Acura MDX Review

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The first Acura MDX arrived when most luxury SUVs still featured body-on-frame construction and the term "crossover" was but a glimmer in some marketer's eye. At the same time, the midsize MDX bettered other car-based luxury SUVs by offering a standard third row of seats that folded neatly into the cargo floor.

The second-generation MDX maintained that family-friendly packaging but spiced up the recipe with styling, performance and handling enhancements. Most significantly, this model had a more powerful engine and an all-wheel-drive system called Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) that gave it notably athletic handling. The current, third-generation MDX is similar, but goes a few steps further, with even more convenience features, better performance and higher fuel efficiency.

New or used, the Acura MDX is one of our top recommendations for a family-oriented luxury crossover SUV. In areas that are most important to the midsize luxury SUV consumer, such as comfort, versatility and refinement, the MDX excels. And with the second- and third-generation models, Acura offers an exciting driver's SUV that can easily be mentioned in the same sentence as BMW's X5 or Porsche's Cayenne.

Current Acura MDX
The Acura MDX is a midsize luxury SUV that seats seven. It's powered by a 3.5-liter V6 with 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque, running through a six-speed automatic transmission. Unlike with previous generations, front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive (SH-AWD) available as an option. As such, those who don't need AWD have a less expensive and more fuel-efficient MDX to consider.

A single, well-appointed trim is offered, with progressive add-on packages. Standard features include a power liftgate, keyless ignition and entry, heated eight-way power front seats (with driver power lumbar), leather upholstery, tri-zone automatic climate control and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Electronics features include a multi-angle rearview camera, Bluetooth phone connectivity and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, an iPod/USB interface, a Pandora radio interface and satellite radio. The Technology package adds amenities like a navigation system and voice controls. With the Technology and Entertainment package, you get added features like heated rear seats and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system. The Advance and Entertainment package gets you an upgraded entertainment system as well as a suite of safety features such as parking sensors, a collision-mitigation braking system and lane-keeping assist.

In reviews of the Acura MDX, we've found it to be a polished performer, as it remains one of the more enjoyable luxury crossovers to drive. The steering (in normal mode) is lighter and gives this midsize luxury SUV a less connected feel than before. But a "Sport" mode changes this, providing notably better feel and response. The ride is commendable as well, being quieter at higher speeds and more forgiving over broken pavement than previously.

As expected, the cabin is inviting. The second-row seat slides forward with the touch of a button, easing access to third-row seats that are roomier than in previous generations but still mostly ideal for kids. On the dash, there's an easy-to-use 7-inch touchscreen control interface and an even larger display screen above for the MDX's comprehensive infotainment system. With 15.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind its third row, the MDX trails its competition when all three rows are in use. However, its maximum cargo capacity of 90.9 cubic feet is impressive.

Used Acura MDX Models
The second-generation Acura MDX debuted for 2007 and ran through 2013. Apart from a refresh for 2010, changes were minimal. That refresh brought revised styling (which included the infamous corporate grille), a six-speed transmission (replaced the former five-speed unit), a hard-drive-based navigation system and a multi-angle back-up camera.

Compared to the first-generation model, this MDX provided sportier, more entertaining performance and handling characteristics along with respectable practicality. A 300-hp 3.7-liter V6 and a five-speed (later six-speed as noted above) automatic transmission provided spirited acceleration, while Acura's standard "Super-Handling" All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) system improved both traction in bad weather and handling on dry pavement. The secret was its ability to transfer up to 100 percent of the power to just one wheel, depending on conditions. It also allowed the outer wheels to accelerate more quickly through a turn to give the MDX sharper handling on curvy roads.

Standard features were generous, and highlights included leather seating, a sunroof, a power tailgate, satellite radio, a rearview camera and Bluetooth phone connectivity. Optional highlights included a navigation system, an active sport suspension, adaptive cruise control, a blind-spot detection system and Acura's Collision Mitigating Braking System. The latter warns the driver (via visual and auditory warnings) if a collision seems imminent, and if it is, will automatically apply full braking power.

This MDX's mix of sport sedan handling and crossover utility certainly makes it one of the best picks for a used luxury SUV. The only weak point is the third-row accommodations. Though there's respectable room for children or smaller adults (certainly more than in the BMW X5), it isn't as roomy as large, non-premium brand crossovers such as the Buick Enclave/GMC Acadia or the Mazda CX-9. There is cargo space aplenty, however. When the third row is folded flat, there are 43 cubic feet available. Drop both the second and third rows and you'll have 84 cubic feet.

The first-generation Acura MDX bowed in 2001, sharing a unibody platform with the second-generation Honda Odyssey and the first-generation Honda Pilot. It came standard with a 240-hp 3.5-liter V6 and an all-wheel-drive system that automatically transferred power front and back for optimal grip. Three rows of seats were standard in this seven-passenger midsize SUV, and as with all Acuras, there was a high level of standard equipment. A touring package added an upgraded stereo, roof racks and dual power front seats. A navigation system was a stand-alone option.

In 2003, power was boosted by 20 horses. The chassis was also strengthened, the suspension retuned and the brakes upgraded. The navigation option became a package that included voice activation and a rearview camera. A DVD entertainment system became available. Power was upgraded again in 2004 to 265 hp, while the exterior and interior received a midlife freshening. Upgraded electronic features and improved materials brought the MDX's level of luxury closer to Acura's newer products. Meanwhile, side curtain airbags and a tire-pressure monitor increased the MDX's already impressive safety credentials. The 2005 model year saw the addition of standard satellite radio, available Bluetooth on Touring models and an upgraded navigation system. In 2006, new SAE horsepower testing procedures dropped output to 253, but real-world performance did not change.

At the time, our reviewers commented favorably about the MDX's seven-passenger capacity, top crash test scores and affordable price. Downsides included a below-average tow rating, ho-hum interior materials and a perceived lack of prestige compared to more elegant rivals like the BMW X5 and Lexus RX. Although this generation is getting rather old, a well-kept, lower-mileage example still makes for a smart family vehicle purchase. Keep in mind that later models have higher levels of luxury features and power. Also note that the first-generation Honda Pilot offers roughly the same package as the Acura. Though less luxurious, it featured slightly more interior room (giving it eight-passenger capacity) and, in comparable condition and similarly equipped, should be available for a lower price.

Read the most recent 2015 Acura MDX review.

If you are looking for older years, visit our used Acura MDX page.

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