A Victory & Reseda Review of the 2014 Acura MDX
When the world throws a lot of stress in your face, you simply need some luxury in your life.
This is life. A job that pays fine, but not without a few contingencies to make things interesting. There are weather patterns that frustrate you, people who irritate you, despite their friendship or connection and so forth.
But, life should not have to hold us down. It should be celebrated. When you celebrate life, the joy of everything around you becomes clearer. Thus, you need a little luxury to uplift you.
What kind of luxury do you want? Maybe it is a pair of jeans from a designer. An upgraded seat on a plane or at a sporting event would do. Perhaps driving something that is indeed luxurious – preferably from a premium brand.
In this case, Acura provided the luxury with its redone version of its three-row crossover, the MDX.
What the MDX represents is attainable luxury. Acura always had a sporty side, but the brand delivers on its promise of luxury with swaths of leather and appropriate upgrades that drew customers away from the standard bearers back in 1986. In this top-shelf Advance package with additional equipment comprising of the Entertainment package, you might say that the standard bearers may have been put on notice again.
It starts off with the changes outside. One may think that Acura had supersized the nimble brand-leading RDX crossover, but there are plenty of cues from that and the flagship RLX sedan abound on he new MDX. The Jewel-Eye headlights not only give some fabulousness to the front end – they emit some of the best lighting in its class.
The overall shape is uncomplicated and familiar. The shield grille gets some serious updating, while the side greenhouse follows brand convention with its rear quarter triangular glass. The doors are large, though the rears could open a bit wider to accommodate the third row. Finishing the look is a set of nineteen-inch alloys shod with Michelin Latitude tires.
The luxury really comes into play once you open up the doors to the MDX. The hides used for their top trim are both soft and comfortable. They are draped over some of best two rows of seats ever experienced in its class. Front seats are huge and supportive. They provide a throne-like experience to survey the road ahead. Rear seats are thick and comfortable – the best amongst second-row seating in its class. There is more than enough room for adults of all sizes behind the driver, which is also achieved with adjustments for legroom at the cushion. There is a third row, but it is only recommended for children.
Most premium brands go over the top with instrumentation, controls and décor. The MDX takes a straightforward approach to its cabin design. Two big dials for the tachometer and speedometer ate flanked by the fuel and temp gauges – meeting in the middle for a switchable screen featuring the trip, vehicle and fuel consumption readouts. Switches are comprehensive, easy to operate, and good to the touch. The center stack shows Acura/Honda’s two-screen set up with a static screen up top and a touch version below. They may seem intimidating and redundant at first, but once you set these screens up accordingly, they work perfectly for the necessary infotainment options you need.
For the audiophile, Acura's ELS Studio system offers 12 speakers of fine sound. There are plenty of choices for audio from iPod/iPhone integration, Bluetooth connectivity for phone and music and application sync-ups with Aha. The latter is courtesy of Acura Link, an expanded suite of infotainment and telematic connectivity. The Entertainment package adds a wide video screen for rear seat passengers – including headphones to keep them occupied.
The corporate 3.5liter V6 is shrouded under the hood by Acura's cladding to reduce noise and vibration. It is a well-behaved motor spewing 295 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque designed to motivate 4,332 pounds of three-row crossover. Through a six-speed automatic transmission, the V6 responds extremely well to the throttle and matches revs with gears all the way to cruising at around 1500RPM at highway speed. This driveline is also poised when dealing with less than ideal traffic patterns – including icy roads where traffic becomes very cautious on these surfaces.
Considering the extreme conditions the MDX had to endure, one feature stood out above everything else. This model has perhaps one of the best all-wheel drive systems amongst premium automotive brands – SH-AWD. Translated as "Super Handling All Wheel Drive," the term is properly apt. The system provides grip to slipping wheels by ensuring that the power goes right directly them – in a well-balanced manner.
It is one thing to explain how it works; it is another to actually feel it work. A good AWD system "bites" into bad surfaces. The SH-AWD does a superb job doing exactly that. If you control the throttle to let the engine and transmission do the pulling, the SH-AWD ensures the MDX stays on poor surfaces without hesitation or failure. When you lose traction or find yourself not completing a turn on these surfaces, a combination of the SH-AWD and Traction Control systems does a nice job gathering the MDX up and composing back onto the road.
The suspension is well balanced – it neither too soft nor too hard. Drive over road imperfections, and it will remind you as to why the roads are not doing too well this winter. Potholes will not destroy the MDX’s gait and motivation. There is minimal roll through the corners, which is good when presented with a full load of passengers. Steering is well weighted through a rather large steering wheel. Turning the MDX provides no delay in reaction and responds quite well.
Braking is actually quite good – even you engage the anti-lock system in the snow and ice. Pre-braking helps to maintain a sure stop at intersections. Otherwise, these brakes are excellent on regular and panic stops. Pedal feel and action are pretty quick just when you need it. The Advance package adds some great active safety features – such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and collision mitigation system – to keep the MDX on the road through any conditions.
Acura claims an average of 21MPG on SH-AWD models. This is achievable if the weather was warmer and the roads were clear. Extreme winter conditions did put a damper on the fuel consumption average – weighing in at 17.3MPG. The high consumption average was up to 19.3MPG – before the snow, ice and temperature drop blew things out of proportion.
The MDX lineup starts off at $43,185, just about where most three-row mainstream competitors top off price-wise. Keep in mind that this price is only for the front-drive model. Adding the SH-AWD brings the price up another couple of grand. However, this tester is at the top of the range with the Advance and Entertainment packages, totaling at $57,400.
For that kind of money, you expect to have a stress-free environment that is calming and manages to get you to Point B without any drama. You want an easy-to-use, convenient and capable vehicle to drive through anything – Polar Vortex or not. You also want space to carry four adults – or a younger family of six – in style.
All of this sums up the Acura MDX. It is good where you need it to be. It is great where you expect it to be. Perhaps that is more than enough reason to consider it.
However, there was one thing missing that I was curious about. If the roads were in better shape, there was one thing I hoped the MDX would be – a good long distance cruiser. I bet it would be a great crossover to carry four adults across state lines for a weekend of adventure. It feels like it would be extraordinary fun – fire up the video screen for the rear seat passengers and keep going.
Still, it is one stylish conveyance that I would not be embarrassed to be seen in. That truly sums up the Acura MDX – another Caliper-badged vehicle that has since wooed me years after I parted with the one I used to own.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Honda North America, Inc.
All photos by Randy Stern