2014 Acura MDX

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Date Posted: July 2, 2013
By Zack Spencer

Acura's best selling vehicle has been updated to provide more of what made it successful.

The Scoop

Being the first to market is an advantage that can have a long lasting effect. Case in point is the Acura MDX. It was the very first mid-sized luxury SUV to come with three-rows of seats, allowing room for seven people. For an average 4-person family, the ability to use the third row, in a pinch, has allowed additional kids the ability to catch a ride to the soccer pitch or hockey arena. Ever since the MDX made its debut in the early part of the last decade, it has been Acura's best selling vehicle. Not only was the MDX an early adopter of three standard rows of seats, it has continued to be one of a few premium brands with the same claim. The Infiniti JX is a recent entry into this market but if you compare other premium offerings, you have to buy a bigger vehicle, like the GL-Class from Mercedes or pay a hefty fee to equip a mid-sized SUV with additional seating. The MDX has also been a winner due to the strong value it offers over the more expensive German competition.

The Skin

At first glance it is easy to tell that this is an MDX. The most prominent part of the previous design was the large ''shield'' grille design. Even in light of its polarizing design it has been embraced by Acura's executives and carried over. It should be pointed out that Acura has toned down the blunt approach for a softer look. LED headlights also make a big part of this new MDX, with a duel line of high-beam and low-beam lights that look elegant and modern. The chassis and body is all new for 2014, providing a longer, lower stance that looks more sedan-like but provides many advantages for passengers. The MDX is 5cm longer overall but the wheelbase has been stretched by 7cm. The roofline is lower, as is the step-in height, which is especially helpful for small children and older passengers. All MDX come with a power rear lift gate and rear view camera, plus Acura's Super Handling All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD), which is not the case south of the border, they have a less expensive FWD model.

The Cockpit

The most noticeable changes are inside the large and open feeling cabin. The second row of seats now have a one-touch spring-loaded seat mechanism that slides the seat forward and flips the seatbacks up for easy access to the third row. This can also be done while sitting in the back seat. Since this MDX will most likely be used as a 5-passenger vehicle with the two extra seats used infrequently, the second row also slides back and forth by 15cm for extra third row legroom. In addition, the floor is completely flat (no hump in the middle), which is perfect for loading in and out children. The rear door opening is also larger but the big doors might be a bit of a liability in tight parking spots. For front seat passengers there is a whole new computer interface to try and master. I drove the MDX for a week and still found it confusing, mostly due to the integration of two screens, when most manufactures stick with one. It does provide a high-end look and the materials are all first rate, plus every MDX comes with heated leather seats and even a heated steering wheel

The Ride

In a race to produce powerful and efficient engines, the trend has been to utilizing direct injection technology. It is hard to believe that this MDX is Acura's first direct injection engine, but the wait was worth it. Horsepower is down from the 300hp 2013 model, now rated at 290hp. What direct injection has been able to achieve is an 8% bump in low-to-mid range torque and a whopping 21% improvement in overall fuel economy. The engine is smaller, down from 3.7L to 3.5L but the overall drivability is sharper and engaging. The driver has the ability to place the 6-speed automatic in sport mode for longer gearshifts or utilize the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. The ride seems a bit softer to me and the cabin is very quiet, all leading to a more muted feel, compared to the more dynamic 2013 model. The approach is more luxurious, almost sedan like, which some will appreciate. I found the ride a bit dull. The standard SH-AWD does help provide added grip and cornering ability but the longer wheelbase and plushness of this MDX doesn't inspire.

Verdict

With a starting price of $49,990, the MDX has a strong case for anyone's money in the luxury SUV front. The new Infiniti JX is a strong competitor and less expensive, starting at $44,900 but that vehicle is less powerful. Compared to the German rivals, the MDX has always been a winner and this 2014 model is no different. Other trim levels include the Navi model for $54,690, the Tech package at $59,990 and the top model, called Elite for $65,990. Other than the softer, smooth ride, Acura has taken what has worked for them in the past and improved on each aspect. The third-row feature is better than before, with easier access for all. The engine has very usable power, yet it is more fuel-efficient and the standard features list is impressive. If you don't need the third row of seats, the smaller RDX has recently been updated to include a V6 engine and a vastly improved interior. Both are great value for the money.

The Good, The Bad

Good:

Fantastic room for all passengers, plus great standard features.

Bad:

Acura has gone a bit soft with this MDX and the dash takes a while to master.

The Lowdown

Power3.5L V6 with 290hp

Backup: 4-year/80,000km

Fill-up: 11.2L/7.7L/100km (city/highway)

Sticker price: $49,990-$65,990

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