Pros: Seating for seven passengers; capable all-wheel drive system; highly durable and reliable

Cons: Poor fuel economy

The MDX is far and away Acura's bestselling vehicle-and for good reason. Based on the Honda Pilot, the MDX is big, good-looking, luxurious and versatile. The MDX, unlike other luxury SUVs, flies under the radar. It may not turn heads, but the MDX does everything a driver could want from a luxury SUV. Starting at $42,930, the MDX comfortably seats seven passengers. It has a well-thought-out, luxurious interior complete with most modern amenities a luxury buyer would want. It also has a world-class all-wheel-drive system: Acura's Super Handling All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD). Customers need only drive the MDX to understand why it's the top product in the Acura lineup.

Comfort and Utility

The MDX is based on the Honda Pilot, but aside from its underpinnings, the two vehicles have little in common, especially on the interior. Attention to detail distinguishes the MDX's interior from that of its competitors.

The MDX's three rows of seats can be configured in several ways, either left in place to seat seven or folded in a number of configurations to create additional cargo space. When the seats in the second and third rows are folded flat, there's an 83.5-cubic-foot cargo space.

The MDX comes standard with more equipment than some automakers offer on fully loaded vehicles, including a leather-trimmed interior, power moonroof, power windows, leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel with paddle shifters, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror with integrated rear-view camera and a tri-zone climate control system with humidity control.

Perhaps most appealing is the impressive solidity and build quality of the MDX's interior. Other luxury SUV interiors may not hold up well over time, but the Acura MDX's will.

Technology

In addition to Acura's plentiful list of standard equipment are numerous high-tech features such as Bluetooth HandsFreeLink, a multi-information display that allows access to multiple electronic functions and an LED backlit instrument cluster. Standard on the MDX is an eight-speaker, 253-watt premium sound system featuring an in-dash six-CD changer, MP3 capability, satellite radio and an auxiliary jack for MP3 players.

Acura's optional entertainment package for the MDX includes a DVD player, power folding full VGA nine-inch color screen for the rear passengers, dual wireless headphones, a wireless illuminated remote control and a 115-volt plug located in the center console.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The 2012 MDX's 3.7-liter V6 produces 300 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, on par with most modern V8s. The benefit to a high-output V6 versus a similarly powered V8 is fuel economy. With two fewer cylinders, V6s are inherently more fuel efficient than their V8 counterparts. The MDX has been rated by the EPA at 16 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway.

Mated to the powerful V6 is Acura's sequential SportShift six-speed automatic transmission, which allows drivers to shift with flappy paddles located behind the steering wheel. Cleverly, Acura has designed short gearing in the first five forward gears of the transmission to enhance acceleration. When on the highway, however, quiet cruising and fuel efficiency are optimized with a relaxed sixth gear ratio.

Safety

The MDX features numerous standard active safety technologies that help reduce the risk of collision, including Vehicle Stability Assist, Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist. Included in the optional Advance Package is the Collision Mitigating Braking System, which alerts the driver to potential collision situations and activates the brakes if the system determines a collision is unavoidable.

Along with the rest of the Acura lineup, the MDX has Acura's exclusive Advanced Compatibility Engineering body structure technology, which is said to enhance occupant protection, particularly in frontal crashes. ACE's network of connected high-strength structures distribute crash energy evenly over the front of the vehicle. This reduces the force transferred to the passenger compartment and can also even out the dispersion of force transferred to other vehicles in a crash. So the MDX is designed to keep its own passengers safe as well as passengers in other vehicles it encounters.

Driving Impressions

Most Acura buyers are interested in a sportier driving feel. Although the MDX is a big SUV, it delivers exceptional driving dynamics. Make no mistake about it: the MDX is quick. Put the accelerator to the floor, and the MDX rockets forward with a mighty roar. But when NASCAR-style driving isn't appropriate, such as when you have the kids in the car, the MDX is smooth, composed and quiet.

The Acura lineup is known for a stiff suspension to match the marque's sporting attitude. The MDX is no exception, but, comfortably riding the line between sport and luxury, its suspension is not quite as firm as those on smaller Acuras. The MDX handles well in the corners but is also soft over bumps and jolts in the road.

Other Cars to Consider

Audi Q7: Starting at $46,250, the Q7 comes standard with Audi's celebrated Quattro all-wheel-drive system. If AWD is the top item on your list as a luxury SUV buyer, the Q7 is the choice for the best that an AWD system has to offer.

Volvo XC90: This big luxury SUV, priced starting at $39,500, charges extra for AWD. If that's less important to you, save the money and stick with the front-wheel-drive version.

BMW X5: Starting at $47,500, the X5 carries one of the most expensive base sticker prices yet is one of the top sellers in the segment. With an eight-speed automatic transmission and a smaller engine, one might think the X5 would be more fuel-efficient than the MDX, but it isn't.

AutoTrader Recommendations

Acura offers many wonderful options on the MDX, but these packages can quickly cause the sticker price to skyrocket, making a $43,000 SUV a $53,000 SUV. You'll be just as happy, and save a lot, if you stick with the basic model.

What do you think of the Acura MDX? Let us know in the comments below.

author photo

Nick Jaynes developed a passion for writing about cars working his way through Journalism School as a Volvo mechanic. When he's not writing, Nick can be seen hosting the popular automotive web-show DownForce Motoring. In his free-time, Nick collects vintage cars, trucks, and motorcycles.

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