Athletic performance and handling, all-wheel-drive confidence, large maximum cargo capacity, exceptional voice-activated controls.
Limited cargo space behind third-row seats, lifeless driver controls.
According to Acura, MDX is an acronym for "MultiDimensional luXury." We usually dismiss this type of jargon as marketing gimmickry, but in the case of the 2010 Acura MDX, we're inclined to label it as justified. Unlike many of the luxury crossovers from domestic and Asian manufacturers, the MDX will satisfy a wide variety of drivers on many levels, a feat we usually equate with European brands.
Our 2010 Acura MDX test vehicle, in Advance Entertainment dress, represents the fully loaded trim level, and rings in about $11,500 more than the base model. Priced in the mid-$50,000 range, this MDX competes against the elite luxury crossovers from Germany. Fortunately for Acura, the latest improvements to the drivetrain and upgrades to the interior and technological gadgetry have the MDX giving the lofty competition a run for its money.
In terms of price, performance and features, the 2010 Acura MDX compares favorably against the Audi Q7, BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne. At this level, brand equity figures into the equation quite heavily, and in this arena Acura comes up a bit short. However, the smart shopper should note that when you outfit any of these German utes with the same features as this MDX, the price begins to climb farther out of reach. For those who can do without the countless bells and whistles, the price-to-benefit ratio swings authoritatively toward the multidimensional 2010 Acura MDX's favor.
Powering the 2010 Acura MDX is a 3.7-liter V6 that produces 300 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. Power is channeled through a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control and is then routed to all four wheels via Acura's SH-AWD system. This system — the same found in the RL and TL models — routes varying amounts of power to individual wheels to maximize cornering grip and traction on loose or slippery surfaces.
All of these factors came together quite well at our test track, leaving our test-driver impressed as he proclaimed the MDX "a joy to drive." Acceleration was brisk, with the MDX reaching 60 mph from a standstill in only 7.1 seconds. The SH-AWD proved itself by helping the MDX weave through the slalom at 62.2 mph and rail around the skid pad at 0.84g. The MDX either matches or beats its European rivals in terms of all-around performance. The EPA estimates fuel economy at 16/21 mpg city/highway and 18 mpg in combined driving. We averaged 16.1 mpg in heavy city driving.
We discovered our test-driver's on-track adulation proved well-founded on public roads as well. Driven hard, the V6 emits a growl that is reminiscent of a muscle car, with a flood of power to match. We also found that the handling capabilities reach well into the fun-to-drive realm, with grip levels exceeding the comfort zone of most drivers. This more than made up for the fairly lifeless steering feel and soft brake pedal. The automatic transmission executes shifts smoothly and quickly, though in Manual mode, we did experience a bit of a delay between paddle actuation and the actual shifts.
Usually when handling performance is as high as the MDX's, there is a penalty to be paid in the form of ride harshness. Not so with the 2010 Acura MDX, as it soaked up bumps as well as some flagship German luxury sedans. Adding to the plush ride, wind and road noise were abated to near silence, allowing for whisper-quiet conversations.
Front and second-row seats easily accommodated full-size adults, with plenty of front-seat adjustments for a variety of driver preferences. And there's enough head- and legroom to further ensure that long road trips are made in luxurious comfort. The third-row seats are decidedly less spacious, though they'd be just fine for smaller passengers.
From the driver seat, outward visibility is superior to most crossover SUVs on the market, and the dual rearview cameras (a high-mount unit in addition to the conventional liftgate camera) increased confidence when maneuvering in tight spaces. Gauges and readouts were also placed well within sight lines, allowing the driver to stay informed with only a quick glance. However, in daylight conditions, the gray instrument panel lacks sufficient contrast for a quick read. It is much more legible when illuminated at night.
Initially, we found the abundance of buttons (in excess of 50) on the center stack a bit daunting. After some time getting used to these controls, we found the layout to be logical — making operation of the climate control, stereo and navigation systems a breeze. We were particularly impressed with the voice-activated controls that managed to improve upon Ford's Sync system. Acura has added a few extra menu levels that make searching for our favorite tunes easier and quicker than any other competing systems. The 10-speaker surround-sound setup is also notable for its strong delivery of bass while keeping upper-register tones clean.
Storage space is plentiful throughout the cabin, but cargo capacity is a mixed bag for the Acura. Besides the usual glovebox, door pockets and center armrest bin, the 2010 Acura MDX also features two covered bins — one in the center console that reveals the cupholders and a discrete bin by the front passenger's knee.
With all three rows of seats in place to shuttle a maximum of seven passengers, the luggage area is reduced to a rather small 15 cubic feet — barely enough for two large suitcases or a few golf bags. Folding the third and second rows flat opens up that space to a cavernous 83.5 cubes, which is larger than most luxury crossovers. A rear-facing infant seat is easily installed in the second row without compromising front-seat comfort for an average-size adult.
Design/Fit and Finish
The 2010 Acura MDX displays a design language that's consistent among its Acura stablemates. The pronounced faceted grille still looks a bit chunky for most tastes, but doesn't seem nearly as irksome as, say, the TL's. The short overhangs and upright rear window give the MDX a boxy feel, but there are enough styling flourishes to keep it from looking boring.
The interior's overall design is modern and understated, though the cupholder lid does seem a bit out of place, as it resembles a silver roller-top lid on a breadbox. Interior materials are also on par with other luxury brands, with an abundance of soft-touch surfaces, supple leather and rich wood trim. Panels are tightly fitted, with consistent gaps for a solid look and feel.
Who should consider this vehicle
Any shopper considering a luxury crossover with a decent amount of performance should have the 2010 Acura MDX on their short list. Considering that this MDX is the range-topping model with all the bells and whistles, while most of the similarly priced European competitors are base- or midrange models, the Acura represents a relative bargain. As it stands, the MDX suffers most from a lack of brand prestige.