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When cross-shopping family vehicles, 'compromise' is probably the operative word. Yet the 2015 Acura MDX is a responsive, sharp-looking SUV that makes few of them—especially if you're looking for reliability and strong resale value. And when heading off-road isn't at all a priority, but you want a utility vehicle that's luxurious and enjoyable—practical and sensible, too—the 2015 Acura MDX should land near the top of the list.
The MDX has always had a special appeal as a minivan alternative -- a premium-grade, family-friendly crossover that offers threes rows of seating, a lower load floor, and many of the conveniences found in less stylish family vans. There may be questions about where Acura's sedan lineup is headed, but the MDX appears to be more focused on its goals than ever.
Design-wise, there are no big surprises. The 2015 MDX takes to a shape that's a little more sport-wagon influenced, perhaps, and mates that with interiors that are a little warmer. The sleeker profile, more curvaceous sheetmetal, and some new, precise front-end details serve to give it a leaner look overall. Our editors are split on whether Acura’s ‘beak’ front end works, but we think that it’s much more flattering on the brand’s utility vehicles—and this new MDX—than on its sedans. Crisp matte-chrome details and ‘jewel-eye’ LED headlamps altogether gives this model a streamlined, elegant look. Inside, Acura has paid much more attention to properly coordinated materials and trims, and it shows.
The old MDX has a ride that’s busy, to put it best, and one of the most delightful things about the 2015 MDX is how well it balances vastly better ride quality with handling that, almost miraculously, is more athletic—even though a little feedback to the driver is missing here. 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 road vibration. Acura claims that the new approach improves ride comfort with no trade-off to handling.
It's now one of the roomiest three-row crossovers inside, unless you're willing to step up to a vehicle that's potentially too big to park. Front seats are about as supportive yet plush as you'd expect in a luxury crossover, and you can now slide the second row back and forth about six inches, and Acura has even installed a little lighted button beside the second-row outboard seats, for third-row access. A press enables a neat, cleverly-designed spring-loaded process (yes, fewer motors to short out, less weight and complication). Flatter-folding seats, better storage solutions, and a great center-console arrangement with a slide-out tray all contribute to an impression that this is a vehicle that doesn't waste your space—or your time.
The 2015 MDX is powered by a 290-horsepower version of Acura’s always-excellent 3.5-liter V-6 engine—now fed with direct injection and kosher with the full suite of Honda’s so-called Earth Dreams technologies. Across the lineup, it’s mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that includes steering-wheel paddle shifters. The so-called Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system that’s available in the MDX (yes, front-wheel drive is now standard, if that’s all you need) provides more all-weather traction, and even a little more cornering control in some situations, and it can vary front-wheel torque distribution from 90 percent down to 30 percent (70 percent to the rear)—or up to a hundred percent to either the left or right wheels.
The 2015 MDX is also very, very quiet inside. An active cancellation system inside the cabin helps, as well as an active engine mount system that helps quell low frequency vibrations from the powertrain. Full-on acoustic glass is used for the windshield and front windows, while thicker, noise-insulating glass is used elsewhere; and Acura has added a load of insulation elsewhere, while looking at cabin air leakage to help seal out residual noise.
An all-new structure aids that refinement, but also more importantly it's already resulted in some top-tier safety ratings. Additional advanced-technology safety features include Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Forward Collision Warning (FCW). a Wide View Camera, and a Blind Spot Information system. A driver's knee bag rounds out an already complete safety set, and there's also Lane Keeping Assist (LKAS), which will provide a gentle, proactive nudge to the steering to help you stay in your intended lane.
The 2015 Acura MDX is offered in four different grades: base MDX, Tech, Tech Entertainment, and Advance Entertainment. Each of those four models can be specified with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. At the top of the line, the Advance Entertainment gets Lane Keeping Assist, front and rear parking sensors, keyfob-integrated remote engine start, adaptive cruise control with a low-speed follow feature, collision mitigation braking, the wide-screen rear entertainment system with HDMI, the top 12-speaker ELS audio system, roof rails, and Milano premium perforated leather upholstery with ventilated front seats.