Acura’s MDX is one of the great SUVs of our time.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Pricing: 2017 Acura MDX
Base price (Elite trim): $65,990
The Acura MDX has always been a good bet. From the moment we were introduced to it, it was a reflection of Acura’s desire to make a solid, well-engineered, stylish and technologically advanced SUV. That hasn’t changed. But it’s sure come a long way. I was very impressed with the MDX and its capabilities.
In my opinion, the MDX looks really good. It’s an evolution from the previous design, keeping much of it intact. The smooth lines look modern and aren’t offensive. I feel that the overall shape works well and it looks like Acura tried to clean things up, from the new grille (which is very well done) to the integrated exhaust tips.
LED lighting is everywhere – head lights, tail lights and even fog lights. The super-bright Jewel Eye head lights get a lot of attention and they do a very good job of throwing bright, white light onto the landscape ahead of you. And my review vehicle’s Elite trim-exclusive 20-inch rims with 245/50-sized tires are beauties.
Stepping into the sumptuous technology-laden interior is a pleasure. Acura has endowed the MDX with a beautiful selection of materials, including high-end soft-touch plastics and a stunning open-pore wood trim. Speaking of beautiful, how about those perforated Milano leather seats? They’re heated and ventilated, very comfortable and nicely supportive for sportier driving and the contrasting stitching and piping looks top-notch. I also enjoyed the heated steering wheel’s shape – the steering column is power-adjustable.
Moving on to the centre stack – Acura’s two-screen system definitely has a learning curve and it’s not a very elegant system on first use. It seems like an answer to a question that wasn’t asked, and I find that it’s one of this vehicle’s few low points as it unnecessarily complicates something. With all that said, once you figure it out, it slowly starts making sense. Essentially the lower touch screen becomes a contextual set of buttons or menus for whichever function you’re using and whatever you’re seeing on the upper screen.
Of course this trim comes with navigation, and the top-of-the-line 546-watt, 12-speaker sound system is simply incredible. You also get a tri-zone automatic climate control system. The console is home to a push/pull button gear selector – I’m not a fan. It’s a pain to use when you’re doing a multi-point turn to park a vehicle and never quite felt intuitive to me. There’s a standard-sized sunroof overhead.
There’s no shortage of driver assistance technology here. There’s a surround-view camera with front and rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert, road departure mitigation, lane departure warning and lane keep assist, forward collision warning and collision mitigation braking, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams.
Second and Third Row Seats
The roomy second row is a comfortable three-seat bench – the outboard seats are heated, and the bench is fully adjustable by reclining and sliding.
The Elite trim comes with a rear seat entertainment system with a huge 16.2″ widescreen that flips down from the ceiling and effectively blocks your rear-view mirror. I’d prefer to give my kids iPads and would take a big panoramic sunroof over this option any day. But since this trim level is stuck with the system, I’ll tell you that it has a DVD player and an HDMI input as well.
Access to the third row is pretty easy, as you can fold and slide forward the second row seats with a push of a button. The system is called Smart Slide and these buttons are conveniently located on the side and the backs of the second row seats, allowing any rear passenger to make way so someone can get into or out of the third row. The second row splits 60/40.
The third row has two seats, which split 50/50 if you’re folding them flat. The fact that the third row isn’t roomy shouldn’t be a surprise. Leg and head room are limited and are fine for kids, but adults won’t be comfortable back there.
The centre console has some good stuff. There’s a too-small-to-be-useful bin at the front of the centre console with a 12V plug but the real gem is the rubberized bin under the gorgeous sliding wood lid in the centre console. I found plenty of space and a sign that Acura takes device charging seriously. There are USB plugs – two 2.5A and one 1.0A, a 115V household plug as well as an auxiliary input plug.
The MDX trunk is a nice size. Pop the power tailgate and you’ll find a reasonable 447L behind the third row, but that grows to a substantial 1230L with the third row down. If you can sacrifice the second row seating, you’ll be working with a massive 2575L space.
Under the Hood
No surprises here. Acura’s tried and true 3.5L V6 puts out 290 HP and 267 lb.ft of torque, sends all that goodness through a new 9-speed automatic and to an all-wheel drive system. Fuel economy is as expected for a normally aspirated V6 lugging a big, heavy SUV around – not great, not horrifying. It’s rated at 12.2L/100 km (19 US mpg) in town and 9.0L/100 km (26 US mpg) on the highway. We averaged 13.7 L/100 km (17 US mpg) which is not great but pretty much as expected for a commute-heavy week spent in fresh snow.
The MDX is blessed with a terrific powertrain. It has lots of power in any driving situation and sounds awesome under throttle. The transmission is fast and smooth and reacts quickly to input from the paddle shifters.
The suspension has been nicely sorted and it has a plush but well-controlled ride. But the real treat (and surprise) is the handling – it is simply outstanding, especially considering how big, heavy and high up this SUV sits. It is a truly impressive experience, and since there was snow on the ground when I was driving it, I can also attest that Acura’s SH-AWD remains one of the great all-wheel drive systems. It’s intuitive and as effective as I’ve driven in an SUV.
Three dynamic drive modes – comfort, normal and sport – can be selected, and these impact the responsiveness and aggressiveness of the throttle and transmission. Visibility out of the MDX is quite good, unless you’re using the third row – the headrests block quite a bit of the driver’s rear view.
If you want or need to do some pulling, the MDX is available with towing capacities of 3500 lb and 5000 lb (pending on equipment level).
We quite enjoyed the remote engine starter on some of those cold spring mornings.
In the end, it wasn’t just me that loved this vehicle. Literally everyone who got into the MDX for a ride loved it. I’m not sure I’ve reviewed a vehicle that received such unanimous approval. Not only that, but the WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was very high too.
Acura marches on with a very solid offering in their bigger SUV. The MDXs of the past have proven to be reliable and hold their resale value well. This one, more advanced than ever before, should continue this trend. I highly recommend adding this fantastic three-row SUV to your shopping list.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Acura Canada.
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