- Big V-6 is impressively strong
- nimble handler, for such a big vehicle
- Subdued, but mostly handsome styling
- Safety record
- Reputation for durability
- That bottle-opener grille
- Complex controls and a busy cockpit
- Touchy steering
- Drinks from the premium gas pump
The 2010 Acura MDX still finds ways to improve—though the new grille, steering feel, and USB/Bluetooth omissions are out of character.
The 2010 Acura MDX is a seven-passenger, three-row luxury crossover vehicle. It puts a strong emphasis on style, utility, and comfort, while downplaying any off-road ability. However, it’s also an entertaining vehicle to drive and, despite some odd exclusions on the features list, a supremely confident family vehicle with a stellar safety record. Pricing begins around $43,000 and reaches beyond $50,000 for fully outfitted versions. TheCarConnection.com accepted travel expenses to an Acura-sponsored event to produce this hands-on road test.
At first glance, the 2010 Acura MDX looks familiar to anyone who owns the 2009 model. There are minor updates to its subdued good looks—namely, a big, new Acura corporate grille that’s shield-like and reminds some reviewers of a bottle opener. It’s aggressive to the eye and out of character for a refined performer like the MDX. Thankfully, the rest of its lines stay clean and neat, with a gentle downward arc and new taillamps in back slimming it somewhat. The cabin’s a well-executed comfort zone. New brown stain on the wood trim cascades from the midline of the dash, and more Milano leather is stitched into place on the seats and panels. The gauges are redesigned for better clarity, too. In all, it’s a modern, well-tailored workplace.
The heart of the 2010 MDX’s performance package is a 300-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 engine coupled to a new six-speed automatic with paddle shifters. With strong acceleration and impressive passing power, the MDX is among the most capable vehicles in its class, which also includes the Volvo XC90 and Buick Enclave. Tech features like variable valve timing and electronic throttle help it gain in fuel economy—it’s up to 16/21 mpg, higher than in 2009—and still tows 5,000 pounds while snapping off quick gearchanges and stepping smartly away from stoplights. Retuned steering feels too light and darty for such a large vehicle, but the MDX’s long wheelbase and hefty curb weight smooth out most bumps. Special versions add electronically adjustable shocks for slightly more responsive feel and 19-inch wheels. Acura’s Super Handling all-wheel-drive system remains standard; it sends power to individual wheels with the most traction—even around a tight corner—which neatly factors out the four-wheel sluggishness that usually accompanies AWD systems. As a result, the 2010 Acura MDX is surprisingly entertaining to drive. Along with the responsive powertrain, the suspension keeps the body from leaning too much in corners, even though the ride is quite supple, and the MDX can be hustled along a curvy road like a smaller, lighter vehicle.
Comfort, utility, and quality are abundant in the 2010 MDX. The cabin’s quite roomy in front, with flat footwells for driver and passenger, and a wide body for ample middle-row comfort. The third row is child-sized, as are most third rows. Storage bins and cubbies are everywhere, and the rear cargo area is substantial enough for a three-kid family when the third row is folded down. While it has a busy-looking dash with lots of buttons, lines, and lights, the MDX is crafted from high-quality materials and ranks highly in most quality surveys from independent sources. It’s not particularly lush, but the change in wood tone from grey to brown has warmed up the cabin a bit.
Parents can feel secure in the 2010 Acura MDX, since it’s one of the best-rated vehicles for crash protection. It scores five stars in all tests performed by NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and has been named a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety). That’s due to a strong body structure; standard side and curtain airbags; all-wheel drive; and electronic anti-lock brakes, stability, and traction control. New safety options this year include adaptive cruise control, a blind-spot warning system, and a rearview camera.
Each 2010 MDX is fitted with an array of standard features, including leather upholstery, 18-inch wheels, a three-zone automatic climate control system with humidity control and air filtration, a Bluetooth hands-free calling interface, a six-disc in-dash changer, and XM Satellite Radio. A Sport package with auto-damping suspension is available; it also includes a premium leather interior and a special wheel design. A navigation system featuring real-time traffic and a rearview camera is optional in the Technology package, which also includes the power tailgate, a hard-drive music storage feature, USB and iPod connectivity and song-recognition software, the active suspension package, and ventilated seats. An Entertainment package offers rear-seat DVD players, huge LCD screens, and a 115-volt outlet. You’ll be dumbfounded by the controls at first—and if you buy a base MDX, you won’t be offered the USB connection or stereo Bluetooth at all, odd omissions in this price class.