In the world of luxury SUV’s, the Acura MDX doesn’t quite grab the amount of attention most car magazines devote to its BMW and Mercedes competition-which is unfortunate. The MDX, Acura’s first serious attempt at an SUV debuted as a 2001 model. The second, and current generation MDX went on sale as a 2007, and in 2010 was treated to an exterior refresh to closer tie in to the rest of the Acura line, as well as a new engine. So while the competition grabs the headlines, we at The Garage were interested in how Acura’s Canadian-made MDX holds up. Read on to find out!
Taken as a whole, the MDX is a handsome, if somewhat unassuming vehicle with one obvious exception-the angular front end with the buck-tooth grille. Critics for years have lauded Acuras as fine automobiles that looked good but lacked a cohesive design language. Acura has apparently taken that sentiment to heart, as that nose is shared across the Acura line. If anything, you know an MDX when it is coming towards you. And while the sharply angled nose may not suit everyone, there is no denying the high quality construction. One particular highlight of the exterior were the beautifully designed 19″ wheels, which come as part of the Advance Package.
Inside, the MDX provides a welcoming cabin. Build quality and the standard of materials are absolutely what one would expect from Acura, but after a week with the MDX, it felt more like an extraordinarily equipped Honda than a bona-fide luxury SUV. What I wanted from being inside the MDX was to feel…special, and I simply did not get that sense. The lack of “oohs and aahs” from occupants seemed to confirm this. The Acura was flawless on an out of state weekend trip with my family, and seat comfort cannot be faulted. The high number of buttons on the center stack may be off-putting at first, but at no time was I unable to quickly adjust climate, nav, or stereo settings when needed.
All MDX’s share one powertrain, a 3.7L V-6 rated at 300hp-Acura’s most powerful engine ever (the same powerplant is used in the RL sedan), teamed to a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters. All MDX’s use Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system, which can adjust power delivery from the front to rear, and between the rear wheels for better handling. The new for 2010 V-6 is, as one would expect from Acura, silky smooth. Acceleration is about what you would expect from a high-end V-6 SUV, but the turbocharged Cadillac SRX we tested felt more explosive in passing situations. With fuel economy ratings of 16/21mpg city/highway, the MDX is in line with the competition. As for handling, the MDX was excellent, feeling smaller than it was. From the driver’s seat, you would never guess you were driving a vehicle with three rows of seating.
The 2011 Acura MDX starts at $42,580, and comes standard with XM Radio, power heated front seats, power tailgate and power moonroof. Our test MDX also included the Tech Package, which adds navigation, voice recognition, multi-view rear camera, surround sound stereo and three-zone climate control. Also added was the Advance Package, giving you the Active Damper System, Collision Mitigation Braking System, ventilated leather sport seats, adaptive cruise control, the 19″ alloys we adored, and auto-leveling xenon HID headlights. Finally, for the kiddies the MDX has the Entertainment Package, featuring DVD rear entertainment with 9″ screens, wireless headphones, and heated rear seats. Final tally of our fully loaded MDX was $54,965USD, including delivery.
The Acura MDX has its own unique corner of the premium-SUV market. In considering the car, I was reminded of the student I’m sure we all had in our class-the guy who earned excellent grades, excelled on the athletic field, with a reputation as a friendly, trusting, approachable fellow. Those buyers seeking a premium SUV that goes for class over flash will take well the MDX’s demeanor, so it is no surprise it is Acura’s best selling vehicle in the US. And how does it stack up against the competition? Its most obvious rival is the Lexus RX, which outsells the Acura 2:1. While the Lexus may offer more panache and recognition at the country club, the Acura has a third row seat, which you cannot have on the Lexus. As for a BMW X5 or Mercedes ML-Class, you would spend a fortune more to have a vehicle equipped as our MDX was. But if the satisfaction of the competence, comfort, and handling performance of a premium ‘ute are all you desire without announcing on a megaphone you have “made it” to the neighbors, The Acura MDX is a must-see on your shopping list.