Desert Headlight Test - 2014 Acura MDX AWD Long-Term Road Test

2014 Acura MDX AWD Long-Term Road Test

2014 Acura MDX: Desert Headlight Test

March 12, 2014

2014 Acura MDX

My recent two-day trip to the Mojave Desert included a nighttime stargazing component away from the nearest town. Much has been said about the "Jewel Eye" LED headlights that adorn the front of our 2014 Acura MDX, but in-town conditions, especially here in L.A., don't tell the whole story. There are simply too many competing light sources.

But it's easy to get away from all manmade light in the desert. And good headlights are a must on dirt roads if you want to avoid driving into a tire-damaging pothole or washout, especially if you are carrying any speed. Our departed 2012 Jeep Wrangler, to cite a recent example, needed a headlight upgrade because its factory lanterns were so ironically pathetic off-road or in town.

After we'd finished checking out the stars I hung back while the other cars in our convoy went on ahead to our campsite at the Spring Hill Suites.

The three outboard bulbs are the low beams and the remaining two inboard ones are the high beams. You can see the difference in the shape of the corresponding reflection each one projects onto the outer lens cover that envelops them all.

2014 Acura MDX

On their own, the low beams were pretty impressive. They illuminated the path ahead quite clearly and threw off plenty of light to either side. And the cutoff turned out to be more organic and diffuse out here than we expected after Travis shined them against a wall back home. That's a good thing because it means there was no distracting sharp edge bouncing up and down as we jostled along on the uneven washboard roads.

Back on the pavement we could see equally well. And we were never once got "brighted" by oncoming cars on the long drive home.

2014 Acura MDX

An utter lack of tall trees or reflective signs in this shot makes it hard to fully appreciate the high beams, partly because the low beams do such a good job on their own. But the additional lamps do punch ahead a substantial distance down the road, nicely filling in the middle region to extend overall reach.

Are these "Jewel Eye" LEDs the best headlights we've driven behind? No, but they're impressive nonetheless. They're well suited to any dark desert highway you may encounter.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 7,025 miles


  • hybris hybris Posts:

    So just previewing the article here but I'm guessing the lights do reasonably well in terms of light output but given their replacement cost its not recommended that drive on dirt roads often or at least behind another vehicle.--------------- It's really off putting when you can preview a article a head of time but there are vehicles that spend weeks or months without a single post.------- Of course at this point I don't think you people even bother reading the comments considering just how much hate is now in the water as it can, and should be embarrassing for you to read as this is your work or lack thereof being raked across the coals.

  • I think the fact that those lights don't have the harsh cutoff line is a huge plus. There seems to be a lot of worry about the replacement cost of the headlights but I don't remember ever seeing a long term test car here (or anywhere) that had its headlight broken by road debris. And if one did break wouldn't it be covered by your comprehensive insurance (after paying the deductible) just like a windshield. Plus if it is that much of a worry then get one of those clear headlight films put on it.

  • se_riously se_riously Posts:

    Thank you for the good post on the headlights - much better than the previous ones. I'd love it if this type of post was "standard procedure" for all vehicles in the long term fleet.

  • So what are the best headlights you've ever reviewed?

  • "So what are the best headlights you've ever reviewed?" Pam Anderson during the Bay Watch days. Sorry, couldn't resist.

  • joner800 joner800 Posts:

    so as one of the main haters of these fugly lights, i am VERY impressed by their functionality. at least there is a purpose to them, albeit, one that i dont assume many MDX drivers will get out to the desert to appreciate. great post!

  • bc1960 bc1960 Posts:

    It's always difficult to judge these headlamp posts, because unless you use a camera in manual mode with the same aperture and shutter speed for all the shots, the auto exposure will adjust itself (within the camera's limits) to make the shots have similar illumination. Even considering that in practice your pupils will also adjust to the brightness they intercept, I don't usually see as big a difference in the photos as I expect.

  • actualsize actualsize Posts:

    I agree bc1960, which is why I put words around it. And I think an area with taller trees and reflectors down the road would help illustrate the reach and span no matter what the camera chose to do. Still looking for the perfect dark-sky place to do this close to home.

  • And this is the difference between a Dan Edmunds post and a "somebody else" post. Great job, and of course the vital information is in the content, not the photos! I'd like to see how the LEDs in a Corolla compare -- I think it's amazing that they are standard in a car like that.

  • christople christople Posts:

    "Are these "Jewel Eye" LEDs the best headlights we've driven behind? No, but they're impressive nonetheless. " I remember back in the day the basic halogen projectors on the Camry were getting lots of praise on here. However what would be yours or the staff's top 5 cars with the best headlights?

  • agentorange agentorange Posts:

    You must be easily distracted if a Euro style cutoff upsets you. Best headlights I have seen were on four-headlamp equipped cars in Europe. That usually involved 55/60 outer units and a 55W auxiliary high beam as the inner units. I suspect 230W on high beam breaches some dumbass USDoT reg on light intensity. All I'll say is that a set of lights like that when properly aimed cut through British rain really well. I frequently had folk latch onto me on dark twisty roads because they realised I could see way more than they could with a standard pair of 55/60 H4s.

  • youngh youngh Posts:

    Out of curiosity - what car had the best stock headlights you've driven behind?

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