2014 Acura MDX: Give Me First Gear Already
October 13, 2014
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.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 23,626 miles