What It Is
A seven-passenger luxury SUV that is both practical and fun to drive
Offers plenty of standard and optional features, and handles well on the road
Lacks the cargo space of some competitors
The Acura MDX is a well-rounded entry in the luxury SUV market
Like many other luxury automakers, Acura shrouds its cars in a veil of exclusivity by giving them confusing names. The Acura MDX, RDX, RLX, TL, and ILX are some of the mish-mash of car titles out there. We recently reviewed the 2014 Acura MDX, that is, Acura's seven-passenger SUV. Admittedly, before I was assigned to review the model, I didn't pay much attention to the car. But as I drove it and became in tune with it, I noticed tons of these cars littering the streets of Orange County, California, and now I can see why so many are out there. It delivers a comfortable ride, precise handling, and loads of comfort and technology features. While there are also drawbacks to the model, we think it is a good option for many larger families.
What We DroveWe drove a fully-loaded MDX equipped with the Advanced and Entertainment package. Key features include rearview camera, XM Satellite radio, keyless entry/ignition, navigation with voice recognition, premium 12-speaker audio system, leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, heated front and second row seats, tri-zone automatic climate control, and a rear-seat entertainment system. All these features, along with the optional all-wheel drive, add up to a total price of $57,400 (compared to $43,185 for the base MDX).
Safety equipment on the 2014 Acura MDX we tested includes LATCH system for child seats, an arsenal of airbags, and advanced technologies such as lane keep assist and blind spot info. The MDX earned a five-star safety rating in government crash tests.
The CommuteDuring my time with the MDX, I was a little unsure about this large SUV, so I made sure to put it through the paces. It traversed through the city streets of Los Angeles, the busy roads of Orange County, and the treacherous twists and turns of the Disneyland parking lot. Not to mention all of the highway driving.
Needless to say, we thoroughly tested the car, so when we say that it handles and drives well, we are pretty confident in that statement. The driving experience is enhanced with Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive. This feature gives independent steering control to all wheels, providing for a balanced and precise ride. Despite its size, this car is easy to make U-turns with, and every turn of the wheel provides an immediate response.
On rough roads, the Acura MDX also performs well. The MDX took road imperfections with poise, giving us a sense of confidence in the vehicle. Overall, it is a comfortable ride and is decently quiet. However, it is easy to notice the gear shifts, which provided for a bit of an unsettling jolt when trying to accelerate on the highway. The car isn't particularly fast when passing other vehicles, but that is likely not the primary concern for MDX buyers. More importantly, it provides a comfortable and stable ride for drivers and passengers to enjoy.
But that's only part of the experience. In this day and age, technology is the other half of the equation. Luckily, the AcuraLink infotainment system is straightforward to use. Its menu screen is simple and touchscreen-based. With few buttons, it makes it very easy to manage all the controls. But it's not fool-proof, as any telematics system comes with at least somewhat of a learning curve.
The Grocery RunAs far as cargo space for groceries, the Acura MDX is in the middle of the pack compared to the competition. It offers more total cargo volume than the BMW X5 but not nearly as much as the Lexus RX 350. With 68.4 cubic feet of space behind the first row, buyers can load in a lot of heavy equipment with the seats folded down. When all the seats are accounted for, however, it is a bit hard to fit a week's worth of groceries for a large family.
The Weekend FunOther than trips to the grocery store, what is the Acura MDX like on road trips with the family? Part of this equation involves fuel economy. With all-wheel drive models, the MDX achieves 18/27 mpg city/highway, which doesn't sound that great, but is more than the Audi Q7 quattro or the aforementioned Lexus RX 350. Opting for the front-wheel drive version only slightly improves fuel economy to 20/28 mpg city/highway.
On long trips, drivers and passengers will enjoy comfortable seating. The Acura MDX features a comfortable cockpit, but second row passengers are also pretty lucky. They can take advantage of plenty of legroom as well as thoughtful sunshades that slide up from the window to block glare. The third row, however, is a bit tight. Luckily, second row seats can be individually adjusted with a bar underneath the seats to provide third row occupants with more room if needed.
Although somewhat cheap-looking, the leather seats provide plenty of support for longer drives. Rear seat passengers will enjoy the entertainment system complete with a monitor and controller, an essential feature to keep kids occupied on the road. There are also plenty of cup holders, even in the third row, to keep kids organized and prevent spills. Heated second row seats and climate controls for the rear are other features that keep the whole family happy.
SummaryOverall, we think the Acura MDX provides great value considering how well it drives and the number of standard and optional features available. It knocks its fiercest competitors, including BMW, out of the water on a feature-to-dollar comparison. It is also very livable, providing thoughtful amenities for the whole family. In its segment, we think it is one of the top competitors.
As to which trim level of the MDX we recommend? This is really up to the buyer. We don't think all buyers would want, or need, all the amenities provided by the top-of-the-line Advance and Entertainment package. But we would recommend all-wheel drive paired with the technology package if nothing else, which includes navigation, traffic info, keyless access, and important safety systems. But buyers who simply choose the base model will have plenty to be thankful for, including standard features such as rearview camera, tri-zone automatic climate control, iPod integration, and more. The MDX holds its own even without all the frilly features, a sign that it is a genuinely good car.
Spec BoxPrice-as-tested: $57,400
EPA City: 18
EPA Highway: 27
EPA Combined: 21
Cargo Space: Not enough for a week's worth of groceries for the family Child Seat Fitment, Second Row: Good
Estimated Combined Range: 410 miles
Intellichoice Cost of Ownership: Below Average (when equipped with top package), Excellent (base model)
"There are some parts of the MDX that remind you of its Honda roots, and it's not the sportiest thing to drive with its light steering, but you toss it into a corner and watch its SH-AWD stick, and it gives you all the more assurance that it's worth every penny." -Jacob Brown, Online Editor