2015 Acura MDX Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
June 25, 2015

The 2015 Acura MDX continues to offer an attractive blend of content, comfort, and entertainment for the entire family–including the driver.

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 an SUV that's practical and sensible and luxurious, 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 three rows of seats, 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.

No surprises lurk in the MDX's style. It's more sporty-looking than other crossover SUVs, maybe. A sleek profile pairs with nicely sculpted sheetmetal and an interior trimmed to a rich standard. The recent front-end treatment is awkward when it shows up on Acura's sedans, but on the SUV it's less shocking. Big LED headlamps help trim down its appearance, and they give the front end a sleeker look. The coordinated trims and well-finished dash give the interior the kind of upscale lift Acura needs across the range.

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The MDX does a great job masking its height and size with strong acceleration and good handling. Power comes from a 3.5-liter V-6 with 290 hp; a 6-speed automatic can be shifted via steering-wheel paddle controls. The front-drive MDX can be fitted with all-wheel drive that can shift power around to the rear wheels and between them for crisper behavior, too. With its most recent updates, the MDX does a much better job of muting ride imperfections, thanks to more sophisticated shocks and suspension mounts.

The MDX is one of the larger 3-row crossover SUVs as well, though still substantially smaller than big truck-like utes such as the Expedition and Tahoe. The MDX has plush, supportive front seats. The second-row bench slides on a track to expand leg or cargo room by up to 6 inches. A lighted button leads the way to a tilt-and-fold mechanism that slides the seat for easier third-row entry and exit. The MDX has all that plus a big and deep center console. When it comes to utility, it does not play, but it's also very quiet, thanks to noise cancellation and engine mounts that soak up noisy vibrations, as well as thicker side and front glass.

With its new body, the latest MDX has much better crash protection, which earns it excellent crash-test scores. New features include a rearview camera, blind-spot monitors, lane-departure warnings and active lane control.

This year's MDX can be ordered in four different versions. Base models get the usual goods, from leather to power features. Top versions have parking sensors, remote start, adaptive cruise control, a wide-screen rear entertainment system, 12 speakers of ELS premium audio, and finer leather with ventilated front seats.

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2015 Acura MDX

Styling

The current MDX is definitely more sport wagon than before; but function and form are very much in harmony.

The Acura MDX has always had a graceful but forward look. The latest model continues to impress us with its style. It's about the same size as it has been for several years now, but it looks a little leaner, thanks to a few upscale styling cues and its overall more curvaceous design.

With a more chiseled nose, a tapered roof, and a smooth design at the rear end, the new MDX looks smaller than it should, an optical feat it doesn't get so right with the smaller RDX crossover SUV. The MDX's sport-wagon silhouette only has a flaw or two; a big one is the beak-like front end, which doesn't mate well with the softly penned shape. The LED headlights bring it back into a more restrained realm. At the back it's almost generic, but big LED lamps brighten the look.

Inside, the MDX's dash has a tiered layout with a sloped V-shaped stack of controls. It fits with the rest of the cabin, though the functionality isn't always the best. The polish applied to the cabin, in terms of trim selection and materials, makes it quite appealing.

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2015 Acura MDX

Performance

The 2015 Acura MDX delivers a responsive driving experience to busy parents or empty-nesters.

The 2015 Acura MDX is powered by the brand's direct-injected 3.5-liter V-6 engine, producing 290 horsepower. It's connected to a six-speed automatic in all versions of the MDX, and that transmission can be paddle-shifted from the steering wheel.

The transmission responds quickly to paddle shift inputs with a blip of the throttle and a change of the gear. It will hold a gear up to redline, or down near idle, a wide range of latitude given the MDX's family-oriented mission.

The MDX is one of the best-handling vehicles of its kind thanks to a reworked suspension. The suspension is multi-link independent, with new shocks that help shut down body motion over large bumps, while smoothing out the transition with cushy suspension mounts. The ride and handling of the MDX is much improved; it's a capable vehicle when moved quickly through esses and steep corners, though the steering doesn't feel as sharp and doesn't transmit much in the way of road feel.

That's the price for its all-wheel-drive traction. Even there, Acura has mitigated the effects of its all-weather capability by building a system that can move up to 70 percent of its power to the rear, and can shift it side to side across the rear wheels, to tighten up a cornering line.

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2015 Acura MDX

Comfort & Quality

All your passengers should be comfortable and content, thanks to good ride quality, a quiet cabin, and back-seat accommodations that are among the best.

The MDX offers more space than most of the vehicles it competes with. The front seats meet our expectations for a luxury vehicle, and the rear cabin has been vastly improved over past models. The wheelbase is about four inches longer now than it has been in past generations, which means the third row can handle more frequent traffic, should you need to make use of the extra seats in the rear.

The second-row seat slides on a six-inch track, so cargo and leg room can trade off as needed. A button on the second-row side seats can be pressed to move those seats out of the way when passengers climb into the third row.

The center console in the MDX has a lot more storage than before, and it's easier to access, too. A tablet device will fit in the center bin; ahead of that is a tray that can hold a smartphone.

Cargo space is excellent. The roofline may be lower, but the cargo floor is 3 inches longer, and the storage space in general is more regularly shaped. The second-row seats fold down flat to create a vast hold--and under the rear floor, a covered cargo bin has a lid that props up while it's being loaded. It's perfectly sized to hide a work bag stuffed with electronics.

The MDX has been reworked so its luxe-trim cabin is quieter. That means better engine mounts, active noise cancellation, and thicker windshield and side glass to reflect unwanted road sound.

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2015 Acura MDX

Safety

With its active-safety features and tough structure, the Acura MDX is one of the safest vehicles in an already very safety-conscious class.

The MDX benefits from the latest in safety features, from available blind-spot monitors and adaptive cruise control, to a wide-angle rearview camera. The most expensive models can come with active lane control and lane-departure warnings, too.

Forward-collision warnings are also fitted to the MDX. It's a feature that will be required in coming years, and it's highly recommended.

With a new driver knee airbag and stability control, the MDX gets great crash-test scores from the IIHS as well as from the NHTSA.

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2015 Acura MDX

Features

If you're willing to pay a little extra, the 2015 Acura MDX offers some extra layers of technology innovation that are worth it.

The MDX comes in four trim levels, from base to Tech, to Tech Entertainment, and finally, the Advance Entertainment setup. Shoppers can choose between front- and all-wheel-drive models in each of these versions.

Base vehicles include the usual leather, power features, and cruise and climate control. Tech models get navigation, ELS audio, blind-spot monitors, forward-collision warnings, lane-departure warnings, 19-inch wheels, and HD Radio. The Entertainment kit includes a DVD entertainment system, heated second-row seats, and a 150-watt power point. The most expensive versions get active lane control, remote start, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, 12-speaker audio, and premium leather.

Stand-alone options include a wooden steering wheel, parking sensors, and a cargo cover.

While the base audio system includes eight speakers and 432 total watts, the premium Acura/ELS audio system now actually comes in three configurations. With the Technology Package, you get ten speakers and 501 watts. Step up to the Tech and Entertainment Package, with its DVD rear entertainment system, and there are eleven speakers and 529 watts. Then at the top of the line, with the Advance Package (and its 16.2-inch Ultra-Wide HDMI entertainment system), you get twelve speakers and 546 watts. Streaming apps are now available through Aha and Pandora.

The Active Cruise Control system that's included in Advance Entertainment models now includes a low-speed follow feature that will maintain a set following distance and will come to a complete stop with slow-moving stop-and-go traffic. Side mirror positions, climate preferences, radio presets, and seat position can now all be tied in with individual key fobs, and one that comes with the Advance Entertainment model is of a new long-range bi-directional sort. You can remote-start the vehicle from up to 100 yards away (with a climate-control preconditioning mode for very cold or hot days), and the fob will give you a reminder, with a green light, when the engine is running.

 

The MDX’s AcuraLink system includes a complimentary three-year subscription to the ‘Standard Package’—with traffic info for surface streets and freeways, vehicle messaging, and integrated Aha and Pandora entertainment. A Connect Package adds Assist Services, Map Services, and MyVehicle (remote vehicle services and diagnostics). Full-on concierge services are available with a Premium Package.

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2015 Acura MDX

Fuel Economy

Want three rows of seats? The 2015 Acura MDX is one of the most fuel-efficient ways to have it, if you don't go hybrid or diesel.

The all-wheel-drive version of the 2015 Acura MDX clocks in at an EPA-rated 18 mpg city, 27 highway. That's actually 6 mpg better than its predecessor on the highway. Front-wheel-drive models are better than nearly every other three-row vehicle in this class, at 20 mpg city, 28 highway.

One random, but interesting fact: Acura claims that the 2015 MDX can coast for a full 1.5 miles from 70 mph, thanks to its improved aerodynamics and low-rolling-resistance tires.

Honda says that it's the first of its utility vehicles in which underhood flow was included in aerodynamic design, and it claims a best-in-class coefficient of drag (as measured in its own wind tunnel, against rivals that include the BMW X5, Audi Q5, Lexus RX 350).

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