2011 Acura MDX Review

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The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
February 11, 2011

With a few notable flaws in styling and features, the 2011 Acura MDX still impresses us with its friendly handling and gutsy power.

The 2011 Acura MDX is a 7-seat utility vehicle that shares some running gear with the Honda Pilot. It offers a plush cabin and strong crash-test performance, though there's not much in the way of off-road capability.

The MDX is the rare big utility vehicle that's also rewarding to drive. Despite some odd exclusions on the features list, a supremely confident family vehicle with a stellar safety record.

Prices for the MDX start at nearly $43,000 and climb over $50,000 for highly optioned versions. Among its rivals are the Lincoln MKT and Ford Flex, the Buick Enclave, and the Volvo XC90.

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7

2011 Acura MDX

Styling

The tech-influenced shapes of the 2011 Acura MDX are almost outpointed by its busy controls and an out-of-place grille.

The 2011 Acura MDX has a smartly drawn shape, but the face is one only a few mothers (and fathers) will truly love.

The MDX has been one of top-rated crossovers since it was redesigned for 2007. It's one of the better efforts by Honda at disguising the design's big-box roots. A handful of sleek curves are faired into its tall-wagon body, and they do wonder to relieve the utility-vehicle shape. It's especially effective at the rear pillar--the same visual trick that rounds the roofline works here, while it fails on the smaller Honda CR-V crossover.

The front end is where Acura rightly draws criticism. The big, chromed grille has a shape some have dubbed the "bionic beaver." The controversial front end hasn't been tweaked on the MDX as Acura has on other models. It's not too large for the vehicle--there's more vertical space for it to seem right-sized, and not completely out of scale--it's just out of character for the brand. The MDX's clean, neat lines elsewhere make up for it, especially at the gentle arc of the rear end and slim taillamps.

Once you're inside the big doors the MDX gives a great first impression. The cockpit is a comfortable zone with woodgrain trim and leather and a sweep of controls on the center stack. The gauges are crisp and clear, though switches and buttons and knobs scatter everywhere. That aside, the cabin is a well-tailored, modern workplace.

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2011 Acura MDX

Performance

Engaging handling and strong acceleration are unexpected bonuses in the 2011 Acura MDX.

If you need a big crossover vehicle but don't want to give up on performance completely, the 2011 Acura MDX might suit you well.

It has a heart of gold, for sure--or really, a great V-6. The 300-hp, 3.7-liter six lays out strong acceleration and passing power. The complex engine has electronic throttle control and variable valve timing. The cabin's usually stone-quiet, but the 6-cylinder winds up with a sporty intake growl.

The V-6 pairs with a 6-speed, paddle-shifted automatic. Those flappers induce sporty driving in a vehicle otherwise uninclined toward it. In sport mode, the MDX clicks off its gears and lingers in manual mode for up to 30 seconds as it waits for another quick shift. The powertrain enables the MDX to step away from stop lights smartly. Acura says the crossover will run to 60 mph in about 7.0 seconds.

The glaring error here lies in its electronic power steering. It's far, far too light and fast for a truck of this size and caliber; there's almost a total lack of connection between wheel motions and cornering forces, and that's a shame because retuning available magnetically controlled shocks has cleared up the brittle ride that affected those vehicles. We used to recommend only the base suspension; now it's up to you and your budget.

Acura fits standard all-wheel drive in the MDX. It's a complex setup that can send power to any wheel, based on input from the anti-lock brake sensors at each wheel. The MDX constantly measures grip, hands out more power to the wheels stuck best to the pavement. That ability cuts out most of the sluggish steering feel tht afflicts most all-wheel-drive crossovers. That's why the MDX is more engaging to drive, and why it can be hustled along a curvy road like a smaller, lighter vehicle.

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2011 Acura MDX

Comfort & Quality

It's roomy and versatile, and the 2011 Acura MDX does a convincing job of feeling luxurious.

The 2011 Acura MDX delivers abundant comfort, utility, and quality in its big, wide, tall body.

The MDX's cabin is quite roomy. The front seats offer up lots of support, with right-size bolsters and supple leather trim. The foot wells are flat, for better comfort; the step-in's a bit high, though, so shorter drivers will have to clamber into the seats. In the second row, there's a bit less open-door space to climb in, but the seats themselves have good foot room under the front seats, and feel supportive enough for longer drivers.

The MDX's third-row seats are sized for children, as are most of these benches. It's not particularly easy to get in the back, though the MDX's 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. Even with the third-row seat in the upright position, the MDX has more than15 cubic feet of cargo space. Both rear rows fold flat for a total of nearly 84 cubic feet of storage. A power tailgate, standard this year, makes loading cargo easier.

The 2011 MDX is crafted from high-quality materials, and though its busy-looking dash has plenty of buttons, lines, and lights, it's functionally not a difficult place to work. Acura has tinted the woodgrain trim a medium shade of brown, which warms up the cabin a bit from its former grey drabness. Fit and finish is excellent, typical for Acura, and noise levels are low, especially at highway speeds.

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2011 Acura MDX

Safety

It's no longer a Top Safety Pick, but the 2011 Acura MDX is still one of the safest crossover vehicles you can buy.

The 2011 Acura MDX has new safety ratings for the new model year, but unlike many other vehicles, it's maintained a class-leading score from both agencies.

The MDX picks up five stars overall from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA, with a four-star rating for front-impact and rollover protection, and a five-star rating for side-impact protection.

Though it's no longer a Top Safety Pick, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the insurance industry-funded group still gives the MDX its "good" rating for front and side impacts.

The MDX comes with standard dual front, side and curtain airbags; all-wheel drive; anti-lock brakes, stability, and traction control; active headrests; and a rearview camera. An Advance option package adds on adaptive cruise control, a blind-spot warning system, and a multiple-view rearview camera, but none are available individually--a shame, since we'd opt for the camera and leave behind the bleeps and bloops of the other systems.

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2011 Acura MDX

Features

The 2011 Acura MDX piles on standard equipment, but the few options you'll want are bundled into expensive packages.

With a base price of more than $43,000, the 2011 Acura MDX makes a point of piling on the standard luxury features.

Every MDX comes with leather upholstery; power windows, locks and mirrors; heated power front seats; a rearview camera viewed in the rearview mirror; a three-zone automatic climate control system with humidity control and air filtration; a power tailgate; 18-inch wheels; a six-disc in-dash changer and XM Satellite Radio; a auxiliary audio jack; steering-wheel audio and phone controls; and a Bluetooth hands-free calling interface. You'll be dumbfounded by the controls at first--and if you buy a base MDX, you won't be offered a USB port or stereo Bluetooth streaming at all, odd omissions in this price class.

The Technology package is one we'd highly recommend. Acura bundles some features we'd prefer to order one by one into expensive packages, but this bundle has a lot of the features we'd opt for (which some would say, should be standard in a vehicle priced so high). The Technology package adds on a well-conceived navigation system; a triple-view rearview camera; a 410-watt premium audio system with hard-drive media storage; and a USB port for your media player to connect to the car's head unit.

The Advance package is strictly for those buyers who aren't annoyed by lots of bleeps and buzzes the MDX will emit, as a safety warning. This bundle 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.

Families might want to check out the Entertainment package, which offers a rear-seat DVD system with big LCD screens and a 115-volt outlet. Opt for all of the packages and the price of the MDX soars to more than $55,000.

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2011 Acura MDX

Fuel Economy

The 2011 Acura MDX uses more premium gas than the competition, according to the EPA.

With just one drivetrain on its plate, the 2011 Acura MDX ranks among the least fuel-efficient luxury crossovers.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the MDX at 16/21 mpg. Vehicles like the Lincoln MKT manage 17/22 mpg, and for truly impressive fuel economy, there's always the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, at 28/28 mpg.

The MDX also requires premium fuel.

Acura hasn't announced any plans for more efficient technology for the MDX.

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October 3, 2015
2011 Acura MDX AWD 4-Door Advance Pkg

Not up to deliver value

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Poor interior quality and high maintenance vehicle. Its value is not that of the brand it represents. Local dealer is not very good either. Moving to MB or Lexus this year
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Styling 7
Performance 8
Comfort & Quality 9
Safety 10
Features 9
Fuel Economy 6
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