2012 MDX New Car Test Drive
The Acura MDX is a luxury mid-size SUV, a crossover with all-wheel drive, efficient use of space, decent operating economy, and better-than-average warranty and resale value. It's comfortable, with great seats, and it handles well for a sport-utility.
The MDX was last redesigned for 2007, and benefitted from significant changes for the 2010 model year. It's unchanged for 2011. MDX features bold styling that came with other significant changes in 2010, when it grew by one inch and 19-inch wheels were made available. It also got a new 6-speed automatic transmission for 2010, a revised version of its smooth and powerful V6, and chassis refinements including a retuned Active Damper System.
We drove a 2011 MDX Advance model, which has thicker antiroll bars to help it corner flatter and turn better. We found it does that superbly.
The MDX is built on a unibody platform. It's neither an adaptation of a passenger car platform nor a truck-based platform. It's not as long as other seven-seat SUVs, being closer in size to five-seat crossovers, but it still has good cargo space. It's a solid structure that has proven to wear well, while offering a more comfortable ride and better handling than truck-based SUVs. We carried six high-school soccer players on a 200-mile trip, and they loved it, never complaining about tight quarters.
From its wild chrome grille to its elaborately stylish cat's-eye headlamps and new bumper, the MDX continues to be edgy, figuratively and literally. It's quickly and easily identified as an Acura, and generally presents a wide stance.
The seats are laid out in three rows to accommodate seven people; flexible loading and appropriate materials make it family friendly. The front leather bucket seats are the best in the business. It brings enough features to sate most technophiles, yet doesn't get too carried away with aids and assists.
Acura's silky 3.7-liter V6 is the most powerful in its class, while getting an EPA-rated 16/21 miles per gallon City/Highway. There is no V8 option (nor hybrid nor diesel), but with 300 horsepower from the brilliant V6 engine, it's not necessary.
The all-wheel drive system can drive each rear wheel independently for maximum traction and to help drive the MDX around a bend. Acura calls the sophisticated system SH-AWD, for Super Handling All-Wheel Drive, and it's no lie. Handling is superb and the ride taut, with both comfort and performance enhanced on the Advance model.
The Acura MDX competes primarily with the Audi Q7, BMW X5, Cadillac SRX, Lexus RX 350, Mercedes-Benz GL and ML, Volvo XC90, Infiniti FX, Lincoln MKT, and Porsche Cayenne. U.S. News and World Report ranks it first among these vehicles.
The 2011 Acura MDX ($42,580) comes standard with leather upholstery in the first two rows, three-zone climate control, power heated front seats with driver memory, power windows, power locks, power mirrors, power tailgate, console, cruise control, rearview camera in mirror, message center, trip computer, AM/FM/CD/MP3 sound system, XM satellite radio, Bluetooth, auxiliary audio input, and split-folding rear seats.
The MDX with Technology Package ($46,255) adds hard disc navigation with VGA screen, AcuraLink communications, real-time weather (with climate-control link) and traffic, 410-watt 10-speaker Acura ELS surround sound system, multi-view rearview camera, and USB port.
The MDX with Advance Package ($52,205) includes the Technology Package and adds an active damper system, adaptive cruise control with collision mitigation braking system, blind spot information system, ventilated front seats in perforated Milano leather, and 19-inch wheels.
A Rear Entertainment System (RES) is available on Technology ($48,155) and Advance ($54,105) models that adds a motorized 9-inch VGA screen DVD rear-seat entertainment system, heated second-row seats, and 115-volt AC power outlet.
Safety equipment includes two-stage frontal air bags and active head restraints, two-stage driver and front-passenger knee bolsters, front-seat side-impact air bags, and three-row side-curtain air bags with rollover triggering. Active safety features, designed to help the driver avoid accidents in the first place, include all-wheel-drive, electronic stability control, and anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist for panic stops.