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2014 Acura MDX: First Drive

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We suspect we're not the only ones who think that the very premise behind some high-performance luxury utility vehicles borders on perverse.

Who are they kidding? Unless you're seeking revenge, you're not going to load your clients (or your mother-in-law) into the back seat and head out on a nine-tenths thrill ride—and driving like that with kids in the back seat? Don't dare. Are busy parents really going to take time away from carpool duty to go carve canyon roads in a luxury ute? Wouldn't they just have a Miata or an M3 for that?

All that silliness is perhaps part of the reason Acura did something very smart when it was redesigning the all-new 2014 MDX luxury crossover: Rather than listening to driving enthusiasts or focusing on how it build the brand's image, Acura went back and listened to current MDX owners.

What did they say? They like the size; they liked its performance; and they appreciated the utility and towing ability. But they wanted to see an improved interior, simplified controls, lighter steering, a quieter interior, smoother ride, and a little more room for the third row.

The brand took all of that feedback very seriously, and with the 2014 Acura MDX that begins arriving at dealerships in July, it's complied with pretty much all of it.

And at least at first, it seems like an about-face of sorts in Acura MDX history, as the last-generation MDX took a big step in the performance direction. That version was a pretty sharp-driving, responsive crossover—one of the best driving in its class, really—yet driving enthusiasts would have probably told Acura to tune the MDX even firmer, or that the steering could load up heavier.

Lean, athletic, yet not punishing

While Acura has shaken some of that edginess in the new 2014 MDX, we found the new model to be delightfully lean and athletic, and just as much at ease on undulating, oddly banked back roads as on smooth, fast highways.

But our first impression was that the MDX is quiet inside—very quiet—thanks to a host of noise-hushing and vibration-reducing measures. Active noise cancellation, active engine mounts, acoustic glass for the windshield and front windows, thicker glass elsewhere, added underfloor insulation, tighter seals, and subframe bushings are all among the many measures that help keep things quiet inside. And oh, do they.

Ride quality, too, is phenomenally good. New amplitude-reactive dampers reduce the damping force for high-frequency inputs—jittery pavement surfaces, for example—while hydraulic sub-frame mount bushings help seal out more road vibration.

Acura claims that the new approach improves ride comfort with no trade-off to handling, but in a back-to-back drive of a new 2014 MDX with the outgoing model, the new model didn't turn in quite as crisply. You do lose a little edge with all that vibration and harshness here, but to us and to the typical buyer, it's going to be worth it without a doubt.

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Comments (4)
  1. As a owner of a 2011 MDX, and having previously owned, 04/06/09 MDXs I am disappointed that the MDX still requires premium gas, does not have folding outside mirrors, panorama roof, discontinuance of dual exhaust, still the ugly beek, and busy dash. and only a token improvement in gas mileage, if its really improved at all. I am seriously looking to go to a Grand Cherokee Summit that is cheaper has all the features burns regular, and even if gas mileage is not better, its not worst either and the entire package is cheaper than a mid price MDX.What is the value argument for staying with Acura? Even the Sorento SX limited is a better value and more equipment. The Ford top packaged Escape even is a better value,would like to hear a countepoin

  2. The new MDX has a higher EPA fuel efficiency, but as you said, we'll have to wait and see what people discover their milage to be.

    For me, I buy a car and I plan on keeping it 10+ years (or until it dies). That means I look at a brand that has a better reliability history (Honda and Toyota fit that). Jeep isn't exactly know for their long-term reliability. Also, a Jeep will drive nothing like an Acura; you may as well throw the Enclave/Acadia into the mix. Acura is a CUV that tries to balance sportiness and family friendliness, while giving consumers a reliable vehicle. If you are leasing, I would go with something like a BMW X5 or some other fun-to-drive CUV.

  3. Whatever Mr. Coggins said!

  4. I have a 2007 Acura that I bought new. I love the car and may get the new one. The main thing I asked for was to make the car less ugly. They missed that one big time. The new one is uglier than than it predecessor. What is the deal with that beak?! I did not mind all of the buttons and will surely be annoyed having to press 2 or more for simple tasks. Size was also fine before too but I could always use some more. Acura has always seemed to be the sportiest of the big Japanese brands. Now it seems that they have leaned more towards luxury. I am kind of bummed. Now I have to test drive Audi Q7. Why Acura Why? Can't you just make it look nice?? Seriously - Best value if you close your eyes. Dollar for dollar, ugliest!

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