2016 Acura MDX Review

Consumer Reviews
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2018
The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Mitch McCullough Mitch McCullough Editor
June 2, 2016

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 one of the more spacious 3-row SUVs, that's not its only talent. Safety scores, ride quality, and lots of tech features also carry the day for the most satisfying Acura of all.

 

The MDX gets significant upgrades for 2016 that further improve this highly rated seven-seat SUV. A 9-speed automatic with a push-button electronic gear selector is new, and it saves space on the console. It's a very nice transmission, but it had little impact on real-world fuel economy in our testing.

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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 7 people.

 

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 gets power from 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 hp, and has lots of grunt pulling away from stoplights or executing swift two-laner passes.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. Engaging its Sport mode changes the steering from light to hefty. With all-wheel drive, the Sport mode sends more power to the outside wheels, to help the big MDX corner more deftly. It's a clever system that can move power around better than systems only capable of shifting torque from the front wheels to the rear.

 

The functional interior in the MDX wears a classy look and smart control placement. The space is excellent, the front seats plush and supportive, with access eased thanks to low bolsters. The driver seat moves rearward when the door opens, which makes it easier for the driver to get on board.

 

In the second row, a 6-inch track lets the seat slide to boost cargo or leg room. At the press of a button on the second-row seat, the spring-loaded bench slides forward, making it easier for passengers to load into the third row. It's still a place better left to smaller, younger riders, since the slim, low-mounted seat doesn't have much head or leg room.

 

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.

 

All MDX SUVs come with leather, power front seats, and three-zone climate control, as well as an 8-speaker audio system. More powerful 10- and 12-speaker systems come with Advance or Technology packages. Navigation is optional.

 

The 2016 MDX 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.

7

2016 Acura MDX

Styling

The MDX is styled more like a sport wagon than an SUV. It's attractive, if a little anonymous.

The MDX was new in 2014, and hasn't changed much since. It's still a sleek SUV with something of a sport-wagon look in its profile, a bit smaller and slimmer than other car-based, 3-row SUVs.

 

There's more distinction when viewed from the front. The MDX nose resembles a beak, drawing mixed reviews, though the beak is more flattering on this SUV than on Acura sedans, and crisp matte-chrome details and LED headlamps lend a streamlined, elegant look.

 

Inside, the MDX cabin looks similar to Acura's sedans. The dash, with its sloping, tiered look and V-shaped center stack, is in pace with the sedans. It's not overly decorated or festooned with glitz and metallic trim. The controls could be easier to use, especially those focused around the central knob on the infotainment system, but the dash itself is nicely styled. The chrome surround can glare in the sun at some angles, however.

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8

2016 Acura MDX

Performance

Responsive handling is a hallmark of the MDX, but we're not completely sold on its new nine-speed automatic.

Responsive and nimble, the MDX doesn't behave as it looks. It's an easy vehicle to drive quickly.

 

The MDX draws power from a 3.5-liter V-6. It's set at 290 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque. The torque is produced at low engine speeds, and the engine revs smoothly from idle to its 6,700-rpm redline.

 

The 9-speed automatic now fitted to the MDX works well enough, but it's not a huge improvement in smoothness or fuel efficiency. Pressing the "D/S" button changes the shifts between "Drive" and "Sport." In Drive, everything's handled for the driver, and the gearbox selects a cog for the best fuel economy. In Sport mode, the driver has more control via the paddle shift controls mounted on the steering wheel.

 

The 9-speed has ratios galore, but it can get confused when called on to pick one. Moderate acceleration when merging on a freeway can deliver a lumpy shift, for example. It has some keen features: it goes into Park automatically when the pushbutton start toggles it off.

 

The MDX has an all-wheel-drive system that's more sophisticated than usual. It can send power from the front to the rear wheels when traction drops, but it can also split power and move it across the rear axle, to help it corner more effectively. That setup--called torque vectoring--boosts its all-weather talent and its handling prowess at the same time.

 

It could use better backup from the steering system, which doesn't have a lot of feedback for the driver. The MDX's ride? No complaints here. It's been smoothed out with new shocks that strike a good balance between handling and ride comfort.

 

The MDX is capable of towing up to 3,500 lb, enough for jet skis and such.

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2016 Acura MDX

Comfort & Quality

The MDX has exceptional comfort for its three rows of passengers; space is excellent and so is refinement.

The MDX is roomy for its class, and the front seats are comfortable, with sporty bolstering and better-than-average support.

 

A pushbutton has replaced the usual shift lever. The switch doesn't free up much space, since the transmission controls are laid out in a longitudinal strip. It's a simple-looking design that requires a pull to reverse, and a tap to move forward--you'll need to re-learn decades of training to make quick changes between those modes. All that and the parking brake still is a push pedal hanging next to the driver's foot.

 

The center console between the front passengers has a deep bin and a small tray, so carrying tablets, keys, and smartphones is handled.

 

The second row has ample room for adults big and small. It's split 60/40 and folds nearly flat, though it leaves behind a few holes and gaps. Pressing a button activates a spring mechanism that moves the seat out of the way so the back can be filled.


In the third-row seat, kids will find a comfortable place to annoy each other, but adults won't have enough space to move around much. The second-row seats fold willingly out of the way; there's just not much headroom left for the rearmost row. It does fold flat into a well to create a bigger cargo area, one that can hold flat-pack furniture and big-box boxes. There's a shallow storage bin under the cargo floor, too, sized for work bags filled with official-issue electronics.

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10

2016 Acura MDX

Safety

With some of the latest safety features and a history of good crash-test scores, the MDX is a safe bet.

The 2016 MDX has 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.

A rigid structure contributes to top-tier safety ratings. Advanced-technology safety features include lane-departure and forward-collision warnings with automatic braking; blind-spot monitors; and a wide-rearview camera. A driver's knee bag rounds out an already complete safety set, and there's also active lane control, which will provide a gentle, proactive nudge to the steering to help you stay in your intended lane.

Fortunately, most of these features can be selectively switched off if the driver finds them annoying.

A full roster of airbags comes standard, including a driver's knee airbag. The camera system is included on all models, and blind-spot monitors are included in all models except for the base MDX.

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9

2016 Acura MDX

Features

Multi-view cameras, stop-and-go adaptive cruise control, and streaming audio are just a few of the features the MDX has to offer.

All 2016 MDX models come with a V-6 and 9-speed automatic with paddle shift controls. Front-wheel drive is standard. All-wheel drive is included on the MDX SH-AWD model.

The 2016 Acura MDX comes loaded with premium features. Standard MDX equipment includes automatic climate control; leather seating; heated power front seats; folding second-row seats; power tilt/telescope steering; steering-wheel audio and phone controls; and 12-volt power outlets in the center console and front armrest.

The base audio system includes eight speakers and 432 watts. The optional Acura/ELS audio system comes in three configurations. With the Technology Package, you get 10 speakers and 501 watts. Step up to the Tech and Entertainment Package, with its DVD rear entertainment system, and there are 11 speakers and 529 watts. At the top of the line, with the Advance Package (and its 16.2-inch ultra-wide HDMI entertainment system), sports 12 speakers and 546 watts. Streaming apps are available through Aha and Pandora.

The Technology and Advance packages are available with or without a rear-seat entertainment system that includes a DVD player, an AC power outlet, heated second-row seats, and second-row window shades.

The Technology Package adds navigation; premium audio; a multi-rearview camera; blind-spot monitors; forward-collision warnings; lane-departure and lane-keeping assist; and 19-inch alloy wheels.

The Advance Package adds remote start; stop-start; front and rear parking sensors; adaptive cruise control with a low-speed follow feature; collision mitigation braking; the wide-screen rear entertainment system with HDMI; 12-speaker ELS audio; roof rails, and "Milano" premium perforated leather upholstery with ventilated front seats.

The adaptive cruise control that's included in Advance Entertainment models 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.

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 and map services, and MyVehicle (remote vehicle services and diagnostics). Full-on concierge services are available with a Premium Package.

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6

2016 Acura MDX

Fuel Economy

The new 9-speed doesn't boost fuel economy, but the MDX already was one of the more efficient three-row SUVs around.

The MDX delivers very good fuel economy for the class.

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.

Opting for the top Advance trim level improves the EPA ratings very slightly, because it's equipped with a start-stop feature that shuts the engine off when the car is stopped, for example, at an intersection.

Surprisingly, those EPA highway ratings are down 1 mile per gallon from the 2015 models with 6-speed automatics--perhaps due to gearing. We observed 26 miles per gallon during a week-long test drive.

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December 19, 2015
2016 Acura MDX SH-AWD 4-Door w/Tech

Regret buying it

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I purchased my MDX in September within a week I noticed a vibration between 55 to 75mph+, 1st service call they balanced the tires, 2nd service call told me nothing was wrong with it, 3rd service call they... + More »
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October 6, 2015
2016 Acura MDX SH-AWD 4-Door w/Advance

best MDX yet

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I have owned many Acura MDX's (03,06,10 & 12) and the SLX prior to them. This is by far the best one I've owned. My only disappointment is the lack of additional power since I tow my sports car to the track... + More »
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May 13, 2015
2016 Acura MDX SH-AWD 4-Door

Best car I have ever driven overall .

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Purchased at Nalley Acura Marietta.This dealership has made the purchace to delivery the best experience ever,no pressure ever.This all wheel dr MDX drives and rides better than any luxury car we ever owned... + More »
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