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1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #1

The 2011 Acura MDX exists in a very crowded market segment populated by some very talented players like the BMW X5, Audi Q7, Land Rover LR4, Mercedes GL, Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln MKT, Lexus GX and many more. There's also a contingent of fully loaded 7-passenger SUVs offered by pretty much every other mainstream automaker to deal with as well. So why is the MDX such a perennially popular choice?

To start with, the 2011 Acura MDX just makes a whole lot more sense than most luxury SUVs. Honestly, do you need a special rock crawl setting for your 4-wheel drive system when it spends most of the time in a parking lot at Neiman Marcus?

Acura's SH-AWD System is All You Will Ever Need

That's why the MDX's advanced SH-AWD system is designed to optimize road holding on pavement in dry weather and also increase traction on same said roads in wet, icy or snowy conditions. SH-AWD is unique in that it can apportion (Acura likes to use the term "torque vectoring") power to whichever individual wheel needs and this means it gives this big 7-passenger SUV grip in all weather conditions on pavement.

This is not an off-road vehicle but who really takes their luxury SUV off-road? Please, no notes from Range Rover owners in Borneo.

The 2011 Acura MDX is a Terrific Value

Beyond this there are some other salient reasons why the 2011 Acura MDX is the smartest buy in the luxury SUV segment. In other words, if you have enough money to afford the $42,950 base price the MDX should definitely be on your short list.

While that may seem like a lot of money to some it is actually quite a deal considering its feature count and the fact that most mainstream brands from Toyota to Ford have similarly sized and equipped SUVs that cost that much. Also, features like Bluetooth, leather and USB/iPod integration that are standard with the MDX are often times optional on models from makers like BMW and Mercedes. For the record "leatherette" is not actually made from cowhide.

My Tech Package equipped tester was still just $46,255 and included 3-zone GPS controlled Climate Control, voice activated in-dash navigation, a 3-view back-up camera, 10-speaker
Acura/ELS surround sound audio system, Bluetooth, USB/iPod integration, Power driver/passenger seat, heated front seats, leather seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, a power liftgate, power windows/locks/mirrors, a moonroof, XM satellite radio and much more.

The 2011 Acura MDX is Made to Seat 7

Granted, the third row of seats in the MDX are best left on longer trips to children but having tested this SUV with 2 kids in the back I can verify that they were very comfortable. There was even a fight over who could sit back there which should tell you something about how much kids like riding back there.

And even if your kid doesn't care for it, the 3rd row can always be used to separate 2 of your children should they start picking on each other in the second row. Not that the 3rd row should be viewed as a punishment but given how far it is from the driver's seat you won't have to listen to them complain. If you can still hear them you can always crank up the powerful 10-speaker Acura ELS audio system.

The 2011 Acura MDX is Built to Last

Attention dog owners and parents! Your "children" will not be able to destroy the interior of this very luxurious yet solidly built SUV no matter how hard they try. During my week of testing there were torrential downpours and mudslides in Southern California where I live and the interior of the MDX cleaned up nicely.

The interior of the MDX also has enough cubbies, cupholders and storage nooks to make a minivan owner jealous. There is also an optional rear seat DVD entertainment system available to keep the kiddies happy. The MDX's interior really is a comfortable driving environment perfect for family road trips as long as you own the car. The MDX really makes for a wise long term ownership proposition.

The 2011 Acura MDX is Everything You Need it to Be & Nothing You Don't

The MDX has a huge list of standard luxury features, is affordable, has a Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety), seat 7 comfortably and has 83.5 cubic feet of cargo room with the 2nd and 3rd rows folded flat. It gives you Acura's awesome SH-AWD system as standard and is very stylish to boot.

It is routinely Acura's best-selling model and when you look at its many merits it is easy to see why. So what are you waiting for?

Vehicle Tested: 2011 Acura MDX with Tech Package

Base Price: $42,580

Price as Tested: $46,255

Options on Test Vehicle: Tech Package—
(Acura voice activated navigation with Real Time Weather, Traffic and Built in Zagat Restaurant Guide, Multi-View Back-up Camera, Sport seats with Premium Leather, USB/iPod interface, GPS-Linked Tri-Zone Climate Control, HDD (Hard Disk Drive) for Song Storage, Acura/ELS 10-speaker Surround Sound Audio System)

Engine: 3.7 liter V6 with VTEC

Power: 300 horsepower/270 lb. feet of torque

Transmission: 6-speed automatic with SH-AWD (Super Handling All-Wheel Drive)

0-60: 7.5 seconds (estimated)

EPA Fuel Economy: 16 city/21 highway

Economy as Tested: 16.4 miles per gallon

Gas Tank Size: 21 gallons

Runs on: Premium Unleaded

Cargo Space (Behind 3rd Row)—15 cubic feet

(Behind 2nd Row)—42.9 cubic feet

Behind 1st Row)—83.5 cubic feet

Turning Radius—37.6 Cubic Feet

Curb Weight—4,550 lbs.

Tow Capacity—5,000 lbs.

Warranty—4 year/50,000 mile bumper to bumper coverage

6 years/70,000 mile powertrain coverage

Crash Test Ratings—IIHS "Top Safety Pick"

Vehicle Built in—Alliston, Ontario (Canada)

North American Parts Content—65%


1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
Vancouver Sun

British Columbia’s ski season has been pretty epic this winter.

Which poses the question: What is your idea of an epic ski vehicle?

Of course, every car is potential transportation to the hills. Ski hill parking lots play host to a wide selection of all-sorts. Tucked between sportwagons, trucks and pricey SUVs are ancient VW Rabbits and rusty Toyota Corollas. When it comes to fresh tracks, where there’s a will there’s a way.

A few weeks ago, some fellow powder hounds and I decided to put the respectable Acura MDX Elite to the test on a road trip to Silver Star Mountain Resort in the Interior.

The 1st order of business was to attach a Thule rack to the roof to accommodate our skis and boards. This involved a visit to the local Acura shop to have cross bars attached to the side rails. Cross bars, we discovered, are not standard. My sister drives an MDX and tells me that twice a year she must visit her Acura dealer to have her ski rack removed and her bike rack installed professionally by a mechanic. The friendly pros at Acura can have you on your way in 30 minutes, but there is time and cost involved. Skiers are DIY types who would rather spend money on lift passes.

The MDX comes with the brilliant tailgate lift feature. Love this, especially after a mucky day on the road when you don’t want to get your hands dirty. The trunk easily swallowed 4 adult ski bags, 4 weekender duffels, groceries, wine and beer for 3 days. With skis, boards and boots stored up top in the Thule, and the GPS dialed into our cabin at Predator Ridge, we set out on the 6-hour drive from Vancouver via the snowy Coquihalla Highway.

The MDX, which is 1 of Acura’s bestsellers, is quintessentially Japanese in design; all angles and edges, including a roofline spoiler. Some very nice 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels and meaty looking due exhaust pipes look sharp. While the exterior shape is not exactly to my personal tastes, once inside the cabin and on the road, I was totally won over.

What separates the Elite from the base MDX is all the add-on technology the Elite package offers, which includes things like a multi-view backup camera, advanced Navi and entertainment system, Bluetooth and a host of modern safety and driving features.

As we safely cleared the Great Bear Snow Shed (a modern avalanche protection tunnel complete with a bear graphic stamped into its concrete entrance), Suzanne, who was relaxing in the back, declared that our MDX Elite was like flying business class, minus the rolling drink cart.

There is no need to call shotgun in this ride, as the back seat is a fine a place to be. 2nd-row occupants are treated to heated (or air-cooled) premium leather seats, a console with a humidity and sun position detection climate control system (not sure how the car knows where the sun is, but “Wow” to that), a 115-volt power outlet for heating up your ski boots, plus a 9-inch DVD player with wireless surround sound headsets to watch Warren Miller films en route to the hill.

The seats were extremely comfortable for a 6-hour drive. So comfy, that I had not even considered the seating until Suzanne piped up. If required, the MDX easily converts to a 7-passenger vehicle with 2 additional seats in a 3rd row. Up front, wood and brushed mat silver accents were integrated beautifully from dash to door inside the cabin. It’s all very upmarket and will appeal to even the most choosy Euro-car snob.

We pulled over to stretch our legs at the Coquihalla summit, and I tried to gun it over a short snowbank, only to be reminded that while the MDX is a capable all-wheel-drive vehicle, it is not an off-roader. I’ll save the next snowbank for my old Jeep.

We snapped a few photos in the twilight. Climbing back into the MDX, gorgeous ambient lighting slowly lowered like theatre lights after the doors closed. Glamorous. Reversing away from the snowbank, the backup camera came on to reveal a superb, very high resolution view of the rest stop.

With Acura’s premium 10-speaker sound system tuned to XFM’s Hair Nation channel (classic moguls music), we were on our way. A pair of self adjusting Xenon headlamps complete with spray nozzle and wipers (great for salty mountain roads) lit up the road ahead, while Acura’s Navi system directed us towards Vernon and Predator Ridge. The Navi is very simple to use and easy to read in daylight as it has an upper hood — rather like a snowy cornice — shading the screen from sunlight.

Call me old fashioned, but I like a key. And to my surprise, amid all this technology (and the most buttons I’ve seen on any car), the MDX comes with a proper key, not a fob or push button start.

There’s plenty of jam from the 3.7-litre V6 and its 300 horses to move the MDX along very nicely with smooth, consistent power. Handling is tight, and the SH-AWD system kept our snowies well planted on the road. There are paddle shifters that might be fun during summer driving conditions, and the traction control can be disabled. Adaptive Cruise Control monitors the distance to the car in front, and, amazingly, slows the MDX down if the distance becomes too close using something called Acura’s Collision Mitigation System (which can be turned off at the press of yet another button).

We all agreed the Blind Spot Warning System is a great feature. For example, during university, 1 member of our ski group (Greig) used to make this same trip in his ’75 cherry red Alfa with a pair of powder skis sticking out the passenger side window. Without blind spot detection, spotting a tiny Alfa in your rear-view mirror might be tricky.

Another 8 thumbs-up went to Acura’s Active Damping System that uses 2 settings — Comfort and Sport — which constantly adjusts the shocks as the car encounters bumps and dips in the road. At the press of a button, we switched from Sport to Comfort mode for a magic carpet ride on the snowy highway. No turbulence for my business-class passengers.

Fuel economy

Acura says: City 13.2 L/100 kms, Hwy 9.6 L/100 km.

Lisa Mac says: 14.2 L/100 km average round trip; however, we were loaded down with gear and driving in snow. Not ideal conditions for optimum fuel economy.

Acura MDX Elite with SH-AWD (super handling all-wheel-drive): $62,690

1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #4

To borrow an idiom, 47,000 customers can't be wrong. Nearly 4 years after Acura launched its 2nd-generation MDX, 47,210 customers lined up in 2010 to bring home the company's midsize crossover. Not only does that make the MDX Acura's best-selling vehicle in 2010 (it beat the TL by nearly 13,000 units), but also 1 of the best-selling luxury crossovers currently available in North America.

That's impressive, considering the market is flooded with premium crossovers, many of which launched after the MDX's original debut. How then, does the MDX manage to so many buyers in an extremely competitive segment? We slid behind the wheel of a 2011 model to find out for ourselves.

Sized Right
Macroscopically speaking, midsize luxury crossovers tend to fall into 1 different categories: smaller models, like the Lexus RX and Cadillac SRX, and larger vehicles -- the Buick Enclave, Lincoln MKT, BMW X5, and Audi Q7, for instance -- which offer 3 rows of seating and room for 7 or 8 passengers.

The MDX, which shares its platform with the Honda Pilot, slots nicely between those 2 extremes. At 191.6 inches long, the MDX is roughly a foot longer than the RX and SRX, yet it's almost 10 inches shorter than the likes of the MKT, Q7, and Enclave. Those trim dimensions may not abide by the "bigger is better" way of thinking, but they do pay dividends when attempting to maneuver the MDX through a crowded parking lot or tuck it into your garage.

Despite its smaller stature, the MDX isn't deprived of interior space. Head, leg, and shoulder room measurements for the 1st and 2nd rows are roughly on par or greater than those of the Enclave, X5, and Q7. Legroom for third row occupants is tight, measuring in at 29.1 inches, but on par with the likes of the Audi Q7 and Lincoln MKT. When not needed, that 3rd row can be folded flat, providing up to 42.9 cubic feet of space. Drop both rows, and that figure swells to 83.5 cubic feet.

Sharp Styling
Most of the MDX's chiseled form is identical to early 2nd-generation models, but a mild facelift performed in 2010 did add a few cosmetic improvements. The unusual solid grille insert is replaced with a more conventional opening, while the front bumper receives a pair of triangular openings above the foglamps to help lend the crossover a wide, low-slung feel.

Acura's recent design language has at times proven divisive, but the MDX wears the edgy styling well. The SUV has a very balanced and proportionate appearance, thanks in part to large wheels (18-inch aluminum wheels are standard; 19s are optional), short front and rear overhangs, and what appears to be a relatively low roofline. In back, the MDX's sharp fenders and upright D-pillars contrast nicely with the rounded rear window glass.

Likewise, the MDX's cabin shares a number of design cues with its siblings, yet it manages to possess a little extra sophistication. A curved dashboard tapers into a triangular center stack, which then terminates at a wide center console. Vast quantities of burl wood trim adorn the top of the console, and are nicely complemented with stitched leather trim on the armrest itself. Leather seating is standard across the board (models fitted with either the Advance or Technology packages receive upgraded Milano leather), but the seats themselves are comfortable, well bolstered (especially the outboard 2nd-row spots), and supportive during bouts of spirited driving.

A Sports Car In Disguise?
Yes, we said spirited driving. The best part of the MDX may well be its on-road performance -- unsurprising, as Acura believes the crossover targets sports car enthusiasts forced into buying a more practical people mover.

Beneath the skin, the MDX's powertrain is almost identical to that used in the TL sport sedan. Power is provided by Acura's 3.7-liter SOHC V-6, which in MDX form, produces 300 horsepower at 6300 rpm and 270 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm. The engine is coupled to a 6-speed automatic transmission, which was introduced to the MDX line for the 2010 model year. The extra gear allows the 2011 MDX to earn a 16/21 mpg (city/highway) rating from the EPA, a mild improvement over the 15/20 rating tied to the 5-speed.

As is the case in other Acuras, the MDX's 3.7-liter is potent and the 6-speed automatic smooth, but the true piece de resistance in the powertrain puzzle lies with the standard all-wheel-drive system. Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) system does more than just increase traction on slick surfaces -- it helps the 4500-pound MDX drive like a much smaller vehicle. The trick lies with the system's ability to shuffle torque to the rear wheels. Up to 70% of the engine's power can be sent to the rear axle, and in turn, directed to a single rear wheel. That power can be shifted to the outside rear wheel, which helps aid turn in and increase the MDX's cornering speed.

Indeed, the MDX remains planted and confident in a manner quite unlike many of its competitors. The optional Advance Package only furthers the crossover's handling prowess by adding 19-inch aluminum wheels and, perhaps more importantly, an active suspension system with magneto-rheological dampers. Not only does this system constantly adjust damping force to match road conditions and driving habits, but it also allows the driver to choose between comfort and sport settings. The latter proved remarkably taut in corners, although ride quality -- especially in concert with the bigger rims -- does suffer slightly over broken surfaces.

Pick Your Package
Like the remainder of Acura's portfolio, technology isn't relegated to the chassis and powertrain. Base models receive heated front seats, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, tri-zone automatic climate control, a power moonroof, 6 airbags, and a USB audio input. The Technology lumps in a navigation system with integrated Zagat travel guides, enhanced Bluetooth functionality, and a wonderful ELS audio system capable of playing DVD audio discs in full 5.1-channel surround sound, while the Advance Package adds the nifty active dampers, adaptive headlamps, ventilated front seats, adaptive cruise control, and blind spot detection. If your passengers frequently seek their own entertainment options, the Entertainment Package also tosses in a flip-down video screen above the 2nd row, along with wireless headphones.

It should be noted that ticking these option boxes will significantly impact the MDX's window sticker. Base 2011 MDX models sticker at $43,440 (with $860 in destination fees included), which is above the Enclave but roughly $4000 cheaper than its European competition. The TechnologyPackage forces that price up by $3675 to $47,115, while the Advance Package raises the MSRP to $52,205. Adding the entertainment system to either the Technology or Advance packages adds another $1900.

Subsequently, a fully loaded MDX like our test example can run you close to $55,000. That isn't exactly inexpensive, but it is a relative bargain -- order up a comparable 2011 BMW X5 xDrive35i Premium, and you'll be staring down an MSRP approaching the $67,000.

Perhaps that's the draw behind the model's continued success. The MDX looks, feels, and drives virtually as well as its rivals from Europe, yet costs significantly less. That's an awfully attractive proposition, and we understand why 47,210 people decided to purchase as MDX in 2010.

2011 Acura MDX
Base Price: $43,440 (including $860 in destination)
Price As Tested: $54,965 (MDX Advance with Entertainment package)

Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Engine: 3.7-liter SOHC 24-valve V-6
Horsepower: 300 hp @ 6300 rpm
Torque: 270 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
Drive: All-wheel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic

L x W x H: 191.6" x 78.5" x 68.2"
Legroom F/2/3: 41.2"/38.7"/29.1"
Headroom F/2/3: 39.2"/38.6"/37.5"
Cargo capacity (seats up/ 3rd row down/ seats down): 15/42.9/83.5 cu ft
Curb weight: 4550-4627 lbs
EPA rating (city/highway): 16/21 mpg​


1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #6

I attended the media launch of the original Acura MDX way back in April 2000, and I've always liked the vehicle since. This 2nd generation is getting on in years but has aged well. The overall demeanor of the vehicle is very satisfying. It's luxurious and well-built and comfortable but not ostentatious. It is only as big as it needs to be, as compared with, say, the Audi Q7 that we had in the office at the same time, which carries a ridiculous amount of mass.

The MDX's center stack is a little confusing on 1st use, with a bewildering array of buttons and switches and screens and letterings, but I suppose that most owners quickly learn how to use everything.

Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor

The MDX is the best-selling Acura and is probably the best Acura period. Unlike some of the brand's other offerings, it doesn't side-step competitors with a low price: It's an expensive full-size crossover that feels and drives every bit like an expensive full-size crossover. It also wears the most natural and good-looking execution of Acura's angular design language - it's not an afterthought nor is it overdone. The interior is more conservative, but is similarly attractive and built to the same high standard as the cabin of the RL sedan we had in a few weeks ago.

I did not get to drive the MDX as much as I'd like, as we were in the throes of sending our magazine out to the printer (how old fashioned!), but found the ride sufficiently comfortable for my tired commute home.

David Zenlea, Assistant Editor

The Acura MDX is an excellent example of the sporty refinement that the brand is synonymous with. The entire vehicle has a substantial, solid character that never feels heavy or cumbersome. The sporty and luxurious cabin oozes quality and I found it to be more comfortable than some of its competitors, such as the BMW X5 and the Lexus RX. In fact, on the sport vs. luxury scale the MDX is a near-perfect halfway point between these two SUVs. The Acura's steering is a weak point as it could use more feel, but it's less heavy than the X5's and better weighted than the RX's.

Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms

It's a shame I didn't have more time to spend in the MDX, because after delving into its equipment list, there are several things I'd like to have tried out, such as the real-time weather feature with which you can look at current weather radar maps and see the forecast for the next three days. Or the GPS-linked tri-zone climate control that claims to automatically adjust the air temperature and fan speed according to the position of the sun.

Of course, this particular MDX has those features because it's the absolute top-of-the-line model in the MDX lineup. Other items on this model that aren't in lesser trim levels include a rear-seat DVD system, heated 2nd-row seats, adaptive cruise control, active dampers, 19-inch wheels and auto-leveling headlights.

All of which is to say that the MDX, at least this particular 1, is a very pleasant place to spend some driving time. It's large enough to be practical for families but not so large that it's hard to maneuver and doesn't take up every last bit of space in a garage. The seats are comfortable, the steering wheel is hefty and solid, and the wood trim has a very nice high-gloss sheen. The large navigation screen is hooded to keep the light from washing it out and, while there are lots of buttons on the center stack, at least they're well labeled.

Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor

We've sung the praises of Acura's appropriately named Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive system before (like in this Acura TL versus Audi S4 comparison test or this update on our 4 Seasons ZDX), but it's a tune that I'm willing to happily hum again after driving the MDX. On dry roads, the system unobtrusively yet confidently sends extra power to the outside rear wheel in corners, effectively helping turn the vehicle and making it feel significantly more agile. And if road and traffic conditions are appropriate (i.e. a light dusting of snow and no fellow motorists in sight) and stability control is disabled, this big people hauler can become an exuberant drift machine that's able to safely and easily hang the tail out for half a city block. Best one-mile errand to the grocery store ever!

Although the MDX doesn't handle as sportily as the ZDX (blame its 150 pounds of extra curb weight and five inches of height), it's 1000 times more practical than its platform-mate. I never even hit my head on the ceiling or A-pillar during my weekend with the MDX, which also has a spacious row of comfortable middle seats and lots of room behind them for cargo or additional passengers. I try the kids-only third row, but at least it's there. Nonetheless, I think the MDX would be a poor minivan substitute for folks who often travel with 6 or 7 passengers.

Like the ZDX, the MDX has Honda's powerful, rev-happy 3.7-liter V-6 and a smooth 6-speed automatic. The leather seats are supple and lovely, but based on how much wear our long-term ZDX's seats are showing, I wonder how well they'll endure daily use.

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor

I found the MDX to be quite a pleasant surprise. I had never driven 1 before, and I'd always found them to be pretty uninspiring in appearance and wasn't expecting anything special. On the contrary, the MDX was a delight to drive, and the interior is really impressive. The comfortable and supportive seats were wrapped in an extremely attractive black leather with contrasting stitching. The leather and nicely grained plastics throughout the interior and were nicely accented by copious amounts of glossy wood trim -- a quantity of wood that might have looked terrible in a lesser cabin, but in the MDX, it all fit together perfectly.

The dash IS covered with the typical Acura array of individual buttons for every possible input or setting, but these controls are presented attractively and sensibly. The 2nd row had plenty of room, and while I didn't try the 3rd row, it looked perfectly suited for the typical duty of occasionally shuttling an extra kid or 2.

Outside, the MDX is fairly understated except for the highly styled Acura razor-blade front end. The darker-than-typical silver paint on our test car combined with the charcoal-tinted nineteen-inch wheels made for a clean, tailored look with nicely executed details that grew on me the more I photographed it.

The MDX packs a roomy, comfortable, and attractive interior in a nicely proportioned, unobtrusive package, and I was completely won over by my stint behind the wheel.

Matt Tierney, Art Director


1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #7

The Good: The 2011 Acura MDX's optional ELS audio system sounds fantastic and supports most modern digital audio sources via USB or Bluetooth streaming. The all-wheel-drive system and optional active suspension combine to help the MDX handle much better than its curb weight would imply.

The Bad: Voice command on the Acura system requires far too much hand-holding and attention from the user. Safety features such as adaptive cruise control and blind-spot detection don't operate at low speeds.

The Bottom Line: If you're looking for a sport sedan that seats seven and has room for bulky cargo, the 2011 Acura MDX Advance will likely not disappoint with its fantastic performance and modern suite of cabin tech.​

Seating 7 and weighing in at a whopping 4,551 pounds, the 2011 Acura MDX is the last vehicle you'd expect to see ripping up the pavement on your favorite mountain road, but that's exactly where we took this 300-horsepower beast to put its active suspension and SH-AWD technology to the test. The results we came back with were surprising to say the least.

What's more, this physical powerhouse is also a tech powerhouse, with an array of safety technology to keep you and your six passengers entertained on roads less twisty.

Surprisingly nimble 7-seater
Under the hood of the 2011 MDX, you'll find the same 3.7-liter V-6 engine that can be found in the TL and TSX sedans. However, the heavier MDX needs a few more ponies to get the job done, so Acura gave it a 20-horsepower boost for a total of 300 hp. The added weight and more aggressive tune pull the MDX's fuel economy down to 16 mpg city and 21 mpg highway. We managed a combined 13.8 mpg during our testing, but that's probably explained by the, well, spirited manner in which we drove during our testing. We're sure that the average driver would fall right in the middle of the EPA's estimates.

The 3.7-liter engine won't win any fuel efficiency contests, but it does provide enough power to motivate the hefty MDX.​

Power flows from the MDX's 3.7-liter engine through a 6-speed automatic transmission with a Sport program and paddle shifters for manual gear selection. From there, torque is transferred to either the front or rear wheels through Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system (SH-AWD). This system not only biases torque between the front and rear axles, it features a torque vectoring system on the rear axle that sends power to the outside wheel in a turn, increasing grip, control, and rotation. The end result is a nimble ride uncharacteristic of a vehicle the size of the MDX.

Helping the MDX's agility is an active magnetic suspension that is able to adjust the dampening characteristics of the SUV's suspension many times per second in order to provide the highest-quality ride. The suspension's 2 modes, Sport and Comfort, give you the choice of emphasizing performance or a supple ride.

Shifting the MDX's transmission into Sport mode, we pushed the SUV up 1 of our favorite mountain roads. Paddle shifting allowed the MDX to hold its revs and prevented awkward midturn shifts. Finding ourselves hot on the tail of a fellow enthusiast in a Volkswagen GTI, we were impressed by how well our 4,550-pound beast stuck to the rear bumper of the nimble hatchback. Of course, with almost 100 horsepower more, you'd expect the MDX to keep up with the VW on the straights, but on twisty roads such as this one, raw power loses to handling. Still, there we were, keeping up the chase through the mountains. There was a noticeable bit of body roll, but the MDX felt planted through the gentler turns and the SH-AWD system brought the vehicle's tail around nicely in the more aggressive switchbacks.

With all modes set to Sport, we were able to coax a fun drive out of the MDX's large-SUV chassis.​

Reaching the top of the hill, we paused to give our arms a break from sawing away at the steering wheel, when we noticed that during the entire trip up the mountain, the MDX's adjustable suspension had been in its Comfort mode. Switching the suspension into its Sport setting to match the transmission, we again tossed the MDX into the twists and turns of the mountain road--this time headed downhill. The difference in the handing characteristics of the SUV was immediately noticeable. The body roll we noticed on the way up was drastically reduced, allowing the MDX to stay flatter in the turns and enabling the SH-AWD system to really scoot the ute's tail end around as we powered through turns at speeds that a 7-passenger SUV shouldn't be capable of. We found ourselves grinning as we dove into bends carrying more and more speed before our fun was abruptly brought to a halt by a flashing amber light on the instrument cluster.

Safety Tech
No, the warning wasn't from the traction control system, which was surprisingly transparent in its actions. It was from the collision mitigation braking system (CMBS). This forward-facing radar constantly monitors the road ahead of the MDX to warn drivers of potential collisions. If there is no reaction to its flashing lights and sound, the CBMS will apply the brakes automatically and cinch the driver's seatbelt in preparation for a crash. Apparently, the rapidly approaching trees and rock wall on the outside of the switchback we'd been aggressively diving into had caused the system to falsely trigger enough times that it was second-guessing itself and displayed an error code. Driving was not impeded in any way by this error and a quick halt and restart of the vehicle cleared the error code.

We decided to take it easy on the ride back from the mountain and chose a highway route. Switching the gearbox back into its normal automatic mode and the suspension back to Comfort, we took this opportunity to test out the safety features of our MDX's Advance Package. The active cruise control (ACC) system uses the same forward radar as the CMBS (which is also part of the Advance Package) to monitor and maintain a safe distance between the MDX and the vehicle ahead of it. At its tightest, the system still kept a full two car lengths between our front bumper and the car ahead of it, which is great for safety. However, when used in moderate traffic, the system was pretty aggressive in slowing the vehicle to maintain that gap, leading to a jerky ride. Additionally, the system will only slow the vehicle to about 35 to 45 mph before it simply shuts off and stops accelerating (other systems, such as that of the Infiniti FX50, will bring the vehicle to a complete stop and reaccelerate). This makes Acura's ACC system less than ideal for heavy traffic situations.

Also part of the Advance Package is the Blind Spot Information System, which notifies drivers that a vehicle is in the MDX's blind spot by illuminating an LED near the appropriate side-view mirror and flashing that LED if the turn signal is activated. The system makes no attempt to prevent the driver from merging into an obstruction and doesn't operate at low speeds, so it isn't useful in stop-and-go traffic situations.

The Advance Package also brings pre-tensioning seat belts that prepare the passenger in the event of a crash, autoleveling xenon headlamps, the Active Damper adjustable suspension mentioned earlier, and ventilation for the perforated leather sport seats. OK, that last bit isn't exactly a safety feature, but it is nice to have.

Cabin Information & Entertainment Technology
The 2011 Acura MDX's standard cabin tech features include XM Satellite Radio playback, Bluetooth hands-free calling with address book sync, an auxiliary analog audio input, and a power-actuated tailgate. There's also an interesting standard 253-watt, seven-speaker audio system that includes an 8-inch subwoofer.

However, we have no idea how that system sounds because our MDX Advance came equipped with the Tech Package, bumping the standard audio rig in favor of a 10-speaker, 410-watt ELS system with Dolby Pro Logic II. The ELS system sounded fantastic at moderate volumes with bass that almost never distorted and high-end reproduction that was almost too clear for our Bluetooth-streamed MP3s--A2DP Bluetooth streaming being also added as a part of the Tech Package. During our testing, we noticed audible harshness at the top end of some tracks streamed from our Bluetooth-paired HTC Thunderbolt that wasn't present when the same passages were played from CDs or DVD-audio discs.

Also part of the Tech Package is Acura's HDD-based navigation system, which performed quite well, with snappy routing and response. The entire system is controlled using Acura's rotary controller, a large knob that can be rotated, pushed in 8 directions, and depressed like a button to make selections and browse the map. The navigation system includes traffic data and weather updates as part of its AcuraLink communication system and even incorporates GPS data into the climate control system.

The HDD that holds navigation-system data also has a 15GB partition for storing audio files ripped from CDs.​

The Tech Package increases your audio source options by creating a partition of the navigation system's hard drive for ripped audio CDs, the aforementioned Bluetooth audio streaming, and USB and iPod connectivity. When an iPod or iPhone device is connected, the MDX's voice command system can queue up songs and playlists with simple voice commands, such as "Play artist: the Beastie Boys." This is a nice feather in the cap of the Acura's voice command system.

As we've seen in previously tested Honda vehicles, Acura's voice command system is robust, allowing almost every onscreen interaction and a few offscreen interactions--such as adjusting the climate controls--to be handled with a spoken voice command. However, the Acura voice command system is also needlessly complex. Because it seeks to replicate touch commands with voice rather than handle true voice recognition, accessing simple functions can take way too many steps and require the driver glance at the screen far too many times while driving. For example, inputting a street address can take as many as 10 discrete spoken commands. Likewise, voice command for hands-free calling isn't true voice recognition and the system cannot understand commands such as "Call Brian at work" without a manually assigned voice tag.

The ELS audio and satellite-linked navigation system of the Tech Package are nearly identical to those of the 2012 Acura TL SH-AWD that we recently tested. Check out that review for Senior Editor Wayne Cunningham's impressions.

Adding the Entertainment Package nets you a motorized, ceiling-mounted display and heated rear seating.​

Adding the Entertainment Package puts a second optical drive in the dashboard for DVD playback and puts a motorized 9-inch LCD on the MDX's ceiling for rear seat entertainment. This system also includes an IR remote control and two sets of wireless headphones for rear seat passengers. The entire system can be controlled from the back seat or commanded--but not viewed--from the front seats with an override. The front passengers are given the option of dual-zone audio playback or allowing the DVD system to take full advantage of the MDX's 5.1 surround-sound system. During dual-zone playback a standard source is piped through the front speakers while the rear speakers are muted to allow DVD audio to play through the wireless headphones.

In Sum
If you checked out the 2012 Acura TL review and thought, "I'd love to drive a sport sedan, but I really need more space," the 2011 Acura MDX is exactly the car for you. It loses surprisingly little in performance compared with the TL that most people would notice on public roads, while also offering seating for 7 or a massive rear hatch for bulky items if you stow the 3rd row of seats.

The MDX's 3rd row of seats fold flat to offer enough space for your average CNET editor, but getting getting in and out can be tricky.​

The MDX starts at $42,580, but if you want any of the performance, comfort, or safety technology we've been raving about, you'll need to step up to one of the higher trim levels. To get the killer ELS audio system, hard-drive-based navigation, and better digital audio source options, you'll need the $46,255 MDX with Tech Package. For the safety technology suite with ACC, CMBS, and blind-spot detection, you'll want the MDX with Advance Package and the Tech Package options, for $52,205. The Entertainment Package--which adds the rear seat entertainment system as well as heated second-row seats and a 110-volt outlet in the center console--can be added to either the Advance or Tech packages for $1,900. Add an $860 destination fee to reach our as-tested price of $54,965.

We spec'd a new BMW X5 xDrive35i Premium with similar options and the total came to a whopping $72,075. Maybe the BMW would be a better drive through the twisties, but from the driver's seat of the Acura MDX we can't imagine it being $17,000 better. Against competition such as the Infiniti FX35, the gap in price is significantly decreased, but we're sure that most drivers in the market for 1 of these Japanese luxury SUVs would be happy behind the wheel of either.

Tech Specs
Model 2011 Acura MDX
Trim Advance with Entertainment Package
Power train 3.7-liter V-6, 6-speed automatic, SH-AWD
EPA fuel economy 16 city mpg, 21 highway mpg
Observed fuel economy 13.8 mpg
Navigation HDD-based navigation with traffic and weather
Bluetooth phone support basic voice command, phonebook sync
Disc player CD/DVD/DVD-Audio/MP3/WMA
MP3 player support analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, USB/iPod connection
Other digital audio standard XM satellite radio, Bluetooth stereo streaming, HDD-based jukebox
Audio system 410-watt ELS, 10-speaker, 8-inch subwoofer
Driver aids rearview camera, blind-spot information, adaptive cruise control, Collision Mitigation Braking System
Base price $42,580
Price as tested $54,965​

1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
Globe & Mail

The 2011 Acura MDX is essentially unchanged from 2010: It’s still a well-appointed, comfortable and highly ranked mid-size SUV that features an atrocious front grille that looks like some sort of oversized Second World War medal.

Acura would never admit this, and I have no way of proving it, but I’d bet money that the front-end treatment of the MDX is so off-putting, it’s likely a deal-breaker for some prospective buyers. The same applies to all the other models in the lineup that have it as well. That said, the MDX is 1 of Acura’s top-selling models.

As well, it gets high marks from organizations like Consumer Reports. In its 2011 “Best And Worst Cars” survey, the magazine ranks the MDX second in the upscale SUV segment (behind the Lexus RX 450h). It’s a “recommended” buy, according to Consumer Reports, and the magazine likes its agility, braking, fit and finish and crash-test results, among other things.

What it doesn’t like is the excessive road noise and wonky controls, which takes the words right out of my mouth. Honda/Acura likes to extol the virtues of its Active Noise Cancellation system in its various models, but, not to put too fine a point on it, it doesn’t cut the mustard. Compared to many other models in the segment of the market, the MDX displays far too much road noise when it’s under way and, for an upscale SUV, has surprisingly poor NVH (Noise, Vibration and Harshness).

Perhaps it’s the tires, but whatever it is, something needs to be done. With a vehicle of this calibre, you shouldn’t have to raise your voice when conversing while driving on the highway, but that’s the way it is. The road noise and poor NVH isn’t an all-consuming racket, but a vague background white noise kind of thing. It’s not massively intrusive, but there, nonetheless.

And a word about the controls. In a nutshell, there are just too many of them and they seem to require constant monitoring. For example, I never could get the power mirrors to stay put. I would adjust and set the memory function over and over again, yet every time I used the vehicle, I had to re-set the mirrors. A small thing, perhaps, but annoying. Acura re-did the switchgear and controls of the MDX last year, but they still need work.

Power is not an issue, however. The 3.7-litre V-6 propelling the MDX delivers 300 horses, smoothly transmitted via a 6-speed automatic transmission (new as of 2010) and, as usual for Honda/Acura, the drivetrain is beyond reproach. Honda got its start building engines way back when and they just don’t come any better. Fuel economy could be better, though: 13.2 litres/100 km in town and 9.6 on the highway, and the MDX requires premium gas.

The MDX also has Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) feature, which enhances its handling considerably. This is not an off-road aid and does nothing to get you through the rough stuff, but it will help with accident avoidance and handling and, anyway, full-time AWD is a good thing to have no matter what form it takes, in my opinion. Besides, who’s taking their MDX off-road on a regular basis? Acura has read this market perfectly.

Elsewhere, the MDX has 2,364 litres of cargo space with all the seats folded flat. That’s a little more than the Lexus RX 450h, for example (2,273 litres) and roomy enough for this kind of vehicle. Again, I just can’t see the MDX being put to work carrying things like lumber, furniture, garden supplies and so on. More likely, it’ll be accommodating luggage and dogs.

For its $52,690 base price, the MDX comes well-dressed. The usual upscale modcons – such as leather interior, power tailgate, power tilt/telescoping steering, remote entry, heated front and rear seats, satellite radio, headlight washers, and so on – come standard with the base model, and my tester, the Elite version, adds a back-up camera, roof rails, larger 19-inch wheels and tires, auto-levelling headlights and ventilated front seats, among other things.

It also has Acura’s collision mitigation braking and blind spot information systems. The former features a built-in sensor that anticipates a collision and prepares the car accordingly by tightening the seat belts and engaging the brakes to reduce the severity of the accident, while the latter can detect vehicles in the vehicle’s blind spot and activates a small light in the outside rearview mirror. This is becoming a common feature throughout the industry and is a good thing any way you look at it. For the Elite package, you can add $10,000 to the base price.

2011 Acura MDX

Tech specs

2011 Acura MDX Elite

Type: Mid-size luxury SUV

Base price: $52,690; as tested, $65,041

Engine: 3.7-litre V-6

Horsepower/torque: 300 hp/270 lb-ft

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Drive: Full-time all-wheel

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 13.2 city/9.6 highway; premium gas

Alternatives: Audi Q7, BMW X5, Lexus RX 450h, Lexus RX 350, Mercedes GL350, VW Touareg, Porsche Cayenne V6, Volvo XC90, Lincoln MKT, Infiniti FX35, Jeep Grand Cherokee

Globe rating for the 2011 Acura MDX
Our ratings guide


SH-AWD is an excellent feature, overall handling is refined without being soft.


Don’t mind the rest of it, but can’t get my head around grille treatment


Other than some of the controls, no issues.


Loaded with active and passive safety features


Less than thrifty and needs premium gas.


(out of 10 / Not an average)
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