2014 Acura MDX HD Video Review
Since it debuted in 2001, the seven–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 one 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.
A Nod To The Sunbelt- My tester is a fully loaded Advance with Entertainment Package model that’s welded, bolted and bonded together in Lincoln, Alabama. For the first 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 second 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 five.
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 three NBA players or a dozen entrees at Claim Jumper). It’s now lightest in class, even against two-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 one). 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 six–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 eight seconds faster than the second 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 one-two punch of technology makes you a better driver. The word agile is seldom used to describe the handling of a seven-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 one pairs that down to nine with a haptic touch-screen interface replacing the other 32. The second screen that displays maps and the three 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, one 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 six inches to max out legroom or help those in the third 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 two sources side by side.
A handy one-button seat release scoots the mid row out of the way (there’s a second one on the seat back, both are lighted). That third-row seat is low to the floor. Adults will fit but will not be happy. Keep it to small children.
Size Matters- Generation three MDX is two inches longer and about an inch narrower. Feedback from second gen owners helped make the cargo area a lot more useful. There’s almost six 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 third row and there’s 42.9 cubic feet of room. Knock the second 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 two 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.