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The 2012 Acura MDX embodies much of what's made mid-size crossovers the modern vehicle of choice for American suburban families. With strong acceleration, a comfortable cabin, and impressive safety--all the while offering just a little understated ruggedness--the MDX gives a wide range of shoppers what they need in a seven-passenger, three-row luxury crossover vehicle.
The MDX's handsome profile carries through for 2012, as does the brash front-end design that's polarized some of this model's conservative buyer set. But ever since this model's last full redesign, for the 2007 model year, we've considered it one of Honda's better efforts at giving a rather utilitarian, box-on-wheels design some character. The cabin’s a well-executed comfort zone with Milano leather trim and woodgrain trim cascading from the midline of the dash, as on the bigger RL sedan. In all, it’s a modern, well-tailored workplace--except for the center stack, which can seem a bit cluttered.
Performance is surprisingly strong in the 2012 MDX; a 300-horsepower, 3.7-liter six doles out strong acceleration and impressive passing power, with just a tinge of intake growl, and it's paired up with a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters. The MDX step off smartly from stoplights (0-60 in about seven seconds), and passes with enthusiasm. Too-light power steering remains the chief complaint, and overall we think the MDX's optional magnetic-electronic suspension system improves both ride and handling (though the base setup is good, too).
Acura’s Super Handling all-wheel-drive system remains standard. The complex system pushes power to each wheel based on its available traction. The system neatly excises some of the sluggishness and heft that plagues larger three-row SUVs, so you can have fun hustling this one on a curvy road.
There are three rows of seating in the 2012 MDX, and adults will find all-day comfort in any of the perches in the front two rows. The front seats especially offer great bolstering and support. As for the third row, it's child-sized, as are most benches in this class, but the second-row seat tilts and slides forward to expand access to the back. Storage bins and cubbies are everywhere inside the MDX, and the rear cargo area is large enough to accept a lot of luggage, particularly when the third row is folded down.The 2012 Acura MDX has a great record for safety, and it's been a longtime IIHS Top Safety Pick (it's only not for 2012 as it still hasn't been tested for roof strength). In the new, revised federal frontal test, it achieved four out of five stars.
The MDX is priced right in the same range as other luxury-brand crossovers, but it sure doesn't disappoint in terms of features. Leather upholstery, heated power seats, a three-zone climate control system, a power tailgate, Bluetooth, XM satellite radio, and steering-wheel audio and phone controls are all standard. One odd omission is that the base model still lacks a USB port; to get that, you need to upgrade to the 410-watt premium sound system. The nav system includes 15 gigabytes of storage for music, and real-time traffic and rerouting functions. There's also a rear DVD entertainment package, and an Advance package that adds on ventilated front seats; the adaptive suspension; and a host of safety pieces, like blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, and brakes that apply themselves if the vehicle senses an accident is imminent.
- Strong acceleration
- Nimble for a three-row vehicle
- Great all-wheel drive system
- Seating comfort
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- Busy cockpit layout
- Grille design remains polarizing
- Steering feel
- Takes premium gas