The 2014 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.
Click down to the 'S' mode and click the paddle-shifters, and you get quick throttle-blip downshifts. Furthermore, it's closer to a true manual mode, as the transmission here will actually let you hold onto gears—all the way up to redline, or all the way down to where you're starting to lug the engine.
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.
Acura has worked to mitigate torque steer by changing the geometry in front, reducing the driveshaft angles and the center offset. The powertrain itself has been lowered, too. Likewise, the former model's trailing-arm rear suspension setup has been dumped, in favor of a multi-link, coil-over-damper layout.
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.
For the most part, they're right. Although the MDX's steering feel might not feel quite as crisp, or transmit as much feel of the road, as that of the previous version, the vehicle as a whole feels surprisingly capable and coordinated when driven near the limit.