You may not have noticed, but the Acura MDX has been around for over two decades. It struck a niche amongst Canadian families not only as a sporty crossover, but also a posh minivan alternative. Since then, minivans have faded in popularity while Canadians just cannot seem to get enough of midsize, three-row luxury SUVs. Does the latest 2024 Acura MDX Platinum Elite have what it takes to stay relevant in this ever-competitive segment?
The MDX, now in its fourth generation, evolved gracefully into an attractive midsize crossover. After some awkward years where we had to endure its over-styled front fascia, the current model finally gets it right. We like the striking design with its slim headlights and tasteful creases and folds, and its overall silhouette is far sportier than most other three-row crossovers on the road today.
Powering the MDX is Acura’s tried-and-true, normally aspirated 3.5-litre V6, putting out 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. The nine-speed automatic in the previous-generation MDX has been replaced with a new 10-speed unit, resulting in better fuel economy and even smoother acceleration. When compared to many of its peers using turbocharged engines for immediate power and response, the MDX feels more relaxed and right at home cruising on the highway.
The biggest knock against the MDX has always been its fuel economy. Acura knows they have their backs against the wall, with hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and fully electric options saturating the premium three-row SUV segment. While you can’t buy an electrified MDX just yet, Acura has ensured the new engine and transmission combo at least improves fuel economy. The rated 11.2L/100 km combined figure is respectable given its size, and not far off from what we observed. To our surprise, the MDX can use regular-grade fuel for its 70-litre tank, despite the 91-octane recommendation sticker on the fuel door.
In terms of handling, the MDX is set up softer than most of its European competitors. The steering, while responsive, feels too electrically assisted and we observed perhaps a bit more body roll than we would have expected. You can feel the stiff chassis and adaptive dampers working to maintain body control, but you can also feel the weight transferring when you enter into a corner hot. To Acura’s credit, we observed notable differences between each drive mode, with Sport being our favourite setting throughout the week. For those looking to tow, the MDX is rated for up to 5,000 pounds.
Inside the MDX, we liked the cockpit design; it is not quite as minimalistic as some of the competition, but the clean layout is still quite aesthetically pleasing. A widescreen sits atop the dashboard at a height that is easy to see without obstructing the road ahead, and we liked that the climate control has retained the physical control buttons for easy adjustment on the fly.
Unfortunately, the infotainment is not nearly as user-friendly. Acura’s so-called True Touchpad Interface accepts commands using a touchpad on the centre console that corresponds to the location of any menus or prompts on the screen. This layout is fine on the home screen, as the screen is divided into eight equal-sized squares, so pinpointing what you want to select is easy, even with the MDX in motion.
But inside the sub menus, where the prompts are sometimes found in off-centre locations, is where navigating the system becomes challenging. It gets even more confusing when Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is running, where the point-and-click functionality suddenly becomes a more traditional click-and-drag.
Infotainment aside, the Acura MDX is actually a good place to spend time. The Platinum Elite trim’s 16-speaker ELS Studio surround sound system fills the cabin with above average sound quality. There is good space on the first two rows, and if you don’t need the third row on road trips with the family, the 1,367 litres of cargo space behind the second row is practical. When you do need the third row, it is cramped for adults, but that is a common shortcoming for SUVs of this size. For larger families who need seating for more than five people, a minivan is still the best mode of transportation.
The MDX comes standard with all the latest version of the AcuraWatch suite of driver assists, including Adaptive Cruise Control, Road Departure Mitigation, Traffic Jam Assist, Pedestrian Detection, and Driver Attention Monitor. The high-resolution 360-degree camera system was excellent to use especially in low light situations, and made parking easy when combined with Acura’s new automatic braking system called Low Speed Braking Control. This new system helps drivers not only by warning them of the distance to the obstacles, but it would also apply the brakes if you get too close.
Pricing for the MDX ranges from $64,680 for the base Tech trim, all the way up to $85,680 for the range-topping Type S Ultra. At $71,680 as-tested, our Platinum Elite model sits near the top of the lineup; you get amenities such as a heads-up display, 16-way power-adjustable front seats that are heated and ventillated, plus the aforementioned driver assists, ELS Studio sound system, and much more.
We like the 2024 Acura MDX Platinum Elite’s sporty styling, feature content, and upscale environment, but competition is steep at this price point. The Infiniti QX60 presents better value, its European competitors offer better driving dynamics albeit for more money, and the upcoming Lexus TX offers a wide range of powertrain options, including a hybrid. The MDX is a good choice in and of itself, but as the competition quickly evolves, the MDX needs to do so as well sooner rather than later.