If you're shopping for a luxury crossover, the Acura MDX and Lexus RX are probably high on your shopping list. Both vehicles are well-regarded, offering a long list of high-tech gadgets, legendary reliability and reasonable pricing. Both vehicles boast all-weather capability and a commanding driving position, and both can carry your family and all their goods. Which one is better? In our latest article, we've taken an in-depth look to find out. To begin, let's examine what's new with both cars for the latest model year.
2014 Acura MDX Changes
The Acura MDX is completely redesigned for the 2014 model year. Now entering its third generation, the latest MDX offers new styling, a redesigned interior, improved fuel economy and a totally new powertrain.
2014 Lexus RX Changes
The Lexus RX sees only minor updates for 2014, which is expected to be its last year on the market before a full redesign. Changes include the new Siri Eyes Free system, a 115-volt rear-seat power outlet and an improved pre-collision system with brake priming to improve the crossover's stopping distance.
Although it can be hard to predict long-term reliability for new cars, J.D. Power takes a shot at it. The firm gives the same ranking to both the MDX and the RX: four circles out of five, indicating better-than-average reliability. That fits in with our own experiences, which suggests that both the RX and MDX offer strong dependability. When you consider how many features they have, that's even more impressive.
Both the Acura and the Lexus offer roughly the same warranty terms, too. Both models offer a 4-year, 50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, along with a 6-year, 70,000-mile powertrain warranty. The Lexus has a slightly longer rust warranty (six years rather than five), but we suspect most shoppers won't use it.
When it comes to reliability, it's a tossup: Both cars are equally excellent.
If you compare gas-powered versions of the MDX and RX, you'll find that the Acura has the slight advantage. Its 290-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 returns 20 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway with 2-wheel drive, or 18 mpg city/27 mpg hwy with all-wheel drive (AWD). Meanwhile, the RX's 270-hp V6 is good for 18 mpg city/25 mpg hwy with 2-wheel drive, or 18 mpg city/24 mpg hwy with AWD.
The Lexus does, however, have one advantage the Acura can't match: a hybrid version. Opt for the hybrid-powered Lexus RX 450h and you'll get a 295-hp 3.5-liter gas and electric V6 that returns 32 mpg city/28 mpg hwy with 2-wheel drive, or 30 mpg city/28 mpg hwy with AWD.
As a result, the winner of the fuel economy category depends on which version you get. Stick with a standard model, and the MDX is the right choice. If gas mileage is really important to you, though, you should consider the hybrid-powered RX 450h for truly stellar luxury crossover fuel efficiency.
In terms of safety, the MDX and RX both offer excellent protection in the event of a crash. However, safety ratings suggest that the MDX holds a slight advantage when it comes to actual crash-test performance.
For example: Although both the RX and MDX earned five stars in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's overall crash-test rating system, only the MDX earned five stars in each of the agency's tests. The RX, meanwhile, earned a 5-star rating in just the frontal crash test, picking up 4-star ratings in NHTSA's side-impact and rollover tests. The MDX is rated as a Top Safety Pick+ by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, while the RX earned the slightly less prestigious Top Safety Pick rating.
You'll find that the MDX offers a similar advantage in safety as you consider the actual features and equipment. For example, the MDX offers the latest safety technologies, including items like a lane-keeping assist system and rear cross-traffic alert. These features, along with a few others, aren't available in the Lexus.
When it comes to safety, the MDX has an edge over the Lexus. The RX isn't unsafe, but the MDX is the newer vehicle, and it benefits from several extra years of development. The result is improved overall crashworthiness and a larger number of high-tech safety gadgets.
Although the MDX and RX are both stocked with upscale new technology, it's the MDX that has the overall advantage; again, this is largely due to its more modern design.
As we've described above, one key example that helps us illustrate this point relates to modern safety technology. While the RX offers a few of the latest features, like a blind spot monitoring system and adaptive cruise control, the MDX touts a truly impressive variety of equipment, ranging from LED headlights to a lane-keeping assist system that steers you back on course if you start to drift out of your lane. The MDX is one of the most technologically advanced crossovers -- and the RX simply can't reach its high-tech touches, given the Lexus's 2010-era design.
It's also important to note that we vastly prefer the MDX's touchscreen navigation technology to the RX's Remote Touch interface. The MDX certainly isn't perfect: Changing the radio station or adjusting the climate-control temperature can be a chore. We'd much rather use a touchscreen than the Lexus's difficult-to-operate Remote Touch system, which works like a computer mouse and requires that you remove your eyes from the road for too long. This is just another way the more modern Acura takes the lead over the Lexus in terms of technology.
The MDX is newer than the RX. It's a little safer, it offers a lot more technology, and it boasts one key component we haven't mentioned: a third-row seat. That's not available in the Lexus, which is reason enough for some shoppers to avoid the RX and choose the Acura. What about pricing? The RX could easily overcome its flaws with a much more attractive base price than the MDX.
Unfortunately for the Lexus, that isn't the case. It's true that the Lexus does hold some pricing advantage: It starts at $41,800 with shipping, while the MDX's base price is around $1,800 more. The MDX easily makes up for the difference, however, with its advantages in terms of design, technology, safety, standard-engine fuel economy and that third-row seat. As we mentioned, the Acura's infotainment interface is also a lot easier to use.
The Lexus does, however, offer a better value in one specific area: gas mileage. The MDX's base engine offers better mileage than the RX's standard V6, but if fuel economy is the most important factor in your automotive decision, no MDX can compete with the RX 450h's impressive gas-mileage ratings, which reach as high as 32 mpg in the city. No MDX can compete with the RX 450h's resulting green image, either, given the Lexus's conspicuous hybrid badging.
To us, this is an easy choice. Yes, the Lexus boasts a slight price advantage, but if you're willing to consider a luxury vehicle like the RX or MDX, we suggest you spend just a small amount more to get the better model. There's no doubt that it's the 2014 Acura MDX, given the Acura's advancements in safety, technology, base-engine fuel economy, and -- with its standard third-row seat -- practicality. With that said, look for an all-new RX to debut soon and give the new MDX a much more competitive run for its money.