Vital Stats

Engine:
3.5L V6
Power:
290 HP / 267 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Auto
Drivetrain:
All-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
4,332 LBS
Seating:
2+3+2
Cargo:
90.9 CU-FT (max)
MPG:
18 City / 27 HWY
Base Price:
$42,900
There are certain vehicles on sale today that are affected by what I call 'Camry Syndrome.' Named after Toyota's ubiquitous family hauler, Camry Syndrome affects a fair number of cars and trucks, many of which are exceedingly popular with consumers.

The issue I have with these vehicles is that while they're adequate, they lack ambition. Their looks are clean and reasonably attractive, but they're not particularly stylish, let alone adventuresome or – heaven forbid – polarizing. Their interiors are comfortable and well screwed together, with the sort of popular features that consumers expect at a given price point. Their engines are decently powerful and vocal enough to set the heart very slightly aflutter, yet they're not too thirsty. Their transmissions are invisible and their rides are best described with whatever buzzword synonym Joe Consumer might come up with for "sporty" or "luxurious." In short, they're boring.

In reality, provided they sell well, there's really nothing wrong with automakers building Camry Syndrome vehicles – they're reasonably competent at everything and clearly meet a need. The problem is that I want some aspects of my vehicle to be better than others, because contrast breeds character. I wish someone at Acura felt the way I did when it redesigned this MDX for 2014, because for me, there's so much of this premium crossover that's merely middle of the road.
2014 Acura MDX SH-AWD2014 Acura MDX SH-AWD2014 Acura MDX SH-AWD

The MDX's exterior styling, for example, sacrifices style and personality in a bid to not offend anyone. Acura's infamous beak nose has been toned down considerably, presenting a sort of ultra-wide shield grille. The Jewel-Eye LED headlights situated on either side of the latter are perhaps the MDX's most polarizing exterior feature, but they're part of a look we've already seen from Acura – a look we're set to see more of. A pair of subtle character lines highlight the profile, while the taillights share their shape with the MDX's little brother, the RDX. Aside from those headlights, though, there's not a lot that draws the eye, particularly when the model in question is painted in Silver Moon like my tester.

Fit and finish is really quite impressive.

At least the interior is a bit more interesting than the exterior. It's a nice place to spend time, featuring high-quality Milano leather on the seats and steering wheel, soft-touch plastics on the dash and nicely arranged strips of wood trim. There's a disappointingly limited variety of materials, though, as Acura only offers a single type of wood, regardless of which of the four interior colors is chosen. That minor issue aside, as is expected of a product from Honda/Acura, fit and finish is really quite impressive.

My biggest issue with the MDX's cabin centers on the dual-screen infotainment system. This is a setup Consumer Reports dinged for its unintuitive nature, and indeed, it feels unnecessarily complicated. Just count how often you push a 'button' on the lower touchscreen only to have the results appear on the upper display. It's not pleasingly laid out, and many automakers have come up with more ergonomic and more effective setups employing single screens, not to mention better-to-use all-in-one controllers than the one employed here. Acura touts that the MDX's button count has decreased from 41 in last year's model to just nine in this new one (we're assuming they're talking about the infotainment alone, because there's 13 buttons including HVAC), but as it turns out, this development isn't the benefit the automaker would have you believe.

2014 Acura MDX SH-AWD2014 Acura MDX SH-AWD2014 Acura MDX SH-AWD

Aside from its problematic infotainment, though, the MDX offers a well thought-out interior. The controls are mostly concentrated around the bottom of the two displays, and are easy to reach. Visibility is excellent, as are this CUV's supportive, comfortable leather seats. The addition of both heating and cooling functions, as well as 10-way power adjustability, makes the MDX a great place to sit for extended periods. The second row is quite livable for adults, although the third row is primarily for smaller children, or perhaps amiable adults over short distances. Thankfully, accessing the cramped way-back seats is a one-touch affair, and they're also easy to fold for added storage space.

Fold the second row flat, and cargo space expands to an impressive 90.9 cubic feet.

In fact, the MDX is quite a versatile cargo hauler. There's 15.8 cubic feet of cargo space with the third row up, a number that grows to 45.1 cubic feet when in the five-passenger configuration. Fold the second row flat, and that cargo figure expands to an impressive 90.9 cubic feet.

Under the MDX's hood sits Acura's well-received, direct-injected 3.5-liter EarthDreams V6. With 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque available at 4,500 rpm, it's down on power and torque compared to the turbocharged BMW X5 xDrive35i (300 hp and 295 lb-ft) while the supercharged Audi Q7 offers up 22 extra pound-feet of torque but 10 fewer horses. The Acura does outgun its other three-row rival, the Infiniti QX60, which packs just 265 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque. The MDX also has a major trump card in the form of its curb weight – it's 130 pounds lighter than the all-wheel-drive QX60, 458 pounds lighter than an X5 and a whopping 860 pounds lighter than the Q7.

2014 Acura MDX SH-AWD2014 Acura MDX SH-AWD2014 Acura MDX SH-AWD2014 Acura MDX SH-AWD

60 miles per hour arrives in the mid-six-second range, which is slower than the X5, but noticeably quicker than the overweight Q7.

The powertrain, which includes a six-speed automatic and Acura's optional Super Handling All-Wheel Drive, is easily adaptable to the driver's whims thanks to the centrally located Integrated Dynamics System switch.

I've seen plenty of systems like this before, with each offering a variation on the MDX's simple Comfort, Normal and Sport modes. As is usually the case, the modes tweak the effort of a variety of systems. In this case, the three modes alter the level of the electric power-assisted steering, the sharpness of the throttle response, the transmission's shift map and the torque distribution of the all-wheel drive. While there are moderate changes in the way this crossover behaves when going from, say, Comfort to Sport, the differences aren't world-altering.

Throttle response in the MDX can best be described as linear and responsive, and it's never particularly dull or sharp, even when switched into Comfort or Sport mode. Power delivery, meanwhile, is solid thanks to the revvy V6. Low and mid-range punch is perfectly adequate, with a linear torque buildup that tapers off cleanly as the revs climb. There are no particular highs or lows here. 60 miles per hour arrives in the mid-six-second range, which is slower than the X5, but noticeably quicker than the overweight Q7.

2014 Acura MDX SH-AWD

As Senior Editor Steven Ewing pointed out in his First Drive, the sound that comes from the MDX's concealed tailpipes isn't quite as sweet as what was offered from last year's 3.7-liter V6, but there's not much to complain about. Acura's Active Sound Control system allows a bit more engine noise into the cabin with IDS toggled to Sport, although it's not as if the vehicle's audible personality goes from straight-laced luxury crossover to ear-piercing racer with the press of a button – the actual increase in volume is pretty subdued.

The 6AT does a fine job of distributing power to the ground through the Super Handling All-Wheel Drive.

The 3.5 is paired with a six-speed automatic. Yep, there's no seven- or eight-speed gearbox. But ignore this apparent shortcoming, as the 6AT does a fine job of distributing power to the ground through the Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system, with seamless upshifts and downshifts that involve a bare minimum of hunting for gears. Shifting the transmission into Sport (the trans' Sport mode is independent of the IDS) switches to a more aggressive shift map which holds gears slightly longer. Really, though, you'd be better off ignoring Sport and just switching into manual and working the wheel-mounted paddles. You can achieve the same effect and take advantage of the system's ability to snap off double downshifts with a couple quick pulls on the paddles.

Acura lists its all-wheel-drive MDX's fuel economy as 18 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. These are quite impressive numbers, besting the Infiniti's 25-mpg highway figure but falling just short of its 19-mpg city rating. Those EPA figures easily beat the Audi, which returns just 16 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway, while tying with the BMW. In my experience, I fell just north of the MDX's 21-mpg combined rating returning 22 mpg in mixed driving, a solid result.

2014 Acura MDX SH-AWD2014 Acura MDX SH-AWD

With an independent McPherson strut front suspension, a multi-link rear and amplitude reactive dampers at all four corners, the MDX certainly seems well sorted in the suspension department. And indeed, on smooth surfaces, the ride is comfortable. For this author, the MDX's composure completely falls apart, though, when speeds increase and the roads become less than perfect. Here, the MDX's suspension is too soft, with excessive vertical motion over bumps and imperfections. It porpoises down the freeway and feels particularly unsettled over road-spanning imperfections like expansion joints. That said, other Autoblog editors who have driven the MDX haven't reported this issue.

When presented with some bends, it's a competent dancer.

On the other hand, when presented with some bends, it's a competent dancer. There's not a lot of body roll, and thanks to the torque-vectoring SH-AWD shunting up to 70 percent of torque to the rear axle, it's easy to steer with the accelerator through turns (not that most three-row crossover owners would ever do such a thing). It feels neutral and despite my observed straight-line issues, it feels more planted when the suspension is loaded up. Feedback through the seat of the pants is pretty much absent, but that's par for the course with this type of vehicle.

My issues with its ride aside, the MDX is a quiet vehicle. Road noise from the 19-inch Michelin Latitude Tour HP tires is rarely an issue, even when hitting bigger imperfections. Thanks in large part to its class-leading drag coefficient and active noise cancellation technology, wind noise isn't much of an issue, either.

2014 Acura MDX SH-AWD2014 Acura MDX SH-AWD2014 Acura MDX SH-AWD2014 Acura MDX SH-AWD

The electric power-assisted steering is the one system in the MDX that is most heavily affected by the IDS setting.

The electric power-assisted steering is the one system in the MDX that is most heavily affected by the IDS setting. Its weighting varies quite a bit between Comfort and Sport, with the heaviest setting feeling the most natural to my hands. Comfort is just too effortless, lacking any real sense of weight from on center to turn-in to full lock. Sport, meanwhile, feels the most natural in the way weight builds. Again, this isn't a real shock, but feedback is limited.

Acura has opted for two-piston calipers and 12.6-inch rotors up front and single-piston units with larger 13-inch rotors in back. Despite this odd setup, you'll have no trouble bringing this 4,332-pound CUV to a halt. The brake pedal, meanwhile, is easy to modulate thanks in part to its wide range of travel.

Pricing for the 2014 MDX starts at $42,900, and the front-wheel drive base model comes well-equipped versus its peers. But if you're like me, you'll probably seek out a higher specification, and you'd do well to pay up for the optional all-wheel-drive system, as it enhances the way this crossover drives regardless of whether or not your area tends to see wintery weather. My SH-AWD tester was also outfitted with the Advance and Entertainment Packages, making it a bit dear, with prices starting at $56,505 (plus $985 destination charge). However, there are no options to choose from at this price point. Simply tell the salesman what color interior and exterior you want, write your check and be on your merry way.

2014 Acura MDX SH-AWD

For that $57,490, you'll net the aforementioned Milano leather seats complete with heating and ventilation functions up front, heated second-row seats, a nine-inch rear display with DVD player, 19-inch alloys, a very fine-sounding 12-speaker ELS audio system, remote start, collision mitigating auto-brake and everything else available on lesser models. That's extremely reasonable considering that a base X5 xDrive35i starts at $55,100 and an option-free, top-trim Q7 Prestige with the 3.0-liter, supercharged V6 starts at $60,900. It even matches up nicely against a loaded Infiniti QX60 AWD, which rings up at $56,995 with all its packages.

It's a truly smart buy, offering an excellent value in a market segment that isn't known for being affordable.

It's difficult to express just how good of a deal the MDX is with just starting prices, though. You'll need to compare it to equally equipped competition, which really highlights its value. Yes, this is a value at almost $60k. Build an X5 with comparable equipment and you're pushing $70,000. It's a similar story with the Q7, which can top $65k and still lack features like rear-seat entertainment and collision mitigation. Only the QX60 matches the MDX's price-to-content mix, although as I mentioned, it's heavier and less powerful, plus it has a continuously variable transmission and a suspension that will have you thinking "minivan" when driven hard.

I know, I know, I could have summed this all up earlier by saying "It's fine." And it is. The Acura MDX is a perfectly adequate machine that should be on the shopping list of every single consumer in the midsize luxury CUV segment, just like the Toyota Camry should be on the list of every single consumer in the midsize sedan segment. It's a truly smart buy, offering an excellent value in a market segment that isn't known for being affordable. But compared to much of its competition, it's not a particularly engaging vehicle to drive. It's not something likely to suddenly surprise you years down the road or even be something that you'll be excited to drive home after a long day at the office. For this driver, that's a big problem. But judging by the MDX's sales (which are actually up a full 70 percent so far this year), for most buyers in this segment, it doesn't appear to be a hindrance.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 101 Comments
      Susan
      • 7 Months Ago
      "18 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway." Considering that most of these will be driven in urban areas and in stop-and-go traffic, the 18 is not very impressive for this day and age. The real city mileage will probably be even worse when you consider how most of these CUV drivers blast off from lights and jerk to a stop at the next block - over and over.
      ferps
      • 7 Months Ago
      The truth is that most X5 and Q7 buyers wouldn't even bother to consider this because they don't think of Acura as a real luxury brand. Personally, I think anyone who really needs three rows should buy a minivan. Have you ever try climbing into the third row of an SUV?
        Max Deranged Max
        • 7 Months Ago
        @ferps
        "The truth is that most X5 and Q7 buyers wouldn't even bother to consider this because they don't think of Acura as a real luxury brand..." Audi is a luxury brand? I thought it was just an overpriced unreliable crapwagen. And I seriously prefer to buy an overpriced Honda wich is at least a totally reliable car rather than a crapwagen.
          Brandon
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Max Deranged Max
          Most luxury brands are overpriced. But some are worth paying for unlike most of the Acura brand. I do however like The MDX, its definitely a nice crossover.
        Susan
        • 7 Months Ago
        @ferps
        The infatuation with the three-row CUV thing is absurd, because, as you wrote, a minivan carries that number of passengers in more comfort and better fuel economy (usually). And why do people claim they would never drive a minivan? Because their parents drove one? Gosh, it's terrible to be associated with one's parents.
        Typesbad
        • 7 Months Ago
        @ferps
        I like minivans as well, but try to find one that tows over 3500 lb. So I have one of these now. Much older though.
      Spartan
      • 7 Months Ago
      I'm not sure what you guys are/were expecting, but there's nothing exciting about the Acura MDX or any of its competitors. It does everything it's supposed to do well, much like its competitors that just happen to have different brand names and look different. There's not a PROFITABLE market for a canyon carving CUV. Acura is catering to the Camry crowd that wants a premium CUV. This hits the mark. Only on an enthusiast forum like this will we see the extremes in voting where if you call it dull, up votes galore but if you praise it, down votes galore because it doesn't go around the 'ring in less than 8 minutes and it weights too much.
      normc32
      • 7 Months Ago
      Is Acura really luxury?
        Rob
        • 7 Months Ago
        @normc32
        No it is premium with a luxury price tag. Aggressive lease deals will keep the soccer mommies coming
          BodyBlue
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Rob
          GAG, like BMW 1s and 3s with plastic seats are luxury? And please dont tell me they dont have aggressive lease deals as well. When the Lexus LS came out, all of the Euro-weenies complained that it really wasn't "luxury". Its just another form of Euro-snobbery. Its was BS back then and BS now.
          Rob
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Rob
          @Bodyblue. I would not give the X1 and X3 the time of day and I agree with you.
      Andrew
      • 7 Months Ago
      Why bother the SRX destroys thus in every category
        Fadic4
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Andrew
        Specially in rear seat room right? Comfort too along with mpg and speed also the srx being a GM car is known for its amazing relialbitly and lack of recalls. It's also a lot safer than the mdx right?? And the awd system that gm uses is years ahead of acuras sh-awd and also the build quality of the rsx makes the Acura look like garbage right? Do some research Honestly the only reason you'd get a srx over an mdx is you can't afford and mdx.or you could be retarded.
      SlothLovesChunk
      • 7 Months Ago
      extremely bland and boring. It doesn't look like a luxury vehicle at all. Another boring Honda with a ugly beak.
        pavsterrocks
        • 7 Months Ago
        @SlothLovesChunk
        Acura is not a luxury car. Just because they call it luxury doesn't make it so. It just has a more expensive base trim than other Hondas, but you can spec other Hondas to have similar levels of 'luxury'.
          6thGear
          • 7 Months Ago
          @pavsterrocks
          What makes a brand luxury? heritage or features offered?
        Fadic4
        • 7 Months Ago
        @SlothLovesChunk
        I'm sure Honda and Acura are losing sleep over your disapproval while they take in all those profits. Also I'm sure you were very close to buying it but turned away Because of the bland styling right?
      eli
      • 7 Months Ago
      why does acura insist on using those fugly headlights?
        Hello, Brian
        • 7 Months Ago
        @eli
        The same reason they insist on the fugly grille, I guess. It is better than the old beak, but attractive it is not.
      Avinash Machado
      • 7 Months Ago
      Just an average car.Nothing earth shattering or innovative.
      Jason
      • 7 Months Ago
      I tested the MDX before purchasing a 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited Eco-Diesel. The MDX was nice with quality materials, but I like the previous versions proportions better. The new one feels fat in comparison.
      mary.keana
      • 7 Months Ago
      hates can hate all they want. RDX has shot up to best selling luxury vehicle in Canada. Beating out the 3-series, Lexus RX...
        churchmotor
        • 7 Months Ago
        @mary.keana
        yonomo's head is about to pop off with the daily news of GM recalls. He's in a bad mood.
      mary.keana
      • 7 Months Ago
      Meanwhile, as the "haters" spawn their ignorance on Autoblog, Acura is selling every MDX they can build. And without incentives, or cash on the hood. Acura is laughing all the way to the bank while you show your ignorance here on Autoblog thinking you make a difference.
        • 7 Months Ago
        @mary.keana
        [blocked]
      Turbo_S60
      • 7 Months Ago
      If you want a 3 row crossover with "polarizing" looks and more power you could always pick up a Lincoln MKT. Plus chances are you won't run into another one.
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