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A good luxury crossover gets even better
by Mike Schlee

The mid-size luxury crossover market is an interesting place. With high sales and high profits, every manufacturer has an entry here fighting for a piece of the pie. Like a pack of peacocks waving their feathers, each vehicle struts around claiming to be the class leader in luxury, refinement, efficiency or sportiness. But Acura has always taken a slightly different approach. The MDX has always been about combining a healthy dose of each key quality while maintaining great value.

And for Acura it’s worked. Nearly 51,000 of these three-row crossovers were sold last year. That’s close to 20,000 more than Acura’s next best selling product, the TL, making the MDX Acura’s bread and butter. But now it is time for a complete redesign, and to say it’s important for Acura to get this right would be an understatement.


All new from the ground up, the MDX features a lighter platform despite being roughly the same size. By stripping out 275 lbs. compared to the 2013 MDX, Acura has been able to downsize the engine for improved efficiency. Replacing last year’s 3.7-liter V6 is a direct injection version of Honda’s new Earth Dreams 3.5-liter V6 with variable cylinder management. With 290 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque, the new unit is down 10 hp compared to last year, but Acura claims it’s just as quick in a straight line.
Read the complete 2014 Acura MDX Review at


1,199 Posts
Another Review

The 2014 Acura MDX trades visceral driving fun for family-friendly refinement, which should appeal to most shoppers for the 7-seat luxury SUV.

Now in its 3rd generation, the MDX faces a new competitor in the Infiniti JX, which wasn't around when the previous generation arrived. Other options include the BMW X5, Buick Enclave, Audi Q7 and, if you can do without the 3rd row, the ever-popular Lexus RX.

Like many Acura cars, the MDX comes in 1 well-equipped base trim, though there are several option packages that essentially serve as trim levels: Technology, Technology with Entertainment and Advance with Entertainment. For 2014, front-wheel drive becomes available with all packages; previously all-wheel drive was standard. At a media preview in Portland, Ore., I drove a number of the all-wheel-drive MDX SUVs with Technology and Advance packages alongside its predecessor and several competitors.

Cleaner, Similar

The outgoing MDX's bumper inlets sat high enough to give a mustachioed expression. Its successor has shaved, thankfully, but styling otherwise stays put. The biggest shift is the headlights, which adopt standard LEDs for a sort of reptilian appearance. In back, the MDX loses its exposed tailpipes for chrome-ringed reflectors and a concealed single pipe. Yawn.

18-inch alloy wheels are standard, and 19s are optional. Citing research that showed nobody wanted a bigger MDX, Acura added just 2 inches to the overall length while reducing height and width by 1.5 inches and 1.3 inches, respectively. The resulting profile is the most wagonlike of the MDX's 3 generations.

Less Defined, More Refined

Fans of the past MDX's deliberate driving characteristics — heavy, swift steering; a busy ride; a growling V-6 — will be disappointed, but I suspect most shoppers will deem the new generation an improvement. A direct-injection 3.5-liter V-6 replaces the 2013's port-injected 3.7-liter V-6, and it provides stout oomph despite shedding a bit of power. The smaller 6 makes 290 horsepower — down 10 hp from last year, with torque down a tad too — but Acura also shaved nearly 300 pounds' curb weight in all-wheel-drive models.

The standard 6-speed automatic helps pick up the slack, with short lower gears, smooth upshifts and responsive highway kickdown. Downshifts could come sooner as you accelerate through a bend, and a selectable Sport mode provides just that; it even drops a gear or 2 on downhill stretches.

Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive actively sends power to the rear or outside wheels to improve handling. Hammer it on a corner and the MDX swings its tail wide before the standard electronic stability system — or a shrieking spouse — reins you in. You'll earn forgiveness at the pump: Thanks to the weight loss, the all-wheel-drive MDX achieves an impressive 18/27/21 mpg city/highway/combined, which is up 3 mpg combined over the previous generation. Front-drive MDXs save 230 pounds for a class-leading 20/28/23 mpg. Acura recommends premium fuel for maximum performance; some competitors require it, but others, like the Enclave and RX, make full power on the cheap gas.

The fun ends at the brakes, which have a far spongier pedal than the 2013 MDX and also an RX and JX that Acura had on hand at the preview. Toe the brakes hard and the MDX's composure unravels as antilock braking kicks in. Whether blame goes to this year's downsized disc brakes or some other factor, the results don't inspire confidence.

Gone is the old MDX's busy, nervous ride; its successor isolates bumpy roads and handles broken pavement well, even as Acura ditched last year's adaptive suspension option. The new MDX is quieter, too; it's closer to the Lexus RX and Infiniti JX than the old MDX's sometimes noisy cabin. Such is how the MDX behaves: less fun, more overall refinement.

Acura replaced last year's hydraulic steering with more efficient electric power steering, which trades some feedback for much lighter effort at low speeds. I suspect SUV shoppers will accept the tradeoff, which puts the MDX in line with other SUVs. A new Integrated Dynamics system alters various systems — among them accelerator response and power-steering assist — to Comfort, Normal and Sport settings. Even Sport has more power-steering assist than the past MDX, but Comfort and Normal feel a bit too buoyant on the highway. Like most steering "programs," this is a gimmick. I'd take a speed-sensitive automatic progression among the 3 assist levels any day.

The Inside

Cabin quality impresses, with less faux-wood trim — past MDX SUVs killed a lot of plastic trees — and real metal inlays in place of the outgoing painted plastic. With 2 screens (1 touch-sensitive, the other operated via knob) controlling most of the dashboard action, the MDX cut last year's button hodgepodge by more than half. It's refreshing, but some of the often-used controls, like heated seats, are in a submenu.

The front seats afford good adjustment range; I'm 6 feet tall and sat a few inches ahead of the farthest-back position. New for 2014, the 2nd row has push-button, walk-in access to the 3rd row. It also slides nearly 6 inches forward and back, but adults in the 3rd row will need anyone in the 2nd row to slide all the way forward — a position that makes 2nd-row legroom snug. Both rows sit low to the floor, despite an abundance of headroom in the 2nd row; Acura could have positioned the seats a bit higher, and I wish they had.

A traditional DVD entertainment system is optional, but so is an upgraded system similar to that in the Odyssey minivan from Acura's parent, Honda. Complete with auxiliary and HDMI inputs, it has a 16.2-inch widescreen that can split the display and show videos from 2 separate sources simultaneously.

Safety, Features & Pricing

The MDX has yet to be crash-tested. Standard safety features include 7 airbags plus the required antilock brakes and electronic stability system. All-wheel-drive models incorporate a trailer-sway assistant, which uses the electronic stability system's lateral sensors to intuit trailer sway and smooth things out, to complement the MDX's 5,000-pound towing capacity. Safety options include blind spot, lane departure and 2 forward collision warning systems — a simpler 1 warns of an impending collision, or a more advanced system that applies automatic braking.

The front-wheel-drive MDX starts at $43,185, including the destination charge. That's about $1,000 less than the outgoing MDX, which had standard all-wheel drive. All-wheel drive adds $2,000, effectively raising the price of the new MDX by $1,000 for those who want all-wheel drive. Acura says you get a lot of new features for that — among them keyless access with push-button start, LED headlights and a sliding 2nd row. Other standard features include 18-inch wheels, leather upholstery, heated power seats, a backup camera, a moonroof, a power liftgate and a USB/iPod compatible stereo with Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming.

Navigation, various safety options, rain-sensing wipers, 19-inch wheels and ELS premium audio with HD Radio go into the Technology Package, which Acura expects to account for more than half of all MDX sales. Entertainment and Advance packages add regular or widescreen rear entertainment systems, 2nd-row window shades, adaptive cruise control, heated 2nd-row seats and upgraded leather with ventilated front seats. The MDX tops around $57,500, or nearly $2,000 more than the 2013 model's price with all the factory options.

MDX in the Market

The MDX has battled the Enclave for top sales among 3-row luxury crossovers for the past 5 years, but Acura says most MDX shoppers don't compare the 2. I recommend they do, given Buick's updates for 2013. Then there's the 2-row Lexus RX that trounced all luxury SUVs for those 5 years and then some.

The MDX won't reach RX popularity with this redesign. Can it reclaim the No. 2 spot? We'll see. But Acura hits broad family appeal with this redesign, with impressive fuel efficiency to boot. At minimum, the MDX has solidified its podium sales finish, and I suspect it will get the silver medal for years to come.


1,199 Posts
C & D

Blockbuster sequels are all about 1-upmanship—more explosions mean more popcorn sales. Luxury-car makers generally follow Hollywood’s lead, with horsepower standing in for special effects. So when Acura introduced a redesigned but less powerful MDX, we were puzzled. Then it said the 3-row SUV would, for the 1st time, be available in a dumbed-down, front-wheel-drive model. The whole thing sounded like The Expendables 3 rewritten as a Katherine Heigl romantic comedy.

Acura didn’t have a front-drive MDX at our preview, but a few hours behind the wheel of the 4-wheel-drive 2014 MDX convinced us that we needn’t have worried.

The old MDX had 300 horsepower that bellowed, “Prepare for glory!” like so many Spartan warriors in a Gerard Butler movie that, while critically panned, has lately developed a cult following. Anyway. That 3.7-liter V-6 has been supplanted by a version of the 3.5-liter V-6 from the RLX sedan. Here it’s rated at 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of  torque and still mounted transversely. With variable valve timing and lift (a.k.a. VTEC), direct injection, and cylinder deactivation, the new V-6 screams efficiency nearly as loudly, helping the MDX’s EPA-combined rating jump from 18 mpg to 21, with highway fuel economy hitting 27 even with 4-wheel drive.

A new platform makes its debut here, developed just for the MDX (at least for now). Cutting ties with the rest of Honda’s light trucks, which had shared an architecture with the Odyssey minivan, helped the MDX drop 275 pounds compared with the old model. The body-in-white saw 123 pounds trimmed thanks to the increased use of high-strength steel. A new rear-suspension design also netted a 26-pound weight savings. The diet means that the MDX’s power-to-weight ratio actually improves despite the reduced output of the smaller engine.

The carryover 6-speed automatic isn’t great. Whether in sport mode or through the steering-wheel-mounted paddles, shifts aren’t as quick as those executed by state-of-the-art 7- or 8-speed automatics offered by German competitors. Acura replaced the old MDX’s dual exhausts with a new single pipe hiding behind the rear bumper, a disappearing act that mirrors what happened to most of the noisiness of the old MDX. Better sealing and insulation and thicker acoustic glass quiet the cabin enough that you’ll be able to hear the kids whispering insults to each other in the 3rd row, at least up until 4950 rpm. That’s the threshold where VTEC kicks in for a 1850-rpm howl to the redline.

Both the middle and rear seats now fold flat, and 1-touch 3rd-row access means kids can climb aboard unassisted. Pressing either of  2 buttons—1 on the back of the seat or 1 on the side, both lit at night—slides the 2nd row all the way forward on tracks that permit fore-aft adjustment. 2 optional DVD screens, 1 of which is able to display 2 programs side by side, make the MDX a veritable multiplex.

Appointments in the MDX have been upgraded throughout, with more leather and nicer metal and wood accents, though the materials are still entry-luxury grade. The RLX makes a cameo in the cabin, too, donating optional safety features such as lane-departure warning and adaptive cruise, which can decelerate to zero in stop-and-go traffic and start back up again.
As in the RLX, a haptic touch screen sits just below the main infotainment screen. This is Acura’s attempt to clean up the dashboard-by-Boeing look of the old MDX, with its dial controller and dozens of buttons. It’s an improvement, but the digital buttons aren’t any more logically deployed than the real ones were.

A wheelbase that grows by 2.7 inches helps improve the ride quality, while the 2 extra inches in length add additional cargo capacity. The new model sits an inch closer to the ground, nominally reducing its off-road capabilities, and Acura also shrunk the MDX more than an inch in width to make it easier to park. It does tighten up the passenger compartment, though it’s still comfortably roomy. The new dimensions hurt weight distribution a bit, with front bias up 2 percent to 58.

You’d never know it, however, thanks to Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive. This is still the MDX’s signature feature, and a new calibration in sport mode sends even more torque to the outside rear wheel, speeding directional changes so much that you’ll have to dial back your normal steering inputs. Selecting sport on the MDX’s Integrated Dynamics System (IDS) also sharpens throttle response and adds heft to the wheel. Steering is quicker than in the old model, and weighting is as good, regardless of the switch from hydraulic to electric assist.

Acura swapped out the old model’s rear multilink suspension for a more compact setup with coil-over shocks. Its subframe has extra bracing and more substantial body mounts. Damping is firm, and body motions are controlled well enough to provide encouragement while still serving as reminders that you’re in a 4350-pound vehicle. The brake feel improves with more immediate bite and better modulation. Acura’s Agile Handling Assist appears here, as in the RLX, using the brakes during initial turn-in to help induce rotation. Combined with the SH-AWD, the 2 types of torque vectoring work seamlessly to help the new MDX banish understeer when driven hard.

And drive hard you shall, because the new MDX remains among the sportiest and most dynamic 3-row SUVs extant. Sure, there will be customers lining up for the front-drive, minivan-surrogate model. They will be the same ones who will lock the IDS setting into “comfort,” boosting the steering assist and erasing any feel. Regardless of this concession to the audience, Acura still regards the MDX as a vehicle worthy of carrying the tag line “From the producers of the NSX.” And we’re inclined to agree.

Specifications >

VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, front- or 4-wheel-drive, 7-passenger, 5-door wagon

BASE PRICE: $43,185–$45,185

ENGINE TYPE: SOHC 24-valve V-6, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection

Displacement: 212 cu in, 3471 cc
Power: 290 hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 267 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm

TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic with manual shifting mode

Wheelbase: 111.0 in
Length: 193.6 in
Width: 77.2 in Height: 66.7 in
Curb weight: 4050–4350 lb

Zero to 60 mph: 6.1–6.3 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 17.2–17.5 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 14.8–14.9 sec
Top speed: 120 mph

EPA city/highway driving: 18–20/27–28 mpg

1,199 Posts
Natl Post

To say Acura has a lot riding on the success of its new 2014 MDX crossover is like saying winter driving in Canada can be a bit challenging. Last year, almost 1-3rd of new vehicles sold by Honda’s luxury brand were of the 3-row MDX. But with an all-new, larger-yet-lighter platform, a new engine and a host of new safety, luxury and infotainment features, Acura is hoping its 3rd-generation MDX will be as popular — or even more so — than ever before.

The all-wheel-drive, 7-seat Acura certainly has its work cut out for it. Automakers have figured out that large, luxury crossovers can be very profitable, to the point where the MDX has more competition than ever before. On top of traditional, semi-luxury brand mid-sized rivals like the Buick Enclave, Mazda CX-9, Lincoln MKT, Volvo XC90 and Infiniti JX, the Acura can also be considered as an alternative to much pricier crossovers, like the Audi Q7 and BMW X5.

As before, a V6 gas engine powers all 2014 MDX models. Instead of offering a diesel or gas-electric hybrid option for better fuel economy, Acura has reduced engine displacement in its gas 6-cylinder from 3.7-litres to 3.5L and added direct injection. Horsepower only drops from 300 to 290 and pound-feet of torque from 270 to 267. However, combined with what Acura says is a loss of 131 kilograms in curb weight (from a 2013 model that was already 1 of the lightest in its class), an 18% improvement in aerodynamic efficiency, and variable cylinder management (where the engine can run on either 3 or 6-cylinders) the 2014 MDX’s estimated fuel economy numbers are a “best-in-class” 11.2 L/100 km in the city and 7.7 on the highway — a big improvement over the 2013 model’s 13.2 and 9.6 ratings.

Inside, Acura designers focused on making the new MDX’s cabin more functional for both the pilot and passengers. The crossover’s much criticized “wall of buttons” centre dash design has been cleaned up dramatically. Acura’s so-called “jog dial” controller has been retained, but there is now a pair of central digital displays, reducing the button count from 41 to 9. Fit and finish has also improved.

The added value of having a 3rd-row of seating is mitigated if owners can’t get passengers back there easily enough. So Acura has lowered the 2014 MDX’s rear door step-in height, made the entry wider and added a new feature that automatically folds and slides the 2nd-row seats to their forward-most position with a push of a button. As well, cargo space behind the 3rd row has been lengthened by 150 millimetres.

Many mid-sized luxury crossover buyers are graduating from smaller sport sedans. So a family hauler than could also be driven with some verve when called upon was 1 of the more outstanding qualities of the last-generation MDX. Here at the 2014 version’s media launch, Jim Keller, chief engineer for the MDX, says despite the emphasis on more room and interior functionality, the 2014 MDX is even more rewarding from the driver’s seat. And after a morning of spirited, 2-lane driving in a topline 2014 MDX Elite, I can confirm his optimism.

With an all-new, multi-link rear and updated front suspension, the longer 2014 MDX is just as nimble and easy to place in corners as the last model — much more fun than any of the aforementioned semi-luxury brand rivals, and darn near close to the pricier German offerings. The Acura’s standard all-wheel-drive system keeps its active rear engine-torque-vectoring feature, but this year adds brake-torque-vectoring as well for improved initial turn-in. I also found the new MDX’s electronic steering natural and accurate, with less torque steer than before.

With its new Integrated Dynamic System (IDS), you can also tailor the 2014 MDX’s steering effort, throttle response, all-wheel-drive system and engine sound. And the IDS settings can be paired to a corresponding key fob for 2 different driver profiles.

For when you’re using the new MDX as a family hauler or luxury sedan, it can also be serenely quiet and cosseting. There’s a lot less noise, vibration and harshness than the outgoing mode, and while the Acura’s ride is firm, it’s never jarring over rough pavement.

For drivers not paying attention, the new Acura introduces a host of e-nannies (Lane Keeping Assist System, Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow, Blind Spot Information, and Collision Mitigation Braking System). In addition, a newly optional Surround View Camera System lets drivers have a 360-degree view of the exterior of the vehicle when parking, and it’s a Canadian-market exclusive.

When the 4-model 2014 MDX lineup goes on sale this July, pricing will range from $49,990 for the base version all the way to $65,990 for the fully loaded (remote engine start, surround camera, “ultra-wide” rear DVD, heated and ventilated front seats, heated windshield and steering wheel, all the new e-nannies, plus more) Elite model. 2 other Navigation ($54,690) and Tech ($59,990) models will be priced in between. That’s above most of the aforementioned semi-luxury brand rivals, but nearly $10,000 less than a Q7 or X5.

Despite the lack of a hybrid or diesel powertrain, you can’t argue with the gains in fuel economy Acura has bestowed on its new 2014 MDX. Throw in a roomier, more functional and luxurious cabin, new safety technologies and an even better driving experience, and the new Acura crossover should appeal to an even broader audience.

1,199 Posts
Truck Trend

The importance of crossovers and SUVs in the premium segment cannot be overstated. The category represents 1 of the biggest sales slices for luxury brands, both worldwide, and especially in the U.S. market. The RX is Lexus' perennial best-seller, and the MDX was Acura's best-selling model in 2012, and along with its little brother RDX, is the brand's 2nd-best seller for the 1st quarter of 2013. To say a lot was riding on the 2014 Acura MDX is an understatement. It was imperative that the brand not screw up 1 of its top star players.

The 2014 MDX is no slap some LEDs on it and call it a day refresh. Engine, chassis, powertrain and dimensions were all re-thought from a clean-sheet standpoint, with particular focus given to areas that current MDX owners singled out for improvement. But the changes made to please the faithful will likely expand its appeal to general luxury SUV buyers. But far more dramatic than the styling changes is the change in the behind-the-wheel character between the new and old model.

It's instantly recognizable as an MDX, but side-by-side with the old model, the differences are manifold and significant. Length is up by 2 inches, but the 2014 model is 1.3 inches narrower, based on owner feedback of the previous-generation model being cumbersome to park. Like the RLX sedan, the MDX gets standard Jewel Eye LED headlights, which besides looking super high-tech and premium, cast a brighter light closer to daylight. Overall, the lines of the new MDX look like a slightly larger version of the RDX, which is not a bad thing.

Being a 3-row model, 3rd-row access was a major focus area for the 3rd-generation model, and a 2.8 inch longer wheelbase makes a big difference in 3rd-row access. In addition to the larger rear door opening, more clearly-marked 2nd-row seat controls make folding them forward more intuitive. Knowing that the 2nd row would be getting more regular use than the 3rd row, Acura gave the 2nd-row seats 5 recline positions, and 5.9 inches of fore and aft seat travel. Also aiding 3rd-row passenger and/or cargo room is a redesigned multilink rear suspension.

Refined Performance
The 2014 MDX is far more advanced from a technological and engineering standpoint than its predecessor, but unlike some other models and brands that become increasingly isolated and synthetic with each successive generation, the new MDX shows a renewed focus and emphasis on performance and driving dynamics. But the most remarkable accomplishment with the new model is that overall refinement was not lost, but actually enhanced with the sharper focus on performance.

Under the hood, last year's port-injected 3.7-liter engine makes way for a 290-hp 3.5-liter direct-injected Earth Dreams V-6 engine. On-paper, the downsized GDI engine makes 10 less hp and 3 lb-ft less torque than its predecessor, but you wouldn't know it from behind the wheel. With an 8-percent improvement in torque below 2750 rpm, as well as a 275 lighter weight model-for-model, the 2014 MDX feels much livelier than its predecessor from behind the wheel, with sharper throttle response, and noticeably improved low-end torque. But the biggest coup for the new Earth Dreams V-6 is the huge improvement in fuel economy, with the new model getting 6 mpg better highway fuel economy, and a 17-percent improvement in combined fuel economy for the all-wheel drive model, from 16/21 to 18/27. New for 2014 is a front-wheel-drive model that gets an even better 20 city and 28 highway. Aiding the V-6 in its efficient operation is a 16-percent reduction in drag coefficient, cylinder deactivation (Variable Cylinder Management in Acura-speak) and a 19 percent reduction in rolling resistance.

On the all-important yardstick of dynamic performance, the Nürburgring, the 2014 MDX completed a lap of the Nordschieife a significant eight seconds faster than its predecessor.

At 4297 lb, the 2014 MDX is no lightweight, but that's still 275 lb lighter than its forebear, thanks to 64 percent of the new structure consisting of high-strength steel, aluminum or magnesium. Acura is especially proud of the 1-piece hot-stamped front door ring, which is expected to give the 2014 MDX the coveted IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating, which includes the small overlap test. Acura engineers proudly boast that the front door could still be opened by the exterior door handle even after grueling crash testing.

Dashing Style
Driving the 2013 and 2014 models back-to-back, before even starting the engine, the improvement in cabin materials and design is immediately apparent. The last-generation model had all the expected amenities, but they were presented in a somewhat chunky, angular package. The overall theme of the 2014 model's interior is a leaner, more detailed, more refined presentation. Telling of the attention to detail given to the interior is that the bottom half of the dash is padded, a relative rarity even on luxury-brand models, which usually have a padded upper dash, but frequently cheap out with a hard plastic lower dash.

Although Acura has gotten some blow-back on its On Demand Multi-Use Display (ODMD) in the RLX sedan, after a brief orientation, we found the operation in the MDX to be relatively intuitive. A return of the touchscreen in the 3rd-generation model was again based on owner feedback that gave the last-generation model's non-touchscreen control interface mixed reviews. Acura points out the number of physical buttons on the console has been reduced from 41 to 9. As in some other cutting-edge cabin interfaces, such as some versions of MyFord touch, we're not exactly sure if the radical reduction in actual buttons necessarily results in improved ergonomics, but the result is certainly a much cleaner appearance.

So it's well-established that the "new" MDX is truly all-new. But what's it like to drive? For a 4300-lb SUV, surprisingly fun. The direct-injected 3.5 provides ample power at any speed, and eagerly swings the tach needle to the redline with an enthusiastic growl, and an appropriately healthy shove into the seatback. Acura is confidently predicting a half-second improvement in 0-60 performance. Considering the last-generation MDX we tested dispatched the benchmark on-ramp sprint in just 6.8 seconds, it's safe to say the 2014 model is probably capable of sub-7-second runs. The MDX felt comfortable and composed on twisty 2-lanes, with the 9-percent quicker steering ratio of the 2014 model giving it a more nimble feel than its predecessor.

Pricing on the 2014 MDX spans more than $10,000, with the entry-level front-drive MDX starting at $43,185, including $895 destination charge. The top-line all-wheel-drive Advance model with Entertainment Package ringing the register to the tune of $57,400. The bread-and-butter Technology Package goes for $47,460 in front-drive, and $49,460 with all-wheel-drive. The Technology package includes navigation, 19-inch wheels, forward collision and lane departure warning, and GPS-linked climate control. Typical of Acura and Honda products, there are few a la carte options, with running boards, mud guards, backup sensors, and an engine block heater being the handful of note. Most options are bundled in 1 of the 4 packages.

If you're a current MDX owner and are looking for an upgrade, or looking at some of the MDX's competition, like the Infiniti JX, Lexus RX or even the BMW X5, the 2014 MDX combines the driving dynamics the German brands are generally known for, with the quality and value synonymous with Honda and Acura. Whether your purchase criteria are more practical or performance-oriented, the MDX skillfully covers both areas with quantitative improvements in comfort, practicality and economy, while still delivering a satisfying behind-the-wheel experience.

2014 Acura MDX
BASE PRICE $43,185-$57,400
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD/AWD, 7-pass, 5-door, SUV
ENGINE 3.5L/290-hp/267-lb-ft SOHC 24-valve direct-injected V-6
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT 4025-4332 lb (mfr)
WHEELBASE 111.0 in
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 193.6 x 77.2 x 66.7 in
0-60 MPH 6.5-7.0 sec (MT est)
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 18-20 / 27-28 mpg
ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY 169-187/120-125 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)
CO2 EMISSIONS 0.85-0.92 lb/mile
ON SALE IN U.S. July 2013​


1,199 Posts

Growing Up or Selling Out?
Published: 05/31/2013 - by Mike Magrath, Features Editor

When we left the office for the rainy, Sasquatch-filled wilds of Oregon to drive the 2014 Acura MDX, a co-worker yelled, "Text me if they've ruined the steering!"

A few hours later, over the pitter-patter of dime-size raindrops and through a mouthful of locally sourced meat, a single, 30-something friend says, "I hope they didn't ruin the MDX. It was so good to drive."

This neophobia is common and expected for a new iteration of a sports car, or sport sedan or sport compact, but is unheard of for a 3-row crossover.

Thanks to its direct and communicative steering, willing engine and user-friendly package, the current-generation (2007-present) Acura MDX is a fan favorite in a crowded segment. To stay relevant, the MDX had to tighten up its game.

Did Acura repeat its magic with the 2014 MDX?

Weaker. Lighter. Faster. Better?
MDX aficionados will tell you that the current CUV rides on a unibody platform shared with the 2013 Honda Pilot and last-gen Odyssey. They'll tell you that the engine is a 3.7-liter V6 that makes 300 horsepower that powers all 4 wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission.

MDX aficionados will tell you very different things about the 2014 Acura MDX.

1st, the platform is no longer shared with a decade-old SUV. For 2014, the MDX gets its own unique chassis that has been developed from the ground up for use in a luxury crossover. The vehicle's body is 59 percent high-strength materials (a further 5 percent consists of magnesium and aluminum) compared with 25 percent on the outgoing model. It's also 123 pounds lighter.

But it wasn't just the body that lost weight. Acura ditched 44 pounds from the seats, 7.5 pounds from the steering hanger beam, 10 pounds from the HVAC unit and 41 pounds from various suspension bits. Total weight loss is a Biggest Loser finale shocker of 275 pounds.

In order to bump the fuel efficiency up even further, Acura replaced the 300-horse 3.7-liter V6 with a 290-hp, direct-injection 3.5-liter V6. It will also offer a front-wheel-drive-only version for those who don't need all-weather capability. It will return EPA ratings of 20 city/28 highway mpg and a combined rating of 23 mpg. The SH-AWD version returns 18/27/21.

Acura says the new V6 is good for 8 percent more low-end torque and that it gets to 60 half a second faster than the outgoing model. As we weren't allowed to bring our testing equipment to the Pacific Northwest to verify, we won't dispute this claim, but will say that the MDX simply doesn't feel as fast as it used to.

Part of this is intentional on Acura's part. The old car had that cool, naturally aspirated Honda intake sound, especially higher in the rev range. Unfortunately, MDX buyers complained about the noise and often tailored their driving to avoid the fun part of the tach, which led to complaints about the MDX being slow. Acura added sound-dampening material and an intake tube covered in tumorous tuning dongles so it now sounds like nothing at all. It's silent in normal operating ranges and barely hums near its redline.

The Steering Hasn't Been Ruined
While the average MDX driver might not notice that the steering ratio is now 9 percent quicker, they're certainly going to notice the new, lower-effort steering. Not only is the steering lighter in tight, low-speed situations (another owner suggestion) but it is far more confident on the open road. Comparing the '14 MDX back-to-back with a 2013 Acura, the new model has far less bump steer and is less twitchy off-center.

The new electrically assisted system doesn't have the feel or feedback of the old hydraulic system, nor is it as naturally precise. Acura intends to appease the fans of the "old" MDX by offering an Integrated Dynamics System (IDS) that tightens up the steering when set to Sport mode. Sport also quickens the throttle response, makes SH-AWD's active torque vectoring more aggressive and pumps in more noise via the Active Noise Control system. This mode adds the perception of driving pleasure without any actual tactile improvement. The steering is heavy for heavy's sake and the throttle is touchy without adding any speed. We didn't much care for it.

Like the steering, the suspension has been modified to coddle well-to-do owners and their families. The ride is quiet, well isolated and less busy than before. Amplitude Reactive Dampers replace monotube dampers up front and offer variable damping rates without complex electrical or magnetorheological components.

While the ride is excellent in most situations, large undulations can cause some unseemly bounciness and the MDX gets that slightly disconnected feeling when these happen at freeway speeds. In a world without the Infiniti JX35 and BMW X5, we wouldn't give this behavior a 2nd thought on a 3-row CUV.

Comfort for 5. Space for 7
While the 2014 Acura MDX dropped some of its youthful, Honda-esque exuberance, we doubt many buyers will actually mind. Partially because buyers of 7-passenger CUVs rarely consider at-limit steering feedback, and partially because the interior of the 2014 Acura MDX is a truly special place to spend time.

From the tight diameter and perfect thickness of the wheel to the simple gauges and easy-to-use shifter, it's clear that Acura still knows how to make a driver-focused car, even if it's a crossover. The 1 exception is the lack of adjustability for the front seats. They have the most basic adjustments and lumbar support with no vertical adjustability. No thigh support. No adjustable bolstering. You either fit in these seats or you don't. Once again, if the X5 didn't exist, these would be OK.

But the MDX is about more than a good driver interface. The current vehicle's center stack has something like 43,000 buttons. The new 1 has fewer than 20, with hard buttons for controlling temperature, navigation, phone and a knob for volume. This means that everything else, including fan speed, is buried in the 7-inch touchscreen and requires at least 2 button presses for activation. Navigation duties are handled by an 8-inch screen mounted above the smaller screen.

Of course, the MDX is about more than just the driver. Rear-seat passengers are treated to a leg-crossing amount of legroom. And if they have no respect for 3rd-row passengers, the 2nd row slides back for even more space. 2 adults would be comfortable in back and 3 would be cozy. Regardless of how many bodies you put in back, the loaded MDX will keep them comfy with rear-seat climate control, heated seats and a huge entertainment screen that can play 2 things simultaneously thanks to split-viewing technology. The 3rd row isn't so lucky.

Like all 3rd rows, the 1 in the MDX isn't specifically built for 6-foot-tall adult males, and the result is a sort of vertical version of yoga's Happy Baby pose. We'd have no problems tossing kids back there. Or friends who refuse to chip in for gas. The good news is that getting in and out of these seats is about as easy as it can be without 2nd-row captain's chairs.

How Loaded Can You Go?
When it goes on sale in July of 2013, the new Acura MDX will be available in 4 trims and all feature the same 3.5-liter V6 and 6-speed automatic transmission.

With a starting price of $43,185 the base MDX with front-wheel drive comes fairly loaded with keyless entry, push-button start, jewel-eye LED headlights, touchscreen display, IDS, USB input (there's only 1 available regardless of trim), heated seats, i-MID display and a wide-view rear camera. There are 3 models above this, each getting progressively more luxurious and more technologically advanced.

1 step up is the $47,460 MDX Technology, which is the model Acura predicts will be the volume seller. Acura adds blind-spot monitors, 19-inch wheels, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, color TFT display with navigation, rain-sensing wipers and GPS-linked HVAC (3D solar sensing determines the position of the sun relative to the front passengers and adjusts airflow accordingly).

For $49,460, the Tech Entertainment package adds a DVD rear entertainment system, heated rear seats and a 150-watt power inverter. This is just 1 step off of the top-tier, $55,400 Advanced Entertainment, which is what we drove, albeit with SH-AWD. This model gets adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, premium leather seats, passenger seat lumbar, a 12-speaker 546-watt Studio Audio system (which may be worth the price of admission alone) and front and rear parking sensors.

Opting for Acura's SH-AWD will add $2,000 to the price of each trim, giving the car we drove a sticker price of $57,400.

Narrow Track, Broad Appeal
Acura played it very safe with the 2014 MDX. Even the exterior, which is longer and narrower, looks unmistakably similar to the previous model. Acura has nipped, tucked and refined a successful vehicle into what it hopes will be a superlative vehicle.

Working off of market feedback, Acura determined that MDX customers wanted higher-quality materials, simpler controls, lower-effort steering, a quieter ride and optional front-wheel drive. Acura rectified these complaints with laser focus. The needs of the many trumped the wants of a few.

The 2014 Acura MDX is a little softer, sure, but it's refined, eminently usable and a far more complete SUV than the car it replaces. Acura didn't ruin the MDX. It let it grow up.

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Popular Mechanics

2014 Acura MDX Test Drive
By losing weight and gaining miles per gallon, Acura's crossover inches closer to the top of the class.

On-Sale Date: July

Base Price: $43,185 – 45,185

Competitors: BMW X3, Lexus RX350, Audi Q7, Infiniti JX35

Powertrains: 3.5-liter V-66, 290 hp, 267 lb-ft; 6-speed automatic, FWD or AWD

EPA Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 20/28 (FWD), 18/27 (AWD)

What's New: The new MDX might appear to be a smoother, less muscular version of last year's model. But behind those potent "Jewel Eye" headlamps, this is a radically improved crossover.

Just how important is the new MDX to both Acura and parent company Honda? For the very 1st time, this 3rd-generation Acura MDX is the 1st vehicle to come from Honda's entirely new light truck architecture (a grouping of parts that will be shared with a future Honda Pilot, Ridgeline, and probably the Odyssey). That means Large Project Leader Jim Keller could prioritize the chassis of the MDX for the MDX 1st.

1 of the biggest breakthroughs came in material efficiencies, which led to some serious weight loss. The car is down a whopping 275 pounds over the 2013 model, and the MDX was already 1 of the lightest 7-passenger SUVs on the market. Opt for the new front-drive model and you'll save another 200 pounds. Much of the savings is a result of increased use the high-strength steels, as well as aluminum (hood) and magnesium (cross car dash beam). The unibody structure is a full 123 pounds lighter than the old car's.

It is this slim-down that makes up for slightly lower power and torque numbers from the new V-6. The outgoing MDX's 3.7-liter V6 makes 300 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. The new 3.5-liter V-6, shared with the RLX puts out 290 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque in the MDX, and now comes with cylinder deactivation to improve fuel economy. Whether you select front wheel drive or the SH-AWD (largely the same system as before), the power flows through a 6-speed automatic transmission.

Although the MDX is lighter, it's also slightly longer and rides on a wheelbase stretched by 2.8 inches. That modest growth creates improved legroom for those exiled to the last row. Before, you'd have 28.7 inches to fold your knees into your chest. The 2014 model offers 3 inches more, enough to make that last row tolerable for real adults (for short trips at least). Cargo room behind that 3rd row expands, too, up by a cubic foot to 15.8. When folded, the rearmost seats stow completely flat, unlike in the current MDX.

A more compact and lighter multilink rear suspension replaces the outgoing trailing arm setup to provide a lower floor inside for 3rd row access. The suspension has fewer connection points to the frame and the loads are better managed to quell road noise. Up front is a strut suspension with revised geometry to negate torque steer and a new electronic power steering (EPS) system. In addition to the SH-AWD's mechanical torque vectoring across the rear axle, the new MDX uses a brake-based system to help stabilize handling in off-throttle situations too.

Tech Tidbit: The switch to EPS not only provided a slight fuel economy improvement but also allowed engineers to tailor the steering effort to the driver's preference. The Integrated Dynamics System offers 3 distinct steering effort levels: Comfort, Normal and Sport. Sport mode also boosts the engine note (through the audio speakers, thanks to the tech developed for the active noise cancelling system used for cylinder deactivation), sharpens the electronic throttle, and makes the AWD system torque vector across the rear axle more aggressively. These driving system preferences, along with the normal seat and mirror position and radio presets, are now saved to individual key fobs. When a family member takes the car, the fob will set the MDX to his or her unique preferences. All cars should have this level of personalization.

Driving Character: On the inside, the MDX has the same smart split-screen system as Acura's new flagship RLX. That means you get the quick-responding haptic touchscreen in addition to the main big, beautiful navigation screen. The design reduces the number of buttons from 41 to just 9. But a crossover needs more than fancy screens. The center console is huge, able to swallow a good-sized briefcase. And it's covered by a sliding wood cover that's downright chic.

Yes, the new MDX makes 10 fewer ponies than the old 1, but you'll never notice. It feels quicker. And the fact that it delivers 6 more mpg on the freeway in a sprightlier package is impressive.

The outgoing Acura MDX never seemed particularly overweight from behind the wheel. Its handling was sharp, its steering was communicative, and its power was ample. This new 1, however, makes the old 1 feel like its BMI is in the danger zone. Grab the wheel of the 2014 MDX, bend it through a set of switchbacks, and feel the weight loss. The Acura is lighter on its feet and planted through the corners. And yet here is a crossover that delivers near Lexus-like ride quality and quietness. It sucks up big bumps better than ever before.

The old MDX's busy ride is history. This new 1 is more serene without losing the fun. It's still 1 of the most responsive crossovers on the market. If your drive home includes a run up a rigorous mountain road, the Acura MDX should be on your shopping list.

Favorite Detail: Accessing the 3rd row seats in some crossovers usually requires throwing multiple levers, and perhaps a few yoga moves too. Not so in the new MDX. Engineers developed a simple electronic push button that will tumble and slide the seat forward. The button is even illuminated for night use. And with 6 inches of total travel, the 2nd seat not only slides forward enough to crawl back to the 3rd row but also provides enough legroom for a 6-footer.

Driver's Grievance: The sheetmetal of the new MDX strikes us as just a smoothed-over version of the old 1. Yes, it's been tuned in the wind tunnel to deliver the better aero performance. But why does it have to look so bland compared to the muscular, aggressive 1 it's replacing?

Bottom Line: Although it would take a real comparison test to prove the mettle of the new MDX, our impression is that this crossover has edged its way close to the head of the class. And unlike many luxury vehicles, you don't have to buy the top–of-the-line model to get the good stuff. Most of what you'd want comes on the Tech Package that bumps the sticker to $49,460.

The new MDX also scores the top "Good" in the IIHS's new small overlap test (which mimics hitting an object with the corner of the car). For as a vehicle primarily intended as a family transportation vessel, that's comforting.

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Honda says current Acura MDX owners asked for simpler controls, a lighter steering touch, a quieter interior with higher quality materials and better 3rd-row access.

A front-wheel-drive version would be nice, too.

For the 2014 redesign, which goes on sale in July, American Honda's luxury brand says it has done all that, while stretching the wheelbase by nearly 3 inches, adding 2 inches in overall length and narrowing the MDX by 1.3 inches.

The basics: The MDX 7-seat crossover is the lead platform vehicle for the next generation of Honda light trucks, including the Honda Pilot and Odyssey.

The 3.5-liter, 290-hp V-6, mated to a 6-speed automatic, gets 20/28 mpg in front-wheel-drive setup and 18/27 mpg with all-wheel drive.

The rear suspension design has changed from a trailing-arm setup to a multilink design with amplitude reactive dampers and hydraulic subframe bushings. In addition to improving packaging, the suspension design change also allows the 2nd-row step-in height to be lowered by 2 inches.

For the 2014 MDX, Acura shaved 123 pounds from the body in white, 26 pounds from the rear suspension, 44 pounds from the seats, 15 pounds from the subframes and 10 pounds from the climate control systems.​

The Super Handling All-Wheel Drive unit still shifts power from 90-10 to 30-70 front/rear bias, as well as full emphasis on either the left or right side. The system also now uses the brakes for torque control when entering a corner, then transitions to engine throttle torque vectoring when exiting the corner.

The old hydraulic steering system has been replaced with an electronic power-steering rack, with a thicker steering shaft that has reduced friction and a quicker turning ratio.

Notable features: Acura shaved 123 pounds from the body in white, 26 pounds from the rear suspension, 44 pounds from the seats, 15 pounds from the subframes and 10 pounds from the climate control systems. The MDX now weighs 1,046 pounds less than an Audi Q7.

Nearly 60 percent of the car is high-strength steel, as Acura chose not to use expensive and exotic materials such as aluminum. The front door structure is a 1-piece, hot-stamped frame. Most other crossovers' frames use separate pieces that are hot-stamped and then welded together.

Answering a customer complaint, the 41 buttons in the center console were reduced to 9, thanks to a touch-screen and scroll-wheel setup.

The 2nd-row seats have 6 inches of travel, with a 3rd-row access button on the side and back of the seat. The 2nd- and 3rd-row seats fold flat, rather than undulating as in the old MDX.

Acura beefed up the noise, vibration and harshness countermeasures, using 28-volt active engine mounts, as well as noise cancellation and active sound control acoustics in the cabin. The sealing in pillars, floor and doors was increased. Acoustic glass is standard.

What Acura says: Despite the lower horsepower, the 2014 MDX is 8 seconds faster around the Nurburgring circuit than its predecessor. "We don't use it for PR purposes," said Jim Keller, MDX large project leader. "We don't use it for advertising. It's just another test track for us."

Compromises and shortcomings: The 3rd row is still really only habitable for children. The "normal" suspension setting is too softly sprung. Some of the interior materials still feel a bit plasticky compared with the European brands.

In a nod to customer complaints, the 41 buttons in the center console of the MDX were reduced to 9, thanks to a touch-screen and scroll-wheel setup.​

The market: The Acura MDX 7-passenger crossover was the brand's volume leading vehicle in 2012, outselling the Mercedes-Benz M class and BMW X5. The fwd model will shave $990 off the old awd model's starting base price and be $2,000 less than the 2014 awd model. This is the 1st time the MDX will be built at Honda's plant in Lincoln, Ala.

The skinny: Acura believes the MDX can go toe-to-toe with the M class and the X5. Acura has chosen to beef up the list of standard features, although at an increase of $1,010 in the base awd model's price compared with the outgoing model.

The next MDX
Acura's longer, lighter 2014 MDX is slightly less powerful than the outgoing version but gets better fuel economy.
2014 Acura MDX 2013 Acura MDX
Wheelbase 111.0 in. 108.3 in.
Length 193.6 in. 191.6 in.
Width 77.2 in. 78.5 in.
Height 66.7 in. 67.7 in.
Base engine 3.5-liter V-6 3.7-liter V-6
Horsepower 290 @ 6,200 rpm 300 @ 6,300 rpm
Torque, lbs.-ft. 267 @ 4,500 rpm 270 @ 4,500 rpm
Fuel economy* 18/27 mpg 16/21 mpg
Curb weight* 4,255 lbs. 4,594 lbs.
Base price*† $45,185 $44,175
*Awd model †Includes shipping​

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1st Drive: 2014 Acura MDX
A Better BestSeller: Acura Rewrites a Crowd-Pleasing Script

In 2012 Acura sold 50,854 of its 3-row MDX crossover, far and away the brand's best-selling vehicle. The next best? The TL sedan, at 33,572 units. Now, almost 51,000 units might not sound like a lot, but consider the following: not even the fuel-efficient, budget-priced, and generally excellent Honda Fit subcompact, at 49,346 sold, found as many takers -- this during a year of growth recession and high gas prices. Suffice it to say, the MDX is Acura's most popular and most important vehicle, and 1 of the reasons Honda's luxury wing can absorb the costs associated with developing the low-volume 2nd-gen NSX super sports car. So thank you, MDX, and congratulations on your success. Just don't screw it up.

Enter the 3rd-gen 2014 model. If it looks similar, that's because it bears a strong resemblance to its predecessor, despite every piece of sheet metal, plastic, and glass being all new. It's a bit like seeing the current 991 Porsche 911 next to the 997 -- totally familiar but totally different. The appeal is in the subtlety. For instance, the all-LED headlamp and DRL assemblies are beautiful; you just have to take a close look to fully appreciate them.

Dimensionally, the new MDX is up 2.0 inches in length (193.6 in) and down 1.3 and 1.5 inches in width (77.2) and height (66.7), respectively; yet, cargo room has swelled, whether the back 2 rows are up (plus 0.8 cu ft to 15.8) or down (plus 7.4 to 90.9). On the scales, the 2014's improvements are even more dramatic. According to Acura, curb weight has dropped nearly 300 pounds, attributable to increased use of high-strength steels (up 24 percent) as well as lighter seats, HVAC, subframes, and rear suspension. Along with improved aerodynamics (18 percent more efficient says Acura) that enable the 2014 to travel over a quarter mile longer on a 70-to-0-mph coast-down run, the binge on bulk helps the new model achieve class-leading fuel economy of 18/27 mpg city/highway (AWD) and 20/28 (FWD).

Of course, the all-new 3.5-liter direct-injected V-6 and revised 6-speed automatic play a pivotal role in the improved efficiency as well. Touting friction reduction between virtually every moving part, not to mention the addition of Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) that deactivates 3 cylinders when cruising, the single-cam 3.5 puts out 290 horsepower at 6200 rpm and 267 pound-feet of torque at 4500, representing drops of 10 hp and 3 lb-ft compared to the previous 3.7-liter V-6. But given the vehicle's overall weight reduction, acceleration times should improve slightly.

On my preview drive outside Portland, Oregon, the new MDX certainly felt sprightlier than its predecessor. The DI V-6 revs smooth and strong (and sounds sports-car worthy), the 6-speed is seamless and intuitive, the new electric power steering serves up solid feel and linearity, and the reworked suspension -- front struts with revised geometry; rear multi-link with coilovers in place of trailing arms -- replete with new Amplitude Reactive Dampers (variable damper rates), delivers a praiseworthy compromise between sport and comfort. What proved fortuitous in light of the showers that drenched the roads thru the Willamette Valley, Acura had only Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive versions available (the new front-drive variant, aimed at lowering the price of entry and broadening appeal along the Sunbelt, had yet to roll off the Alabama production line); naturally, the SH-AWD's active-torque-transfer system, capable of shifting front/rear torque from 90/10 to 30/70 and side-to-side rear torque from 0/100 to 100/0, proved adept at keeping the MDX surefooted in the rain. No doubt, the MDX's testing at the infamous Nürburgring Nordschleife, where 1 13-mile lap can yield both wet and dry conditions, paid off -- 8 seconds, in fact, over the '13.

A key piece to the MDX's rise in refinement and performance is the lighter, stronger, and safer structure. Completely new, the platform, which will underpin the next-gen Honda Pilot and Odyssey, utilizes Acura's latest ACE safety structure and the 1st application of a 1 -piece hot-stamped door ring, with both helping the MDX achieve what Acura predicts will be a 5-star safety score from NHTSA and a Top Safety Pick+ rating from IIHS. The airbag total is up to 7, thanks to a new driver's knee bag. In terms of active safety features, the MDX offers forward collision warning, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, blind-spot monitor, and adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, the last allowing for pedal-free motoring in stop-and-go traffic.

Inside, the MDX pampers with a cleaner, richer, better-equipped cabin. There's less of the faux wood and more of the soft-touch materials, rich Milano leather seating (upper trims), and satin chrome plated accents. Pushbutton start is now standard, and the 2 keyless fobs are programmable for mirror, seat, radio, and climate settings as well as the optional remote-start feature. The center stack button count has been reduced from 41 to 9, though many functions now require multiple inputs to the new haptic touchscreen. So, the stack appears simpler and less fussy, but determining whether user-friendliness has indeed improved will require more time behind the wheel.

3rd-row access and comfort are absolutely more user-friendly, what with a 1-touch folding 2nd row on both sides. Moreover, the 2nd row slides fore-aft 5.9 inches and reclines. Luxury and convenience features are plentiful and include a wide-view backup camera, Bluetooth, USB connectivity, tri-zone automatic climate control, a power-adjustable steering wheel, and a 432-watt audio system with Pandora and Aha compatibility. Move up to a non-base trim (Technology, Technology Entertainment, Advance Entertainment), and the features list grows to include such items as navigation, rain-sensing wipers, heated rear seats, rear-entertainment system, and audio systems flaunting at least 501 watts. Pricing opens at $43,185 for the front-drive MDX and $45,185 for 1 with SH-AWD. Add $4275 for the Technology or $6275 for the Technology Entertainment. If you associate luxury with quietness, open your wallet for the $12,215 premium baked into the Advance Entertainment, which, in addition to a 546-watt 12-speaker audio system and a 16.2-inch ultra-wide rear-entertainment system with HDMI connectivity, adds heftier carpet, extra insulation, and thicker rear-quarter glass. The improved noise isolation between this top-tier example and lesser trims, which do boast acoustic windshield and front-door glass, is akin to wearing regular versus noise-cancelling headphones – a nice touch when enjoying a bestseller.

2014 Acura MDX
BASE PRICE $43,185
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD/AWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 3.5L/290-hp/267-lb-ft SOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT 4000-4300 lb (mfr)
WHEELBASE 111.0 in
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 193.6 x 77.2 x 66.7 in
0-60 MPH 6.5 sec (MT est)
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 18-20 / 27-28 mpg
ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY 169-187 / 120-125 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS 0.85-0.92 lb/mile
ON SALE IN U.S. July 2013​

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Since it debuted in 2001, the 7–passenger MDX has often been Acura’s best selling vehicle. And as we all know, automobile manufacturers don’t mess with success.

This is true for the 2014 MDX. The Acura engineers say their goal was to add refinement, luxury, safety, fuel economy, and better flexibility for the cabin. Mission accomplished. It rides on an exclusive new architecture that will be the platform for future Honda /Acura products like Odyssey and Pilot. As good as the outgoing MDX was, the new 1 shines brighter. Literally. Jewel Eye LED headlamps are now standard.

Even with the distinctive LED eyes, some will have to look twice to spot the new and the old. From 20 paces, it’s a familiar silhouette. Move in closer and you’ll spot softened lines. The overall shape is not as strong or defined as the outgoing suit-of-armor, but it has missed Acura’s angry robot design phase. The nose? Again, softer but the beak remains.

Sunbelt- My tester is a fully loaded Advance with Entertainment Package model that’s welded, bolted and bonded together in Lincoln, Alabama. For the 1st time ever, MDX is available in front-wheel drive for those who don’t need Acura’s revered SH-AWD (which is improved for 2014). That’s a savings of $2,000 and gets better fuel economy. The 2nd generation was pretty thirsty. MDX is now best in class; EPA rated at 18 city, 27 highway with all-wheel drive or 20/28 in front drive. That beats utes that only seat 5.

Nearly 60 percent of the all-new architecture is made of high strength steel. That helps to shave off 275 pounds, making MDX 960 pounds lighter than Audi Q7 (easily 3 NBA players or a dozen entrees at Claim Jumper). It’s now lightest in class, even against 2-rows rigs like Lexus RX350. Despite it’s Jenny Craig program, Acura claims it aces the toughest new crash tests (though the government has yet to test 1). A unique high-strength steel ring surrounds the front passengers.

Power Trip- The 3.5-liter direct injected V6 makes 290 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm and 267 lb-ft or torque at 4,500 rpm. MDX can cruise using half it’s pistons. Finally, you don’t have to turn a key to start it, MDX gets push button and remote start. Two 28-volt active engine mounts help quell vibration.

Acura sticks with a 6–speed transmission with sport mode and paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Manual shifts do not have the crisp feel of a dual-clutch transmission but it’s smooth in everyday operation. The Integrated Dynamics System allows drivers to tailor the steering effort, throttle response, and even the amount of active noise cancellation in the cabin. These settings and many others are stored in each users key fob.

Lighter Means Faster- With a refined snarl, MDX leaps to 60 miles an hour in a guestimated 6.5 seconds. MDX has always been great fun to toss into turns. Now it’s better. In Nurburgring testing the new MDX laps the famed course 8 seconds faster than the 2nd gen car.

New dampers calm body motions. Push hard into a turn and brake torque vectoring pulses the binders imperceptivity to stabilize the line you’re tracking. During exit, Super Handling-All-Wheel Drive (got to love that name) adds torque to the outer rear wheel for better control. This 1-2 punch of technology makes you a better driver. The word agile is seldom used to describe the handling of a 7-passenger sport-ute. Feel free to use it here.

The new front suspension and drive shaft geometry reduces torque steer on front-drive models (that’s the steering wheel tug under hard acceleration). A new rear suspension with fewer atatchment points and a different mounting position helps to cut road noise. Foam inside frame cavities and thicker glass means MDX is much quieter now.

Even with the Integrated Dynamics System switched to “comfort” the electric power steering effort is never over-boosted or numb. MDX is for light off-roading with 8.2 inches of ground clearance. The vault-like structure is calm on forest service roads. Stay away from boulders and chasms, okay?

Understated Tech- The cabin looses the large planks of wood and goes for a new sense of subtlety. Interior materials are of high quality and well-sculpted seats can link to the climate control system to provide both warmth and a cool breeze for your backside. Stash purses, laptop computers, maybe even a Labrador in the roomy center console (please PETA, I’m kidding about the dog). Intelligent cruise control will match speed to traffic down to a full stop. There’s blind spot warning and a lane keep assist that Acura engineers claim will keep MDX centered more naturally on the road.

The outgoing MDX had 41 buttons on the center console stack. The new 1 pairs that down to 9 with a haptic touch-screen interface replacing the other 32. The 2nd screen that displays maps and the 3 different views from the rear camera is not touch-screen. Generally the interface is pretty easy to use with an occasional curveball (I never did find the “North up” control for the nav system but I was also busy dodging rain squalls to produce the video).

Acura’s familiar controller knob sticks around for the faithful. Yes, you can listen to Pandora. You might even buy MDX simply for the 546-watt, 12-speaker ELS surround-sound audio system. It’s that good, 1 of my favorites.

Want a stitched instrument panel, panoramic glass roof or electric parking brake? Sorry, these are not offered on MDX.

Better Access- The middle row now splits and slides fore and aft 6 inches to max out legroom or help those in the 3rd row keep their knees out of their faces. It’s easy to get comfy in row number two with heated seats, a separate climate zone and reclining seatbacks. A 110-outlet and HDMI port allows hookup of nearly any electronics known to mankind. The 16.2-inch screen can display 2 sources side by side.

A handy 1-button seat release scoots the mid row out of the way (there’s a 2nd 1 on the seat back, both are lighted). That 3rd-row seat is low to the floor. Adults will fit but will not be happy. Keep it to small children.

Size Matters- Generation 3 MDX is two inches longer and about an inch narrower. Feedback from 2nd gen owners helped make the cargo area a lot more useful. There’s almost 6 inches of additional space at the point where the rear glass meets the hatch door so a standard cooler now fits with all rows usable. Got love the storage compartment lid that stays open at nearly any angle. I’m at a press launch so no TP trunk test. Good thing, it would be a lot of work. Fold the 3rd row and there’s 42.9 cubic feet of room. Knock the 2nd row flat and it’s 83.5. The floor becomes very flat now.

Pricing? A base front drive unit is $43,285 with destination. Add $2,000 for SH-AWD. The fully loaded Advance with Entertainment Package machine in the video retails for $57,400 (you can still add dealer installed options like fog lamps and heated steering wheel). Competing against Audi Q7, BMW X5, Infiniti JX35, and with only 2 rows, the Lexus RX and Mercedes ML, MDX is a compelling package and a marked improvement to an already well-done machine.

The competition should pay attention. You should put MDX on your test drive list.

Tom attended a manufacturer’s press event for access to this vehicle. Still photos provided by Acura. Moving pictures shot by Tom. Special thanks to drive partner John Vincent of The Oregonian.


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Before we get into the meat and potatoes of the 2014 Acura MDX, let's pause for just a moment and talk about the current, still-sitting-at-dealerships 2013 model. It's a pretty good machine. Perhaps guilty only of falling to the backburners of our minds in recent years because, well, the old girl's not gotten any younger. But every time we drove this 2nd-generation MDX, our thoughts were the same – good to drive, pleasant to sit in and a pretty decent value.

Acura's customers felt the same way, and so when it came time to design and engineer the 3rd-generation MDX, the vehicle's formula wasn't shaken up at all. Despite the fact that it uses a brand-new platform and offers a host of upgrades, the key points addressed by the company's engineers were the specific requests of customers and shoppers in the segment – changes that amounted to nothing radical. After all, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Succeeding at being evolutionary is often far better than trying to be revolutionary. That in mind, we traveled to Portland, OR to see if that formula works for this fully redesigned Acura MDX.

The production-spec 2014 Acura MDX debuted at the New York Auto Show in March, following our 1st glimpse at the not-quite-ready "concept" version at the Detroit show in January. And when our team 1st laid eyes on the fully freshened MDX, our initial discussions surrounded the CUV's styling. The 2nd-generation model arrived during a time when Acura wasn't exactly doing great things with design, though a lot of us liked the angular shapes and prominent schnoz of the then-new model. Even now, that 2nd-gen MDX has quite a presence about it – it looks decidedly large and in charge, for better or for worse.

For 2014, however, things have changed. Senior Editor Seyth Miersma once described the new MDX as looking like the old 1 but having "melted by 10 percent." Moreover, this 3rd-generation MDX reminds us of a puffed-up version of the company's smaller RDX crossover that was redesigned for the 2013 model year. The lines are smoother and the whole package sort of loses the old model's presence, but this more conservative approach to the large, luxury CUV formula will likely appeal to a greater number of shoppers.

What's interesting, though, is how much smaller the new MDX looks in person, especially compared to the old 1. It's 1.5 inches shorter in overall height, and the width has been reduced by 1.3 inches, but this 2014 model gains 2.8 inches of wheelbase and is 2 inches longer than the previous model overall (note that the front overhang has been decreased, but there's added length between the rear wheels and the back bumper). Looking at the MDX from any angle, you might not immediately realize that this is a proper 3-row crossover.

Speaking of which, Acura has done a lot of work to make the MDX's cabin more luxurious and passenger-friendly – 1 of the areas of improvement requested by customers. Specifically, access to the 3rd row of seats was a big concern with this new model, and has been addressed in a very smart, traditionally Honda-like fashion. The 2nd row seat now slides both forward and backward to adjust legroom in the rear passenger compartment depending on where people are sitting, and there's even a 1-touch slide function, so there's absolutely no confusion on how to move the bench forward for easy access to the way-back. Acura engineers said they wanted to make it so even a child could figure out how to move the seat, and it's appropriately intuitive and low-effort. Check it out in the Short Cut video below.

Despite this desire for better passenger accommodations, the 2014 MDX is actually smaller inside in some areas than its predecessor, with headroom and legroom decreasing ever so slightly for nearly every row of seats (save front-seat legroom, which grows by 2-tenths of an inch). In fact, overall cargo capacity has been reduced to 90.9 cubic feet from 103.5, though the area behind the 3rd row of seats can hold 0.8 more cubes than the 2013 model, allowing the tailgate to close with a large cooler inside, a trick not possible with the 2013 model. The cabin doesn't necessarily feel like it has downsized compared to the outgoing MDX, but stepping into an Infiniti JX will reveal an interior that genuinely feels more spacious.

But there's still a whole lot to like here. A big area of improvement in the new MDX is found in the forward cabin, where everything has been completely redesigned. The center stack is now much cleaner and loses its button-heavy layout, and it incorporates the dual-screen interface that's employed in the RLX sedan. The 2-screen arrangement still strikes us as a bit redundant – the lower 1 is a haptic-feedback touch interface, whereas the larger, recessed 1 up top is controlled by the big knob at the bottom of the stack – but hey, it sure looks techy and there's great functionality within. In fact, many of the features found up front in the new MDX are reminiscent of what we 1st experienced in the RLX earlier this year. The steering wheel is nearly the same, with redundant controls for the radio and Bluetooth functions, as well as the color TFT information display in between the speedometer and tachometer.

All around, the MDX offers a comfortable, quiet environment for passengers, though the overall fit-and-finish isn't as solid or vault-like as what you'd find in a BMW X5. Still, we prefer the more premium approach to both the design and quality of materials over, say, the Infiniti JX or Lexus RX. It's an attractive cabin, with easy-to-use controls throughout. 1 noticeable change in operation between the 2nd- and 3rd-generation MDX, however, is seating position. Whereas the old car had a more upright, traditionally SUV-like feeling, you don't get that same sort of experience in the new MDX. It's a lot more car-like – your butt sits lower to the floor – while still offering an easy step-in height that makes for good ingress and egress for drivers of all shapes and sizes.

Acura will, for the 1st time, offer the 2014 MDX with front-wheel drive in addition to the automaker's excellent Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive. All models can be had with the less-expensive 2-wheel-drive option, and Acura executives say that the company has already had good success with this new front-drive strategy with its smaller RDX crossover. By achieving a lower price point without SH-AWD, this sort of package better appeals to folks in warm-weather states where the added cost and economy premium of all-wheel drive isn't really validated.

Regardless of how many wheels are driven, only 1 engine is available for 2014 – Honda's new Earth Dreams 3.5-liter V6, also found in the RLX, though detuned to produce 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque here (Acura's flagship sedan puts down 310 hp and 272 lb-ft) and mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Compared to the outgoing model, the new MDX's power numbers actually represent decreases of 10 hp and 3 lb-ft, and while we miss the better noise of the larger 3.7-liter V6 from the old model, the revised powertrain is a much smoother (and more efficient) operator.

A key point about the 2014 MDX is that it's a full 300 pounds lighter than the outgoing model; a top-level Advance model tips the scales at 4,332 pounds. No specific performance numbers were given, but we're told that the new MDX is roughly half a second quicker to 60 miles per hour than its predecessor. In fact, Acura took its 2014 MDX back to the Nürburgring, where the big CUV ripped off a lap time that's a full 8 seconds quicker than the time of the 2013 model. Leadfoot moms, rejoice.

This major weight savings comes thanks to an all-new platform, developed specifically for the MDX. Well... sort of. Acura says that the MDX will be the "lead vehicle for this platform," so we'd expect it to show up elsewhere in the Honda/Acura family at some point (*ahem* Pilot *ahem*). Still, this means more good things for the MDX – Acura says its new crossover posts the lowest published weight among AWD competitors. Fuel economy benefits here, too, with all-wheel-drive models capable of achieving 18 miles per gallon in the city, 27 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined, and front-wheel-drive versions increase those numbers to 20, 28 and 23, respectively. Most importantly, back in the land of SH-AWD, these new economy numbers represent gains of 2 mpg city, 6 mpg highway and 3 mpg combined versus the 2013 MDX. Good stuff.

The reason we always enjoyed driving the old MDX wasn't because it was some great enthusiast machine, but because everything that it did, it did well. It's a similar story here for 2014, with a few thoughtful improvements to offer a slightly more engaging feel to drivers who seek it, while still being pleasant and comfortable for folks who, frankly, could care less.

For starters, the new MDX utilizes an Integrated Dynamics System (IDS) that allows drivers to switch between 3 driving modes: Comfort, Normal and Sport. The setup here is pretty self-explanatory, with Comfort offering the maximum amount of assist from the electric power steering, while Sport mode offers slightly more weight, as well as improved and more direct throttle response and a more aggressive shift schedule. We tried all 3, with normal offering a perfectly fine dynamic for the luxury CUV set – light, yet direct steering, and linear throttle response. Comfort mode, on the other hand, takes away just about all weight from behind the wheel. There's a ton of assist available, with the steering feeling overboosted at times. Less steering effort was requested by a vocal portion of current MDX owners, and this suits that bill without mandating it for everyone. Of course, we naturally preferred Sport mode, and actually found the steering to be quite good, with no feeling of deadness on center.

Acura retuned its SH-AWD for Sport mode, too, with the system able to provide maximum torque vectoring under these more enthusiastic conditions. Coming out of a corner, you can really feel the power being sent to the wheels that need it most. Even during instances when entering a corner hotter than we (or the typical shopper) would, the system reacts quickly to keep things stable and on point through the turn. Occasionally, we found ourselves issuing small steering corrections exiting a corner, as the torque vectoring and throttle inputs can really steer the MDX through a turn. It's the sort of situation that we noticed here on our short drive loop through the hills outside of Portland, but we think it'd be easy to adjust to over time.

That said, we don't expect most MDX buyers to care about handling ability above all, and in the normal sort of luxury CUV driving tests, the MDX passes with flying colors. The new model is 16 percent more aerodynamic than the outgoing MDX, and Acura worked tirelessly to improve cabin quietness at highway speeds. The company went so far as to create what it says is an industry-1st 1 piece stamped door ring, a structural bit that eliminates a lot of potential air gaps while increasing rigidity.

We didn't have a chance to experience any sort of long-distance cruising to really vet out the noise levels over a long period of time – nor did we have the opportunity to sample a front-wheel-drive model. We'll try to catch up on both fronts for a Quick Spin down the road.

The 2014 MDX goes on sale in July, starting at $42,290 for the base, front-wheel-drive version, excluding $895 for destination. Acura will offer 3 higher trim levels – Technology; Technology and Entertainment; and Advance, priced from $46,565, $48,565 and $54,505, respectively. That's significantly cheaper than a similarly equipped BMW X5, but falls right in line with the MDX's closest 3-row competitor, the Infiniti JX. And while many would argue that the JX offers a more spacious cabin with better amenities, the MDX is far, far better to drive – and not just from an enthusiast standpoint. Get out of a refreshed 2013 Buick Enclave and into this 2014 MDX and you'll never want to get behind that Tri-Shield wheel again.

We're willing to bet that the midsize luxury crossover segment is 1 of the most competitive out there – just think about all of the options available from Germany, Japan and the United States. By continuing to keep the MDX's formula simple and sticking with what it knows, Acura has created a functional, thoughtful, premium vehicle that handily bests many of the other players in this segment. The 2014 MDX is perfectly fine (and, in fact, quite good) in just about every measurable area. Just like it always has been.

Vital Stats
3.5L V6
290 HP / 267 LB-FT
6-Speed Auto
All-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
4,332 LBS
90.9 CU-FT (max)
18 City / 27 HWY
Base Price:
As-Tested Price:


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Consumer Reports

The Acura MDX has long been a favorite SUV choice for many affluent suburbanites. We think its 2014 redesign will continue to please many, though impress few.

This 3-row car-based SUV has cultivated a loyal clientele by combining a measure of luxury with a lot of versatility. It's less ostentatious than, say, a BMW X5 yet has a bit more exclusivity than a Toyota Highlander.

When the 2014 Acura MDX goes on sale in July, its prices will span a wider spectrum thanks to the addition of a front-wheel drive version. Sticker prices will run from $42,290 to $56,505, with a typical AWD Tech trim level retailing for $48,565.

We've just had the opportunity to drive a pre-release MDX borrowed from Honda.

As always with Acura, the powertrain is slick and powerful. It's also nice to see that road noise is reduced, and handling is still responsive. The cabin is well put together and impeccably finished, but many controls have become more convoluted and confusing.

The functional 7-passenger interior remains the MDX's biggest drawing card. The front seats are very supportive; the 2nd row can slide fore or aft to optimize leg room for 2nd- or 3rd-row passengers as needed. The 50/50-split 3rd row is ideal for little kids, but pre-teens will feel they've outgrown it. A power release feature lets kids climb in and out of the 3rd-row seat more easily.

Generous cabin storage facilities include a deep bin between the front seats with a padded top that serves as an elbow rest. A handy compartment behind the 3rd-row seat has a slick lid that stays open as needed, rather than flop down. An available rear entertainment system includes a wide retractable video screen. The rear lift gate is power operated, but does without height adjustment.

Unfortunately, Acura just couldn't resist fitting the MDX with the same 2-tier display-screen arrangement found in the RLX. On the plus side, it lets you control the audio system through the lower touch screen and view the navigation or other functions on the top 1. But it also creates visual overload, and some simple functions take multiple steps to execute. Happily, a multifunction thumb wheel on the steering wheel alleviates some of that nuisance.

Most current MDX owners may not complain about how the new 1 drives, but some astute drivers might. The ride is firm yet compliant, but some motions at low speeds can be a bit abrupt. While the new electrically assisted steering is appropriately weighted, it is largely devoid of true feedback. That's too bad because the previous MDX steered quite well. Cabin quietness will certainly be appreciated with reduced levels of road noise, but we noticed some unwelcome suspension noise at low speeds.

We commend the punchy and refined 290-hp, 3.5-liter V6. The engine now employs direct injection. That, combined with some weight reduction and other measures, results in a combined EPA fuel economy gain of 2 mpg. We got 18 mpg with the previous MDX. The slick 6-speed automatic is largely a carryover and shifts are always timely.

The MDX lacks a few features compared to its market peers, such as an oversized sunroof and cross-traffic alert. But the MDX comes with a front collision-warning system and lane-departure warning on all trim lines, except the Base. Oddly, a heated steering wheel is a dealer-installed option.

Bottom line:
Although the driving experience is unremarkable and the styling is quite anonymous, the new MDX preserves most of the assets of the previous generation, especially the plush and versatile interior. Plus, it gains 1 or 2 new tricks. In the 3-row SUV club, it has all the ingredients to remain 1 of the sensible choices.

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Acura, Honda’s luxury brand, is shifting design, engineering and production of its vehicles to the U.S.

The new 2014 MDX crossover vehicle that goes on sale in July is the 1st Acura to be developed entirely by the company’s Ohio tech center, the 1st Honda Group platform conceived here. The MDX architecture will probably also underpin the next Honda Pilot SUV.

“Acura as a brand is very heavily NAFTA-focused,” Mike Accavitti, Honda and Acura senior vice president of automotive operations, told me after I drove the MDX last week. For a long time, that simply meant that Acura only existed in the U.S. and Canada. The same vehicles bore Honda badges in the rest of the world.

Honda understands Acura must become more distinctive, particularly as the brand enters new markets such as China, Russia, Brazil and the Middle East. As the brand’s historic home and largest market, Honda’s U.S. operations have an unprecedented opportunity to shape Acura’s future.

The MDX was designed by Acura’s studio in Torrance, Calif. It just went into production in Lincoln, Ala. Every model but the RLX and TSX cars is built in North America.

Honda reinforced Acura’s American identity when it decided to build the next generation NSX exotic sports car in Ohio.

“It’d be nice to have a higher brand premium” in terms of pricing, and a higher overall perception of Acura’s status, said Accavitti, a former Chrysler executive who joined Honda in 2012. Accavitti said buyers see Acura as a smart choice because its cars have good resale value and offer lots of features compared with similarly priced competitors.

Acuras also tend to have roomy interiors, good fuel economy and high quality and reliability, said Frank Markus, technical director of Motor Trend magazine, and my driving partner in the MDX last week.

None of that has translated into the prestige and prices Acura needs to compete in the top tier of luxury automakers.

“Acura has a crisis in design,” Markus said. “Their vehicles just don’t look very interesting or good. Especially versus competitors like the Audi A7 or Mercedes CLA. They’ve got a long way to go on styling and to simplify their controls.”

The 2014 MDX — almost certain to be a highly profitable successor to Acura’s best-selling model — is vital to the brand’s immediate future, but the Ohio-built and-engineered NSX hybrid supercar may be the key in the long term. It could change people’s perception of the brand, particularly as others jump on the high-performance bandwagon with hyper-priced hybrids such as the $845,000 Porsche 918 Spyder, $1.3-million McLaren P1 and $2.3-million LaFerrari.

“We’re breathlessly awaiting the NSX,” Markus said. “It’s the affordable hybrid supercar.”

It’s the successor to the legendary NSX that helped put Acura on the map in the 1990s. Acura expects the combination of all-wheel drive, 3 electric motors, a turbocharged V6 and high fuel economy raise the brand’s profile.

“They can’t get the NSX fast enough,” said Jim Hall, managing director of 2953 Analytics. “Acura needs a serious flagship with a clear connection to the rest of its models.”

Contact Mark Phelan: 313-222-6731 or [email protected].​

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Car Connection

We suspect we're not the only ones who think that the very premise behind some high-performance luxury utility vehicles borders on perverse.

Who are they kidding? Unless you're seeking revenge, you're not load you clients (or your mother-in-law) into the back seat and head out on a 9-tenths thrill ride—and driving like that with kids in the back seat? Don't dare. And are busy parents really going to take time away from carpool duty to go carve canyon roads in a luxury ute? Wouldn't they just have a Miata or an M3 for that?

All that silliness is perhaps part of the reason Acura did something very smart when it was redesigning the all-new 2014 MDX luxury crossover: Rather than listening to driving enthusiasts or focusing on how it build the brand's image, Acura went back and listened to current MDX owners.

What did they say? They like the size; they liked its performance; and they appreciated the utility and towing ability. But they wanted to see an improved interior, simplified controls, lighter steering, a quieter interior, smoother ride, and a little more room for the 3rd row.

The brand took all of that feedback very seriously, and with the 2014 Acura MDX that begins arriving at dealerships in July, it's complied with pretty much all of it.

And at least at 1st, it seems like an about-face of sorts in Acura MDX history, as the last-generation MDX took a big step in the performance direction. That version was a pretty sharp-driving, responsive crossover—1 of the best driving in its class, really—yet driving enthusiasts would have probably told Acura to tune the MDX even firmer, or that the steering could load up heavier.

Lean, athletic, yet not punishing

While Acura has shaken some of that edginess in the new 2014 MDX, we found the new model to be delightfully lean and athletic, and just as much at ease on undulating, oddly banked back roads as on smooth, fast highways.

But our 1st impression was that the MDX is quiet inside—very quiet—thanks to a host of noise-hushing and vibration-reducing measures. Active noise cancellation, active engine mounts, acoustic glass for the windshield and front windows, thicker glass elsewhere, added underfloor insulation, tighter seals, and subframe bushings are all among the many measures that help keep things quiet inside. And oh, do they.

Ride quality, too, is phenomenally good. New amplitude-reactive dampers reduce the damping force for high-frequency inputs—jittery pavement surfaces, for example—while hydraulic sub-frame mount bushings help seal out more road vibration.

Acura claims that the new approach improves ride comfort with no trade-off to handling, but in a back-to-back drive of a new 2014 MDX with the outgoing model, the new model didn't turn in quite as crisply. You do lose a little edge with all that vibration and harshness here, but to us and to the typical buyer, it's going to be worth it without a doubt.

And you do get a chance to tune things, when you are in a zippier mood. Just behind the shift knob, the IDS button (Integrated Dynamics System) commands 3 different modes. Comfort uses a lighter, higher-boost setting for the steering, and with a less-certain on-center feel in this mode we can’t imagine where you’d use it unless you need to do a lot of parallel parking with a sprained wrist or broken elbow (really, it's fingertip light). On the other side, the Sport mode offers real change—for the better, we think—with less steering assist and a more confident on-canter feel.

Very satisfying powertrain

Under the hood is a 290-horsepower version of Acura’s always-excellent V-6 engine—now fed with direct injection and kosher with the full suite of Honda’s so-called Earth Dreams technologies. Across the lineup, it’s mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission that includes steering-wheel paddle shifters. Click down to the 'S' mode and click the paddle-shifters, and you get quick throttle-blip downshifts. Furthermore, it's closer to a true manual mode, as the transmission here will actually let you hold onto gears—all the way up to redline, or all the way down to where you're starting to lug the engine.

Furthermore, Sport mode allows just a little more of the right engine sounds to make their way into the cabin—by actually allowing a different selective mode for the Active Noise Insulation system. Yes, it's a trick; but it works.

What's it all add up to? Rather counterintuitively, considering how much 'softer' it feels, the new MDX is actually faster on the track or on the back roads compared to the previous model. Although there's really no reference point, Acura boasted that the new model is actually 8 seconds faster around the Nurburgring, with the same driver, than the previous model.

Here's where impressions start to gel, and the new model starts to make even better sense. The 2014 MDX is noticeably lighter—about 275 pounds less than the outgoing model, and now at 4,025 pounds for the base model or about 4,300 pounds for the 2 tech-loaded AWD models we drove, it's 1 of the lightest vehicles its size. And it feels quick to react to any need—whether that be pulling off a quick pass, diving into a next corner, or maneuvering precisely around a parking lot.

The weight loss can be attributed to many things. The MDX is the 1st vehicle to be built on an all-new platform that will eventually underpin the next Honda Pilot and Honda Ridgeline, and this structure gives up the previous model's unibody-on-ladder-frame compound construction. There's a lot high-strength steel than its predecessor (59 percent versus 25 percent), which saves 123 pounds less in the body itself. Meanwhile in the seats and air conditioning system they've managed to save nearly 55 pounds. Body engineers are perhaps most proud of the new front door ring—a world 1st, and done in hot-stamped high-strength steel, in a single piece. That innovation alone should help improve the MDX's performance in side-impact and small-overlap frontal tests, we were told.

Packed with useful technology

Speaking of safety, there's a lot of it. MDX models with the Technology Package add Lane Departure Warning (LDW), which will warn you when you're straying out of your travel lane, and Forward Collision Warning (FCW) warns you of a rapid closing distance on a vehicle or barrier ahead. A driver knee airbag has been added for 2014, and a Wide View Camera system is included on all models. The Blind Spot Information system is included in all models but the base MDX., while Advance Entertainment models also have Lane Keeping Assist (LKAS), which will provide a gentle, proactive nudge to the steering to help you stay in your intended lane. And, we should note, for all of the cool active-safety features here, you won't feel like you're being nudged and nannied; most of these features are light on the false warnings.

During our drive, the skies opened up and a torrential downpour erupted—just as we were covering 1 of the most demanding, oddly banked and rough-surfaced stretches of road. And yet here, the combination of the MDX’s SH-AWD system and some new road-stability-minded features in the stability control system added up to a vehicle that felt tenacious, predictable, and hard to fluster, even in those conditions.

Inside, the new MDX feels warmer at 1st look, and the impression held for the length of the 5 hours we spend in and out of the cabin. Acura has paid much more attention to properly coordinated materials and trims, and it shows. The only letdown from a styling standpoint is that there's a very limited (only 4 hues) combination of interior colors and trims.

Back seat space matters—and it's great here

In terms of seating, there are no letdowns here, and everything's a little more comfortable, a little more spacious, than you might expect given either the exterior or your experience with a past MDX or a competitor. Wheelbase on this model is up about 3 inches, which frees up more space for the 2nd and 3rd rows. You can slide the 2nd row back and forth about size inches, and Acura has even installed a little lighted button beside the 2nd-row outboard seats, for 3rd-row access. A press enables a neat, cleverly-designed spring-loaded process (yes, fewer motors to short out, less weight and complication).

Still, getting into the 3rd row was, I’ll admit, quite a challenge for me, at a lanky 6’-6” tall. But once in, I head just enough headroom and I actually fit—mostly. I wouldn’t sit back there for more than a short trip, but it’s definitely doable for anyone more ‘normal-sized.’

Of all the things that Acura has changed with this MDX, pricing and market position isn't 1 of them. The new 2014 MDX starts at $43,185, including the $895 destination fee, which is just below what last year's base AWD model cost. Jump all the way to the top-of-the-line Advance & Entertainment model and you'll bottom-line at $57,400. In this class, that seems very competitive—especially including some of the features you get at the top of the line, like keyfob-integrated remote engine start, adaptive cruise control with a low-speed follow feature, collision mitigation braking, a wide-screen rear entertainment system with HDMI, 12-speaker ELS audio system, and Milano premium perforated leather upholstery with ventilated front seats.

Our only complaints about the MDX seemed, almost entirely, focused around the instrument panel and center stack. Acura boasts that it's managed to simplify the center-stack design and gone from 41 hard buttons to just 9. But many of those buttons (for climate control, for instance) have simply become 'buttons' that are part of the touch screen above—and require a little more focus than hard buttons would. A haptic 'buzz' from the screen helps, admittedly.

'Simplified' interface?

But then there's the fundamental design that, after being talked through the logic several times now, we question the worth of. As with Acura's other vehicles (and now, the upper systems in the Honda Accord, for instance), there are 2 screens. The upper screen isn't a touch screen, but the lower 1 is. A large 'jog dial' controller may at 1st seem like it's for volume, or for the screen it's just below, but it's for the upper-most screen, and navigates through a set of primary functions. The upper screen is supposed to be for critical information, we were told at 1 point, yet we still wondered about exceptions to this rule—like why do you sometimes get more detail for audio on the upper screen than on the lower screen.

Acura does offer an impressive navigation system here with integrated traffic, integrated Aha and Pandora streaming radio (with a smartphone and data connection), and a set of high-power Acura/ELS premium audio systems that have to be close to the best in this class of vehicle. Yes, it's an odd set of controls, but we'd get over it because the rest of the vehicle is so good.

As we wait in a holding pattern for the breakthrough reincarnation of the NSX supercar, it seems that Acura’s crossovers, the RDX, and especially this very sweet-driving MDX, seem to hit their stride right in line with what the market wants. While Acura's other sedans—the RLX, TL, TSX, and ILX—all seem to be struggling with their identity—the MDX is right here, right now.

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Car Connection

TTC Rating: 9

Quick Take
The 2014 Acura MDX is more focused than ever on its mission of keeping the entire family comfortable, content, and entertained—and yes, that still includes the driver.

Responsive powertrain
Excellent ride quality
Very quiet, refined interior

Unintuitive navigation/audio controls
Confusing dual-screen layout
Very limited array of interior colors/trims​

The 2014 Acura MDX has, for more than a decade, been 1 of the top utility-vehicle choices for those who are sensible and practical yet value driving enjoyment. MDX buyers don't want to be hit hard by the reliability issues or depreciation that have affected some rival models; and they don't need a lot of off-road ability, or the appearance that they're ready to head out to the Rubicon.

Premium-brand, 3 -row crossovers like the 2014 Acura MDX can make impressive, high-class alternatives to minivans for large families, and it seems that the new 2014 MDX takes a step in that direction as well. With jiggered 2nd- and 3rd-row seats, a new fully flat-folding 2nd row, a lower passenger floor, and a lower cargo floor, the 2014 model takes a package that's about the same size and makes it more useful inside. While the current identity (and future) of Acura’s sedans like the RLX, TL, TSX, and ILX feels as nebulous as that next corner in the pouring rain, the MDX is clearer and more focused than ever.

Design-wise, there are no big surprises. The 2014 MDX takes to a shape that's a little more sport-wagon influenced, perhaps, and mates that with interiors that are a little warmer. The sleeker profile, more curvaceous sheetmetal, and some new, precise front-end details serve to give it a leaner look overall. Our editors are split on whether Acura’s ‘beak’ front end works, but we think that it’s much more flattering on the brand’s utility vehicles—and this new MDX—than on its sedans. Crisp matte-chrome details and ‘jewel-eye’ LED headlamps altogether gives this model a streamlined, elegant look. Inside, Acura has paid much more attention to properly coordinated materials and trims, and it shows.

The 2014 MDX is powered by a 290-horsepower version of Acura’s always-excellent 3.5-liter V-6 engine—now fed with direct injection and kosher with the full suite of Honda’s so-called Earth Dreams technologies. Across the lineup, it’s mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission that includes steering-wheel paddle shifters. The so-called Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system that’s available in the MDX (yes, front-wheel drive is now standard, if that’s all you need) provides more all-weather traction, and even a little more cornering control in some situations, and it can vary front-wheel torque distribution from 90 percent down to 30 percent (70 percent to the rear)—or up to a hundred percent to either the left or right wheels.

The outgoing MDX has a ride that’s busy, to put it best, and 1 of the most delightful things about the 2014 MDX is how well it balances vastly better ride quality with handling that, almost miraculously, is more athletic—even though a little feedback to the driver is missing here. New amplitude-reactive dampers reduce the damping force for high-frequency inputs—jittery pavement surfaces, for example—while hydraulic sub-frame mount bushings help seal out road vibration. Acura claims that the new approach improves ride comfort with no trade-off to handling.

It's now 1 of the roomiest 3-row crossovers inside, unless you're willing to step up to a vehicle that's potentially too big to park. Front seats are about as supportive yet plush as you'd expect in a luxury crossover, and you can now slide the 2nd row back and forth about size inches, and Acura has even installed a little lighted button beside the 2nd-row outboard seats, for 3rd-row access. A press enables a neat, cleverly-designed spring-loaded process (yes, fewer motors to short out, less weight and complication). Flatter-folding seats, better storage solutions, and a great center-console arrangement with a slide-out tray all contribute to an impression that this is a vehicle that doesn't waste your space—or your time.

The 2014 MDX is also very, very quiet inside. An active cancellation system inside the cabin helps, as well as an active engine mount system that helps quell low frequency vibrations from the powertrain. Full-on acoustic glass is used for the windshield and front windows, while thicker, noise-insulating glass is used elsewhere; and Acura has added a load of insulation elsewhere, while looking at cabin air leakage to help seal out residual noise.

An all-new structure aids that refinement, but also more importantly it should result in top-tier safety ratings. Additional advanced-technology safety features include Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Forward Collision Warning (FCW). a Wide View Camera, and a Blind Spot Information system. A driver's knee bag rounds out an already complete safety set, and there's also Lane Keeping Assist (LKAS), which will provide a gentle, proactive nudge to the steering to help you stay in your intended lane.

The 2014 Acura MDX is offered in 4 different grades: base MDX, Tech, Tech Entertainment, and Advance Entertainment. Each of those 4 models can be specified with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. At the top of the line, the Advance Entertainment gets Lane Keeping Assist, front and rear parking sensors, keyfob-integrated remote engine start, adaptive cruise control with a low-speed follow feature, collision mitigation braking, the wide-screen rear entertainment system with HDMI, the top 12-speaker ELS audio system, roof rails, and Milano premium perforated leather upholstery with ventilated front seats.

The 2014 Acura MDX will be built in the U.S., in Lincoln, Alabama, and it will reach dealerships beginning in July 2013.

Interior/Exterior: 8/10
We’ve seen styling as 1 of several key components to the MDX’s continued success over the years, and it’s clear that Acura wasn’t out to shake up the formula in the 2014 MDX. It’s within a few inches of the outgoing model in almost every respect, but a somewhat sleeker profile, more curvaceous sheetmetal, and some new, precise front-end details serve to give it a leaner look overall.

While Acura’s smaller RDX looks a bit larger with the last redesign it received, for 2013, the effect is pretty much the opposite with the new MDX. A more tapered roofline, somewhat more chiseled front end, and an even smoother rear-end design all serve to make this latest MDX impress as something that’s close than ever to a sport wagon.

Our editors are split on whether Acura’s ‘beak’ front end works, but we think that it’s much more flattering on the brand’s utility vehicles—and this new MDX—than on its sedans. A relatively simple front airdam design, complemented by crisp matte-chrome details and ‘jewel-eye’ LED headlamps, altogether gives this model a streamlined, elegant look, and while in back the MDX runs the risk of being generic, with its integrated tailpipe and ‘lined’ LED lamps, it all fits in.

Inside, Acura has paid much more attention to properly coordinated materials and trims, and it shows. And from a design standpoint, the dash, with its sloping, tiered look and V-shaped center stack, is a step more in pace with those in Acura’s sedans. We’re not entirely in love with the center stack's functionality—see the Quality (Comfort) and Features sections for more on that—but we like the way the entire dash fits in with the rest of the cabin, from a design standpoint.

If we have a complaint about the interior styling, it’s that the interior is only offered in 4 interior hues—Parchment, Eucalyptus, Graystone, and Ebony. A few more are on the way, an Acura official told us, but it’s a surprisingly limited, conservative range of possibilities at a time when the Acura’s European rivals seem to be offering almost countless possibilities with various lines, trim packages, and accessories.

Peformance 9/10
The 2014 MDX is powered by a 290-horsepower version of Acura’s always-excellent 3.5-liter V-6 engine—now fed with direct injection and kosher with the full suite of Honda’s so-called Earth Dreams technologies. Across the lineup, it’s mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission that includes steering-wheel paddle shifters.

Click down to the 'S' mode and click the paddle-shifters, and you get quick throttle-blip downshifts. Furthermore, it's closer to a true manual mode, as the transmission here will actually let you hold onto gears—all the way up to redline, or all the way down to where you're starting to lug the engine.

The so-called Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system that’s available in the MDX (yes, front-wheel drive is now standard, if that’s all you need) provides more all-weather traction, and even a little more cornering control in some situations, and it can vary front-wheel torque distribution from 90 percent down to 30 percent (70 percent to the rear)—or up to a hundred percent to either the left or right wheels.

Acura has worked to mitigate torque steer by changing the geometry in front, reducing the driveshaft angles and the center offset. The powertrain itself has been lowered, too. Likewise, the former model's trailing-arm rear suspension setup has been dumped, in favor of a multi-link, coil-over-damper layout.

New amplitude-reactive dampers reduce the damping force for high-frequency inputs—jittery pavement surfaces, for example—while hydraulic sub-frame mount bushings help seal out road vibration. Acura claims that the new approach improves ride comfort with no trade-off to handling.

For the most part, they're right. Although the MDX's steering feel might not feel quite as crisp, or transmit as much feel of the road, as that of the previous version, the vehicle as a whole feels surprisingly capable and coordinated when driven near the limit.

Quality 10/10
The MDX stands as 1 of the roomier 3-row luxury crossovers. Front seats are about as supportive yet plush as you'd expect in a luxury crossover, but rear accommodations have been much improved. With about 3 more inches of wheelbase for 2014, there's a little more wiggle room if you need to regularly balance out the space between the 2nd and 3rd rows.

You can now slide the 2nd row back and forth about size inches, and Acura has even installed a little lighted button beside the 2nd-row outboard seats, for 3rd-row access. A press enables a neat, cleverly-designed spring-loaded process (yes, fewer motors to short out, less weight and complication).

Although the rear roofline of the 2014 Acura MDX looks more arched than before, that's deceptive; the rear cargo floor, behind the 3rd row, is nearly 3 inches longer, while the horizontal distance from the top of the 3rd-row seatback to the window is almost 6 inches longer. Making it even more useful for weekend projects, or hauling furniture items, the cargo area is now fully flat when the 2nd-row seats are folded.

Acura has done away with the storage area that was beside the front footwell in the outgoing MDX, but it's done a great job in redesigning what most people frequently use: the center console area. With a multi-tiered setup, the main bin has enough space for a tablet computer, a small purse or handbag. Then just aft and above is a smaller, tray large enough to hold a smartphone and perhaps pen. Ahead of the console top, which doubles as an elbow rest, an attractive wood-toned tray pulls forward to cover everything. It has traction strips and is a good place to stow any other small personal items you need to keep an eye on while driving.

There's also a large underfloor storage area in back, with a lid that can be propped up in position when you're loading. There's enough space in it for a laptop or camera bag, or an extra pair of shoes.

The MDX has not only active cancellation inside the cabin but also an active engine mount system that helps quell low frequency vibrations from the powertrain. Full-on acoustic glass is used for the windshield and front windows, while thicker, noise-insulating glass is used elsewhere; and Acura has added a load of insulation elsewhere, while looking at cabin air leakage to help seal out residual noise.

Safety 9/10
The 2014 Acura MDX has an entirely new body structure, so there's no way we can extend it's already very impressive 2013 results to present.

But based on Acura's own internal test data, it expects the MDX to earn the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ accolade, with top results in every category, including the new small-overlap frontal test. And from the federal government, it's anticipating a 5-star overall rating, with 5-star results for frontal and side impact. If these anticipated ratings are made official, we'll be raising the MDX's safety number to a '10.'

MDX models with the Technology Package add Lane Departure Warning (LDW), which will warn you when you're straying out of your travel lane, and Forward Collision Warning (FCW). Which warns you of a rapid closing distance on a vehicle or barrier ahead.

In addition to the full roster of airbags, a driver knee airbag has been added for 2014. A Wide View Camera system is included on all models, and a Blind Spot Information system is included in all models but the base MDX. Our only wish is that Acura had reached into the Honda parts bin and also thrown in the excellent LaneWatch system from the Honda Accord.

Advance Entertainment models also have Lane Keeping Assist (LKAS), which will provide a gentle, proactive nudge to the steering to help you stay in your intended lane.

Features 9/10
The 2014 Acura MDX is offered in 4 different grades: base MDX, Tech, Tech Entertainment, and Advance Entertainment. Each of those 4 models can be specified with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.

Tech models add navigation, AcuraLink, ELS Studio audio, GPS-linked climate control, Blind Spot Information, rain-sensing wipers, Forward Collision Warning and Lane Departure Warning, puddle lamps, HD Radio, a rear-door smart entry feature, a color TFT display in front of the driver, for turn-by-turn directions, and 19-inch alloys.

Step up to the Tech Entertainment model, and you get DVD Rear Entertainment, a 150-watt AC inverter, heated 2nd-row seats, and 2nd-row window shades.

At the top of the line, the Advance Entertainment gets Lane Keeping Assist, front and rear parking sensors, keyfob-integrated remote engine start, adaptive cruise control with a low-speed follow feature, collision mitigation braking, the wide-screen rear entertainment system with HDMI, the top 12-speaker ELS audio system, roof rails, and Milano premium perforated leather upholstery with ventilated front seats.

The Active Cruise Control system that's included in Advance Entertainment models now 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. Side mirror positions, climate preferences, radio presets, and seat position can now all be tied in with individual key fobs, and 1 that comes with the Advance Entertainment model is of a new long-range bi-directional sort. You can remote-start the vehicle from up to 100 yards away (with a climate-control preconditioning mode for very cold or hot days), and the fob will give you a reminder, with a green light, when the engine is running.

The MDX’s AcuraLink system includes a complimentary 3-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 Services, Map Services, and MyVehicle (remote vehicle services and diagnostics). Full-on concierge services are available with a Premium Package.

Separate options include back-up sensors, an engine-block heater, a cargo cover, a cargo mat and tray, wooden steering-wheel and shift-knob trim, a 1st-aid kit, and a few appearance accessories (side molding, running boards, garnish trim, and mudguards).

While the base audio system includes 8 speakers and 432 total watts, the premium Acura/ELS audio system now actually comes in 3 configurations. With the Technology Package, you get ten speakers and 501 watts. Step up to the Tech and Entertainment Package, with its DVD rear entertainment system, and there are eleven speakers and 529 watts. Then at the top of the line, with the Advance Package (and its 16.2-inch Ultra-Wide HDMI entertainment system), you get twelve speakers and 546 watts. Streaming apps are now available through Aha and Pandora.

Fuel Economy/MPG 8/10
At an EPA-rated 18 mpg city, 27 highway, the all-wheel-drive version of the 2014 Acura MDX actually gets 6 mpg better than its predecessor on the highway. And at 20 mpg city, 28 highway, the MDX is better than virtually any other 3-row utility vehicle in this class.

Honda says that it's the 1st of its utility vehicles in which underhood flow was included in aerodynamic design, and it claims a best-in-class coefficient of drag (as measured in its own wind tunnel, against rivals that include the BMW X5, Audi Q5, Lexus RX 350).

The aerodynamics, as well as improvements like low-rolling-resistance tires, allow the 2014 MDX to coast for more than 1.5 miles from 70 mph, Acura says.

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Having just driven the 2014 Acura MDX, we came away impressed with the refinements made on the 2014 model, and its sleeker, trimmer, more sophisticated design. If you want to know what it's like behind the wheel, read our 1st-drive review 1st drive review here.

In this installment of Styling Showdown, we're going to focus on the more superficial differences between Acura's new SUV flagship and its predecessor. Honda and Acura have a reputation of playing it safe when it comes to the styling of their vehicles, and the new MDX doesn't rock the boat too much by retaining some trademark Acura styling cues such as a more refined, subtle rendition of the Acura "shield" grille, and horizontal taillights. Overall, the look borrows a lot from the redesigned RDX, which itself borrowed some inspiration from the previous MDX.

The most immediate styling cue linking the MDX and RDX is the triangular rear-quarter window, which has a steeper, more pronounced angle than the more upright window on the 2013 model. But the 2 models part ways in proportions and details. The RDX has more aggressive vertical surfacing on its wheelwells, whereas on the MDX, it's more subdued. Likewise, the MDX has a much longer rear door, due to its 5.3-inch longer wheelbase.

With LED lighting being the current signifier of "premium" styling and aspiration, the new MDX goes all-in with full LED Jewel Eye headlights, a design shared with the flagship RLX sedan. The taillights are mixed LED and conventional lights.

Compared with the last-generation MDX, the new model is 2.0 inches longer overall and rides on a 2.8-inch-longer wheelbase. Height has been lowered by 1.5 inches, and rear step-in height is 1.8 inches lower. The 2014 model is 1.3 inches narrower than its predecessor, but from the driver's seat, seems about a foot narrower, in a good way.

Which gets us to the subject of the interior. The 2013 MDX was chock full of luxury goodies and features, but their presentation left something to be desired. Whereas the previous model's interior was characterized by a button-riddled center console and angular detailing for surfaces and designs, the 2014 shows more refinement in the surfacing and radically reduces the number of buttons by migrating many of those functions to the new touchscreen display. And as noted previously, the new model's narrower body and cabin translates into a more tailored feel, rather than the last model's broad expanse of woodgrain and buttons. The fake wood accents remain in the 2014 model, but in a much more restrained, tasteful application.

Having seen and driven the new MDX up close, we think it's a big improvement over its predecessor in almost every area, and while beauty is in the eye of the beholder, we like the styling of the 2014 better too. Which is your favorite, the chunky, wide, and bold 2013, or the trimmer, more refined 2014?


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Consumer Reports

The 2014 redesign of the upscale Acura MDX pushes the popular SUV closer toward the class best-seller, the Lexus RX. But the MDX has a trick up its sleeve.

It has a 3rd row.

Lexus created the midsized luxury crossover segment, but it continues to avoid the 3-row niche. To carry more than 5 aboard a Lexus SUV, you need to buy a GX or LX. Both of these are big lumps of truck, not the car-based SUVs that most buyers seek. Even though Lexus sells over 100,000 RXs a year, they're probably giving away piles of money with this omission.

All MDXs have a 3rd row seat--they always have had that extra row, spanning all 3 generations. Sure, most buyers will leave it folded down. But having that extra capacity is like a security blanket for lots of parents, something that means they can haul half of the soccer team- even if they never will. Lots of automotive decisions work that way.

Beyond that, the distinctions between the Acura and Lexus blur with the MDX's redesign. Improvements in cabin quietness and ride show that Acura chased after the plush RX. (After all, those 100,000/year Lexus sales must be tempting.) Sure, the MDX has lost some of its sporting appeal, partly traceable to the fuel-economy-improving switch to electric steering. But combining the RX's plush feel with the MDX's 3rd row might prove a temping recipe, providing a product that Lexus lacks.

In general, it's getting hard to know where Acura is aiming. They're shying away from the overt sportiness that typified the brand half a decade ago. On the other hand, cars like the Civic-based ILX and the lackluster RLX show that Acura isn't succeeding at providing the quiet isolation that marks a luxury brand. 1st impressions are that the MDX manages to be more well-rounded than Acura's other recent efforts. But the Acura conundrum continues.

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The all-new 2014 Acura MDX provides all the technology you need in a premium SUV for 5 to 10 thousand dollars less than its German competition. For the 3rd generation, Acura beefed up technology, added a 2nd LCD to the center stack, reduced the button count (finally), dumped excess weight, and improved fuel economy to as much as 28 mpg. Order the MDX with adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning/lane keep assist, and you’ve got a vehicle that could — don’t try this at home, okay? — drive by itself for miles and miles.

Acura’s biggest issue with the MDX remains a packaging of options that forces you to take 2 licorice jelly beans to get the 1 lemon jelly bean you want. In an era of movies on iPads, why do you have to take a 16-inch-LCD rear entertainment system to get lane keep assist?

ExtremeTech’s best-in-class winner

At ExtremeTech, we’re building a honor roll of the best vehicles in each class. For us, that means a vehicle with the right technology, not just a cushy ride or available chrome dubs. This is our 1st citation: the 2014 Acura MDX as the best premium SUV. That’s in a field with more than a half-dozen solid competitors, such as the Audi Q5, BMW X5, Buick Enclave, GMC Terrain, Infiniti JX35, Lexus RX, Nissan Pathfinder, Mercedes-Benz ML, and Toyota Highlander.

What makes the Acura MDX stand out?

Acura was 1 of the worst offenders on center stack complexity with more than 60 buttons (by our count) on models 5 years ago. It’s far better now. Acura says the “hard button count” is down from 41 to 9 (45 down to 25 as we count it). There are now 2 separate LCD screens: an 8-inch unit for navigation and 7-inch for audio plus climate control on all but the entry model. The upper screen is controlled by the jog-shuttle dial located below the lower screen; the lower screen is a touchscreen. It’s more confusing to describe than to use.

Expect to see more cars with dual LCD displays of 7 to 8 inches rather than a single display. The only better solution might be the super-wide screen on a handful of cars such as BMW and Lexus use: 10 inches on the diagonal with double-wide VGA resolution, 1280×640, that can be used a single or split screens.

A 3rd multi-information display (MID) in the instrument cycles among navigation prompts, audio information, phone, and adaptive cruise control/lane keep assist.

The steering wheel controls are larger than average and when it comes to steering wheels bigger is better. Best of all, Acura follows Audi’s lead with scroll wheel buttons. The left button is sheer genius: roll the wheel up or down for volume, tap in to mute, push the wheel left or right to jump tracks. The right scroll wheel switches among MID content displays, makes selections, and resets trip information.

Use the scroll wheel for a minute and you’ll wonder why more cars don’t have them. Automakers now recognize this and some put a roundel front on what is merely an up-down rocker switch. In other words, the world’s automakers recognize the scroll wheel excellence in Audi, BMW and Acura designs, but they’re too cheap to implement more than the scroll wheel look and feel.

There’s a new infotainment system to go with the dual LCD displays and the option of 3 excellent ELS (Elliot Shiner, a Grammy-winning producer) audio upgrades. In back, there are 2 entertainment options, either a 9-inch display or a 16.2-inch ultrawide display that allows 2 programs to play side-by-side, 1 of which can come be over an HDMI connector. The next generation AcuraLink telematics system provides embedded (in-dash) and tethered (on your smartphone) applications, including Pandora, Aha, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and NPR, plus real-time traffic.

Acura still does not have 1-shot destination navigation input (“navigate to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC”), there’s just a single USB jack, the base model lacks HD Radio, and the DVD drive for the rear seat display is in the center stack in front, ideal for toddlers in back, annoying to older children.

So smart that it’s nearly self-driving

The suite of driver assist tools on the Acura MDX is enough to make the car almost self-driving. More accurately, it maintains course on non-curvy roads and won’t run into the car in front if your attention wanders for a second or 2 … and possibly for a minute or more. Yes, technology is moving ahead.

Driver aids include blind spot detection, lane keep assist or lane departure warning, full-range adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking system, rear camera, and available rear sonar.

The MDX that can drive itself for brief periods is the top model and it costs $57,000. Once you get past the entry model (the MDX), levels 2 (MDX Tech) and 3 (MDX Tech Entertainment) have lane departure warning, and level 4 (MDX Advance Entertainment) have lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control.

Adaptive cruise is a known technology and works well; this 1 is full-range ACC that tracks the car in front down to 0 mph rather than cutting out at 20-25 mph. Acura’s lane keep assist doesn’t just warn you when you edge onto a lane marker (as LDW does) or bounce you back with a steering or brake correction (as early lane keep assist does). Rather, lane keep assist system (LKAS) starts to correct the moment you go off center; Acura likens it to a ball rolling down a half-pipe, meaning it tends to return to the middle.

For several miles at a time on curving country roads with no oncoming traffic, with my hands lightly on the wheel, the car would track mostly in the center of the lane, when it drifted it generally righted itself, and only about once a mile did it come so close to lane edges that I had to intervene. 1 limited access roads with gentler curves, Acura LKAS is capable of tracking the road mile after mile. The point is not that you can deliberately stop paying attention, but rather if your attention wanders for a second or 2, the machine corrects for the human’s error.

Should you buy another car with a feature called lane keep assist, understand that other cars may not have the same abilities that this Acura has. Think: Darwin lives.

The duller part of Acura’s advanced tech: engine, suspension, more

The 2014 Acura MDX gets as much as 28 mpg. How’d they do that? The new body is 275 pounds lighter even as the MDX grew 2 inches (to 193 inches), about the same as a BMW X5, almost a foot shorter than a Cadillac Escalade. There’s a new, more efficient V6 engine down slightly in power (290 hp total), still with variable displacement (cylinder shutdown) and active noise cancellation in the cockpit to make the ride quieter.

For the 1st time since the MDX arrived in 2001, there’s a 2-wheel-drive (front drive) version sought by drivers in non-snowy states; that’s the 1 that gets 28 mpg highway.

Acura is always a couple transmission gears behind the competition and its people turn feisty when asked why Acura has 6 speeds when the competition has as many as 8, soon to be 9 forward gears. Look at how good our mileage is, they say. Still, you wonder if 8 speeds might propel the new MDX to 30 mpg highway with the front-drive model. That would be great advertising. The outgoing MDX was rated at 21 mpg highway.

Acura continues with torque vectoring, or super-handling all-wheel-drive (SH-AWD) , a technology that sends extra power to the outside wheels when cornering and makes the car MDX more stable or lets you go around corners even faster. The integrated dynamics system, controlled by a console button, maps the steering, active sound control, throttle response, torque vectoring, and shift points to sport, normal, and comfort. Each key fob has its own setting.

In lay terms, the 2014 MDX is quick, quiet, safe, and about as economical as an SUV can be without a hybrid or diesel engine. It’s rated at 20 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, 23 mpg overall for the front-drive MDX, 18-27-21 for all-wheel-drive.

Room for improvement

The Acura MDX may be the best car in its class as of mid-2013, just not perfect. The biggest concern is Acura’s have-it-our-way options scheme that quickly elevates you past the $43,000 base price. To get the features you want, you have to buy 1 of 4 trim levels, and live with the trim level’s features you really didn’t want. To get the long-distance highway cruiser with adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist, you must take the top (MDX Advance Entertainment). Did you really want a 16-inch rear display in an era when most kids out of diapers are using tablets for personal entertainment? You love audio, but did you need 546 watts and 12 speakers worth of Elliot Shiner music when there are 2 more affordable levels of ELS audio on cheaper MDX’s that get by with 11 and 10 speakers? Customers told Acura the new model had to have a front-drive option (added by Acura), push button start (added), remote start (added), and parking sensors (whoops). The only way to get front and rear parking sonar built in is to buy the $57,000 model, that or pay the dealer to retrofit rear sonar (only) for a lofty $500.

Acura’s reluctance to offer more choices might make sense if the MDX was built in Japan and shipped stateside via slow boat. But the MDX comes out of Lincoln, Alamaba. BMW in comparison has thriving build-to-order system for the competing X5 built in Spartanburg, South Carolian, and can deliver the car in just a couple weeks, priced anywhere from $48,000 to $89,000. That allows BMW to offer 3 different engines, nearly 2 dozen options and accessories that carry more profit than the base vehicle, even a choice of 2 or 3 seating rows.

Still, similarly equipped, the Acura MDX you buy will come in about between $5,000 and $10,000 less than an X5. Example: Acura’s 3rd row of seating is standard; BMW gets $1,700.

Outside of BMW and its long list of options, only a couple competitors’ features are unavailable on the MDX: air-cooled rear seats, 360-degree low-speed maneuvering cameras, a head-up display, and vibrating steering wheel alert for lane departure warning (Acura sticks with a chime heard through the cockpit).

Should you buy the MDX?

You’ll be blown away by how much the new MDX is improved. The center console will hold tablets and small notebooks. The middle row of seats has good room for adults. The 3rd row of seating is standard, and a button on the sides of the 2nd row seat cushions slides the middle seats forward for 3rd row access; even little kids can use it. This is a great long distance cruiser but it’s not so big you feel uncomfortable running errands around town, and it’s still at home on dirt roads even if it won’t cross 2-foot-deep streams as the old 1 did. Handling is sporty, more in line with its German competition.

And if you’re looking at used SUVs, the new MDX is so good (and different-looking) that there should be a downward blip of values of the previous generation (2007-2013). Most 3- to 4-year-old MDXs will come with Bluetooth, an iPod adapter, and probably a competent navigation system making for a potential good deal.

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Honda Motor Co. (HMC) is targeting female drivers for its redesigned 2014 Acura MDX sport wagon with the luxury brand’s most expensive advertising campaign yet.

Using the slogan “Made for Mankind,” a female narrates the moody ads showing women hiking a mountain ridge, dancing and interacting with a robot. The commercial debuts during the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Finals this month, while the full campaign starts July 7, Tokyo-based Honda said.

Honda is betting the ads will boost Acura sales that have fallen 25% in the U.S. from a peak of 209,610 in 2005. The luxury marque of Japan’s 3rd-largest automaker is also promoting new RLX sedan and NSX sports car models priced at more than $100,000. With the new MDX, Acura said it’s trying to make an emotional appeal to female luxury-car buyers.

“Luxury is so focused on a very sort of stereotypical, 40-year-old wealthy male,” Gary Robinson, advertising manager for Honda’s Acura luxury line, said June 20 in Detroit at a briefing on the new MDX. “Going forward, certainly in our country, that is not going to be anybody’s majority anymore. So there’s this opportunity to talk to somebody different.”

Honda is hoping to imbue Acura with the same success it has found with its mainstream model line, which includes the Accord sedan, the 2nd-best-selling car in the U.S. this year.

Going after female buyers for the MDX makes sense, said Michelle Krebs, an analyst at auto researcher

Moms’ Car

“Moms drive the MDX; it’s sort of a minivan that’s not a minivan,” said Krebs, who is based in Southfield, Michigan. “Why not appeal to the female audience? Not many automakers do that.”

Robinson said the MDX ad campaign is the costliest ever for Acura. He declined to reveal how much Honda is spending on it. He said it’s more than twice as much as Acura’s campaign last year to introduce the redesigned RDX model. And he said the cost of the MDX campaign is “not too far off” what Honda spends on its bread-and-butter Accord model.

“Our brand sort of struggles in terms of volume,” Robinson said of Acura. “This is our most important vehicle in a lot of ways and we can’t get it wrong.”

Honda set a goal for this year of topping its best-ever U.S. volume of 1.55 million Honda and Acura brand cars and light trucks, set in 2007. The company is counting on the 3rd-generation MDX and new RLX flagship sedan to reach the target. Acura plans to sell 60,000 MDX models a year, Robinson said.

U.S. Deliveries

Honda’s total U.S. deliveries gained 5.6% this year through May to 608,663. The company’s Honda brand rose 5.2 percent during that period, while its Acura brand increased 9.8%, according to researcher Autodata Corp.

Acura’s U.S. sales trail the luxury leaders, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW)’s BMW, Daimler AG (DAI)’s Mercedes-Benz and Toyota Motor Corp. (7203)’s Lexus line.

“For Acura, the luxury market is so intensely competitive and they’ve fallen so far,” Krebs said. “Now they’re trying to shake things up.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Keith Naughton in Detroit at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at [email protected]
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