The Car Connection Acura MDX Overview
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 is entirely new for 2016.
Today's MDX was introduced for 2014, the result of a complete redesign of the model. The body is much sleeker, with improved aerodynamics; it has lots the blocky, somewhat blunt look of its predecessor. Acura's big SUV continues to offer seating for seven and a single engine option. The 3.5-liter V-6 is fitted with direct injection and returning better fuel economy than before. Acura also added advanced safety features to the MDX's roster, including radar-based cruise control and a collision-warning system. The current model receives a five-star overall rating from the NHTSA, as well as the IIHS's Top Safety Pick+ rating, putting it at the top of its class in safety.
This generation is the first to offer a front-wheel-drive MDX, broadening 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 the sharp dynamic edge of the previous model. Those who prioritize comfort will, of course, see that as a good thing.
Acura has announced a few key changes for the 2017 MDX, which has already gone on sale. The 3.5-liter V-6 engine is now mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission for improved efficiency, and the available Advance package also adds an engine stop-start function to further improve fuel economy. The front-drive MDX now hits a maximum of 23 mpg combined. Several other features have been added as standard or optional equipment, including a revamped suite of safety features now called AcuraWatch, which includes road-departure mitigation and a rear cross-traffic monitor. The optional SH-AWD system has been redesigned as well, now featuring a lighter rear differential that has switched to a dual-clutch design for what Acura claims is better responsiveness.
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, airy interior, and relatively good ride and handling.
The second-generation MDX arrived for 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 as well as a new all-wheel-drive system. "Super Handling All-Wheel Drive," as Acura called it, was related to the one that would bow in the Acura RL large sedan and featured true mechanical torque vectoring on the rear axle. 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 above-average for a crossover of its size, while the MDX's interior grew more spacious and useful, giving it one of the most adult-friendly cabins of any crossover vehicle. Fuel economy, though, was not a strong point, at 14 mpg city, 20 highway originally and then improving to 16/21 mpg in later years. This was in part due to the heavy and complicated AWD system that was fitted for this generation.
In 2010, the MDX was lightly refreshed, 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.