2014 Acura MDX AWD AdvancePosted on December 19th, 2013
Luxury crossover melds performance and versatility
By Nina Russin
This year, Acura brought its newest MDX to the Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards competition, where athletes ranging from retired NFL players to elite triathletes poured over the car. They evaluated interior ergonomics, infotainment and cargo versatility before driving the MDX on area roads and highways. Acura’s crossover captured the ALV award in the Luxury Family category for delivering on both fronts in a way that none of its competitors could match.
Seating up to seven passengers, the third-generation MDX is now available with front as well as all-wheel drive, and towing capability up to 5,000 pounds when properly equipped.
Although the new V-6 engine is slightly smaller than the block it replaces, improvements in efficiency give it more torque and slightly more horsepower.
Base price for the all-wheel drive car with the technology package and rearview entertainment system is $56,505, excluding the $895 destination charge. The 290-horsepower i-VTEC engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Standard equipment includes 19-inch alloy wheels, LED headlamps, keyless entry and start, rearview camera, XM and Pandora radio, Bluetooth interface, SMS text messaging, heated front seats, power moonroof and liftgate, navigation, JBL premium audio, rear DVD entertainment, collision mitigation braking, adaptive cruise control and roof rails. Final MSRP is $57,400.
Test drive in Arizona
This week I drove the 2014 MDX on surface streets and highways in Phoenix, Arizona’s east valley. Remembering my experience in the original MDX ten years ago, I am extremely impressed with how much the vehicle has evolved.
The original MDX was a great idea, but its execution lacked refinement. The seats were uncomfortable and the cargo floor wouldn’t fold completely flat, making it difficult to load a bicycle inside.
By contrast, men and women at the ALV program ranging in size from the fifth to ninety-fifth percentile were able to adjust the seats comfortably. Second and third-row seats fold completely flat, making the 2014 MDX a much more functional vehicle for buyers with active lifestyles. As an elite ultramarathoner at the event pointed out, the cargo area is big enough to hold a sleeping bag for overnight camping.
Enhancements to the car’s structural rigidity, aerodynamic improvements and weight reduction translate to better performance as well. Standard variable cylinder management automatically cuts out half the engine cylinders when power demands are low to save fuel. Direct injection enhances throttle response and reduces parasitic power loss by injecting gasoline directly into the cylinders rather than through the valves.
In addition to giving the MDX good wet weather performance, the all-wheel drive system makes the vehicle corner better when driven aggressively. A feature called agile handling assist applies the brakes as necessary to make the wheels cut into the turns.
Drivers can choose between three modes ranging from comfort to performance, which make the suspension softer or stiffer. In the normal mode, I found the suspension quite comfortable for driving around town, with enough stiffness to prevent the chassis from bottoming out in the ruts.
The power electric steering system is pleasantly heavy on the highway with enough assist at low speeds for good maneuverability. A 37.6-foot turning circle is adequate for performing the occasional U-turn on wider suburban roads. There is a slight lag in on-center response, but nothing that should make the driver feel uncomfortable.
Large rotors on all four wheels enable the MDX to stop in firm, linear fashion.
A blind spot monitoring system illuminates LED signals in the A pillars when vehicles in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots, making it easier to weave through dense traffic. The rearview camera projects a wide-angle view to the back of the car when the driver shifts into reverse, eliminating blind spots in the back corners and below the rear glass.
Engineers did a good job of isolating passengers from wind, road and engine noise, enabling all three rows to converse comfortably.
New infotainment features keep the driver connected
The new MDX keeps drivers connected with standard Bluetooth interface and the ability to respond to simple SMS text messages using the car’s head unit. Satellite and Pandora radio offer a plethora of options on the car’s JBL surround-sound audio system.
The center stack screen is quite large and easy to read except in bright sunlight when it washes out. Redundant steering wheel controls enable the driver to control audio functions with minimal distraction.
The optional rear entertainment system comes with wireless headsets. A 115-volt power point enables rear passengers to plug in a computer or games.
The spacious cargo area can easily accommodate a road bike with the front wheel removed. Roof rails on the test car enable the owner to add a rack up top.
The Acura MDX comes with front, side, side curtain and driver’s knee airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control and tire pressure monitoring.
Acura builds the MDX at its Lincoln, Alabama assembly plant.
Like: A luxurious yet versatile crossover vehicle with seating for up to seven passengers, a bicycle-friendly cargo area and towing capability. All-wheel drive makes the MDX a good option for buyers who live in four-season climates.
Dislike: Center stack screen washes out in bright sunlight.
Model: MDX AWD Advance
Base price: $56,505
As tested: $57,400
Horsepower: 290 Hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 267 lbs.-ft. @ 4500 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 18/27 mpg city/highway2014, Luxury 2014, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, Acura, auto review, performance, pricing, standard safety
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