A 2014 redesign has helped the Acura MDX return to the top of the Acura sales chart, as it easily outsold each of the company’s four sedans in July.
Now using a platform that isn’t shared with any other Honda or Acura model, the new MDX is slightly lower, narrower, longer and lighter. The most dramatic change is found in the wheelbase, which has grown 2.8 inches, much to the benefit of second-row passengers.
Acura took several steps to reduce the weight in the MDX, including the use of high-strength steel, aluminum and even magnesium. The results are impressive, as the MDX has dropped nearly 300 pounds for 2014. This has allowed the use of a slightly smaller V-6 engine for much better fuel economy without impacting performance.
The MDX also boasts a significantly lower starting price, thanks in part to the addition of a front-wheel drive model. Previously, this crossover utility vehicle came only with all-wheel drive. This change will probably mean little in New England, where the memories of past winter storms and the desire to be prepared for future foul weather will keep most customers in the all-wheel drive column.
Inside, the new MDX offers roomy comfort for adults in the first and second row seats. The third row boasts slightly more leg room, but this location is still best reserved for children. The interior is slightly narrower, due to the 1.3-inch reduction in width that is meant to make the vehicle easier to park and maneuver, but passengers shouldn’t feel cramped.
Take the MDX for a test drive, and it’s easy to see why it is selling so well. Simply put, the new MDX drives beautifully. It’s the kind of car that will make you wish the journey wouldn’t end. The ride is smooth and quiet, and the level of power steering assist is adjustable, with the “Sport” mode delivering a level of feedback that should please enthusiasts. “Comfort” and “Normal” modes reduce the effort and the amount of road feel to luxury car levels.
The new 3.5-liter V-6 loses 10 horsepower compared to the 3.7-liter V-6 that powered the previous MDX. However, the vehicle’s weight reduction more than offsets that minor loss. More significant, the new V-6, which can run only three of the six cylinders when full power is not needed, is significantly more fuel efficient. EPA estimates have grown from 16 mpg in the city and 21 on the highway to 18 city/27 highway for the all-wheel drive models. The front-wheel drive MDX is rated at 20/28.
This new engine is also found in the RLX sedan and features direct fuel injection and variable valve timing, as well as variable displacement. It sends its power to a smooth shifting and updated six-speed automatic transmission. Acceleration is brisk, with 60 miles per hour arriving in 6.8 seconds. Our fuel economy in the all-wheel drive MDX Acura loaned us came to 21.1 miles per gallon.
Handling highlights include well-controlled lean in corners, good brakes and a nicely balanced feel on secondary roads. The torque vectoring that is part of the all-wheel drive package – it redirects power to the appropriate rear wheel when accelerating out of corners for improved stability – no doubt plays a role in the MDX’s performance.
Compared to much of the competition in the premium crossover utility vehicle field, the Acura MDX cuts a more sporting profile, without giving up much, if anything, in comfort. It’s quiet, comfortable, roomy, flexible and great to drive. It’s little wonder that in Acura’s seven-vehicle lineup, the MDX accounts for nearly 37 percent of all sales.
The 2014 Acura MDX is one of most pleasant crossover utility vehicles I’ve driven. It’s smooth, powerful, quiet and responsive. It also seems much improved in several areas over the last MDX.
Start with the interior and controls. The gauges remain clear and easily read, but the vast array of more than 40 buttons in the central control area of the last MDX has been eliminated, replaced by nine buttons and a touch screen control system. While the touch screen may not make operating the climate, audio, navigation or communication functions any less distracting, I still welcome the reduction in the vast number of buttons.
The MDX does offer push-button start as standard equipment, a feature that I’ve grown to like. With it, there is no need to actually find the key in your purse or pocket. You only need to have it with you to enter and start the car. Also standard and much appreciated is the rearview camera.
The second-row seats now allow access to the third row with the simple push of a button, which is lit at night. It takes such a small amount of effort that even a child can handle the task.
The second-row seats are also adjustable, sliding forward and back over a range of nearly six inches. With these seats moved forward, which would be acceptable for smaller riders, the MDX can carry more cargo or offer third-row riders more room. Fold the third-row seats and there is 45 cubic feet of cargo capacity. Fold the second-row seats, too, and this number grows to nearly 91 cubic feet. The resulting load floor is flat, but there are some gaps. Even with the third-row seats up, there is more than 15 cubic feet of storage, enough for a few weeks’ worth of groceries for the average family.
The new Acura MDX is more car than I need, but it would be a very good choice for families looking for this amount of space, not to mention a luxurious interior.
Engine: 3.5 liter V-6
TORQUE (lb/ft): 267
EPA AWD: 18/27
EPA FWD: 20/28
STARTS AT: $42,290
Jim MacPherson is the host of "The Car Doctor" show airing Sundays at noon on WTIC-AM. Paula MacPherson is his wife and new-car review partner. Send comments, questions, suggestions in care of Special Publications, Hartford Courant, 285 Broad St., Hartford, CT 06115, or email firstname.lastname@example.org