 18/27 mpg City/Highway and 21 mpg combined. A new (for 2014) two-wheel drive (FWD) version with the same power trail will deliver 20/28 mpg City/Highway with 23 mpg combined.

The new MDX Integrated Dynamics System (IDS) enhances the drive experience with three driving modes – Comfort, Normal and Sport. In Normal mode, the steering effort is a balance between comfortable and sporty. Comfort mode reduces steering effort for low-effort maneuverability, especially at low speeds and when maneuvering in tight spaces. The Sport mode (which we always seem to gravitate to) provides a firmer steering feel with higher effort that complements more aggressive open-road driving. The Sport mode also adjusts throttle response and SH-AWD torque proportioning, and even has Active Noise Control that gives a more aggressive engine note in the cabin (yep, we like that).

Improved Cabin Experience
The Acura design and engineering teams obviously paid a lot of attention to improving the luxury of the ride as well as the ambiance in the cabin based on our week of driving around town, on the highway and along the country roads of Central Texas.

To reduce noise in the cabin, there are new materials and techniques that include expanded foam in the roof pillars; new pillar separators (located at the bottom of each pillar) and new insulating materials in several other key areas. A new floor sealing plane further dampens road noise while thicker, three-layer acoustic glass for the windshield and front side windows, thicker rear door glass and new triple seal side-sill door seals add to the quiet ride experience.

Acura designers have utilized new high quality, soft touch premium materials throughout the cabin that include things like Premium Milano leather on the first and second-row seating surfaces, and satin chrome plated trim plus simulated wood-grain accents to highlight the upscale cabin.

Indirect lighting effects come from LED backlit gauges with progressive illumination that have the appearance of a high-end chronograph. LED lamps are also used for cabin accent lighting on the center console and front foot wells with a progressive illumination feature which is programmable.

Other standard or available features that add to the drive experience include Smart Keyless Access, Remote Engine Start, Manual Rear Side-Window Shades, Push-Button Start, Multi-Angle Rearview Camera, Rain-Sensing Wipers and Front and Rear Parking Sensors, Heated Rear Seats, Ventilated Front Seats and Puddle Lights.

Technology Completes the Package
The 2014 MDX abounds with enhanced technology features that include the next-generation AcuraLink system, which offers a long list of media options via Aha mobile. There is also a host of new available security and convenience features, including collision notification, remote unlocking, stolen vehicle tracking and surface street traffic information.

Music and entertainment systems in the new MDX are a strong point at all trim levels. Our test car - the top end MDX with Advance and Entertainment - has the Acura/ELS Studio 12-Speaker Audio System with a 546-watt amplifier and the new ceiling-mounted speakers. It included the latest generation Acura Navigation System with Voice Recognition displayed through an 8-inch high-resolution WVGA backlit color display.

Both the AcuraLink and Acura/ELS Studio systems use a new 7-inch color On Demand Multi-Use Display (ODMD) touchscreen with haptic feedback located in the center stack. The addition of the ODMD allowed a reduction of number of hard buttons in the center stack from a whopping 41 to just nine.

Lastly, we were impressed with the available DVD Rear Entertainment system on our test MDX Advance and Entertainment Package model that features a new ultra-wide 16.2-inch full WVGA screen with 1600 x 480 pixel resolution. It has the capability to display two channels of visual entertainment at the same time. The system also includes a High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) port for attaching high definition players and certain gaming consoles and includes a 115-volt power outlet for devices up to 150 watts.

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