Acura’s MDX, a midsize sport-utility vehicle, is one of a handful of cars in its class that can transport as many as seven people in reasonable comfort. It’s one of an even smaller handful that accelerates, brakes and corners like a sports car. It’s also luxurious, and it’s made in America. In short, there are cars that possess some of the good qualities the MDX has in abundance, but few, if any, that have all of them.
Among upscale, midsize SUVs that can accommodate as many as seven, the Audi Q7, BMW X5, Infiniti JX, Lincoln MKT and Volvo XC90 are the major players along with the newly redesigned MDX. If none of those suit, the only alternative is to go bigger (Cadillac Escalade, Infiniti QX) or downscale (Toyota Highlander, Ford Explorer).
As tested, the Acura MDX was quite expensive at $57,400. But the impact of sticker shock is lessened in less lavishly equipped models. The starting price for a base, front-wheel-drive MDX is $43,185, placing it around the middle of the pack.
The MDX is delightful to drive, with none of the top-heaviness or awkwardness common to earlier generations of SUVs. The 290-horsepower engine and smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission deliver respectable fuel economy. Remember when midsize SUVs’ fuel economy was in the mid-teens? We averaged about 25 mpg in mostly highway driving; the MDX with all-wheel drive is rated at 21 mpg city, 27 highway. (With front-wheel drive, highway fuel economy creeps upward to 28 mpg.) But the MDX does require high-priced premium unleaded gasoline.
The bucket front seats are among the most comfortable we’ve tested, with plush yet supportive cushions and side bolsters. The back seat slides fore and aft, giving passengers sufficient knee room when a tall driver or passenger is in front. The bad news is we couldn’t check out the third-row seat, other than to look at it. Suffice it to say the seat is fine for children and slim teenagers.
The double-screen layout of the center stack was a little confusing, mainly because each screen displays multiple and diverse functions. We quickly acquired a preference for displaying audio data on both.
Our test car’s high price reflected a long list of optional features adding to the car’s luxury, safety, technology, and audio and video capability. At base level, however, the MDX is very nicely equipped. The most desirable model for budget-minded New Englanders would be the $45,185 MDX SH with all-wheel drive. Its standard features include the same engine and transmission combination that came with our test car; leather upholstery; power front seats with multi-level heating; cruise control; rear-view camera; satellite radio; power glass sunroof; and power liftgate door.
All Acuras, including MDXs, have a reputation for extreme reliability and safety. The 2014 MDX earned a Top Safety Pick Plus designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety; it even received the top rating of “Good” in the IIHS’ tough “small overlap front” crash test.
Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6, 290 horsepower, 267 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic
Weight: 4,332 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 19×8-in. alloy
Tires: P245/55R19 all-season
Seating capacity: 7
Luggage capacity: 15.8 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 90.9 cu. ft.
Towing capacity: 3,500 lb.
Fuel capacity: 19.5 gallons
Fuel economy: 18 mpg city, 27 mpg highway
Fuel type: premium unleaded