2010 Acura MDX Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
August 12, 2009

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 three-row, 7-seat crossover SUV. 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, one 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-hp, 3.7-liter V-6 coupled to a new six-speed automatic with paddle shifters. With strong acceleration for passing, the MDX is among the most capable vehicles in its class, including 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, but the MDX's long wheelbase and substantial mass smooth out most bumps. Special versions add electronically adjustable shocks for slightly more responsive feel and 19-inch wheels. The MDX's standard all-wheel-drive setup can shift power to any wheel with more traction--even around a tight corner--which neatly factors out the four-wheel sluggishness that usually accompanies AWD systems. As a result, the MDX has a sprightly feel that's absent from other big crossovers. The powertrain is responsive, the suspension tuned well to prevent too much lean, and the ride supple. In all, the MDX behaves like a lighter, smaller vehicle.

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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, traction and stability 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, 18-inch wheels, Bluetooth, and satellite radio. The Sport bundle of options adds variable adaptive shocks, as well as unique wheels and a nicer leather interior. The MDX's nav system pipes in real-time traffic data. The Technology package adds a rearview camera, a 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.

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2010 Acura MDX

Styling

Odd grille and busy cabin aside, the 2010 Acura MDX appeals to a new generation of sport-ute shoppers with its tech-influenced shapes.

New in 2007, the Acura MDX gets a minor makeover inside and out for the 2010 model year. Reviewers from around the Web are mostly pleased by the richness of the cabin, but the oddly styled grille encounters more controversy than favor.

Kelley Blue Book reports "the characteristics that made the original MDX appealing have carried over intact, if not improved," with few changes from 2007.

There, opinions on the new MDX front end veer south. Car and Driver calls the MDX's styling "techno-futuristic,"; but adds that while the new look is "more glitzy and expressive--the end result is just as funky as most other Acuras."; Edmunds feels the design lacks "a little in terms of personality and prestige." ForbesAutos deems the MDX "bolder and richer-looking" with "chiseled lines" that are less conservative than its predecessor, and Kelley Blue Book adds the overall look is "wider, lower [and] more aggressive."

Step into the big doors, and the MDX gives a far better impression, most reviewers say. The largest Acura gets a "thumbs up for interior design and layout"; from the Washington Post, while ConsumerGuide notes the "attractive blend of rich-looking materials, with especially pleasing switchgear feel and movement." As with most reviewers, Car and Driver feels "the dash looked as busy and complicated as ever,"; but gives Acura credit on content, if not execution: "Fortunately, the leather is sumptuous, the seats are very comfortable, and the navigation system is still one of the best available." Jalopnik demurs on the newly stained wood trim: "Bizarrely, Acura has slathered the dash and console in an ugly wood trim that isn't in keeping with the otherwise tech-focused nature of the interior."

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2010 Acura MDX

Performance

Performance is an unexpected bonus in the big-boned 2010 Acura MDX, and fuel economy tops its class.

The 2010 Acura MDX is well-suited for parents who refused to give in completely to utility over performance.

Reviewers confirm TheCarConnection's impressions of the MDX's powerful drivetrain and mostly enthusiastic handling. It starts with a 3.7-liter V-6 that "turns out 300 horsepower and 275 pounds-feet of torque, making it Acura's most powerful engine," Cars.com proclaims. Edmunds feels the V-6 "isn't quite as smooth as we've come to expect from Acura's past V-6s, but it's hard to argue about its power." A new six-speed transmission "provides quick, smooth, seamless shifts,"; Autoblog reports, "and like the five-speed, paddle shifters allow temporary manual shifting when in Drive or full manual control when set to Sport."; Car and Driver adds, "The transmission shifts quickly and smoothly, and its ability to perform multiple-gear downshifts nicely augments the Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system during sporty driving."; With the new drivetrain, Acura claims the new MDX will accelerate to 60 mph in 7.0 seconds.

Though it's among the top misers in its class, the MDX's fuel economy improves to just 16/21 mpg for the new year. It also requires premium unleaded gas, an additional cost. However, it can "tow up to 5,000 pounds with the added benefit of a Trailer Stability Assist feature," notes Kelley Blue Book.

Secure road feel is delivered by the 2010 MDX's standard all-wheel-drive system, dubbed SH-AWD (Super Handling AWD). It's "capable of transferring different levels of power to individual wheels to maximize traction and grip through turns and in inclement weather," Edmunds explains, calling it "encouraging rather than distracting." The Washington Post gives "ride, acceleration and handling excellent marks," and ConsumerGuide suggests Acura MDX buyers opt for the base suspension, "which provides a compliant but controlled ride." Enthusiast sites like Car and Driver point out the optional adaptive suspension is much improved from its previously brittle ride; the new version is "far more compliant in both sport and comfort settings while maintaining good body control,"; though "we were taken aback by the ultra-light steering--at all speeds--that felt much more artificial and over-boosted than we remember."; In all, the MDX's dynamics are engaging in a way few other seven-seaters can muster. Jalopnik suggests that when you "Engage 'Sport' mode, knock it down from fourth to second, get on the accelerator and throw the MDX into a corner fast and the result is something akin to a dialed-back BMW X6."

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2010 Acura MDX

Comfort & Quality

From carpooling to Home Depot runs, the 2010 Acura MDX has the versatile, roomy goods—and luxury details done well.

Road tests of the 2010 Acura MDX find plenty of usable room, useful cargo and storage spaces, and a high level of fit and finish.

Five passengers will fit best in the MDX; Acura's installed "comfortable and supportive" seats, according to ConsumerGuide, though the "high step-in will challenge shorter drivers."; If you have tall, lanky teenagers, you'll appreciate that "the reclining second-row seats offer enough legroom for those six feet tall and more," reports Kelley Blue Book. Most reviewers fail to mention the third-row seat, and in testing, TheCarConnection.com's team finds them wanting for anyone but small adults and children. Edmunds offers contradictory views; the MDX in one review has a "relatively large third-row seat for a midsize luxury SUV," but on another, "the rearmost seats are better suited for kids."

The MDX shows its usefulness in other ways, too. The Washington Post "liked the idea that it did all of the work of a minivan or station wagon without looking or feeling like one." Interior storage is plentiful for a vehicle this size. Unlike some three-row crossovers, there's actual room way in back when the third row is in the upright position";15 cubic feet, to be exact, according to Kelley Blue Book. They also note that's only 2 fewer cubes than the full-size Chevy Tahoe. Both rear rows fold flat for a total of nearly 84 cubic feet of storage. ConsumerGuide observes, "With all seats folded, the cargo floor is nearly flat, and Acura says it can hold four-foot-wide panels. There's a handy covered in-floor bin behind the 3rd row." A power tailgate, standard this year, makes loading cargo easier.

Fit and finish is typical Acura: excellent. ConsumerGuide notes that while there is a "vast array of [confusing] similarly sized and shaped controls," the 2010 Acura MDX's "high-tech interior [contains] especially pleasing switchgear feel and movement." Car and Driver finds "tons of space...with an upscale trim." Noise levels are low, with less of the "tire hum and highway wind rush"; typical in SUVs, and "the engine sounds smooth, with a rich-sounding growl during acceleration," reports ConsumerGuide. On the other hand, Consumer Reports praises its overall quietness, especially at highway speeds. Edmunds agrees, stating that when it comes to "comfort, versatility and refinement, the MDX excels."

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2010 Acura MDX

Safety

The 2010 Acura MDX has the crash-test scores to prove its Top Safety Pick standing.

There's nothing to fault safety-wise in the 2010 Acura MDX. All the sources consulted by TheCarConnection.com's editors rave about its remarkable safety levels.

Across the board in U.S. crash tests, the MDX gets top scores from NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) names the Acura MDX a Top Safety Pick. As Car and Driver reports, the MDX is rated four stars in rollover resistance, though no crossover vehicles achieve NHTSA's lofty five-star rollover score.

Credit goes to "a laundry list of safety features," reports Motor Trend. Those features include "standard dual front airbags, driver and front passenger side impact airbags, side curtain airbags [for all three rows], active headrests, and seatbelt pretensioners." To that, add standard ABS, traction control, stability control, and standard full-time all-wheel drive (SH-AWD). Also standard on all trims are HID headlights "for better night visibility," notes Motor Trend.

Autoblog details the MDX's new camera systems: "If the factory navigation system isn't fitted, Acura now offers a rear-view camera with a display embedded in the inside mirror. Option up for the technology package and the MDX benefits from an enhanced multi-mode rear camera that, in addition to the regular 90-degree view, includes a 180-degree wide-angle camera allowing you to see vehicles approaching from the sides"; and "a bird's-eye view of the rear, providing a clear view of the hitch when hooking up a trailer."

Without the cameras, you'll need help backing up, as the "roof pillars hinder visibility to some angles," ConsumerGuide points out.

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2010 Acura MDX

Features

An excellent array of standard features and options gives the 2010 Acura MDX a leg up on some competitors, but many options are only available in expensive packages.

If you like acronyms, you'll fall in love with the 2010 Acura MDX, from its standard SH-AWD and ABS to its optional HID headlamps.

Each 2010 MDX comes with a long list of standard features that, according to Motor Trend, include "seven-passenger [leather] seating, tri-zone climate control, a ten-way power driver's seat, eight-way power passenger seat, and an eight-speaker, 253-watt audio system with an in-dash six-disc CD-changer with WMA and MP3 capability, auxiliary input jack, and XM radio." In addition to these features, Edmunds reports base models come with "a sunroof, a fully adjustable steering wheel, and Bluetooth for hands-free cell phone operation."

Three packages allow owners to tailor their vehicle--and to boost the price from around $44,000 to as much as $55,000. 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 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.

Motor Trend endorses the high-end audio system, suggesting, "Those who love their sound can upgrade to a 410-watt, ten-speaker system engineered by Elliot Scheiner" by opting for the Technology package.

As usual with Acura, the bundling of options leaves shoppers who want just one feature out of luck, according to ForbesAutos. These packages aren't cheap either and can easily add more than $10,000 to the price if all the options boxes are checked.

Conclusion An excellent array of standard features and options gives the 2010 Acura MDX a leg up on some competitors, but many options are only available in expensive packages.

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