2014 Acura MDX AWD: What's It Like to Live With?
Read the latest updates in our long-term road test of the 22014 Acura MDX as our editors live with this SUV for a year.
What do you want to know about?
- Smaller Engine Delivers Ample Power
- Clean Instrument Panel
- Center Storage Extravaganza
- Doesn't Need Adjustable Suspension
- Jewel Eye LED Headlights
- Favorite Interior Features
- NHTSA Crash Scores
- Fuel Economy Update for October
- Smart Console Design
- Quiet Ride
- Getting Used to the LED Headlights
- Second-Row Seating
- Interior Details
- Real-Time Traffic
- Easy-To-See Blind Spot Monitoring Light
- FWD or AWD
- Drive-Shaft Bolt Recall
- IIHS Top Safety Pick
- Two Screens Are Better Than One
- Sizable Cargo Areat
- What's This Button Do?
- Connecting My New iPod
- 5,000-Mile Update
- 6-ft. Ladder Fits Easily
- Fog Lights Are an Accessory
- Recall Resolved
- Fuel Economy Update for January
- First Periodic Maintenance Due Soon
- Why I Hate Touchscreens
- Ramp Travel Index
- Great Seat
- Jewel Eye LED Headlight Output
- 1 Service Complete
- Fuel Economy Update for February
- Expensive Jewels
- Desert Exploration Weekend
- Desert Headlight Test
- Mammoth Trip
- Odd Whirring Noise
- Great for Passengers
- Great Rain-Sensing Wipers
- Odd, But Benign From Under the Hood
- Lighting-Fast Music Indexing
- Fuel Economy Update for March
- Cargo Area Storage Useful for Groceries
- I Like This Crossover's Size
- Enjoyable for Long Distance Drives
- Quiet V6, But Sporty When You Want It To Be
- Deciding on a Three-Row Crossover SUV for Around $50,000
- We've Cleared 10,000 Miles
- Acura Family
- Too Much for Me
- Sensitive Warning System
- Fuel Economy Update for April
- Integrated Dynamics Stays Where You Leave It
- Hazy Display
- Oregon Road Trip, Part 1
- Oregon Road Trip, Part 2
- Oregon Road Trip, Part 3
- Maintenance Required Soon
- Road Trip Pleasure
- Mud Bogging
- Fuel Economy Update for May
- Second Service
- 20-Inch Bike Doesn't Fit
- 15,000-Mile Update
- Safety Ratings for 2015 Model
- Fuel Economy Update for June
- Heat and Air at the Same Time
- Weekend Trips
- Hypersensitive Collision Alert
- Bestseller for a Reason
- Oregon Road Trip MPG
- Headlights Revisited
- Blind-Spot Information System
- Fuel Economy Update for July
- Inadequate Sun Visors
- Interior Controls Not Always Easy To Use
- 20,000 Miles
- Rear Climate System Works Well
- Third Attempt for Wide Cargo
- Fuel Economy Update for August
- Weak Air Conditioning, Stuffy Seats
- Third Service
- Performance Testing
- Hauling a Dorm Room to College
- Fuel Economy Update for September
- Give Me First Gear Already
- A Tale of Two Road Trips
The midsize luxury SUV segment is a leather-lined battlefield. Every entrant in this segment is primped, preened, swathed in elegant materials and overstuffed with technology. Yet even in this field, the 2014 Acura MDX stands out.
Though it certainly looks similar to the three-row crossover it replaces, the 2014 MDX is all new. Long a favorite of people who really enjoy driving but need three rows, the redesign brought weight savings (275 pounds), a less powerful and smaller V6 and electric-assist power steering. It's also faster, more fuel-efficient, far quieter and draws from the deep pool of RLX technology to bring things like LED headlights into suburban garages.
And now it's in our garage. For the next 12 months and 20,000 miles, not only does our new long-term 2014 Acura MDX AWD have to live up to a competitive segment, but to the expectations Acura set with this car years ago.
What We Got
Entry into the world of luxury crossovers doesn't come cheap, but it does come with a lot of toys. Our 2014 Acura MDX comes standard with Jewel Eye LED headlights, a multiview rearview camera, automatic three-zone climate control, heated front seats, push-button start, a power tailgate, Bluetooth, USB input and a suite of driving personalization options that Acura calls IDS. This Integrated Dynamics System tailors the steering weight among Normal, Sport and a very light Comfort mode. Sport mode not only enhances steering feel but sharpens the throttle and, on AWD cars, sends more power to the outside wheels during hard cornering.
While there are a number of different styles for the 2014 MDX, there is only one engine available for Acura's big three-row SUV: a 290-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission. This combination can be had in either front-wheel drive or like ours, with Super Handling all-wheel drive (SH-AWD). Making that jump ups the price of the MDX from $43,185 to $45,185.
But as usual, we didn't simply get the base car, add all-wheel drive and call it good. Our 2014 Acura MDX has the Technology and Entertainment packages, which boost the as-tested price to $51,460 including an $895 destination fee.
The Technology package includes navigation with voice recognition and real-time traffic, an 11-speaker ELS audio system, HD radio, GPS-linked automatic climate control, blind spot monitoring, LED puddle lamps and rain-sensing wipers. The Entertainment package lumps together a DVD player and 9-inch display with wireless headsets for the rear, a 115-volt power outlet, heated second-row seats and rear door sunshades.
These options are certainly gravy on top of an already full plate, but in this car, they warranted further testing. There was no negotiating on the price either, as the vehicle was provided by Acura.
Why We Got It
The 2014 Acura MDX is running a hot streak. Not only did it receive an "A" rating, but it bested the 2013 Lexus RX 350 F Sport AWD and the 2014 Infiniti QX60 AWD in our luxury crossover comparison test. During that test we said, "Since it came out in 2001, the Acura MDX has been exactly what you'd think the luxury arm of Honda would build: a family-friendly SUV with a frisky personality." Though we certainly appreciated its personality, it wasn't just the Acura's drivable nature that put it in the winner's circle. With a ton of cargo room, a fully flat load floor and exceptionally easy-to-use folding seats, the Acura won us over with the "U" aspect of the SUV equation, too.
At the end of the day we wrote, "The Acura MDX was the one we'd most like to spend time in. It makes daily chores feel much less like, well, chores."
Now we're going to see if that rings true after a year and roughly 20,000 miles behind the wheel. Follow along on the long-term road test page for daily updates on our 2014 Acura MDX and the rest of our fleet.
Best MPG: 20.1
Worst MPG: 18.2
Average MPG over 611 miles: 19.2
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
It's rare when an all-new vehicle arrives with a smaller engine than its predecessor, especially when it comes to midsize SUVs. But that's exactly what happened when Acura rolled out the 2014 MDX. Its standard V6 engine went from 3.7-liters to a mere 3.5-liters and horsepower decreased from 300 to 290.
As unusual as this move might seem on paper, in practice it's hardly noticeable. This new MDX has more than enough power for merging onto the highway and passing at speed. Some credit for its performance has to do with the fact that this MDX is also lighter than its predecessor by 275 pounds, but Acura also tuned the new V6 to make more torque at lower engine speeds.
The result is an engine that feels more responsive even though it's smaller and more efficient. Hard to argue with that kind of evolution.
This is the instrument panel of our 2014 Acura MDX. Sure, the center screen can be used to display silly things like torque-split for the SH-AWD and vehicle information, but I prefer it like this. Blank. Clean.
In a car that is trying to be known for its technological sophistication, it's refreshing and appreciated that they haven't gone and gummed up the vitals like so many cars have.
Very well done, Acura.
Does the 2014 Acura MDX have the ultimate center storage compartment?
It does so many different things. There are pockets for small items like iPods and phones, a non-skid shelf, a deep compartment for a briefcase. But as I usually see women driving the MDX, I would imagine that most drivers stash their purses there. I know I did.
Here is a video tour:
And here in pictures, are the many configurations of the center console.
How would you use this storage compartment?
It's hard to blame Acura for offering a variable suspension setup. After all, the standard Integrated Dynamic System (IDS) seems like the best of both worlds on paper, not to mention that it's one more feature the 2014 MDX can hang over the heads of its competitors.
But like most systems of this type, I find the IDS in the MDX unnecessary, mainly because the "normal" setting provides the best combination of comfort and performance. No shocker there really.
Switch it to "comfort" while cruising on the highway and it feels too vague, while the "sport" mode makes it overly jittery on all but the smoothest pavement. In some situations, one or the other might be preferable, but not so much that I would pay extra for IDS if it were an option. And for the record, I find this to be the case for most such systems, so Acura didn't drop the ball here, it just didn't make a more compelling case why the MDX needs such a setup.
Our 2014 Acura MDX has the same jewel eye LED headlight lenses as the new Acura RLX. While the RLX has a double row of lenses, the single-row MDX lights work on the same principle.
This video does a good job of demonstrating the headlights.
I like the inside of our 2014 Acura MDX a lot. These hard plastic cargo compartments are ideal for my weekly hikes. They allow for mess-free storage of my shoes, shirt and water bottle without getting dust and mud all over the carpeted surfaces. And when you move forward in the cabin, the MDX continues to impress.
Because we have the optional Technology and Entertainment package, the rear seat is equipped with a DVD player and additional 115V power outlet. The center console display is orderly and unobtrusive.
After just a few days in it, I'm extremely happy we've added an MDX to our fleet and it has taken a place right at the top of my preferred-road-trip-cars list.
This comes as no surprise, but the 2014 Acura MDX earned the top score overall in NHTSA's New Car Assessment Program. Acura's RDX model did as well.
Both Acuras received 5 star scores for each of the frontal and side impact crash tests and scored 4 stars for rollover resistance.
You can read more in this news article:
New to our long-term test fleet in October, the 2014 Acura MDX hasn't seen a lot of action. Still, the seven-passenger MDX has racked up 1,700 miles on its odometer in just a few weeks.
Not surprisingly, our fuel economy hasn't matched its EPA combined mpg rating, yet, but we've got 11 months to get there.
Worst Fill MPG: 14.9 mpg
Best Fill MPG: 20.6 mpg
Average Lifetime MPG: 17.7 mpg
EPA MPG Rating: 21 Combined (18 City / 27 Highway)
Best Range: 336.3 miles
Current Odometer: 1,703 miles
Another post about the console? Well yes, even though Donna already covered it quite comprehensively there's one aspect of it that I think deserves another mention.
As you can see, the lid that covers the lower section is a mix of wood, metallic trim and several rubber strips. It's both sharp looking and useful, a combination that many luxury vehicles often get wrong.
Those rubber strips across the wood make it a perfect place to set your cellphone, or anything else you don't want to dump in a cupholder. Without them, it's just a slick surface that sends anything you set on it flying into the dashboard with every stop. And what if you don't want the distraction of your phone by your side? Just flip it up and dump your phone in the container underneath.
It's not groundbreaking stuff, just thoughtful design that makes the console useful instead of merely pretty. Luxury vehicles need more of this.
In the past, Hondas and Acuras have not really been known for having quiet cabins. But the new 2014 Acura MDX is actually peacefully quiet. Road, wind, and engine noise are kept to a minimum.
This is something new. I have an older Acura and as a friend once said, it sounds like I'm driving a skateboard.
Not this MDX. Its quietness is a pleasant surprise.
At first, I wasn't a fan of the Jewel Eye LED (light-emitting diode) headlights on our long-term 2014 Acura MDX. The five individual elements inside the headlight housing were hard to get used to in the daylight. But over the weekend I discovered that they look much better at night.
When I drove around after dark, the headlight beam was clear, giving a well-lit path down the road and they became much more attractive as well. While the row of LEDs that light up when you remotely unlock our Cadillac ATS are elegant and crisp, and the headlight beams are powered by HID's, Acura's design is appealing too.
All things being equal in terms of headlight functionality, which style of design would you choose?
Sure, our 2014 Acura MDX has seating for seven, but the reality of comfort completely depends on the size, age and needs of the passengers
After stowing two "big" kids in the limited-legroom third row, we realized that separating the mischievous two-year-old from the new baby was a must.
With two adults already in the front seats, there's no good option left for poor Uncle Jason.
Sometimes it's the little things. For example, I really like the detail work on the Acura MDX's gearshift lever. The brushed silver insert reminds me of the Acura logo, even though it's upside down.
This is what the traffic looked like on the freeway. Cars all around me, slogging along.
If our 2014 Acura MDX's nav screen had shown me what I was driving into, I may have chosen a different route.
Our $50,000 test vehicle has the Technology package which includes navigation with voice recognition and real-time traffic. Why I wasn't seeing any evidence of the traffic conditions is something I'll be looking into.
Our 2014 Acura MDX has an optional blind-spot monitoring system, which comes as part of the Technology package. I happen to like the layout of this monitoring system.
Specifically, I'm referring to the placement of the indicator light. It's mounted inside the car, near the front roof pillar. Some automakers put the light for their blind-spot monitors in the mirror itself. But the MDX's location, being closer, is easier to see in my peripheral vision, and that means I can keep my eyes more focused on the road ahead. Since the light is in the car, there's also less chance of it getting washed in very bright sunlight than if it was in the mirror itself.
For the redesigned 2014 MDX, Acura is offering buyers a choice of either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. This is actually the first time Acura has done so for the MDX, as the two prior MDX generations were all-wheel drive (AWD) only.
Before, Acura picked for you. Now you have to choose: do you want AWD or FWD?
The appeal of the front-drive MDX is obvious enough: If you rarely encounter wet weather where you live, and you don't have any plans on venturing off the pavement, the FWD MDX returns better fuel economy (23 mpg combined compared to the AWD's 21 mpg) and is cheaper to buy.
Flipped around, the AWD MDX helps out if you do expect to encounter those situations. Adding a bit of a wrinkle, though, is that the MDX does have a sophisticated AWD system (Acura's "Super Handling All-Wheel Drive") that can apply engine power to individual wheels to enhance the car's handling and traction when going around (and powering out of) turns.
For me, a significant part of the MDX's appeal is its sporty personality, and a good chunk of that comes from the AWD system. Personally, I'd go with AWD even if I didn't think I'd need it for the typical reasons of weather or recreation.
Uh, oh, Honda is recalling nearly 20,000 2014 Acura MDX SUVs with all-wheel drive to fix loose drive-shaft bolts.
"The bolts that attach the drive shaft to the automatic transmission transfer assembly may not have been properly tightened," said NHTSA in its summary of the problem. "As a result, the bolts could loosen, possibly allowing the shaft to detach.
"If the drive shaft detaches while driving, it could cause excessive noise and possibly damage the vehicle, increasing the risk of a crash."
Looks like we'll soon be making an unscheduled visit to the local Acura dealer.
The "Top Safety Pick" winners were announced by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and Honda received a list of top picks.
Honda/Acura had the most winners of any automaker, with six models earning Top Safety Pick+ ratings and two earning Top Safety Pick.
Four 2014 Honda models were named a Top Safety Pick+ including the Accord sedan and coupe, Civic Sedan, and Odyssey, which is the only minivan yet to earn this designation. The Civic coupe was named a Top Safety Pick. Additionally, the 2014 Acura MDX and the RLX each achieved Top Safety Pick+ status with the 2014 Acura TL earning a Top Safety Pick rating.
Yet another reason we like our long-term Acura MDX test vehicle.
After doing numerous errands in unfamiliar areas this week, I realized just how nice it is to have a navigation/audio system with two screens instead of one in the 2014 Acura MDX. Having the option to see the audio info without moving away from the nav's visual directions is very convenient.
Sure, most audio systems can be controlled by steering-wheel mounted controls anyway and the MDX is no different, but the two big, clear screens make getting around very pleasant.
This is about as much cargo as you can stuff into the 2014 Acura MDX when you still need the third row in place. Luckily for me, it's still quite a bit of stuff.
On this busy weekend, I had to move plenty of people and cargo, so the MDX was the logical choice. I was a little unsure if everything was going to fit, and some things did have to get stuffed in the footwells of the second row, but that's how it goes when you have to make it fit.
With the MDX stuffed to the roof I did notice how much softer it rode. With six people on board and the cargo, the MDX was probably pretty close to its maximum weight rating. I've said before that the "comfort" setting was too soft for my tastes and that was even more obvious under these circumstances. It didn't bother the engine, though, as it was well up to the task. It didn't feel nearly as strained as the chassis and the mileage didn't suffer much.
With its placement near the shifter, you can assume this button has something to do with customizing your driving experience. But would an average consumer know what a button labeled "IDS" means?
IDS stands for Integrated Dynamics System. You use this button to "modify the dynamic character of the vehicle."
In other words, you use this button to switch between Comfort, Normal, and Sport modes. The three choices appear on the screen in front of the driver on the instrument panel and you can toggle through them.
Couldn't Honda just label the button Comfort and Sport?
I finally got a new iPod Touch. It's the latest model and I was wondering if it would connect easily to our 2014 Acura MDX and our other long-term cars. My old player was so old that most cars in our fleet stopped recognizing it. I had to connect through the AUX jack, which allowed me to play my music but does not charge the iPod, nor does it allow for any control through the vehicle.
First world problems, right?
This new iPod has a much smaller connector. Fortunately, most of our cars offer a USB port instead of the built-in iPod-specific connector that was so popular a few years ago.
I forgot to bring my new lightning-to-USB cable so I had to use the 30-pin adapter with my old USB cord. But it connected just fine. Our 2014 Acura MDX didn't hesitate. I could play my music and charge at the same time.
I entered the modern world. At least until the next Apple update.
The more I drive our long-term 2014 Acura MDX the more enamored I become with this luxury crossover. With every mile I find this seven-seater to be extremely comfortable and easy to drive, but with more than enough performance and driver engagement to keep me interested.
It's a vehicle that proves people movers do not need to be needlessly boring. Performance and fun do not have to come with comfort and drivability sacrifices.
Since it joined our fleet in October we've driven our MDX 5,000 miles. And those miles have defined trouble-free. The MDX has yet to ask for its first scheduled maintenance, nor has it needed any type of repair.
From the perspective of durability and reliability it has been perfect.
My brother-in-law helped me retile my downstairs bathroom last year. And now it's payback time. He wanted to borrow my ladder this weekend and demanded delivery since there was no way it would fit in his BMW 5 Series.
My six-foot ladder fit inside our long-term 2014 Acura MDX with ease. And with the crossover's 60/40 split second row seat and 50/50 split third row I could transport the ladder and five adults comfortably should the need arise.
When I was driving home the other evening, Santa Monica and my entire commute to the South Bay were socked in with fog. It's hard to take a picture of fog. These photos don't really show it.
I had the headlights set to Auto and was wondering if the 2014 Acura MDX would automatically put on fog lights. But then I realized it doesn't have any fog lights. Not that I really needed them. But I wanted to know for sure.
According to the Acura Web site, LED fog lights are an accessory and run about $542, not including installation. Modern cars with super special headlights like Acura's LED Jewel Eye headlights render old-timer features like fog lights inessential. But manufacturers continue to offer them as accessories in case people want them.
Edmunds reported back in December that American Honda was recalling 19,197 of the all-wheel-drive version of the 2014 Acura MDX.
The recall was to tighten the propeller shaft bolts. The NHTSA campaign describes the problem, "The bolts that attach the drive shaft to the automatic transmission transfer assembly may not have been properly tightened. As a result, the bolts could loosen possibly allowing the shaft to detach."
Our long-term MDX was part of the recall. I dropped it off at Santa Monica Acura without an appointment. I arrived around 11AM, was taken care of immediately, grabbed a complimentary bottle of water, and hopped the courtesy shuttled to our office.
The polite and cheerful service manager George called me at 1:45 to say the car was ready. When I arrived our MDX was washed and ready to go.
No charge, obviously. No days out of service.
In the month of January we drove about 850 miles in our long-term 2014 Acura MDX.
In that time, we refueled three times with 91-octane gasoline and averaged about 16 mpg, well below the official EPA estimates. Two of those fill-ups were by me, so I must be the heavy-footed culprit.
Worst Fill MPG: 13.8 mpg
Best Fill MPG: 23.4 mpg
Average Lifetime MPG: 18.4 mpg
EPA MPG Rating: 21 Combined (18 City/27 Highway)
Best Range: 353.3 miles
Current Odometer: 5,154 miles
A warning lit up on our 2014 Acura MDX's instrument panel yesterday to inform us that we'd better start thinking about its first regular maintenance visit. But the car had already crossed the 5,000-mile mark, so I wondered what the service interval could be.
I soon discovered the bulky binder that lives in the glovebox of our MDX has nothing like a maintenance schedule on the pages of the owner's manual or its many supplements.
It turns out that's because the schedule lives within the mind of the on-board computer that powers our Acura's Maintenance Minder system. The system monitors our driving behavior and adjusts the service intervals accordingly. Illuminated memos like the one above are how it prods us into action.
But the reminder above is no cause for immediate alarm. The first warning (Maintenance Due Soon) comes into being when oil life reaches 15 percent. In other words, we've got time to take care of this.
And the A1 code tells us what we'll need to have done: (A) an oil change and; (1) a tire rotation.
Other alphanumeric code possibilities we'll see if we keep the car long enough are defined on page 393 of the Owner's Manual.
B: oil and filter change plus a host of inspections, including fluid levels, brakes pads and rotors, suspension, fuel lines, steering, driveshaft boots, exhaust system, etc.
2: replace air cleaner and pollen filter, inspect drive belt
3: replace transmission fluid and transfer case fluid
4: replace spark plugs and timing belt, inspect water pump and valve clearance
5: replace engine coolant
6: replace rear differential fluid
This is one handy bit of hardware.
Has a dealer service writer ever offered you a 15,000-mile service special? Ever warned you that it's time to clean your throttle body or get your transmission flushed before the car is even touched by a technician in the shop?
These codes tell the real story. They tell you what scheduled maintenance your car really needs, unless there's an obvious problem, of course. And the inspections attached to the B service could always turn something up. The MDX doesn't have any brake pad wear sensors, for example.
As for our looming oil change, the Maintenance Minder will become more persistent when the oil life reaches 5% and the warning changes to Maintenance Due Now! That should happen as we approach 6,000 miles, but we don't plan on waiting until the bitter end.
I'm not a regular user of seat heaters, but it was somewhat chilly when I headed off to work at 5:00 a.m. this morning. Our 2014 Acura MDX has them, so I stabbed the button that sits at the bottom edge of the touchscreen.
Well, that's not strictly true. What I mean is the seat heater failed to ignite.
Instead, another screen popped up, a screen that did more than simply invite a second button press. This screen offered choices. And each choice required me to shift the position of my finger away from the location of the original button.
From a driver distraction standpoint, this was bad. I'd just been drawn deeper into the task. I had to re-examine the screen to comprehend the new landscape, make my choice, move my finger accordingly and press a new button.
That's a lot of eyeball time at 60 mph. And if the goal was to make a simple task more complicated, they certainly succeeded.
The nature of touchscreens makes it virtually impossible to memorize the locations of the buttons on the menus, the submenus, the sub-submenus and the inevitable sub-sub-submenus because they could be anywhere. They are everywhere, in fact. There isn't a square inch on the typical touchscreen that isn't used as a virtual button for something.
Meanwhile, you learn the fixed location of a dedicated button in short order. In many cases you get to the point where you never have to take that initial glance away from the road to find what you're looking for. Even if you do make that glance, it'll be a fleetingly brief one.
Take my seat heater scenario. With a dedicated button I'd take a quick peek to guide my finger home, then press away. I may have to let my gaze linger while I press a second time to change the setting from "three" to "two", but even that'd be optional.
I'd get heat on the first press. If an adjustment was necessary, I'd be pressing the same button. There'd be no landscape to learn, no need to move my finger to another spot. It'd be much more straightforward, much less time-consuming.
Come to think of it, Acura could have accomplished this if they had programmed the top-level virtual button to operate like this. Perhaps the touchscreen is not the enemy. Maybe it has more to do with the temptation to overcomplicate things with pop-up menus, a state of affairs that's all too easy with a touchscreen.
At least the Acura's seats got toasty warm in a hurry. That part was great.
When the term was first coined, off-road capability was assumed to be the primary sport alluded to by the leading "S" in the term SUV. One of the primary predictors of off-road prowess is maximum suspension articulation, and we can readily measure that with a quick trip up our 20-degree RTI ramp to measure Ramp Travel Index.
Because it is SUV-shaped and has all-wheel drive, our 2014 Acura MDX recently underwent this simple procedure.
And the MDX set a record, of sorts, for Worst RTI Score (So Far) with 249 points.
This shouldn't be all that surprising, because the MDX's Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive system, known by the SH-AWD acronym, is more about on-road handling in all weather conditions.
The system helps with dry cornering and is positively expert in snowy and wet-road environments. This RTI score tells us that actual off-roading was never much of a design consideration when the suspension was being conceived, though we suppose gravel roads of reasonable condition are just fine.
During the measurement the flexible rubber extension attached to the Acura's front spoiler came into hard contact with the ramp's cheese-grater surface, which does not bode well for approach angle, another crucial off-road trait.
In case you're wondering, RTI is determined by driving the vehicle up a 20-degree ramp until the left-rear wheel lifts juuuust off the pavement, usually amid a flurry of wheelspin. That distance is then compared to the vehicle's wheelbase, and the result is multiplied by 1,000 to get a three digit RTI result. Get both left-side tires to touch the ramp and the score is 1,000.
Some folks prefer to multiply the 20-degree ramp travel distance by 100 and express the result as a percentage of wheelbase. Increasingly, I count myself among them.
Our Acura went 27.6 inches up the ramp, compared to a wheelbase listed as 111.0 inches. Divide one by the other and multiply by your preferred factor and you get either 249 RTI points or 24.9 percent.
This relives the Nissan Juke of worst-score status (257 / 25.7%) and it is knocking on the door of 100 points worse than the Mazda CX-5, our leading crossover with a score of 334 RTI points or 33.4 percent.
Even among crossovers, it seems clear the MDX was never intended for off-road travel.
For perspective, our departed 2012 Jeep Wrangler left the showroom able to earn 561 points, and we were able to raise that to 908, a climb of 90.8% of its own stubby wheelbase, with the mods we added during its time with us.
There's a lot to like about our long-term 2014 Acura MDX. But the supreme comfort offered by its driver's seat is near the top of the list.
The shape and density of the seat is ideal for my 5' 11" 180-lbs frame. It's wonderfully wide, but it's also supportive and it holds me in place when I dig into the MDX's handling abilities. That's a neat trick. And I find its firmness to be of the Goldilocks variety. You know, not tooooo firm and not toooo soft.
When combined with the seat's awesome adjustability, which includes a long range of height adjustment, and the MDX's power tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, this crossover is as comfortable a vehicle as I've ever driven.
Here's what the light output looks like from the Jewel Eye LED headlights on our long-term 2014 Acura MDX. For comparison, I previously took a similar photo of our long-term Cadillac ATS's headlight output in the same dark garage.
At 25 feet away, the light output from the MDX looks stronger to me, but the light is not spread as widely across the ground. Like the Caddy, the MDX's output has a clear cutoff at the top of the beam, even though it is aimed a bit higher.
On a dark rural road, the Acura's headlights don't cast a wide beam, but drivers in oncoming traffic likely consider that a plus. Although it's not exactly a fair comparison, I prefer the Cadillac's adaptive headlights as they allow for a bit more vision around a corner.
We recently reported that our 2014 Acura MDX was due for maintenance soon. We dropped it off to address its first A1 service. "A" was a request for fresh oil and "1" for a tire rotation.
Santa Monica Acura processed the MDX in about 90 minutes. The total cost was $140.02, split evenly between the two items. Based on this experience, we'll be back here for the next service.
Total Cost: $140.02
Days out of Service: None
During February, we drove more than 1,500 miles in our long-term 2014 Acura MDX. In that time we set a new high for cruising range and used nearly 100 gallons of 91-octane fuel, but our luxury crossover's lifetime mpg didn't change at all.
Our previous best for range was 353 miles, but this month the MDX went 385 miles between fill-ups. Our average MPG has stayed exactly the same over the last four weeks, but at 18.4 mpg combined, it's 13 percent off of the EPA estimate of 21 mpg combined.
Worst Fill MPG: 13.8 mpg
Best Fill MPG: 23.4 mpg
Average Lifetime MPG: 18.4 mpg
EPA MPG Rating: 21 Combined (18 City/27 Highway)
Best Range: 385.9 miles
Current Odometer: 6,917 miles
A number of editors have commented on the form and function of the "Jewel Eye" headlights on our long-term 2014 Acura MDX. But here is something that isn't often considered: repair costs. After making a phone call to a friend who works at an Acura dealer, I can see why they call them jewel lights.
If the headlight breaks, it will cost about $1,400 to replace. This figure includes labor, which admittedly, is higher in California. If one of the individual jewels burns out over normal usage, you have to replace the entire headlight assembly. The only individual bulb you can replace is the turn signal.
It's important to note that these are LED headlights, which have a significantly longer lifespan than halogen or Xenon, but it could be an issue if you're looking to pick one up used, years from now.
On the 2014 MDX, there's no alternative. Jewel eye headlights are standard on every trim level.
Just for giggles, I asked what the replacement cost on an Acura RLX headlight was. It has a second row of jewels, so I assumed it would be pricier. The headlight assembly cost an eyebrow-raising $2,500 (labor not included). I'm thinking leasing might be the way to go on these cars with expensive features.
Would expensive headlights, deter you from buying the vehicle?
It had to happen. Shortly after I completed the RTI measurement of our 2014 Acura MDX (and griped about its potential) I was invited to join a group of friends on a weekend trip to the Mojave Desert near Ridgecrest, California.
There would be twelve of us in three cars. I always like to drive on these sorts of trips, so I needed an SUV that could carry four adults, their luggage, daypacks and a big ice chest. The 2014 Acura MDX seemed to fit the bill.
Once there, our little convoy would spend 90 percent of the time on dirt roads and single-lane OHV trails on BLM land. Would its lack of suspension flexibility and weak approach angle cause trouble? There was only one way to find out.
The desert south of Ridgecrest is popular with motorcycles and quads, which means the OHV trails tend to be dug out in a nearly endless series of whoop-dee-doos.
This was a mixed bag for the MDX. On the one hand, the whoops came at us "in-phase" which is to say the left and right side tires were moving in the same direction at the same time. Its lackluster RTI performance never came into play.
But the whoops were deep enough that the Acura's low and protuberant chin spoiler was a concern. I dealt with this in three ways: I kept my speed down, I steered around the deep sections as best I could within the confines of the narrow lanes, and I always went first so the convoy didn't lead me down a path the Acura couldn't manage. The other crossovers in the group had better front-end clearance than I did.
Along the way I discovered the Acura had the better all-wheel drive system in at least one sense. It turns out Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive, aka SH-AWD, is fairly capable on sand. This wasn't excessively deep wash-bottom sand or fine-grained silt, mind you, but I was able to start and accelerate smoothly every time. I never had to finesse it in the soft spots where the others in the group felt the need to tread carefully, in places where locals had dug divots and laid down chatter marks.
Some of the better-maintained and well-traveled sections led to cool points of interest. One of these was a memorial for Major Michael Adams, the only X-15 test pilot to lose his life during that otherwise successful space-plane program. We also spent some time exploring the hauntingly beautiful Pinnacles National Monument near Trona, California.
All in all, the 2014 Acura MDX did well in this sort of desert environment even though its ultimate capability is limited by a relative lack of chin clearance and suspension flexibility. But with a little care these factors weren't much of a factor out here on roads where the dominant geological feature is dirt and semi-compacted sand, not rocks and deep silt.
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.
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.
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.
Last weekend my friend Jonathan and his wife Christine joined me for a trip up to Mammoth Mountain in Mammoth Lakes, California, for some fun on the slopes.
Luckily, I was able to snag our recent long-term addition, the 2014 Acura MDX SH-AWD, as much for its gargantuan space as for its all-wheel-drive capability.
Of course I was running behind on my way to picking them up (shocker) and we didn't leave the greater L.A. area until around 4:00 p.m. Pretty much about the worst time to leave on a Friday.
But the Acura is such a quiet, easy-driving, comfortable vehicle that it made the pain-in-the-neck of our clogged freeways much less so.
We had plenty of room for all our stuff, including two snowboards and lame-old Monticello's skis taking up so much space. We folded the "40" part of the second-row seat down to accommodate the dang things, leaving Christine with the "60" for sitting. Also helping here was the ability to put a few small items in the underfloor storage compartment.
Christine said she was comfortable in back and the ride was never jarring for any of us. Loaded up as we were, the MDX's 290-horsepower V6 still proved adequate for passing maneuvers on the two-lane stretches of Highway 14, although I wouldn't go so far as to say there's an abundance of power here. Plenty fine for what we were doing, though. And it makes a nice snarl over 5,000 rpm.
The only real fault of this MDX appears to be the 7-inch touchscreen, which requires far too much button-pushing for simple tasks like changing fan speed or turning on the seat heaters. And the infotainment system in general just isn't intuitive to use.
We covered 744 miles during the trip from Orange County to L.A. to Mammoth and back, averaging 22.8 mpg, even with the first hour or two of the trip spent at near-idle trying to get out of L.A. Our best tank was 24.9 mpg.
During my recent drive to Mammoth Mountain and back, I noticed an occasional and odd electric-motor whirring noise coming from our 2014 Acura MDX.
Since it was sporadic, it was hard to pinpoint why it was happening or where exactly it was coming from. It would come on randomly, then turn back off.
It's definitely coming from somewhere up front, possibly the dash area. Sometimes it sounded like the ABS system trying to work, but I was never braking when it occurred.
At this point, I don't have much else to report. It's a fairly faint sound, so editors who drive with the stereo on the whole time might never hear it.
Maybe we can get some of the editors to turn down the radio to give this a proper further investigation.
The first time I was in an Acura MDX I was a passenger. I was impressed with its comfort and many entertainment features. It's no surprise to find a wealth of features in a luxury crossover in this price range. But I think I actually prefer being a passenger is this car than driving it.
Sure, it weighs less than its predecessor, is faster, more efficient, and much quieter. And many of the safety and tech features are geared toward the driver. But I have a hard time getting comfortable in the driver seat, the view out the rear window is tiny and the expanded view driver's mirror makes me dizzy.
But as a passenger I can just lean back and enjoy the leather-wrapped goodness. Back seat riders have even more fun. They get the DVD player with wireless headsets where they can play Xbox or watch two different movies at the same time. They also get heated rear seats and sunshades. So, if you're a kid or riding shotgun, you've got it made.
At Edmunds.com's headquarters in Santa Monica, California, there really isn't much inclement weather. As you've likely heard, 2014 has been uncharacteristically dry, though a few weeks ago, there was a brief respite from the drought. About 3 inches of rain fell in 48 hours. But I barely noticed while commuting in our long-term 2014 Acura MDX.
Rain-sensing wipers come equipped on the MDX as a part of the Technology package, and they work flawlessly.
According to the MDX's manual, the High setting on the wiper stalk "reacts to a smaller amount of rainfall," while the Low setting reacts to a larger amount of rainfall. Many of these systems can be oversensitive to a small amount of water, or have the opposite effect and take too long to respond, but not the MDX. Its sensor responded well during several hours of driving and never activated the wipers when it wasn't necessary. As far as a passive technology designed to let me focus on the road, Acura has nailed this one.
However, I don't think I'd pay to add this feature if it were a stand-alone option (especially here in L.A.), but as part of the Tech package, which also includes navigation and the upgraded audio system, it's definitely a useful feature that's worth having.
Last week, Mike Monticello came back from a trip to the mountains with an odd observation about our long-term 2014 Acura MDX. He said it was making some odd noises that he couldn't explain. They were faint, and fairly random, so trying to listen to them proved fruitless. He was hoping someone else would hear them to back up his claims.
Sure enough, I drove the MDX over the weekend and heard the same noise, or at least I think I did. Mike was right, the noise occurs randomly. It sounds much like a typical ABS system engaging for a second, but it's not accompanied by any kind of change to the feel of the vehicle. No tugging on the steering wheel, no jerkiness to the brake pedal. Nothing.
And that's what makes this one so tough to address. I've got a feeling if we take it to the dealer that it's going to come back with a "cannot replicate the issue" note on it. On top of that, since it doesn't seem to actually affect the drivability of the vehicle, it's more of an oddity than a problem that has to be taken care of right away. We'll get it fixed, but it might take some time.
When I finally decided to break down and buy my latest phone, I went big. I got the iPhone 5S with 64 gigabytes of memory. This finally allowed me to put all of my music in one place, and sometimes that can be a bit taxing for the infotainment systems in our long-term cars. It's a lot to process, so oftentimes there's quite a bit of a wait before I can search for music. Our long-term 2014 Acura MDX has no such problems, though.
I have nearly 5,000 songs and 20 different podcasts (each up to three hours in length) on my phone. In some test cars I've gone nearly 30 minutes before I can select a specific song or even a playlist. But in the Acura MDX from the very second I plug in, it's got everything up on the screen, ready to go. Digging down to find it in the menus doesn't take very long, either. If you've got a lot of music on your smartphone, this a great system for its indexing speed alone.
We added about 2,300 miles to our 2014 Acura MDX during March. A good chunk of that mileage came from Mike Monticello's road trip to Mammoth Mountain.
Mike's highway-biased trip helped boost the MDX's fuel economy a little and he posted our MDX's best tank so far at 24.9 mpg. For the month in total, we averaged 21.3 mpg.
Notably, that's right at the EPA's estimate of 21 mpg in combined driving. But our MDX's lifetime average is still down in comparison, which is at 19.1 mpg after more than 9,600 miles.
Worst Fill MPG: 13.8
Best Fill MPG: 24.9
Average Lifetime MPG: 19.1
EPA MPG Rating: 21 Combined (18 City/27 Highway Combined)
Best Range: 385 miles
Current Odometer: 9,602 miles
The deep storage well found in most minivans can't be topped for securing loose items. But our 2014 Acura MDX's shallower storage area behind the third-row seats is still sizable enough to hold about four reusable grocery bags.
The storage area's lid stays in its open position after you lift it up, and that, combined with a closed liftgate, further secures your groceries from sliding or moving around. Granted, if you're buying a three-row crossover because you've got a big family, your family's weekly grocery haul could easily exceed just four bags. But overall, I still find the MDX's storage area back here to be pretty useful, furthering the MDX's all-around appeal.
There are many aspects to our 2014 Acura MDX that I enjoy, but one of the more basic happens to be its overall size. It's not too small and it's not too big. As three-row crossover SUVs go, this one seems just right to me.
I have a family with two young kids, and I certainly appreciate the versatility and cargo space that a three-row SUV provides. That third-row gives me the ability to take the grandparents out with us for dinner, for instance, or take along a friend's kids to the Saturday soccer game. Alternately, fold that third-row down and you've got enough cargo space to make family road trips a lot easier.
At the same time, though, our MDX never feels too big. It slides into parking spaces easily and goes around turns with uncommon agility. I never feel like I'm driving a lumbering vehicle or minivan. The MDX seems more like a wagon, actually. EPA-estimated fuel economy is also quite good for this class.
A friend of mine who has a life largely resembling mine recently bought a 2014 MDX. I think he made a pretty smart decision.
We've already used our 2014 Acura MDX for a couple of road trips, most recently on a trip to Mammoth. So far we've only had good things to say. I've collected a few thoughts as well on why I like I like driving our MDX on long hauls.
Seat comfort and driving position are always very important for long-distance drives. The MDX does well here. It's true that the driver seat's power adjustment count is pretty average (there aren't any adjustable bolsters, thigh extender or four-way lumbar, for instance). But the seat is well shaped (our Editor-in-Chief called them great seats) and I've been comfortable for the 4- to 5-hour drives I've done.
The MDX's ride quality isn't the smoothest riding you'll find in a luxury crossover. I seem to remember our old long-term Infiniti JX35 doing a better job of smothering out ruts and bumps. But given that the MDX is a lot sportier handling than most competitors (and will feel more responsive should you need to make an emergency maneuver on the highway), I think it's a balanced approach a lot of drivers will appreciate.
Our MDX also has plenty of interior storage for water bottles, snacks and personal items. There's also a respectably quiet interior, the nice-sounding premium ELS audio system and a useful amount of cargo space behind the second-row seats if you happen to be taking along luggage.
If you frequently make a lot of long-distance drives, the MDX should keep you happy.
Pop the hood of our 2014 Acura MDX and you'll find a rather unassuming plastic cover over the 3.5-liter V6 engine. It might as well have "Generic V6 by Kirkland" stamped on it. But what lies underneath is actually one of the more appealing engines in the three-row crossover segment.
As Ed Hellwig wrote previously, the redesigned MDX has a smaller engine. It changes from last year's 3.7 liters of displacement to 3.5 liters for 2014. It's also rated for slightly less power, from 300 down to 290. But it produces more usable low-end torque now, thanks in large part to direct fuel injection technology, a first for Acura (this V6 is also used in the RLX sedan).
The MDX's V6 also has cylinder deactivation for the first time. This is where the V6 can shut down three cylinders under certain conditions to improve fuel economy. Honda/Acura has been using this technology for a while now, and this is the newest version that's paired with actively controlled engine mounts and active noise cancellation to quell both vibration and noise.
The upshot is that this V6 is impressively quiet and responsive for normal operation. You'd never know that it has cylinder deactivation. Yet when you put the gas pedal to the floor, the MDX still shows you that it has that some soul under all that new technology. Use the shift paddles to manually select gears and you can wring this smooth V6 right up to redline. Above 5,000 rpm, it produces a snarly, more aggressive engine note that could very well bring a smile to your face. The V6's sound is even more pronounced when the IDS mode is set to Sport.
If you grew up driving old Acura Integras and RSXs, you're certain to like what the MDX has under that generic plastic cover.
I really like our 2014 Acura MDX. It's versatile, enjoyable to drive and equipped with a nice selection of convenience and luxury-oriented features. If I were shopping for a three-row luxury crossover SUV, it would be very high on my consideration list.
But it's not the only one on the list.
Our MDX, as equipped with the Technology and Entertainment packages, stickers for $51,460 and has an Edmunds TMV for Santa Monica, Calif., of $49,197 as of this writing.
Here are a few other crossovers that I find pretty appealing that could potentially be priced in the same neighborhood. In each case I used Edmunds' configuration tool to equip the following models as close as I could to our MDX.
The 2014 Infiniti QX60 isn't as performance oriented as the MDX, but it's superior for taking on a lot of passengers. With options similar to what our MDX has, Edmunds TMV is $49,723.
On the other side of the spectrum is the 2014 BMW X5. It's sportier but not as roomy. It's also, umm, rather pricey. TMV for a base X5 xDrive35i is $54,195, which isn't too bad. But when I added features to the X5 to make it similar to our MDX, TMV shot up to $66,986.
I also think there are some great choices under $50,000 for some non-luxury branded models. The Ford Flex has been around for a while, but I still think it looks cool and offers great versatility. With MDX-similar options, Edmunds TMV for a Flex Titanium with the turbocharged V6 engine is $44,363.
The 2014 Ford Explorer Sport is very similar. Edmunds TMV is $45,138.
Finally, a 2014 Dodge Durango Citadel with the V8 and a full load of features is $49,256 for Edmunds TMV.
What would you consider getting in this price range for a new three-row crossover SUV?
We're now at the halfway mark for a long-term test of our 2014 Acura MDX. For almost each vehicle in our fleet, we aim to rack up at least 20,000 miles in a one-year stay. We started our MDX test back in October 2013, so we should be on track.
So far, our MDX has been rock-solid and earned plenty of favorable comments.
The MDX has been to the dealer twice so far, but only for minor things. The first time was for a recall and the second was for a standard oil change and tire rotation service. Nothing else has broken or gone awry.
I'm enjoying having the MDX in our long-term fleet. It's comfortable, feels sporty to drive and ideal for family use. The next six months or so should be equally good. It will also be interesting to see how it compares to our recently added 2014 Toyota Highlander.
There's my beloved Integra (in need of a bath) parked behind our long-term 2014 Acura MDX.
Why Acura discontinued the Integra is beyond me. Sure, it was in need of an update. But the RSX and ILX have not filled its shoes. Acura doesn't have anything in its current lineup that has the cult status of the Integra. Maybe the NSX when it launches, but we'll see.
What cars have achieved cult status is your mind? Any make. Go.
In an effort to bring some spring cheerfulness to my house, I hopped in our 2014 Acura MDX and went shopping for some new fun stuff. I ended buying some new pillows for the couches, some Easter tchotchke, fresh new candles, etc.
I dropped the third row in the MDX and piled in my bags. But I didn't really need to. With the third row in place, there is still plenty of space back there and my bags weren't huge. But the seats were easy to fold over, so I did.
I've probably said this before but I have no use for a vehicle of this size. I don't have kids so I don't really need the space or the rear seat entertainment features. But when I bring the MDX home, I get lots of questions about it from neighbors, and even from strangers I meet on my shopping runs. So, people are interested in the MDX, and indeed it is Acura's current best-seller.
So while it may be more vehicle than I expect to ever need, it may suit you just fine.
Would you consider the Acura MDX for your next purchase?
P.S. By the way, we're testing a more robust commenting system. Hopefully, we'll be implementing in the next few weeks.
This will sound strange but I actually like when our L.A. freeways are only moving about 40 mph. They are usually moving much slower and as soon as they open up instant stupidity sets in. Every driver jumps to any lane that is moving fractionally faster. This is when accidents happen. And this is when I appreciate the Blind Spot Information system in our long-term 2014 Acura MDX.
I'm not a frequent lane jumper but I've driven my route home so many times that I know exactly which lane works best as I progress down the freeway. The BSI warning light in the MDX comes on every time a vehicle is detected in my blind spot and it stays on until they are clear. As soon as I apply the turn signal, even before I move an inch, the light blinks and the warning beep fires off.
At first I thought this system was too sensitive but then I realized it's really helpful. It's not always easy to see the action at the side of the MDX and you can be sure that whoever is hanging at your side is not paying attention to you. That's why 40 mph on an overcrowded L.A. freeway is good enough for me.
We put 995 miles on our 2014 Acura MDX in April. With a 21.4 mpg average over those miles, the MDX equaled its EPA estimate for combined driving. We set no high or low mpg milestones last month but did increase the MDX's lifetime average mpg from 19.1 to 19.3 mpg.
Worst Fill MPG: 13.8
Best Fill MPG: 24.9
Average Lifetime MPG: 19.3
EPA MPG Rating: 21 Combined (18 City/27 Highway)
Best Range: 385 miles
Current Odometer: 10,558 miles
The Integrated Dynamics System button on our 2014 Acura MDX changes the steering weight and throttle response as well as adjusting the torque distribution to the wheels while cornering. It does all this across three modes: Comfort, Normal and Sport.
Not really groundbreaking stuff. A lot of today's cars offer a similar feature.
However, the MDX leaves itself in the mode you set across key cycles. Turn it off in Sport and it's in Sport when you restart the car. Most manufacturers default to a particular setting. The feature can also be linked to a key fob so it will set according to a particular driver's preference.
Being a big fan of Honda and Acura (I've spent a fair amount of time in both), I was surprised by the navigation display offered in the 2014 Acura MDX , and not in a good way. The display seems washed out to me, the same way a television might look if somebody goes through the menu system and increases the brightness well past the medium mark. It is especially easy to notice because of the closeness to the super sharp multi-use display, which sits just a few inches below the navigation screen.
It didn't matter if the navigation system was in day or night mode, being used for navigation or as the display for the back-up camera. It still looked hazy.
I went through the menu systems, changed some of the setting around, and still wasn't able to get the rid of the haze. The menu system offers brightness, contrast, and black levels controls. Even with these, I couldn't seem to get rid of the washed out look. Was it terrible? No. The display just didn't look as crisp as other Honda/Acura navigation displays I've seen.
Checked the manual to see if I missed something in the screen adjustments, and I don't believe I did. By the way, Navigation/Audio/Bluetooth/DVD system manual weighs it at over 300 pages.
Is it me, or are some navigation screens not quite as bright as they were just two or three model years ago?
I'm not sure how this is possible, but I've lived in southern California for 14 years and I've only been to Oregon once. And that was simply passing through, driving a Subaru WRX down from a press launch in Vancouver, Canada.
Clearly this needed to be rectified. So I decided to take a four-day weekend and head north to visit a friend in Eugene and another in Bend. I called it my Trees and Trails Tour. We don't have much in the way of trees down here in SoCal, and I've heard the mountain biking is spectacular in Bend. I aimed to find out.
I loaded up my mountain bike and gear into our long-term 2014 Acura MDX and hit the road.
Of course I was going to do the 900-plus-mile drive in one day. Cue books-on-CD, my iPod and satellite radio. The first big portion of the trip, slogging straight up Interstate 5 in California, is pretty boring.
As I got further north the scenery changed, and it was cool to see the majestic, snow-covered Mount Shasta. And once fully into Oregon, yes, trees and lots of 'em, and plenty of general greenery. Now this is more of what I'm talking about.
For its part, the MDX was a great traveling companion. Comfy seats, lots of room, good power from the V6. Yes, there's a more-difficult-than-it-needs-to-be touch screen system for infotainment and climate control. But you get used to it.
Only two real issues came up: The driver's side window sometimes doesn't seal properly, allowing some wind whistling. And the occasional odd whirring/clicking noise coming from the left front (I talked about it before here) that sounds sort of like an ABS system, but is surely something else entirely.
After spending 14 hours or so on the road, it felt good to roll into Eugene Friday night. Tired but happy. Let the weekend begin.
After a Saturday spent walking all around Eugene, Oregon with a friend (great little city, by the way), on Sunday it was off to Bend in the 2014 Acura MDX to go mountain biking with another friend.
My buddy in Bend told me I'd enjoy the drive, and he was spot-on. From Eugene you take Route 126 slightly north, but mostly west as it follows the McKenzie River. Classic woodsy, river scenery. And hardly any traffic.
There's a cutover on Route 242 to Bend, but it's closed in winter due to snow. Apparently it won't open up until June or maybe July.
Later, the terrain gets more mountainous, and eventually Route 126 merges with Route 20, and in the town of Sisters you take Route 20 toward Bend. All told it's only about a two-hour drive from Eugene, depending on how many times you stop to take photos of your long-term car.
Who knows why or how I get ideas into my head, but for some reason I was thinking Bend was going to be moist and lush like Eugene, but in fact it's considered high desert. They don't get anywhere near the rain that Eugene does.
As such I was a little put off when the mountain bike trails didn't seem all that dissimilar from our dry, loose-dirt-over-hardpack trails in southern California. On the bright side, we were riding next to a river with flowing water, something we rarely ever have here.
But after we climbed to some higher elevation and got into thicker woods, the trails became more to my liking, the dirt providing great traction with plenty of fun twists and turns and a few jumps here and there. Good stuff.
The MDX performed flawlessly. Interestingly, my buddy, who is a car guy himself, noticed that the Acura's tires are cracking slightly on the edges where they were worn from our initial instrumented testing many miles ago.
Awesome scenery, great riding, good company. Without question, worth the side trip from Eugene.
Early Monday morning I was back in the 2014 Acura MDX for the slog down Interstate 5 South from Eugene, Oregon to Santa Monica, California. I was sad to leave Oregon.
I'm not sure why I didn't think to do this before, but when the driver's window made the occasional whistling sound as it had on the trip up, I pushed out on the window, just to see how it would affect things. Doing so eliminated the noise. Clearly this is something that could be fixed.
Total miles for the trip: 2,047.
Average fuel mileage: 24.8 mpg, with a best tank of 27.4 and a worst of 23.8.
For comparison, the EPA's numbers for the MDX are 21 mpg Combined (18 City/27 Highway).
Oh, and don't listen to Mike Magrath if he tries to tell you I stunk up the MDX. He's a weirdo. The Acura already had a slightly odd odor before I got in. But in truth, four days with my mountain bike (and its odd-smelling chain lube) lying in the back probably didn't help anything.
Overall, the road trip was a success. I found trees. I found trails. The 2014 Acura MDX was a worthy and comfortable companion through it all, with space and power aplenty.
Our long-term 2014 Acura MDX SH-AWD is hungry for a checkup. On my way home from the office, a message popped up warning me that the Oil Life had reached 15%. Since then, every time the vehicle was restarted the message would appear with a healthy "bing" and the letter code "B16". As Dan Edmunds pointed out before, Acura's Maintenance Minder system "monitors our driving behavior and adjusts the service intervals accordingly"
Broken down, B16 includes -
B: Replace engine oil and oil filter, check parking brake adjustment, and inspect fluid levels, front and rear brakes, suspension, fuel lines, steering, driveshaft boots, exhaust system, etc.
1: Rotate tires
6: Replace rear differential fluid
Yes, the startup nanny message can get annoying, but I appreciate that it is clear and gives us fair warning to schedule the work needed.
Over the weekend I was able to take our long-term 2014 Acura MDX on a road trip to visit friends in Northwestern Nevada, with stops along CA HWY 395 at Mono Lake and June Lake.
Most of the time we had two adults, a 60-pound dog, a cooler, and luggage. On the long stretches we had both the second and third rows folded down, which gave us more cargo room than we needed. I'm proud of my travel gear Tetris skills, but when every square inch is crammed, visibility suffers. This was not the case. I could see out the back and things were easy to access.
On a few hour-long side trips we had no luggage, but all seats were filled and surprisingly, everybody had more room than expected. The third row was easy for people to hop into, and the 60/40 second row could slide forward or back, not just to gain access, but to adjust for legroom needs.
Overall the Acura was a pleasure and time passed easily. The tech was easy to figure out, the ride comfortable, and it had plenty of power when passing oblivious texters.
Overall miles added to the ODO: 1,179
Gallons of fuel used: 55.219
That works out to be an average MPG of 21.25, 2.35 MPG lower than the vehicles' own info-screened estimate of 23.6.
While on a recent road trip in northwestern Nevada we got caught in some heavy rain and hail, which wasn't that big of a deal. Problem was that our friends live on a remote ranch in the middle of alfalfa fields that were prehistorically ocean floor. The silt and sand across the valley is micro fine, and doesn't drain well. Also, the unpaved road varies from being compact and smooth as glass, or loose and mucky as concrete mix.
The first puddle wasn't that wide or particularly deep, but the surface underneath was slick enough to engage the traction control system. This slowed the vehicle considerably, and the momentum we had was decreasing. We made it out without getting stuck, but the next puddle needed a different technique.
With the traction control off, the smiles began. The V6 had more than enough power to keep the wheels spinning (in a good way) and our momentum up and us out of the muck. Puddles that were much longer and deeper were easy to get through...and way more fun.
I regularly abuse my older Subaru Outback Sport and an '85 Toyota Land Cruiser, so AWD/4WD is what I'm used to. In a way that makes me lazy. I can incorrectly assume that what I'm in can handle some sand, snow, or rough stuff. I was lucky I wasn't in something lower and FWD or RWD. Our 2014 Acura MDX AWD did well and passed the test. This time, a shameful call for a tow wasn't needed.
It was a busy month for our 2014 Acura MDX, with more than 4,000 miles added to the odometer in May alone. Mike Monticello's road trip to Oregon accounted for a significant portion of those miles, and John Adolph borrowed it for an excursion to Nevada. How did thousands of miles of open highway affect the MDX's overall average mpg?
Lifetime mpg increased to 20.1 from the 19.3 reported last month. The MDX also achieved 27.4 mpg in one fill up, its best recorded fuel economy yet. This also marks the first time the MDX has hit its 27 mpg EPA highway rating.
Worst Fill MPG: 13.8 mpg
Best Fill MPG: 27.4 mpg
Average Lifetime MPG: 20.1 mpg
EPA MPG Rating: 21 Combined (18 City/27 Highway)
Best Range: 407 miles
Current Odometer: 14,795 miles
Cameron and I recently dropped off our long-term 2014 Acura MDX at Santa Monica Acura for its second regular service appointment. Our MDX had already been to this dealership for its first service and a recall. We arrived at the dealership in the afternoon, and picked up the MDX the following morning. Other than having to wait about 10 minutes or so to have the MDX brought around to us, the service appointment went fine.
The MDX was asking for a "B16" service. Here is what that included:
Change oil and oil filter
Check brake pads and disc for wear
Check calipers for damage
Check parking brake
Check steering, suspension
Check brake hoses
Check fluid levels
Check exhaust system
Check tire pressure
Replace rear differential fluid (Our MDX is a SH-AWD)
Total cost: $186.88
The dealer also checked our battery cold cranking amps. All checked out fine.
In my previous post, I mentioned how underwhelmed I was with the navigation display in the 2014 MDX, so I asked our service advisor to check it out. He said everything seemed normal.
It was my prized possession when I was 12, a brand-new 20-inch 1982 Redline Proline. It was chrome just like Stu Thomsen's and I special-ordered black Tuff Wheels, just like the ones R.L. Osborne used.
Then, in 1995, in one of my more foolish moments, I tossed its rusty remains in a dumpster. I still can't believe I was that stupid. Regret doesn't begin to cover it.
After talking about it for 10 years, recreating that BMX bike has been an obsession of mine for the past five months. I've been living on eBay gathering the parts to assemble the machine, everything from the frame and wheels to the Maxy Cross cranks, KKT Lightning pedals, fluted seat post, Redline neck, Stu Thomsen Racing bars, HARO number plate and my signature checkered flag pads. Every piece from the AME grips to the Tioga Comp III tires had to be just as they were in 1982.
It wasn't easy or cheap, but I found it all. And I finished it two weeks ago, just in time for the BMX Society Reunion and Show in Long Beach, CA. It's kinda like Pebble Beach for the Vintage BMX crowd.
I secured our long-term 2014 Acura MDX for the occasion to haul the bike and my family to the event. But there wasn't as much room inside the crossover as I thought there would be.
Ultimately we did fit, but to get the bike in I had to fold down the smaller side of the Acura's 60/40 split second row and squeeze one of my daughters into the middle spot. I also had to slide the second row forward to make room for our four folding chairs, which aren't in the photo.
By the way, that is my helmet from 1982. Somehow I was smart enough to keep that.
Since our long-term 2014 Acura MDX joined our fleet in late September we've driven this crossover 15,000 miles.
Problems? Not one.
The MDX has proven as durable and reliable as we would expect an Acura or any $51,000 automobile to be. We've had the car serviced twice for scheduled maintenance, once at 6,243 miles and again about 600 miles ago. Combined, the cost has been $326.90.
We also had a recall taken care of at Santa Monica Acura back at the 5,112-mile mark. The car's propeller shaft bolts were inspected and torqued at no charge.
Now, the 2015 Acura MDX, which is essentially unchanged from the previous model year, earned the highest five-star overall safety rating from the NHTSA as well.
The 2015 MDX has yet to be rated by the IIHS but was one of its Top Safety Picks for 2014.
Read more in Edmunds news:
Of course I understand that our 2014 Acura MDX isn't a pet. The MDX doesn't shed, clamor for attention, or get jealous if I play with another MDX. But like my beloved dog, it does have a personality. In my opinion at least. The best way to describe the MDX's personality is obedient.
The MDX seems to be just fine doing what I ask of it, and I rarely have to make adjustments to the way I drive. The Acura does a great job of letting me drive the way I want, and it seems to delight in making me happy.
If that means taking a tight turn without slowing down to a crawl, no problem. The grip provided by the SH-AWD system gives me the feeling that if I wanted to blow past the speed limit (I never would) I could, and the MDX would stay on course.
If I need the MDX to get up to freeway speed, it is more than willing. It moves as easily as a car, an aggressive car that handles really well and can seat seven.
SUVs serve a purpose, but they aren't always easy to drive, or fun. This one is.
While working at the dealership, I regularly met drivers who wanted out of their SUVs. Usually people were looking to get something better on gas. But quite a few drivers wanted out because they simply didn't like the way the SUV drove. I remember one shopper telling me she never really felt in control of her SUV.
While driving the Acura MDX, there hasn't been a moment where I felt I wasn't in charge. The MDX does what I ask it to do, no grumbling, no whining. Obedient.
And oh, to top it off, I got roughly 24 miles per gallon over the 450 miles or so I did over the weekend.
We ran a little over 1,000 miles of mixed driving in our 2014 Acura MDX during the month of June, averaging 19.33 mile per gallon.
In this month our MDX had its second service appointment and crossed the 10,000-mile mark. But no big, exciting road trips.
This did nothing to move the needle. All of our fuel economy numbers (best, worst, lifetime) remain unchanged.
Worst Fill MPG: 13.8 mpg
Best Fill MPG: 27.4 mpg
Average Lifetime MPG: 20.1 mpg
EPA MPG Rating: 21 Combined (18 City/27 Highway)
Best Range: 407 miles
Current Odometer: 15,812 miles
I found a few ants in my house the other day. This happens every summer. They're looking for water or something. It completely freaked me out and I went on a cleaning frenzy.
In doing so, I strained my lower back. Fortunately, I was also driving the 2014 Acura MDX for the weekend. Its seat heaters radiate warmth all the way up your back as well as on the seat cushion. But of course, it's summer and hot outside.
In my travels I put seat heaters on full blast and the air conditioner at the same time. This set-up was very effective in easing my back pain while helping me keep my cool.
Have you ever used seat heaters to help with a sore back?
Our 2014 Acura MDX saw holiday duty this past weekend. It ferried seven of us to a local Fourth of July fireworks show, then took three of us on a trip up the coast and to an auto museum. And you're not going to believe this, but it also handled a trip to the mall and supermarket. Road trips and shopping excursions are typically where a crossover SUV proves its worth. And the MDX did itself proud.
For the fireworks trip, which included the wife's relatives with their two kiddos, it was a snap to flip and slide the second row seats forward to let the little ones get in back. Three adults sat in the second row while the missus and I sat up front. Granted, it was less than an hour's drive, but still nobody griped about pinched shoulders or legs. Not even an "Are we there yet?" from either of the seven-year old twins perched on their booster seats in the way back.
The next day three of us took a nice ride up PCH. We ended up at the Murphy Auto Museum in Oxnard, about 60 miles north of L.A. Named after Dr. Daniel Murphy, who had a thing for Packards (as do I. I'll take a V12 Boattail Speedster) and who opened the museum after having his friends store their classics along with his. The museum offers an eclectic mix. During my visit, everything from a Model T, to a couple of "mid-year" (1963 through 1967) Corvettes and a gorgeous '61 Lincoln Continental convertible was on display.
Throughout the holiday weekend, the MDX was a great cruiser, with its serene highway ride and confident handling in the curves that made it feel like a vehicle three-fourths its size. After logging about 400 miles in the pilot seat, I have to say the MDX takes good care of the driver as well. Thanks to the seat's ideal shape and firmly supportive cushioning, my sometimes moody back never complained.
Okay, what's pictured above is actually our long-term 2014 Acura MDX's blind spot indicator and not the collision alert indicator, but bear with me.
The collision alert sounds an audio alert and flashes "BRAKE!" in the instrument cluster when it thinks you're about to crash.
Key word there: thinks.
This system is way, way too sensitive, registering many "false positives" in routine city driving. Round a bend where there's a parked car, it goes bananas. Approach a car in traffic, it goes bananas. Change lanes on the freeway in a way it thinks is too aggressive, it goes bananas.
This Chicken Little-ing isn't unheard of among these systems by various automakers, but it's significantly worse in our long-term 2014 Acura MDX.
Now that first-half sales numbers are in for the auto industry, it gives the top sellers some bragging rights. In the case of the 2014 Acura MDX it remains the best-selling, three-row luxury SUV in the U.S.
In fact, Acura is proud to point out that the MDX is actually the best-selling, three-row luxury SUV of all time. That translates to 692,710 MDXs sold since it was introduced in 2000.
It's not surprising that it's been a steady seller for so long. The MDX has stuck to the same formula since the beginning. It has a manageable size, usable third-row seats if you need them and likable mix of performance and comfort. The latest version incorporates new safety features, updated technology and improved efficiency, but at its core it's still very much the same MDX that arrived in 2000. Smart of Acura not to mess with a good thing.
This trip to Oregon in our long-term 2014 Acura MDX AWD wasn't a vacation, really. My eldest daughter is heading off to college this fall, and she needed to attend a two-day introDUCKtion program to meet her advisor, sign up for classes and see how much space she'll have in her dorm room at the University of Oregon.
I'll share a few new observations I made during the drive in a couple of posts to come, but the thing that really stuck out was the range and fuel economy. We managed to wring 541 miles out of one tank at 29.9 mpg. Not bad at all considering its 27-mpg highway rating.
The meter read 31.5 mpg when I finally stopped for fuel, and that 1.6-mpg overstatement represents a 5-percent error in Acura's favor.
That was typical on this trip. The meter consistently boasted of better mpg than was actually delivered, and the exaggeration ranged between 4 and 7 percent at the trip's six fuel stops.
It always frosts me when meters read consistently high. Conspiracy theories start swirling around in my head. Always-high readings are certainly much better when it comes to customer satisfaction. I know these meters aren't perfect, but I'd feel better if they dithered between too high and too low and came to some sort of consensus with reality.
Still, the real number on this tank is pretty impressive. It came about through strict use of cruise control at 65 mph, but the result most certainly would have topped 30 mpg if not for three or four exits for food stops and restroom breaks.
The entire trip was 2,374 miles in length, and that included some in-town miles in Eugene and a couple of solo forays up into the mountains to hiking trailheads while my daughter was at school. All in, the MDX averaged 25.5 mpg over that distance. The official fuel economy rating is 21 mpg combined (18 city/27 highway).
Some months back I had nice things to say about the so-called jewel-eye headlights on our 2014 Acura MDX. But the pictures didn't really illustrate how far the high beams penetrate down the road because I made the comparison on a treeless desert backdrop. I could see the difference from the driver seat, but it didn't come across on the small screen.
The worth of the low beam and high beam headlights grabbed my attention once again on this most recent Oregon trip, but this time the countless trees we drove past made it easier to illustrate my point.
Here are the low beams.
And these are the high beams.
It still looks more impressive from behind the wheel, but you get the idea.
Sharing test cars has it challenges. Occasionally another staffer will turn on or off a feature or system and leave you scratching your head.
Such was the case with the blind-spot system in our long-term 2014 Acura MDX. I immediately noticed the static illuminated light in the MDX's gauge cluster, but wasn't sure if that meant the system was broken or turned off.
Rumor was that Dan Edmunds had turned it off, but just to make sure I went looking for the "On" switch. A few levels beneath the "Settings" button, I found the option to turn the blind-spot system back on, with a choice of flashing lights only, or the lights with an audible warning.
I went for the full alert package. We'll see how long it takes for another driver to knock it back down to silent.
We scored some personal bests in our 2014 Acura MDX this month. A road trip to Oregon by our Director of Vehicle Testing, Dan Edmunds, included several long stretches that delivered the record numbers.
The most impressive feat was its single tank range record of 541.1 miles. That's a pretty impressive number for an SUV of its size. That same tank also netted the MDX its most efficient average mileage number of 29.9 mpg, another impressive number for a three-row vehicle with a big V6 under the hood.
Thanks to tanks like that, the overall average for our MDX jumped from 20.1 mpg to 20.6 mpg. That's just shy of its combined rating of 21 mpg from the EPA. We have another month or so to push our MDX past the 20,000 mile mark and see how it finishes out its year with us.
Worst Fill MPG: 13.8 mpg
Best Fill MPG: 29.9 mpg
Average Lifetime MPG: 20.6 mpg
EPA MPG Rating: 21 Combined (18 City/27 Highway)
Best Range: 541.1 miles
Current Odometer: 19,257 miles
Our 2014 Acura MDX joins a long list of cars that were seemingly developed by engineers and designers that are unaware of the concept of sunrise and sunset. Funny thing, because these solar events occur daily. And they happen during commuting hours, a time when most cars and their bleary-eyed drivers are on the road.
Interstate 5 runs north and south, so I had the visor flopped to the side for extended periods on both legs of my recent trip to visit the University of Oregon. Our MDX lacks any sort of sliding flap or a telescopic arm, so I was forced to improvise.
It's not like the major automotive development hubs sit at the equator, either. Most are sited at high-ish latitudes where the sun spends a decent amount of time in the visor zone all winter long. And I know from direct experience in a former job that engineering teams venture even farther north in winter in search or extreme cold, places where the sun stays in visor zone for much of the day.
In short there's no excuse for a sun visor that's too short to fully cover the side window at times like this. There's a hinge, so this is an intended use. Make it work, people.
And Acura automobiles and SUVs are not bargain-basement products, either. I might expect such a cost-cutting move on a Honda Fit, but not here. Two thumbs down.
At first glance, the control layout in our 2014 Acura MDX looks like it would be easy to use. Just look at the size of that dial, it's huge.
In practice, it's a mixed bag. I say this after using it for everything from setting up the Bluetooth connection on my phone to plugging in addresses for the navigation system.
The biggest issue is the lag time between how quickly you move the knob and what happens on the screen. The screen struggles to keep up, so I inevitably crank the knob too far. Then I go back, and then forward again. Needless to say, at that point the system gets frustrating.
On the flip side, you can accomplish quite a bit with this one big knob once you get the hang of it. The fact that it moves directionally in addition to rotating gives it plenty of functionality, as long as you're patient.
We introduced our 2014 Acura MDX to the fleet on October 15 of 2013. On August 9 of 2014, almost 10 months later exactly, we crossed 20,000 miles. That's two months ahead of schedule. Turns out spacious, quiet, comfy, nice-to-drive three-row SUVs get a lot of use...
During this time we have experienced exactly zero problems. There was a recall campaign and two scheduled services. One at around 6,000 miles and one at about 14,000 miles. We've had zero breakdowns and it's spent zero days out of service all while retuning 20.6 mpg.
Wonder how many more miles can we pack onto this one before it goes away in October?
Not long ago I gave our long-term Nissan Rogue credit for having vents for the rear seat occupants. It was a small nod to a small, but useful feature. Of course, not long after that, it was reported that although the vents are indeed present they don't actually cool the rear compartment very well.
After a recent road trip in our 2014 Acura MDX, I can confirm that its rear seat climate controls work, and work well. Crank up the fan speed and it blows plenty of cold air. At least enough to make anyone in the rear seats feel cool while travelling in the second row on a hot day.
Obviously, the MDX is in a different class than the less expensive Rogue, but it's good to know that the stuff you're paying extra for actually works.
Even though I feel tiny when driving alone in the gigantic 2014 Acura MDX, I can appreciate its appeal. When I have passengers, they are always happy.
I had one of those weekends with lots of errands and fun. The Acura MDX was a great companion. From a trip to the mall to dinner at a fancy restaurant, it served us well.
The second and third rows are easy to configure when shopping. The backup camera system helps you ease out of mall parking spots. And my iPod has its own little shelf inside the center console so it doesn't toss around.
Later in the evening, all of my passengers were comfortable. We were dressed up, and it was easy to get in and out without our skirts riding up. (Something men don't have to worry about.) The strong A/C cooled the cabin rapidly, front and back.
I declare the 2014 Acura MDX a good multitasker. It's enjoyable on my way to work and at play with the seats full. It has good work/life balance as they say these days.
Yeah, yeah, another stuff-in-the-cargo-area post. But bear with me. Our long-term 2014 Acura MDX was actually the third vehicle I attempted to transport said stuff. Third! The MDX succeeded where other vehicles in our fleet did not (or had only partial success).
Three times, charms, and all that.
In this case I was attempting to transport a headliner to and from an upholstery shop.
A pickup like our Ram 1500 would have easily swallowed the headliner in the truck's box, but I didn't want to expose it to the elements/tree droppings/bird smartbombs or risk it blowing in the wind back there. In the truck's backseat the headliner would have had to rest entirely vertically on one edge, which I wasn't crazy about either. Really, a minivan would have been ideal for this job, but we don't have one in our fleet currently.
Now, you might ask: why didn't I just use the MDX in the first place? Simple. It wasn't available at the time. So instead I first tried fitting the headliner into a car/wagon/hatch/thing that was available, our BMW 328i GT. The tape measure said fitting it diagonally would be close but ought to work. All was going swimmingly...until I attempted to (very slowly) close the hatch, whereupon the inordinately thick frame around the backlight was clearly going to foul the corner of the headliner before the hatch could latch. No dice.
A few days later, I found myself with the Jeep Cherokee. Again, this was going to be close. The headliner fit diagonally and the hatch closed. It sort of dragged on the Jeep's various pillars on its way in, so I had to jimmy and juke and adjust the piece into position. Not ideal. That, plus in this orientation the edges of the headliner were taking some load, but I figured it was okay for transporting it in its then-current, sad-looking, drooping-fabric state. That stuff was getting trash-canned anyway. But I did not want to load the freshly-reupholstered headliner in this position or do any dragging when loading it. The Jeep was not gonna cut it for the return trip.
Voila, the MDX. Not only is its cargo area deep, it is, crucially, wide. Wide enough that there was about a half-inch of clearance to either side of the headliner. Perfect.
Nearly 2,000 miles were added last month to the odometer of our 2014 Acura MDX long-term test vehicle. But despite the thousands of miles driven, the Acura's monthly fuel-economy numbers hardly budged.
We did record a new "worst fill" of 12.6 mpg down from 13.8 mpg, but with over 20,000 miles of fuel data already accumulated, our lifetime average only dipped from 20.6 mpg to 20.5 mpg.
Worst Fill MPG: 12.6 mpg
Best Fill MPG: 29.9 mpg
Average Lifetime MPG: 20.5 mpg
EPA MPG Rating: 21 Combined (18 City/27 Highway)
Best Range: 541.1 miles
Current Odometer: 21,061 miles
If you don't live in Southern California, you may not have noticed, but we're having a bit of a heat wave. Triple-digits-in-the-day, too-hot-to-even-bother-going-to-the-beach, if-you-need-me-I'll-be-in-a-kiddie-pool-full-of-ice hot.
Our 2014 Acura MDX doesn't play well with this kind of weather.
Before we really get started, let's get one thing out of the way: I'm an American male. What that means, in this instance, is that my passport is blue, I've eaten a steak the size of a toilet seat and even though I'm not obese (toilet steaks are a treat, not a normal part of daily life) I want every room to be 62 degrees at all times.
I park in a subterranean garage, so managed to avoid melting between my door and the car. It was a reasonable 80-ish down there. And then I drove into the sun. Not literally, but it kinda felt like it.
As soon as I hit the open road, the MDX turned from its normally ultra-pleasant place to spend time, into a really well put together easy bake oven. Interior temperatures skyrocketed and I could feel the heat from the windshield, sunroof and side windows (all unfortunately standard). I cranked the A/C as low as it would go. That only seemed to enrage the heat. Fan to full speed. My eyes have never been drier and I'm slightly deaf now, but I no longer feel like I'm in a Turkish bath. Still, my eyebrows are sweating. I need it to be colder. Rear climate control, ACTIVATE!
It takes some time, but eventually the whole thing cools to an eyebrow-sweat-preventing 75 in there. Estimated. And it's then I notice a new source of heat.
My backside is cooking. The seat heater. Someone must've left it on. "DEROSA!" I cried and fumbled through the infuriating menus to turn off the butt-cookers.
They're not on.
They reset each time you get in. This heat, then, is passive. (I mean, if you consider endothermic metabolism passive.) It's me. I'm the seat heater and these non-ventilated-or-perforated leather buckets aren't doing anything to help. I'm stewing in my own juices (keep that image in your head, next editor to drive the MDX) and considering making my own perforations.
Perforated and ventilated front seats are available on the MDX with Advance and Entertainment Packages which rings up $56,780 for 2015, nearly $5k above the $50,840 price the 2015 MDX with Technology and Entertainment package costs. Of course, you get other stuff here, too. A 16.2-inch rear entertainment screen, 12-speaker ELS stereo, remote start, collision mitigation braking, lane keeping assist and adaptive cruise control.
But really, this one's worth it just for the seat ventilation alone. Go re-read that "stewing in my own juices" comment again if you don't agree.
The "Maintenance Due Soon" warning appeared in the instrument panel in our 2014 Acura MDX for the third time just as the odometer was about to hit 22,000 miles. We could have waited until service was required, but the SUV was about to go on a 2,000-mile road trip and we didn't want to travel on used oil.
There was one thing on the agenda before heading over to Santa Monica Acura. Our first A1 service, which was only a tire rotation and oil change, ran us $140.02. Rent is high in Santa Monica, but we knew we could do better. The dealer's Web site had a service special for a $29.95 oil change, so we printed out the coupon.
We brought the MDX to the dealer, handed over the coupon, and left. We didn't need the car back immediately and returned the next morning to pick up our gray chariot. It was clean and ready to go on another adventure.
Total cost for the A1 maintenance: $57.38
The Acura MDX has long been the driver's SUV. With an energetic engine, direct steering and suspension designed for people who know the difference between a damper and a hamper, the MDX was deemed just a tad too enthusiastic for the Pampers crowd. So the 2014 Acura MDX is softer, quieter and more comfy.
It's still got sauce, though, kicking out 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. So, we took it to the track to see if it's still got the moves.
Vehicle: 2014 Acura MDX
Driver: Chris Walton
Drive Type: Transverse front engine, all-wheel drive
Transmission Type: Six-speed automatic with console lever and steering-mounted paddles with Sport/Competition modes
Engine Type: Naturally aspirated, direct-injected V6, gasoline with cylinder deactivation
Displacement (cc/cu-in): 3,471 / 212
Redline (rpm): 6,600
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 290 @ 6,200
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 267 @ 4,500
Brake Type (front): 12.6-inch one-piece ventilated discs with two-piston sliding calipers Brake Type (rear): 13-inch one-piece solid discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Suspension Type (front): Independent MacPherson struts, coil springs, twin-tube dampers, stabilizer bar
Suspension Type (rear): Independent multilink, coil springs, twin-tube dampers, stabilizer bar
Tire Size (front): P245/55R19 (103H) M+S
Tire Size (rear): P245/55R19 (103H) M+S
Tire Brand: Michelin
Tire Model: Latitude Tour HP
Tire Type: All-Season
As tested Curb Weight (lb): 4,325
0-30 (sec): 2.5 (w/ TC on 2.7)
0-45 (sec): 4.3 (w/ TC on 4.5)
0-60 (sec): 6.5 (w/TC on 6.8)
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 6.3 (w/TC on 6.5)
0-75 (sec): 9.6 (w/TC on 9.9)
1/4-Mile (sec @ mph): 14.8 @ 92.8 (w/TC on 15.0 @ 93.1)
30-0 (ft): 33
60-0 (ft): 125
Slalom (mph): 60.3 (60.2 w/TC on)
Skid Pad Lateral acceleration (g): 0.84 (0.80 w/ESC on)
RPM @ 70: 1,900
Acceleration comments: At wide-open throttle, the transmission behaves the same in "D" and "S." It benefits from holding both pedals down momentarily from a stop, but other than that, there's little I could do to affect the results which were nearly identical run to run. It's cool that the cam-phase change-over a la VTEC still exists and it is so prevalent. I could hear and feel the surge as the tach swung past 5,000 rpm.
Braking comments: Medium-firm pedal, modest dive, but always straight. However, the first stop was dramatically shorter than the three that followed and eventually, I began smelling brake pads and the pedal grew noticeably. After the initial fade had occurred, it seemed to settle in at about 10 further than the first stop.
Slalom: I don't think I have tested an MDX of this generation yet, and remember when they were pretty predictable in how/when the ESC would trim the heading, however, all that has apparently changed. This one was inconsistent in when and how much electronic/brake intrusion was used, making it hard to find what I'd call a representative pass. It seems to overcorrect and kept pulling me into the cones I thought I would miss. Steering in Sport mode felt good: direct and not syrupy/heavy. In Normal or Comfort mode, it was extremely light and also less direct, more vague.
Skidpad: Little difference between the Sport and Comfort settings when ESC is enabled: a similar amount of lean and just as the front tires begin to howl, the throttle goes away. Disabling ESC does produce a significant improvement, however, I was much busier manipulating both the steering and the throttle to maintain a steady arc on the painted skidpad line. I believe this is everything to do with the AWD shuffling power around. Steering, as noted above, feels right in Sport mode and perhaps too light/vague in Comfort. .
This week we're using our 2014 Acura MDX to move our daughter to her dorm at the University of Oregon in Eugene. She's a freshman and this will be the first time she's lived away from home, so she packed a lot.
I'm not sure if it will all fit in her dorm room, but it fit in the MDX...barely. We stuffed it from floor to ceiling, and we folded the 60-percent portion of the middle seat down and piled that to the headliner, too. The result was a useless windshield mirror and just enough remaining room for three of us.
Good thing the door-mounted mirrors are decent-sized. And the rearview camera was an absolute necessity for backing up.
The rated cargo capacity of the 2014 Acura MDX is 90.9 cubic feet with the entire 60/40 middle seat folded down and 45.1 cubic feet with the middle seat in use. Applying a little math to these suggests we're availing ourselves of 72.6 cubic feet with the "60" part folded down.
I honestly don't know how much it all weighs, but the MDX was squatting down a little at the back as we made the run up Interstate 5 and took a side trip on winding mountain roads to see her grandparents along the way.
So far the MDX doesn't seem to care. There hasn't been the merest whiff of wallow and the rear end hasn't dipped into the bump stops even once. It's a far cry from the disappointing performance of our departed 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe, which failed to demonstrate half as much loaded composure on the same roads while carrying far less that an entire dorm room.
September was good to our 2014 Acura MDX, with over 3,200 miles added to its odometer. By now the data is pretty mature. Like a late-season batting average, it's hard to move the needle much at this stage.
Indeed the best and worst tanks didn't change. No new range records were set. Nevertheless, this month's mix of city and highway miles was accrued at an average of 21.8 mpg, and that was enough to nudge the lifetime fuel economy average of the MDX up from 20.5 to 20.7 mpg.
Excluding the decimal point in the style of EPA window stickers, that figure rounds to 21 mpg.
Can you guess the EPA combined rating that's assigned to our AWD-equipped 2014 Acura MDX?
You're right. The answer is exactly 21 mpg.
Worst Fill MPG: 12.6
Best Fill MPG: 29.9
Average Lifetime MPG: 20.7 (4.8 gallons per 100 miles)
EPA MPG Rating: 21 Combined (18 City / 27 Highway)
Best Range: 541.1 miles
Current Odometer: 24,267 miles
You may remember last week's college dorm move-in trip in our 2014 Acura MDX. On the way we paid a brief visit to my parents place because they live nearby.
Their house sits atop a hill on the Oregon coast, and their quarter-mile long driveway is exceptionally steep, well over ten percent for at least half the distance. And it's sinuous, too. Depending on the season it could be wet or snow-covered, but even when it's dry there's never enough engine braking in anything but first gear. Even then most cars require a few dabs at the brakes at key points.
But the MDX won't let me downshift below second gear here, even at speeds that are more than low enough to steer well clear of the redline. Here I am at just 1,000 rpm at 7 mph in second having no luck at all. I tried flicking the downshift paddle in D-mode, I tried again (and again) in Sport mode. No luck.
Sure, I can select first when it's standing stock-still, but on this hill the Acura auto-upshifts to second as soon as I ease off the brake and begin moving, without touching the throttle, mind you. First gear in this crossover SUV seems like nothing more than a temporary waypoint on the way to second.
This is no place to ride the brakes. I want my first gear. I need my first gear. But for some reason the software controlling the MDX's transmission won't let me have it.
My dad, who drives this every day, deems this a no-sale issue. But he's still mad at Honda for no longer making anything like his 1989 Civic 4WD Wagon, the tall one with the white steels wheels. Never mind first gear, his beloved Lil' Blue has a sub-first granny gear that's perfect here.
You already know about my recent 2014 Acura MDX road trip to Oregon to move my daughter off to college. You don't yet know about another trip I took the very next weekend to the high country of Utah.
The Oregon excursion took place on roads posted at 65-70 mph. There were a couple of mountain passes, but they only topped out at 4,500 feet or so. And they were generally over and done with quickly. Most of our time was spent well below 1,500 feet. There were three of us, plus clothes, pillows, bedding and the hardware of dorm living piled to the roof.
Last weekend's Utah blast took place on freeways posted at 75 and 80 mph. The entire trip was a steady climb up onto a plateau to our base of operations that sat above 5,000 feet. Once there we climbed a 9,800-foot pass to spend some time at an outdoor area that's nestled up at 8,600 feet. Five fully-formed adults were spread across the MDX's three rows, with our luggage piled on top of the folded unoccupied half of the third-row seat.
Loaded with perhaps more poundage than the Oregon trip, the MDX never struggled with all that weight at altitude. Likewise, Utah's 80-mph speed limits were a non-issue, even when combined with numerous intermediate climbs over the 6,500-foot passes that littered the route from the Arizona border to our hotel halfway up Utah.
We just had to be at GVWR or above. But the steering never got light or swimmy at speed. Strong crosswinds didn't make a dent, either. And the fully loaded MDX made all the right moves when the road went to spaghetti in the mountains, just as it had in the even more sinuous canyons in Oregon.
Throughout, the rear suspension never once touched down to the point where my third-row passenger noticed. This includes a long stretch of aging and pockmarked narrow two-lane roads we took though the Mojave Desert Preserve on the return trip, a shortcut to avoid the crush of an exceptionally bad example of Sunday afternoon Vegas-to-L.A. traffic. These were old-school desert roads, the kind built with countless roller-coaster dips instead of bridges and culverts, with trailer-hitch scars in the depressions to prove it. Even though I was rushing, the MDX passed with flying colors.
But the seats, well, they suck, frankly. At least my driver's seat did. The backseat folks had plenty of legroom and never griped, but they were probably overjoyed to swap places and rotate out of the pre-teen-sized third row every couple of hours. The reality of insurance terms and conditions kept me behind the wheel at all times, and my backside never made peace with the lower cushion, particularly the sharp cutoff of the thigh support and the seams in the pocket region.
The MDX was equally impressive on both trips, but the Utah run's higher speeds, higher average elevation and probably higher weight are reflected in the fuel economy numbers.
Oregon: 2,074 miles, 25.5 average mpg (worst – 23.1, best – 28.7)
Utah: 1,700 miles, 22.4 average mpg (worst – 20.3, best – 25.0)
For reference, our 2014 Acura MDX with AWD is rated at 21 mpg combined and 24 mpg highway. Its 17-mpg city rating has no relevance here.
The Oregon worst and best tanks roughly track with laden on the way north and unladen on the trip home. The Utah extremes correspond to uphill (to Utah) and downhill (coming back), with an overlay of 10-15 mph higher speeds much of the time. There was some light off-roading once we arrived, but not enough to move the needle much.
Other than the seats and a few quirky audio control issues, I'm really going to miss this one when it goes. It really excels at road-tripping.
What We Got
Three-row SUVs are one of the fastest-growing market segments for good reason. They provide maximum people-hauling capability with an attractive, versatile package. In other words, they act like minivans without being minivans.
With that in mind, the redesigned Acura MDX certainly piqued our interest. It's the best-selling model in Acura's lineup and has been for some time. Consider that it also earned an "A" rating and you understand why adding a 2014 Acura MDX to our long-term fleet made perfect sense.
The options list didn't cause us to lose much sleep. Acura models are available in a slim number of trim levels that encompass a wide variety of features. We ordered an MDX in Technology and Entertainment trim, a midpack level that adds three-zone climate control, blind-spot warning, DVD player and second-row heated seats. We also made sure to check the box for Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) for added versatility. Our tester, including destination fees, totaled $51,460.
Here's a sampling of how it fared over its one-year stint with our staff.
"The grip provided by the SH-AWD system gives me the feeling that if I wanted to blow past the speed limit (I never would) I could, and the MDX would stay on course. If I need the MDX to get up to freeway speed, it is more than willing. It moves as easily as an aggressive car that handles really well and can seat seven." — Matt Jones
Use the shift paddles to manually select gears and you can wring this smooth V6 right up to redline. Above 5,000 rpm, it produces a snarly, more aggressive engine note that could very well bring a smile to your face. The V6's sound is even more pronounced when the IDS mode is set to Sport." — Brent Romans
"The most impressive feat was its single tank range record of 541.1 miles. That's a pretty impressive number for an SUV of its size. That same tank also netted the MDX its most efficient average mileage number of 29.9 mpg, another impressive number for a three-row vehicle with a big V6 under the hood." — Dan Edmunds
[During the month of January] we refueled three times with 91-octane gasoline and averaged about 16 mpg, well below the official EPA estimates. Two of those fill-ups were by me, so I must be the heavy-footed culprit." — Donna DeRosa
"The shape and density of the seat is ideal for my 5-foot-11-inch, 180-pound frame. It's wonderfully wide, but it's also supportive and it holds me in place when I dig into the MDX's handling abilities. When combined with the seat's awesome adjustability... this crossover is as comfortable a vehicle as I've ever driven." — Scott Oldham
For the fireworks trip, which included the wife's relatives with their two kiddos, it was a snap to flip and slide the second-row seats forward to let the little ones get in back. Three adults sat in the second row while the missus and I sat up front. Granted, it was less than an hour's drive, but still nobody griped about pinched shoulders or legs. Not even an 'Are we there yet?' from either of the 7-year-old twins perched on their booster seats in the way back." — John DiPietro
"Most of the time we had two adults, a 60-pound dog, a cooler and luggage. On the long stretches we had both the second and third rows folded down, which gave us more cargo room than we needed. I'm proud of my travel gear Tetris skills, but when every square inch is crammed, visibility suffers. This was not the case in the MDX" — John Adolph
Yeah, yeah, another stuff-in-the-cargo-area post. But bear with me. Our long-term 2014 Acura MDX was actually the third vehicle I attempted to transport said stuff. The MDX succeeded where other vehicles in our fleet did not (or had only partial success)." — Jason Kavanagh
"I like the inside of our 2014 Acura MDX a lot. These hard plastic cargo compartments are ideal for my weekly hikes. They allow for mess-free storage of my shoes, shirt and water bottle without getting dust and mud all over the carpeted surfaces. And when you move forward in the cabin, the MDX continues to impress." — Travis Langness
Does the 2014 Acura MDX have the ultimate center storage compartment? It does so many different things. There are pockets for small items like iPods and phones, a non-skid shelf, a deep compartment for a briefcase. But as I usually see women driving the MDX, I would imagine that most drivers stash their purses there." — Donna DeRosa
Audio and Technology
"After doing numerous errands in unfamiliar areas this week, I realized just how nice it is to have a navigation-audio system with two screens instead of one in the 2014 Acura MDX. Having the option to see the audio info without moving away from the nav's visual directions is very convenient." — Kelly Hellwig
The biggest issue is the lag time between how quickly you move the knob and what happens on the screen. The screen struggles to keep up, so I inevitably crank the knob too far…. Then I go back, and then forward again. Needless to say, at that point the system gets frustrating." — Ed Hellwig
"During my recent drive to Mammoth Mountain and back, I noticed an occasional and odd electric-motor whirring noise coming from our 2014 Acura MDX. Since it was sporadic, it was hard to pinpoint why it was happening or where exactly it was coming from. It would come on randomly, then turn back off." — Mike Monticello
Our first A1 service, which was only a tire rotation and oil change, ran us $140.02. [This time] the dealer's Web site had a service special for a $29.95 oil change, so we printed out the coupon. Total cost for the maintenance: $57.38." — Cameron Rogers
"I have a family with two kids, and I certainly appreciate the versatility and cargo space that a three-row SUV provides. At the same time, though, our MDX never feels too big… I never feel like I'm driving a lumbering vehicle or minivan. The MDX seems more like a wagon, actually."— Brent Romans
This [blind-spot monitoring] system is way, way too sensitive, registering many 'false positives' in routine city driving. Round a bend where there's a parked car, it goes bananas. Approach a car in traffic, it goes bananas. Change lanes on the freeway in a way it thinks is too aggressive, it goes bananas." — Jason Kavanagh
Maintenance & Repairs
Routine service intervals were calculated by the car's performance-based Maintenance Minder. The MDX called for service three times during its stay with us. We took it to nearby Santa Monica Acura for service at around 6,000 miles (A1), 14,600 miles (B16) and 21,900 miles (A1).
One recall was announced for the 2014 Acura MDX. Bolts that attach the central drive shaft to the transmission transfer assembly would have to be tightened, or the shaft could detach. A dead MDX on the side of the road would have made for a hell of a picture, but we promptly brought the SUV to a dealer to address the recall.
Fuel Economy and Resale Value
Observed Fuel Economy:
EPA estimates for our 2014 Acura MDX with SH-AWD were 21 mpg combined (18 city/27 highway). After 26,106 miles we averaged 20.8 mpg. During our best single tank, we averaged an impressive 29.9 mpg over 541 miles.
Resale and Depreciation:
The MSRP on our MDX was $51,460. With 26,106 miles on the odometer, the Edmunds' TMV Calculator valued the MDX at $42,320 based on a private party sale. This works out to be a depreciation of 18 percent. That's significantly lower than our 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe, which depreciated 23 percent despite driving 3,500 fewer miles.
Pros: Plenty of power yet still delivers its published mileage ratings, capable suspension that rides smoothly whether there's one passenger or six, flexible and easily configurable seats, outstanding headlights, quick-reacting all-wheel-drive system, strong resale value.
Cons: Cumbersome infotainment system requires too much of the driver's attention for some functions, accident alert system can be too sensitive, sun visors don't extend, headlights are expensive to replace.
Bottom Line: One of the best three-row luxury crossover vehicles on the market. The MDX combines excellent packaging with a strong yet fuel-efficient engine that makes it perfectly suited for a wide range of tasks. If your family is looking for one vehicle to do it all, the MDX is a top choice.
|Total Body Repair Costs:||None|
|Total Routine Maintenance Costs:||$384.28 (over 12 months)|
|Additional Maintenance Costs:||None|
|Warranty Repairs:||Tighten drive shaft bolts|
|Scheduled Dealer Visits:||4|
|Unscheduled Dealer Visits:||None|
|Days Out of Service:||None|
|Breakdowns Stranding Driver:||None|
|Best Fuel Economy:||29.9 mpg|
|Worst Fuel Economy:||12.6 mpg|
|Average Fuel Economy:||20.8 mpg|
|True Market Value at service end:||$42,320 (private party sale)|
|Depreciation:||$9,140 (or 18% of original MSRP)|
|Final Odometer Reading:||26,106 miles|
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.