The new MDX is a welcomed contender in the luxury crossover segment.
Shamelessly dubbed the SUV with supercar DNA, for 2017 the Acura MDX is refreshed with sharper lines and finer luxury appointments, proving to be a welcomed facelift to the popular family hauler. The new generation of MDX prolongs an already successful career in this segment, going head to head with competitors in an aggressive market. It seems as though every day there’s a new sport-utility-vehicle being announced. In a world where massive utes are slowly disappearing, we find new crossover alternatives making moves with buyers looking for flexible passenger capacity. This new one, the 2017 Acura MDX Elite SH-AWD, is jammed with tech and sports a flurry of features that dare to compare with the likes of the big three from Germany.
The striking new exterior makes you ponder for a few seconds, questioning why you’ve never before taken a second look at Acura. Quite possibly my favorite cues are found on the new hood; three distinct lines that span across the surface, emphasizing the new design culture that Acura has adopted. The most prevalent piece that has changed with the design language is the new fascia. The grill drops the old signature silver bar featuring the Acura logo, now replaced by a much larger central emblem surrounded by black diamond shapes, seemingly shooting outwards from the logo. Our tester, the Elite, comes with LED fog lights integrated into the bumper trim.
The Elite trim also comes with a set of two-tone 20” wheels mounted on 245/50 Continental CrossContact tires. For added traction, Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system (SH-AWD) can intuitively sense varying driving conditions and alter driving characteristics by sending up to 70% of available torque to the rear wheels. With that, the system can also choose to send 100% of torque to either one of the rear wheels, whichever has the most traction available.
But of course, all this means nothing without a powerplant to propel the big Acura forward. Under the hood we find the 3.5L i-VTEC V6 motor capable of spewing out 290 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque, mated to Acura’s new ZF-built nine-speed automatic transmission (reviewed here). The transmission has sequential SportShift with paddle shifters for spirited adventures. There is also a standard Sport mode which increases throttle response and rev limit before upshifts, and then there are three additional driving modes are made available via the IDS (Integrated Dynamics System) selector; Comfort, Normal, and Sport.
I spent the majority of my time in the Comfort setting, as this provided the smoothest ride, something I particularly like when it comes to SUVs of this caliber. The opposite side of the spectrum is found within the rather “dynamic” Sport mode, which stiffens up the suspension and tightens up the electrically assisted power steering. You’d think this would be the more enjoyable mode of them all, however, this mode also changes the throttle response. It actually transforms the MDX into a character that jerks forward with the slightest touch of the pedal.
Does it require premium fuel? The answer is yes; for optimal performance it is recommended that 91-octane premium fuel be used when filling the tank. Acura rates their 3.5L motor on the MDX at at 12.7L/100km city and 9.1L/100km highway. During our weeklong test period, I averaged 10.9L/100km in combined driving on the recommended premium grade, and saw highway trips deliver as little as 9.0L/100km. As expected, driving conditions and varying driving habits will affect the rate at which fuel is consumed.
The interior appointments are a welcomed upgrade from previous models. Black leather shells certain dash surfaces and seating arrangements, accompanied by nicely contrasted metal trim and satin-finish wood. Our tester was optioned with the standard seven-seat arrangement, with an option for a six-seat setup. This eliminates the second row bench and replaces it with separate captain’s chairs. For rear entertainment, our tester was equipped with the 16.2-inch display, which at a push of a button can display split screen content so rear passengers can enjoy separate audio. The 10-speaker ELS Studio system does a phenomenal job at filling the cabin with crisp sound, and theatre-like quality.
The dashboard mounted AcuraLink infotainment system, which two separate screens that display a multitude of information and a bunch of different options to push, is rather anoying. Not only is this two-screen display redundant, it’s way too complicated to manipulate for most people. Ease of use is ultimately the most important aspect for any infotainment in any vehicle, and this system is just too much to handle. It’s important to note as well that the voice activated navigation system does not allow inputting a unique address. At no point was I able to say something along the lines of “enter destination” or “find address”. To input a new address, the vehicle must be stopped and your location must manually type via the touchscreen display.
Bottom line, the new 2017 Acura MDX Elite SH-AWD is a welcomed contender in the luxury crossover segment. It rivals the Audi Q7 (reviewed here), the Volvo XC90, and the BMW X5. It comes in as the most cost-efficient option with a fully loaded price of $65,750. By no means is the MDX a disappointment other than the fact that the center stack is too complicated for its own good.That being said, the MDX is an attractive option for those looking to spend under $70,000 for a premium sport utility vehicle with plenty to offer.