- Refined and quiet
- Roomy for six
- Easy to operate
- Nice interior trim
- Smooth, powerful engine
- Unrefined transmission
- Glare from bright trim
- Lacks steering feedback
The 2016 Acura MDX remains one of the best luxury three-row SUVs, but the benefits of its new nine-speed automatic are unclear.
In a crowded luxury mid- to full-size SUV class, the 2016 Acura MDX stands out—and not just because of its size. While it's among the roomiest three-row family utilities, our high ratings also come from an abundance of features, excellent ride, and comprehensive safety ratings.
The big crossover SUV can seat up to seven passengers, and it's positively stuffed with convenience features that make it easy for everyday transportation of large families and a lot of their belongings.
The MDX gets significant upgrades for 2016 that further improve this highly rated seven-seat SUV. Chief among them is a new 9-speed automatic transmission with a push-button electronic gear selector that saves space on the console. It's a very nice transmission, but it had little impact on real-world fuel economy in our testing.
The 2016 MDX also offers a new all-wheel-drive system, new safety features, Apple's Siri Eyes Free voice recognition, a revised driver's seat that moves slightly rearward when the door is opened for easier entry and exit, and a few other minor upgrades.
The Acura MDX competes with the Lexus RX, Buick Enclave, Volvo XC90, BMW X5, Infiniti QX60, Audi Q7, Mercedes-Benz ML-Class. The Lexus offers only two rows of seating, however. The Acura offers three rows of seating for up to seven passengers.
Exterior styling hasn't changed for 2016. The MDX looks more like a sport-wagon than a utilitarian SUV, with its tapered roofline, chiseled front end, and smooth rear. The chevron-like chrome strip across the top of the grille and jewel-eye LED headlights distinguish it as an Acura.
Inside, the front-end theme is echoed by the dash, with its V-shaped center stack and sloping, tiered design. The dash design complements the rest of the cabin, and the materials used for interior trim are nicely coordinated.
The MDX is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6. Front-wheel drive is standard, all-wheel drive is optional. The V-6 benefits from direct injection to produce 290 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 267 pound-feet of torque at 4,500 rpm, so there is plenty of power whether moving from a standstill or needing to pull off a pass on a two-lane road. The engine feels smooth and refined.
Compared with the previous 6-speed transmission, the new 9-speed automatic improves acceleration performance by 0.5 seconds, according to Acura. However, the transmission lacks refinement. It wasn’t as smooth nor as seamless as we expected—a common thread we’ve found in other vehicles equipped with the latest 9-speed automatics.
The MDX is one of the better-handling luxury SUVs. The Integrated Dynamics System (IDS) lets the driver increase steering feel and quicken throttle response by pressing an IDS button next to the shift buttons. The Sport setting quickens steering response, while the Comfort settings results in lighter steering feel. On all-wheel-drive models, the system more aggressively distributes power to the outside wheels in a curve.
The all-wheel drive system in the MDX is unique in its class: it's a mechanical torque vectoring system, which can move power front-to-back, and side-to-side. It may not sound significant, but it's one of the few systems on the market and it greatly improves drivability and capability in the MDX.
Inside, the MDX has a smartly detailed cabin, one that’s highly functional and one of the roomiest three-row crossovers in its class. The front seats are supportive yet plush. Low side bolsters make getting in and out easier. The driver's seat on 2016 MDX models slides rearward whenever the door is opened, making getting in and out easier.
The second row slides fore and aft 6 inches, giving back-seat passengers more leg room, or providing more space for third-row passenger or cargo. A small Illuminated button beside the second-row outboard seats is provided to aid third-row access: Pressing an illuminated button enables a neat, cleverly designed semi-powered spring-loaded process. Getting into the third row is still difficult, however, and best left for the young. Once back there, the high floor level makes it uncomfortable for all but children who don't seem to notice discomfort.
The cabin is trimmed out nicely with high-quality, well-coordinated materials and trims. The MDX is also very quiet underway.
Safety is one of the MDX’s best selling points. The MDX earned top ratings from the IIHS, including the Top Safety Pick+ accolade, as well as five-star scores from the federal government in overall, frontal and side impact. High-tech options are available, from lane-departure warnings, to rearview and surround-view cameras, to adaptive cruise control.
The 2016 MDX comes standard with tri-zone automatic climate control and a leather-trimmed interior with a 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat. The Acura Premium Audio System with eight speakers is standard, with 10- and 12-speaker systems part of the Advance or Technology packages. Navigation is optional.
The 2016 MDX is on sale now, and starts at $43,955 with front-wheel drive and goes up to $58,170, including destination.
Fuel economy for the 2016 MDX is an EPA-estimated 19 mpg city, 27 highway, 22 combined with front-wheel drive. The 2016 MDX SH-AWD is rated 18/26/21 mpg. Premium gasoline is required.