The 2012 Acura MDX could be the best luxury crossover you haven't yet considered. Lost among the European-style icons, the American bulk carriers and its own Japanese rivals, the Acura MDX is a quiet challenger. It offers some of the nicest luxury appointments, top comfort and safety technology, and satisfying driving dynamics in the class without relying on brand cachet to get your attention.
Much of the MDX's dynamic enjoyment comes from its "Super Handling" all-wheel-drive system (SH-AWD). Many luxury crossover shoppers will only consider a rear- or all-wheel-drive model, and the Acura uses its AWD system to apportion power automatically to outside wheels during cornering. While the MDX is still mostly driven by the front wheels in straight-line cruising, the system kicks in undetected to all but the savviest drivers during spirited maneuvers on twisting sections of road. The net effect is a crossover with predictable driving dynamics in all kinds of weather conditions, plus communicative steering that makes this utility vehicle feel smaller than it is.
Inside its cabin, the MDX rivals Acura's flagship RL sedan for quality. Soft leather, handsome wood trim, and buttons, switches and knobs with a precise action to them demonstrate Acura's attention to detail. The base MDX comes with a wealth of standard features, but three available packages push the tech and luxury into territory more familiar to buyers of European models.
For the money, the 2012 Acura MDX makes a lot of sense. Crossovers like the Buick Enclave and Ford Flex are roomier, but lack the MDX's refinement. The BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz M-Class offer slightly more premium environments, but in smaller, more expensive packages. The Lexus RX 350 is more comfortable but lacks a third-row seat. Certainly, all have distinct benefits, but when it comes to a deft blend of luxury, technology and drivability, the MDX is peerless.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Acura MDX is available in one trim level.
Standard equipment includes 18-inch wheels, automatic xenon headlamps, foglamps, heated side mirrors, a power liftgate, a sunroof, privacy glass, heated eight-way power front seats, two-way adjustable driver lumbar, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, leather upholstery, tri-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with integrated rearview camera, Bluetooth, and an eight-speaker sound system with six-CD changer, auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio.
The Technology package adds a multi-view parking camera, GPS-linked and solar-sensing climate control, upgraded leather upholstery, a navigation system with 8-inch display and dial controller, real-time traffic and weather, voice controls and a 10-speaker Acura/ELS surround-sound audio system with digital music storage and an iPod/USB interface.
The Advance package includes all Technology package features and adds 19-inch wheels, an adaptive suspension, adaptive cruise control, a blind-spot warning system, the Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), auto-leveling headlamps, a sport steering wheel and ventilated front seats. The Entertainment package, which can be added to the Technology or Advanced packages, adds a rear-seat entertainment system and heated second-row seats.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Acura MDX is powered by a 3.7-liter V6 that produces 300 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive are standard.
In Edmunds performance testing, the MDX accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 16 mpg city/21 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined. Properly equipped, the MDX can tow up to 5,000 pounds.
Standard safety equipment for the 2012 Acura MDX includes antilock brakes, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, active front head restraints, traction control and stability control with a stabilizing feature for trailer towing. The optional CMBS monitors following distance and closure rate, and uses visual and auditory warnings to alert the driver to a possible collision. If the system senses an imminent collision, it can apply hard braking and cinch up the front seatbelts.
In government crash testing, the MDX received four out of five possible stars for overall frontal crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the MDX its top score of "Good" for occupant protection in frontal offset and side-impact crashes. In Edmunds brake testing, the MDX came to a stop from 60 mph in 123 feet, an average result for this class of vehicle.
Interior Design and Special Features
The MDX's cabin is a technology lover's dream. Thankfully, the MDX's connected creature comforts are easy to use via a multipurpose knob and a selection of voice commands. As in most Acuras, the center stack is loaded with buttons for climate control and multimedia. It's an intimidating array at first, but the learning curve is short. The Panasonic/ELS surround-sound audio system is one of the best in the business, as is the navigation system.
The MDX is pretty spacious for a three-row midsize luxury crossover SUV. The rearmost seats are better suited to children, but adults can ride there for short journeys without complaint. Second-row seats recline for additional comfort, but if you need legitimate room for adults in the third row, the Buick Enclave and Ford Flex are better choices. The MDX yields 83.5 cubic feet of cargo space with its second and third rows folded, which is above average for a midsize luxury crossover.
For a three-row SUV, the 2012 Acura MDX rarely acts like one. The all-wheel-drive system, while biased toward the front wheels, does an outstanding job of shifting torque during hard cornering. Body roll is well-contained and the MDX's center of gravity feels lower than it looks to the eye. The active dampers (available with the Advance package) soak up the bumps when necessary and firm up when the pace quickens, though the standard suspension works just fine (and without the added cost).
Acceleration from the 3.7-liter V6 is a little soft until the revs reach the midrange. From there the engine pulls with enthusiasm, while the MDX's six-speed automatic transmission upshifts smoothly. Overall, the MDX is one of the most rewarding luxury crossovers to drive.
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