2014 Acura MDX: A Tale of Two Road Trips
October 15, 2014
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.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 25,967 miles