2014 MDX New Car Test Drive
The 2014 Acura MDX is the third generation of this seven-passenger luxury crossover with high performance. For all its years until now, the unibody MDX was built on Honda's Global Light Truck platform. The 2014 model is the first ground-up MDX, and boy is it ever ground-up. Everything is new, everything mechanical is better. And it was very good, before. For this new MDX, engineers focused on three areas: fuel mileage, comfort and safety.
Compared to the previous version (2007-2012), the 2014 MDX has quicker acceleration, better fuel mileage, more room and comfort inside, tighter dimensions outside, nimbler handling, shorter stopping distances, and improved ride.
The 2014 MDX is two inches longer, on a wheelbase that's 2.8 inches longer, than the previous-generation MDX. It's 1.5 inches lower and 1.4 inches narrower at the nose; 1.8 inches lower at the sides, 1.3 inches at the hips, and 1.2 in the tail. Longer, lower, narrower. Driven by aerodynamics, driven by fuel mileage. Win-win.
Here's an MDX first: front-wheel drive. For years, we've been hearing about Super Handling All-Wheel Drive. Has Acura lowered its Super standards? No, don't forget about Texas. We used to think you didn't need all-wheel drive in Florida too, but that was before the floods.
The front-wheel-drive MDX is EPA-rated at 28 mpg Highway, numbers apparently worth stealing the power from two wheels for. That's 23 mpg Combined city and highway, compared to the SH-AWD at 21 mpg Combined. Texans, you're good with FWD. Unless the droughts turn the streets to sand. We recommend getting the all-wheel drive for most people, however. It seems a shame not to have all-weather capability on an SUV.
The all-new 2014 Acura MDX is 275 pounds lighter than before, like a 120-pound person losing eight pounds. The weight dropped from the best place, the core, now with 64 percent high-strength steel, aluminum and magnesium. That plus the 16 percent improvement in aerodynamics, and the 19 percent reduction in rolling resistance, and we're talking real gains. Now the car weighs about a football player more than two tons.
The body of the 2014 MDX was developed using a new 40-percent-scale wind tunnel laboratory at Honda's U.S. R&D facilities in Ohio. With a rolling ground plane and computer modeling, engineers worked on the underbody and airflow through the engine compartment, as well as the skin, to get the coefficient of drag down.
For sharper response and isolation of road noise and vibration, the torsional body rigidity is up 12.4 percent. The new electric power steering ratio is quick. The new suspension, struts in front and multi-link in rear, is attached to lighter and more rigid subframes, with suspension mounting points 67 percent more rigid. The shock absorbers are fancily called Amplitude Reactive Dampers, because they use variable damping rates depending on the terrain and speed. It all makes for a more solid, comfortable and in-control ride.
Of course the gains move to the engine. The new 3.5-liter V6 is Acura's first direct-injected engine, incorporating a new i-VTEC valvetrain with two-stage Variable Cylinder Management, cutting the fire to three cylinders at times. The engine architecture comes from racing, specifically the LMP2 class Acura prototypes that took first and second in the 2103 American Le Mans Series, including a sweep at the 12 Hours of Sebring.
The 60-degree aluminum V6 is single overhead cam, with 24 valves. It makes 290 horsepower, 10 less than before. The peak torque of 267 foot-pounds drops a bit too, but there's more torque below 2750 rpm. Bottom line is you'll never feel the loss, but will feel the gain. The outgoing engine was 3.7 liters, so the new 3.5-liter engine makes more horsepower and torque per liter. The engine is mounted transversely, which improves balance enormously.
There's a reengineered 6-speed automatic transmission with three modes and paddle shifters, smooth gear changes and reduced internal friction. There's Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive, moving torque between the front and rear axles, and the left and right rear wheels, to deliver all-weather traction and control. The SH-AWD gets an EPA-estimated 18/27 mpg City/Highway, or 21 miles per gallon Combined. Premium gasoline is recommended. Direct injection engines manage fuel in a precise manner, but their higher compression ratio wants the best gas.
The MDX body uses Acura's Advance Compatibility Engineering (ACE) structure, to absorb and deflect frontal crash energy, isolating the cabin from it. Acura designed the ACE structure in 2007 with the second-generation MDX. The new 2014 MDX features the world's first ultra-high strength hot stamped steel, one-piece stiffener ring for the driver and front passenger front door areas, from the A-pillar to roof rails to B-pillars to lower frame members.
Acura expects the 2014 MDX to earn a five-star Overall Vehicle Score from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and a TOP SAFETY PICK+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), including the highest rating of GOOD in the Institute's stringent new small overlap frontal collision test.
The 2014 Acura MDX ($42,290) comes standard with front-wheel drive. MDX SH-AWD ($44,290) adds all-wheel drive. (All prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which may change at any time without notice, and do not include $895 destination charge.)
Acura MDX ($42,290) 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, message center, trip computer, AM/FM/CD/MP3 sound system, XM satellite radio, Bluetooth, auxiliary audio input, and split-folding rear seats. Front-wheel drive is standard.
MDX with Technology Package ($46,565) 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, USB port; MDX with Technology and Entertainment Packages ($48,565) adds to this a Rear Entertainment System that includes a motorized 9-inch VGA screen DVD rear-seat entertainment system, heated second-row seats, and 115-volt AC power outlet.
MDX with Advance and Entertainment Packages ($54,505) includes the Technology and Entertainment Packages 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.
MDX SH-AWD ($44,290) adds all-wheel drive to the MDX features. Equipped identically as above, MDX SH-AWD is available with Technology Package ($48,565), Technology and Entertainment Packages ($50,565), and Advance and Entertainment Packages ($56,505).
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.