The 2014 Acura MDX isn't just another "new and improved" luxury SUV. It is heir to a long line of Acura SUVs noted for their superior quality, excellent value and family-friendly cabins. Of course, what separates the MDX from lesser 7-passenger SUVs is the Acura pedigree that brings luxury amenities galore. The MDX may have many rivals -- both in the luxury and near luxury fields -- but few can match the MDX's combination of luxury, power, price and, most importantly, owner loyalty. In the MDX, Acura gets just about everything important to an SUV owner right, and then caps it off with impressive safety and crash test scores and a third-row seat actually capable of seating two adults. Acura also has a knack for making straightforward systems that seem maddeningly complex in other brands -- one more reason so many customers come back to Acura showrooms time after time.
What's New for 2014?
The MDX is all-new for 2014 with more power, more creature comforts and a new front-wheel-drive model. Longer and more spacious than the outgoing MDX, the 2014 model also sees significant improvements in body rigidity, which both help quiet the cabin and keep occupants safe in the event of an accident.
What We Like
Cutting-edge technology made easy, beautifully finished interior, killer ELS audio system, easy access third-row seat, ultra-quiet ride.
What We Don't
Overly cautious exterior styling, modest cargo space behind third-row seat, no V8, diesel or hybrid engine option.
$43,000 (2WD, base) to $57,500 (SH-AWD with Advance and Entertainment Package)
The 2014 Acura MDX is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine with direct-injection technology (gasoline is injected directly into the combustion chamber for better efficiency) rated at 290 horsepower. Power can be routed to the front wheels only or to all four wheels via the Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD). A 6-speed automatic with manual shift mode is standard on both trims. Fuel economy for the FWD MDX is EPA-rated at 20 mpg city and 28 mpg highway, while the SH-AWD trim earns a slightly lower 18/27 mpg.
Standard Features and Options
Even in its most pedestrian guise, Acura's MDX comes loaded. There is only one model but three different equipment packages: Tech, Tech Entertainment and Advance Entertainment.
Standard equipment on the MDX ($43,185) includes keyless smart entry with push-button start, LED headlights, rearview camera, Active Noise Control sound mitigation system, leather seating surfaces, power rear lift gate, heated front seats and a power moonroof.
The Tech Package ($47,460) adds Blind Spot Information, 19-inch wheels, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, rain sensing wipers, puddle lights, navigation audio with Acura Link, ELS high-output audio system featuring a 501-watt amplifier and 10 speakers.
The Tech Entertainment Package ($49,460) adds a DVD split-screen rear entertainment system, heated rear seats, a 150-watt power inverter, rear window shades and an additional ceiling-mounted speaker for the ELS audio system.
The Advance Entertainment Package ($55,400) adds Lane Keep Assist, ultra-wide view rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors, remote engine start, adaptive cruise control, low-speed follow with Heads Up Warning, collision mitigation breaking, Milano Premium leather seating, ventilated front seats and a 12-speaker, 546-watt ELS audio upgrade.
SH-AWD adds about $2,000 to the bottom line of each trim.
Stand-alone options include integrated fob remote start, heated steering wheel, back-up sensors and LED front fog lights. The Tech and Entertainment packages don't add much to the MDX price tag but avail owners to many cool features, such as smartphone-activated apps that can control the heating and cooling controls, track the car if it's lost or stolen and remote unlocking, among others.
The MDX's impressive list of tech advances mostly center around driver safety and connectivity. While the Lane Departure Warning system will alert the driver if he should stray off course, the more advanced Land Keep Assist will gently prompt the driver via slight corrections to the steering to return to the intended lane. Low Speed Follow uses the Adaptive Cruise Control's front sensor to help keep a safe distance from cars ahead, and can actually bring the car to a complete stop in certain low-speed driving situations. Also onboard is Acura Link, which allows the MDX's audio and navigation systems to communicate with your smartphone, providing access to music apps such as Pandora and Aha, as well as various remote programming functions for the car.
The MDX is fitted with the required safety features, such as side airbags, ABS and traction and stability controls. It goes more than a few steps extra, however, by providing an additional driver's knee airbag, lane departure and guidance systems, as well as low-speed collision mitigation and warning systems. Additional use of high-strength steel, aluminum and magnesium creates a safety cage around the interior stronger than anything Acura has conceived in the past. Although it has not officially been crash tested yet, Acura expects the MDX to earn top marks in both NHTSA and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash tests, including the new small overlap crash test. We should also say a word about the MDX's new LED headlamps that simulate light in the same spectrum as daylight. In a word, they are amazing, and once you've driven at night with the MDX's LEDs lighting the way, you'll never be satisfied with anything else.
Behind the Wheel
Once underway, the first thing we noticed was the impressive quiet inside the MDX's cabin; laminated glass and an electronic noise cancellation system are the primary reasons. The second thing we noticed was the vast improvements Acura has made to the MDX's suspension -- namely to the dampers and sub-frame mounts designed to better absorb small road imperfections. The MDX's ride remains luxury-car smooth, but it can now run through twists and turns with more confidence. Three different modes (Normal, Sport and Comfort) change the settings for the transmission shift points, torque vectoring and interior sound levels, as well as the weighted feel of the electric-assist power steering. Set the system to Comfort and the steering feel becomes noticeably lighter, and the transmission shift points are almost imperceptible. Switch over to Sport and the MDX's steering firms up, while gear changes come on with a much sharper emphasis on acceleration.
Although this MDX is more athletic than its predecessor, Acura hasn't forgotten what is important to luxury buyers. The MDX's ride is smooth and controlled, its seats remarkably comfortable on long drives and its interior layout so intuitively designed as to make even the most techphobic driver feel comfortable. Acura put the new MDX's added dimensions to good use, creating more usable space behind the third-row seat as well as creating a level loading floor when the rear seats are folded flat.
Other Cars to Consider
Audi Q7 -- The Q7 costs quite a bit more than the MDX, and the MDX offers more interior room. But the A7 offers a fuel-efficient diesel engine. Past Audi models, however, have not fared as well as their Acura counterparts in the area of reliability and repairs.
Lincoln MKT -- The MKT has a more dramatic exterior and an equally impressive list of interior features, including MyLincoln Touch and SYNC infotainment. But the MKT won't hold its value as well as the MDX.
BMW X5 -- The X5 proves a livelier driving companion than the MDX, though its ride is harsher and less forgiving. There isn't much room in or behind the optional third-row seat, and the X5 can reach into the $80,000 range when fully equipped.
We love that a less expensive front-drive model has been introduced, but we would still recommend the added peace of mind, as well as the handling abilities, afforded by the SH-AWD system. We think most buyers will be fairly happy with the MDX plus Tech Package, which provides a good blend of added upgrades at a reasonable price. If you don't have kids, the Entertainment package isn't a must, though the heated rear seats are a nice touch.