One of the best in the segment | The large, luxurious SUV segment is one that’s pretty heavily populated.
We love the Acura MDX. Last year, we used a 2014 model as our chariot to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and it was one of the best choices we’ve made for that trip to this day. The new MDX is so good that one of our staff writers has actually picked one up as his family vehicle. I’ve already tested the 2014 model, but I enjoy it so much that I decided to book a 2015 Acura MDX Elite and conduct a winter test on it to see how it holds up to some commuting up north.
My day job regularly takes me into the wintery wonderland that is the Niagara region, so it’s always nice when I have a luxurious SUV with a good amount of ground clearance to do this commute. The MDX, starting at just over $50,000, has become an increasingly popular choice for families with an active lifestyle. It definitely offers interior trimmings and exterior styling that’s right in line with the price it commands, a true premium option in this segment. We compared it directly with the Volkswagen Touareg we recently tested, and the only significant difference we could find is that the MDX has an extra row of seating, and lacks a diesel option. Other than that, these are the two best choices in the class.
The only available engine choice in the big kahuna from Acura is a direct-injected 3.5L V6 that’s consistent throughout the lineup, also available on the RLX, the TLX, and the RDX. Competitors like the Infiniti QX60 offer similar engine displacement, but feel considerably more sluggish on straight-line acceleration. The MDX is good for 290 horsepower at 6200rpm, and 267 lb-ft of torque at 4500rpm. The 6-speed automatic transmission is very good, but we’re hoping to see a refresh in a couple years with the TLX’s new 9-speed automatic, after it’s been refined a little bit more. This should help drastically with efficiency. The MDX does offer paddle shifters that allow the drive to shift manually if he/she so chooses.
You know, for a three-row SUV, the Acura actually is a very competent performer. When the MDX was redesigned for the 2014 model year, our team was invited to push it to its limits in a closed-course track setting. My editor drove it and raved about how it was the most fun he’d ever had in a big Japanese SUV. With the latest MDX being so good while remaining efficient, trucks like the Lexus RX begin to look even more dated. Making full use of the IDS system and doing quite a bit of highway driving, I was seeing fuel economy numbers in the 8L/100km range. My combined mileage for the week was 10.6L/100km with a healthy mix of city driving.
I really can’t throw enough praise towards Acura’s Super-Handling-All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) system. It’s able to sense road conditions and choose where to send more torque between the front and the rear, stabilizing the SUV in the best way possible where required. Even when dealing with harsh winter conditions including complete whiteouts and a considerable amount of black ice, the Acura never skipped a beat. My tester was equipped with winter tires on 19” alloy wheels. Disabling the stability control systems is easily done, and the MDX powers through anything you throw at it. It’s even relatively easy to induce some oversteer and have a huge smile on your face through every blizzard you drive through.
Acura handed me a fully-loaded MDX, an Elite model ($64,290) with SH-AWD and literally all of the gizmos and gadgets available on this truck. It would take me half my allocated space for this review to go through all the features, so I’ll try to keep it concise. The Elite package adds the 16.2” Ultrawide rear entertainment system with HDMI, a 546-watt ELS premium audio system, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, factory remote starter, surround view cameras, and cooled front seats. Included on this model are things like auto-leveling headlights, heated front and second row seats, rear side sunshades, Acura navigation system with two screens, blind spot information, and rain-sensing wipers. The standard things we expect from a luxury vehicle such as full leather seats and a sunroof are also on board.
When cruising down the highway, the Acura MDX is among the most comfortable vehicles available. The seats are incredibly comfortable, and the driving position is upright and ergonomically perfect. I did find the headrests a bit too hard for my liking, but everything else is so on point that this can be very easily overlooked. Acura has simplified access into the third row too, with one-touch access that flips and slides forward the second row seat. The second row is just fine for full-sized adults, and as expected, third row accommodations are really for kids only. The third row does eat into trunk space pretty heavily, but I expect most MDX buyers to keep that row folded flat unless it’s really needed.
The large, luxurious SUV segment is one that’s pretty heavily populated. However, it’s difficult to see how some vehicles are aimed to compete against one another. The Lexus RX doesn’t offer three-row seating; in order to do that with Lexus, one must opt for the V8-powered GX460. The Mercedes-Benz GLE is in the same boat with two rows only, as is the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The Audi Q7 does offer that last row, but it can get significantly pricier when comparably equipped. The MDX offers a great deal of options for not very much money, and Honda/Acura offers aggressive lease and finance options that make this SUV attainable without much fuss for most serious shoppers. With great fuel economy, a solid all-wheel-drive system, and a reliability record that’s significantly better than most competitors, it’s not hard for this bestseller to make a case for itself.