The 2015 Acura MDX is a luxury SUV envied across the globe for its superior quality, excellent value and family-friendly cabin. Of course, what separates the MDX from lesser 7-passenger SUVs is the Acura pedigree, which offers luxury amenities galore. The MDX may have many rivals 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, along with a third-row seat that's 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 why so many customers come back to Acura showrooms time after time.

What's New for 2015?

After a complete makeover last year, the MDX rolls into 2015 with no major changes.

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

How Much?

$43,460-$57,675

Fuel Economy

The 2015 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 Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD). A 6-speed automatic with manual shift mode is standard on both trims. Fuel economy for the front-wheel-drive MDX is rated by the Environmental Protection Agency at 20 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway, while SH-AWD models earn a slightly lower rating of 18 mpg city/27 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

Even in its most pedestrian guise, Acura's MDX comes loaded. There is only one model, but there are three different equipment packages: Tech, Tech Entertainment and Advance Entertainment.

Standard equipment on the MDX ($43,460) includes keyless smart entry with push-button starting, LED headlights, a rearview camera, active noise control for the sound system, leather seating surfaces, a power rear lift gate, heated front seats and a power moonroof.

The MDX with the Tech package ($47,735) adds a blind spot monitoring system, 19-inch wheels, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, rain-sensing wipers, puddle lights, navigation audio with AcuraLink, and an ELS high-output audio system featuring a 501-watt amplifier and 10 speakers.

The MDX with the Tech Entertainment package ($49,735) 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 MDX with the Advance Entertainment package ($55,675) adds lane-keep assist, an ultra-wide-view rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors, remote engine starting, adaptive cruise control, low-speed following tech with head-up warning, collision-mitigation braking, 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 starting, a heated steering wheel, backup sensors and LED front fog lights. The Tech and Entertainment packages don't add much to the MDX's price tag but do offer owners many cool features, such as smartphone-activated apps that can control heating and cooling, track the car if it's lost or stolen, and unlock the vehicle remotely, among other functions.

Safety

The MDX is fitted with the required safety features, such as side airbags, anti-lock braking, and traction and stability controls. It takes a few extra safety precautions 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 that's stronger than anything Acura has conceived in the past. In government crash tests, the MDX received top scores, earning five out of five stars in both the front- and side-impact tests and four stars in the rollover test.

Behind the Wheel

Once we hit the road, the first thing that we noticed was the lack of outside noise inside the MDX's cabin; laminated glass and an electronic noise-cancellation system are the primary reasons why. The second detail we noticed were the vast improvements Acura has made to the MDX's suspension, namely to the dampers and subframe 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-assisted power steering. Set the system to Comfort, and the steering feel becomes noticeably lighter while 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 are remarkably comfortable on long drives, and its interior layout is so intuitively designed that it will make even the most technophobic 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 terms 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 itself as 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.

AutoTrader's Advice

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 getting the MDX with the 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.

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