Fun-to-drive luxury crossover SUVs are understandably uncommon. If you wanted such refinement, entertainment and utility all in one package, you'd typically have to look at a handful of German models. And while those crossovers have broken the SUV mold, they also have a tendency to break budgets in the process. Thankfully, there's the 2013 Acura MDX to keep matters realistic.
Luxury? The MDX has it. With high-quality materials and craftsmanship, it handily beats other midsize crossover SUVs in its price range and approaches a level of refinement usually reserved for European makes. For the price, you also get a generous list of standard features, and adding more features won't send the bottom line spinning off into the stratosphere. And then there's the "U" in SUV -- utility. With three rows of seats and a cargo area that expands to more than 80 cubic feet, the MDX works quite well as a family-oriented runabout.
But it's the Acura MDX's ability to entertain the driver that is most surprising. It might not be the quickest in its class, but thanks to its 300-horspower V6 the MDX is always eager to please. And even with its taller SUV stance, the MDX remains poised in the curves, thanks in no small part to an advanced all-wheel-drive system that sends power to the outside wheels when cornering. The MDX is fun to drive on dry pavement and sure-footed when the weather hits.
But even if winding mountain passes aren't your thing, the MDX remains a sensible choice. The 2013 Buick Enclave is more spacious and undercuts the Acura in terms of price, but it isn't nearly as refined or entertaining. For comparable luxury and performance plus a third row, you'd have to look toward the pricier 2013 BMW X5 and 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL Class. For all-around achievement, the 2013 Acura MDX is uncommonly good.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Acura MDX is classified as a midsize luxury SUV and seats seven. It is offered in one well-appointed trim level with progressive add-on packages.
Standard features include 18-inch wheels, automatic xenon headlamps, foglamps, heated mirrors, a power liftgate, a sunroof, rear 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 phone connectivity and an eight-speaker sound system with six-CD changer, auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio.
The Technology package adds a multiview parking camera, GPS-linked and solar-sensing climate control, upgraded leather upholstery, a navigation system with 8-inch display, voice controls and a 10-speaker Acura/ELS surround-sound audio system with an iPod/USB interface.
The Advance package includes all Technology package features and adds 19-inch wheels, adaptive suspension dampers, adaptive cruise control, a blind-spot warning system, a collision warning and braking system, 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, a household power outlet in the front center console, and heated second-row seats.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2013 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, which is average for this style of luxury crossover. 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 2013 Acura MDX includes antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, active front head restraints and stability control with a stabilizing feature for trailer towing. The optional collision warning and braking system (Acura's 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 crash protection, with four stars for frontal impact safety and five stars for side crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the MDX its top score of "Good" for the MDX's performance in frontal offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests.
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 interior isn't quite as luxurious as those seen in some European crossovers, but the materials are high quality and there are plenty of standard features. The MDX's electronic features 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 controls for the various systems are grouped together, so 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 2013 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 controlled well 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 Acura MDX is one of the most rewarding luxury crossovers to drive.
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