- 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 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.
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.