The first-generation Acura MDX arrived at a time 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. It also made no qualms about being a dedicated on-road SUV with a clever all-wheel-drive system. Though we thought it lacked a little in terms of personality and prestige, the original Acura MDX nonetheless became a favorite among families looking for a comfortable and upscale seven-passenger vehicle.
For the second-generation MDX, Acura maintained the family-friendly packaging but spiced up the recipe with styling, performance and handling enhancements. Most significantly, this model has a more powerful V6 and a new all-wheel-drive system called Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD). Improvements were also made to the interior, where materials and technology were upgraded to bring the MDX in line with the rest of Acura's high-tech lineup.
New or used, the Acura MDX is one of our top recommendations. 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-generation model, Acura has created an exciting driver's SUV that can easily be mentioned in the same sentence as BMW's new X5 or the Porsche Cayenne.
Current Acura MDX
The Acura MDX offers both sporty performance and handling characteristics along with respectable practicality. At 78.5 inches from shoulder to shoulder, the midsize MDX sits on a wide track, giving it an athletic, hunkered-down appearance that conveys its sporting character.
The MDX comes with a 300-horsepower 3.7-liter V6 and a six-speed automatic transmission. Also standard is Acura's "Super-Handling" All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) system. Besides improving traction in bad weather, SH-AWD is capable of transferring up to 100 percent of power to one wheel depending on conditions. Specifically, it allows the outer wheels to accelerate more quickly through a turn to give the MDX greater handling ability.
For every MDX, standard features include leather seating, a sunroof, a power tailgate, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, satellite radio, a rearview camera and Bluetooth phone connectivity. There are also a number of packages available whose highlights include a multi-angle rearview camera, a hard-drive-based navigation system, an active sport suspension, ventilated front seats, adaptive cruise control, a blind-spot detection system and Acura's Collision Mitigating Braking System. The latter will warn the driver via visual and auditory warnings if a collision seems imminent, and if it is, will automatically apply full braking power.
The MDX's mix of sport sedan handling and crossover utility certainly makes it one of the best luxury SUVs around. Its only real weak point concerns the third-row accommodations. Though it offers respectable room for children or smaller adults (certainly more than the BMW X5), it isn't as roomy as non-luxury branded large crossovers such as the Buick Enclave/GMC Acadia or the Mazda CX-9. When the third-row seats are folded flat, cargo capacity swells to 43 cubic feet. Dropping the second row yields a max of 84 cubic feet.
Used Acura MDX Models
The current-generation Acura MDX debuted for 2007. There haven't been many changes since, though 2007-'09 MDXs lacked the current model's revised styling and hard-drive-based navigation system (theirs was DVD-based). These earlier MDXs also have a five-speed automatic rather than the newer six-speed.
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. Overall, though, the original Acura MDX is a smart used or certified pre-owned 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 could be similarly equipped for a lower price.
Read the most recent 2013 Acura MDX review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Acura MDX page.