New & Used Acura MDX: In Depth
2014 Acura MDX - First Drive, May 2013Enlarge Photo
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The Acura MDX is a sporty, luxurious crossover that can hold up to seven passengers, showing that Acura can make a driver’s car that can be family-friendly, too.
The MDX is also one of the longest-running nameplates in this class. It 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. Current competition includes the new Infiniti JX, Lexus RX, and Volvo XC90, along with the Ford Flex and its more luxurious sibling, the Lincoln MKT.
Back in 2001, the first-generation Acura MDX replaced 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 have likened to a bottle opener. The MDX has, we think, the best-integrated version of that design found on any Acura. The MDX also received new electronic power steering that year, but our reviews found it to miss the mark completely for responsiveness (it's too fast) and heft (it's far too light).
Little has changed for the MDX since that update. Safety remains 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, and it was withdrawn after 2012. The MDX has changed very little for 2013, but major changes are in store later this year, when a new 2014 Acura MDX is slated to debut. Acura hasn't yet released full details for this fully redesigned vehicle, but it previewed it in 'prototype' form at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show, with a new direct-injection V-6 and a more aerodynamic stance and styling all part of the change.