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.

Last Import - 16This 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.

Last Import - 12A 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.

Last Import - 01Power 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.

Last Import - 13Lighter 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.

Last Import - 14The 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?

Last Import - 08Understated 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).

Last Import - 02Acura’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.

Last Import - 06

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.

12 Comments

  1. [...] Driven Car Reviews – 2014 Acura MDX HD Video Review [...]

  2. Facepalm says:

    Nice review, Tom.
    My uncle purchased a new 2012/2011 MDX a year ago, and it’s a pretty good vehicle overall. People who criticize it and Acura are probably just haters. Acceleration was effortless and the seats were good for short trips (~15 minute drives, as I never went on a long road trip with him or anything like that). The center stack, however, was a little odd. Too many buttons at first glance, and the navigation screen was not cooperative, as we tried to locate a nearby Home Depot/OSH store and it kept giving us locations in Canada, where it was manufactured (we’re in California…). We opted for using a smartphone instead, but when I saw my uncle a few months later he said that he figured out the navi problem.

    Now that I am seeing stories of how MDX seats are rough on long trips, I’ll ask my uncle how his MDX treated him after his most recent road trip which consisted of driving from the bay area of CA to LA County in a day (about a five hour drive).
    I’ve heard the RLX’s seats are very good, or at least the front seats, and I’m wondering if it would be impossible for Acura to transplant the RLX seats into their other products if the default seats are really that much of a pain in the butt (literally, lol).
    Speaking of RLX, it would be sweet if you could get your hands on one, Tom. Or an ILX variant.

    Also, I noticed you uploaded your video here at 12:01 AM on the 31st and getting past the embargo date. It doesn’t get much quicker than that, huh? And I noticed that you uploaded the video onto YouTube not long after. Are you not waiting as long to put your videos on there or was that just a one-time thing?

    • TV says:

      Your uncle probably had not changed the region on his navi system. I’ve had to do that with press cars from CA.

      Correct, That was the precise time of the embargo. I put it up on YouTube early just to do a little experiment. Now that my site gets more traffic than YT (though oddly MUCH few comments) I’m a little more apt to release them closer together.

      I’ll be writing that seat story for the Seattle Times. I’ll put a link on my site when it happens.

  3. Brooks2IS says:

    Very glad to see a much improved MDX. Acura left a sour taste in my mouth after an unpleasant two year run with our old 2011 MDX Tech… Which has long been replaced. Acura seems to have addressed my concerns with fuel economy (for the small size of the CUV) as well as feature content. However, the seats in our 2011 were absolutely the worst seat ever put in a vehicle. They were that bad. How are these new ones?

    • TV says:

      I found them to be comfortable but then again, I was racing the clock (and some hefty rain squalls) to take notes and get the video shot. Sorry to hear you had a problem with them, not an inexpensive car.

      My wife- and I’m not kidding- wouldn’t know if she were in a Buick or Jaguar but always knows when she’s in a Honda product the moment she sits down. It’s the way the lumbar hits her back. It’s why I find it hard to believe there are people who don’t test drive their cars before buying.

    • hiptech says:

      Couldn’t help but notice your comment concerning seat comfort on your 2011 MDX as it brought back some “painful” memories.

      We used to own a ’99 Odyssey which I purchased new. After several long distance trips between Phoenix and LA we noticed after about 2 hours how uncomfortable the seats were. After 4 hours they were unbearable!

      During that time (I was a mod on the OdyClub forums at the time) I researched with others and personally performed “significant” modifications to the front seats. I literally tore them apart and installed inflatable bladders, cut slits into the foam padding, added sheepskins seat covers… bottom line, all the mods did little to mitigate the poor design. Ultimately we sold the van after only 4 years, we usually keep our vehicles for very long time (10-20 yrs).

      After being a long time Honda owner with only Accords to reference by, the Ody baffled me how Honda could choose to be so indifferent. Now all these years later, reading your comments about the 2011 MDX makes me realize how platform sharing between models (Ody, Pilot, MDX, Ridgeline) could have potentially detrimental effects. If a company chooses to cost cut in seating for one model, this issue can permeate across several model lines.

      More disconcerting is how this issue could persist for so many years!?

      Tom is right, test drives are a necessity but most ppl rarely have the opportunity to spend long enough “seat time” to discover hidden shortcomings like this until it’s too late.

      I still admire and own Honda products but my Ody experience has left me far more cynical especially when it comes to brand loyalty and marketing claims…

      • Brooks2IS says:

        Yep, that sounds about the time the seats took their toll. After an hour and a half, discomfort was noticeable. I wish I had taken a two hour test drive to notice this… haha.

        My father owned a 2005 TSX that I only drove once or twice, but nonetheless, I don’t recall any bad seats in that car. I feel that you are correct on your assumption about the issues within Honda’s people movers.

        I admire some of Honda’s attributes (including the spectacular new Accord) but, until they fix some of my complaints in their CUVs/SUVs, I will continue to purchase Toyotas.

        • hiptech says:

          I own a 2004 TSX and only wish Honda would install seats like these in all their models!

          • TV says:

            Seats sure can be a personal thing. I drove the MDX for hours and had no discomfort at all.

            Which brings up a story idea- It would be great to meet with the folks at Lear or other seat manufacturer to see how they develop them and the best way to adjust one for best support.

            • Brooks2IS says:

              Agreed. Lexus has long set the bar for me in terms of seat comfort.

              Different strokes for different folks. Some people love one seat, others can sit in a chair for more than five minutes.

            • hiptech says:

              Tom,

              Great idea! This would be very informative and great to see.

              That said, I certainly believe car manufacturers allocate resources differently depending on models, budgets and objectives.

              Chrysler’s “Stow-N-Go” seating is a great case in point. Chrysler determined the concept was a good risk/reward decision, but had to compromise on seat comfort (thin enough to fit into floor wells) to make it work.

              Based on their target audience it must have seemed a valid gamble as more often than not children inhabit these seats and are less likely to notice or complain about comfort.

              I personally believe in Honda’s case seat comfort goes beyond adjustability in maximizing support. Some models just seem to be recipients of better design and funding depending on their segment…