New & Used Acura MDX: In Depth
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The sporty Acura MDX crossover is one of the oldest nameplates in the luxury and near-luxury utility vehicle category.
Among U.S. large crossovers, the competition may include the big square Ford Flex, its more luxurious sibling, the Lincoln MKT, and perhaps the Buick Enclave.
While it can seat up to seven passengers, it remains a driver's car with family-friendly features--distinguishing it from a number of other Asian higher-end crossovers whose on-road behavior is closer to that of a minivan than a sport sedan.
The MDX entered the market back in 2001, when it supplanted a slow-selling vehicle dubbed the SLX--simply a rebadged version of the then-current Isuzu Trooper. Offered as a seven-passenger crossover, the MDX came with a single drivetrain, a 3.5-liter V-6 with 240 horsepower, mated to a five-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. Over the years, this first MDX would see its power boosted to 265 hp, while it added features such as Bluetooth connectivity, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, Bose audio and satellite radio, and a voice-activated navigation system. Side-curtain airbags were another addition to the MDX's safety package, which performed well in crash tests.
While it never reached the prestigious ubiquity of the Lexus RX, the Acura MDX became a reliable sight in upscale mall parking lots and commuter lanes thanks to its luxe equipment, its airy interior and its relatively good ride and handling.
The second-generation MDX that arrived in the 2007 model year with a substantial look and feel, both inside and out. It featured a 3.7-liter V-6 engine with a power output of 300 hp--and a new all-wheel-drive system, "Super Handling All-Wheel Drive," that was related to the one that would bow in the new Acura RL large sedan. Standard equipment included a sunroof and leather trim, while options included a high-quality premium audio package; voice-activated navigation; and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system. Handling remained tried and true to its crossover positioning, but the MDX's interior grew more spacious and useful, giving it one of the most adult-friendly interiors of any crossover vehicle. Fuel economy, though, was not a strong point, at 14/20 mpg (it's improved to 16/21 in more recent years).
In 2010, the MDX got a mid-cycle refresh, which included Acura's new and controversial corporate grille, which some likened to a bottle opener, though we found the MDX version of that design to be the best-integrated one found on any Acura. The MDX also received new electric power steering that year, but it missed the mark completely for responsiveness (it's too fast) and heft (it's too light). Safety remained a strong point, with the MDX named an IIHS Top Safety Pick. In 2010, the two-door Acura ZDX was introduced, with the model sharing some mechanicals with the MDX. Its severe lack of interior space led to very low sales, however; it was withdrawn after 2012. The Acura MDX changed very little for 2013, the last year before the entirely redesigned 2014 model.
The new Acura MDX
The Acura MDX now shares some of its running gear with a number of other Acura and Honda models, including the Pilot crossover and earlier versions of the Odyssey minivan. Today, it competes with the Infiniti QX60 (nee JX), the equally long-running Lexus RX, and the Volvo XC90, which will be entirely new next year.
The current generation began with a 2014 redesign that brought with it a sleeker, more aerodynamic body. The MDX remains a seven-seater with a single powertrain—a new direct-injection V-6 with more power and improved fuel economy. The look is more aggressive, appearing wider than before and less blocky overall. The MDX also added some advanced safety features, such as radar-based cruise control and a collision-warning system.
This generation is the first to offer a front-wheel-drive MDX, perhaps to widen its appeal to those in warmer climates who don't need all-wheel drive and its attendant fuel-economy penalty. The Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive system is once again available. Handling is still crisp for a crossover, but the latest MDX has lost some of the edge of the previous model. Those who prioritize comfort will of course see that as a good thing.