Which 3-row SUV is right for you depends on your budget.
A 3-row SUV is a great family vehicle that gives you plenty of seating space and lots of versatility. Two popular choices in 3-row midsize crossovers are the affordable Honda Pilot and the luxurious Acura MDX. While they might look different both in their sheet metal and in their price tags, they actually have a lot in common.
Let’s take a look at the differences and similarities between the Pilot and the MDX.
The Honda is one inch longer, one inch wider and four inches taller than the Acura. The Pilot has a bit more of a rugged aesthetic with a taller ride height, while the MDX is more of a road-going luxury vehicle with a more athletic stance. See the 2019 Honda Pilot models for sale near you
Despite being so similar mechanically, it’s surprising how different these two crossovers look. They both wear the corporate faces of their respective brands handsomely with the Pilot having a look that’s both conservative and outdoorsy. It won’t turn many heads and won’t stand out much in traffic, but it’s a nice-looking SUV. The MDX wears Acura’s jewel eye LED headlights and diamond pentagon grille helping to give it a bold and premium look. The Acura is decidedly the more sporty and luxurious looking of the two. See the 2019 Acura MDX models for sale near you
The maximum seating capacity in the Pilot is eight and in the MDX it’s seven. They both come standard with three seats in the second row, but the Honda’s third row has three seats and the Acura’s has two. However, a Honda Pilot with eight people in it is pretty crowded, even if it’s all kids in the third row. With the MDX only having two seats in the third row, it offers its passengers a little more room, but legroom is still cramped in the third row. Both SUVs are available with second-row captains chairs, which is a nice feature if you’re not planning on using the middle seat very often.
As you might expect, the Acura’s interior is generally nicer than the Honda’s. It has a more upscale design and uses more premium materials like available Alcantara-trimmed seats on the sporty A-Spec package. The MDX uses Acura’s trademark 2-screen layout for its infotainment system and everything the driver sees and touches just looks and feels nicer than it does in the Honda.
That said, the Pilot has a nice interior, too. It’s an interior that’s comfortable and functional and it’s available with luxurious appointments that rival its Acura cousin like heated and ventilated leather seats and tri-zone automatic climate control. The Pilot gives you a minivan like interior in an SUV package.
The Pilot and the MDX share the same base V6 engine, but the Acura has an interesting Sport Hybrid option available.
2019 Honda Pilot engine
3.5-liter V6; 280 horsepower, 262 lb-ft of torque; 19 mpg city/27 mpg hwy
2019 Acura MDX engines
3.5-liter V6; 290 hp, 267 lb-ft of torque; 20 mpg city/27 mpg hwy
3.0-liter Hybrid V6; 321 hp; 26 city/27 highway mpg
The reason for the difference in fuel economy in the base engines is because of the transmissions. The Pilot comes standard with a 6-speed automatic transmission, which is upgradable to a more efficient 9-speed automatic. The 9-speed is standard on the MDX. It’s worth noting that both SUVs take a slight fuel economy hit when you upgrade from front-wheel drive to the available all-wheel drive.
Speaking of AWD, the MDX uses a special SH-AWD (Super Handling All-Wheel Drive) system, which is optimized for performance on dry roads while also offering the all-weather advantages of AWD. It continuously directs engine power to match weight distribution and available traction to deliver the right amount of power to the right wheels for optimal performance. In other words, the Acura has a more sophisticated AWD system than the Pilot that’s better for on-road performance.
The MDX Sport Hybrid is only available with SH-AWD and can’t be had in FWD form. It matches the non-hybrid in highway fuel economy while getting a big improvement in city fuel economy.
Features and Technology
There are lots of features that are optional on the Pilot that come standard on the MDX, which is part of what justifies the Acura’s higher starting price. A few of these features include leather seats, which are heated and power-adjustable in front, a power moonroof, a remote power liftgate, LED lighting, tri-zone automatic climate control, push-button start and more.
The Pilot and the MDX are both generous with standard driver-assistance technology at every trim. They both come standard with collision mitigation braking, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist.
Not surprisingly, the Honda Pilot is more affordable than the 2019 Acura MDX. The Pilot has a starting MSRP of $31,450 and the MDX starts at $44,300. The most affordable AWD-equipped Pilot is $33,350 and the lowest-priced SH-AWD MDX you can get is $46,300. If you want to upgrade to an MDX Sport Hybrid it will set you back at least $52,800. At the top of the Pilot model range, there’s a little bit of pricing overlap with the MDX with the range-topping Pilot Elite with standard AWD starting at $48,020.
The pragmatic choice between these two 3-row crossovers is the 2019 Honda Pilot and the more luxurious choice is the Acura MDX. If you don’t care what badge is on your SUV and practicality is a higher priority than luxury for you, then you’ll find a lot to love in the Pilot. However, if you want to be noticed in a crossover that’s on the sporty side, but still practical, then the more expensive Acura might be worth the extra cost. Find an Acura MDX for sale or Find a Honda Pilot for sale