Pros: Seating for seven passengers; capable all-wheel drive system; highly durable and reliable
Cons: Relatively poor fuel economy
What's New: Unchanged for 2013 model year
The MDX is far and away Acura's bestselling vehicle, and for good reason. Based on the Honda Pilot, the 2013 Acura MDX is roomy, good-looking, luxurious and versatile. And unlike other luxury SUVs, the MDX flies under the radar. It may not turn heads, but it does everything a driver could want in a luxury SUV. Starting at $43,280, the MDX comfortably seats seven passengers. It has a well thought out interior complete with most of the modern amenities luxury buyers are looking for. It also has a world-class all-wheel-drive system: Acura's Super Handling All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD). You only need to drive the MDX to understand why it's the top product in Acura's lineup.
Comfort and Utility
Although the MDX shares its underpinnings with the Honda Pilot, the two vehicles have little in common, especially on the inside. Attention to detail distinguishes the MDX's interior from 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. With the seats in the second and third rows folded flat, there's an impressive 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, auto-dimming rear-view mirror with integrated backup camera and a tri-zone climate control system with humidity control.
Perhaps most appealing is the impressive build quality and solid feel of the MDX's interior. Other luxury SUV interiors may not hold up the well over time, but we think the MDX's will.
In addition to Acura's bountiful list of standard equipment are numerous high-tech features like Bluetooth HandsFreeLink, a multi-information display that allows access to a variety of electronic functions and an LED backlit instrument cluster. Standard in 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 9-inch video screen for the rear passengers, dual wireless headphones, an illuminated remote control and a 115-volt power outlet (like the ones in your home) located in the center console.
Performance & Fuel Economy
The 2013 MDX's 3.7-liter V6 produces 300 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, on par with many competitors' V8 engines. The benefit of a high-output V6 versus a similarly powered V8 is better fuel economy. The MDX is rated by the EPA at 16 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway. That's a few miles per gallon better than some V8-powered 7-passenger vehicles, but not as good as some other V6-powered SUVs.
Mated to the powerful V6 is Acura's sequential SportShift six-speed automatic transmission, which allows drivers to shift with paddles mounted on the steering wheel. Cleverly, Acura has used short gearing in the first five forward gears of the transmission to improve acceleration. When on the highway, however, quiet cruising and fuel efficiency are optimized with the relaxed sixth gear.
The 2013 Acura 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 Mitigation Braking System, which alerts the driver to potential collision situations and activates the brakes if the system determines a collision is imminent.
Along with the rest of the Acura lineup, the MDX has Acura's exclusive Advanced Compatibility Engineering body structure technology, which is designed to enhance occupant protection, particularly in frontal crashes. ACE's network of connected, high-strength structures distributes crash energy evenly over the front of the vehicle. This reduces the force transferred to the passenger compartment and can also even out forces transferred to other vehicles in a crash. So the MDX is designed to keep its own passengers safe as well as passengers in the vehicles around it.
Many Acura buyers choose the brand for the sportier driving feel of its models. 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 Speed Racer-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 having somewhat stiffer suspensions to match the marque's sporting attitude. The MDX is no exception, but its suspension is not quite as firm as those found on smaller Acuras. The MDX comfortably straddles the line between sport and luxury. It handles well in corners but is also soft and composed over bumps in the road.
Other Cars to Consider
Audi Q7: Pricing for the 2013 Q7 starts around $46,000. The base Q7 is not as powerful as the MDX, but the Q7 does come standard with Audi's celebrated Quattro all-wheel-drive, one of the best systems on the market today.
BMW X5: Starting at $47,500, the X5 carries one of the most expensive base sticker prices in this category. Yet the X5 remains one of the top sellers in the segment. With an 8-speed automatic transmission and a smaller engine, the base X5 xDrive35i gets 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway, better than the MDX. The diesel-powered X5 xDrive35d gets 19/26 mpg.
Volvo XC90: Volvo's big luxury SUV starts at $39,500, but you'll have to fork over an extra $2,000 for optional all-wheel drive. If you don't need the added traction, save the money and stick with the more fuel-efficient front-wheel drive version.
Acura offers many wonderful options on the MDX, but these packages can quickly cause the sticker price to skyrocket, turning a $43,000 SUV into a $53,000 SUV. You'll be just as happy - and save a lot - if you stick with the base model
What do you think of the new MDX? Let us know in the comments below.