2017 Acura MDX AdvancePosted on November 30th, 2016
Refreshed crossover with seating for seven
By Nina Russin
The MDX is Acura’s answer to fans of the brand’s performance who need the interior capacity and versatility for growing families. For 2017, the current generation gets a major refresh, with new exterior styling and an expanded roster of standard active safety features including blind spot monitoring, lane keeping assist, collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control and road departure mitigation.
Rather than asking buyers to wade through expensive option packages, Acura rolls oft-asked for convenience features into its model grades. The Advance grade tested adds heated and ventilated front sport seats, heated second-row captain’s chairs, roof rails, LED fog lamps, wood interior trim, parking sensors and a ten-way front passenger seat over the base model. Pricing starts at $56,400. Final MSRP including the $940 destination charge is $57,340.
Refreshed exterior styling and enhanced performance
As the MDX evolved from a sport-utility vehicle into a crossover, styling became more aerodynamic, with proportions similar to a sport sedan: elongated hood, narrow greenhouse, large wheels and wheel housings. In other words, the MDX looks as if it wants to go fast and it does, powered by a 290-horsepower i-VTEC engine and nine-speed automatic transmission.
Buyers choose between front-wheel drive and the brand’s super-handling all-wheel drive that gives the MDX four-season capability. Torque vectoring provides better control when cornering on wet road surfaces, while automatic idle stop shuts off the engine to extend fuel economy when the vehicle is stopped at a traffic light.
Twenty-inch alloy rims deliver a fat footprint for better handling at speed. LED headlamps provide bright beams of light after dark with minimal battery drain.
Test drive in Southern Arizona
Over the past week I drove the new Acura MDX around Phoenix, Arizona’s east valley as well as through sections of the Gila River Indian Community that skirts the west side of the San Tan Mountains south of town.
Of all the automobiles in Acura’s line-up the MDX strikes this writer as one of the most evolved. What began as a sport-utility vehicle with some functional issues on the interior has become a serious contender in its segment. For example, seatbacks in the first generation car didn’t collapse completely flat, making it difficult to slide a bicycle in back. Today, the seats fold down flush, giving the vehicle the capability to hold multiple bicycles and making load-in a snap.
Seat comfort is also markedly improved, with significantly better lumbar support for long drives. A tilt-and-telescoping steering wheels enables smaller drivers to maintain a safe distance from the front airbag and a clear forward view. The vehicle’s low cowl that gives the driver excellent visibility out front elevates the MDX over some competitors.
The push-button shift system is idiosyncratic, but once owners get used to it, is simple to operate. The advantage of push buttons is they eliminate the need for a shift lever that takes up space on the IP or center console.
Power front the V-6 engine is excellent. With 267 pound-feet of peak torque, it delivers excellent acceleration off the line and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use merging into high-speed traffic. The nine-speed automatic transmission progresses smoothly through the gears. I noticed no tendency to hunt or shift harshly under normal driving conditions.
A four-wheel independent suspension consists of struts and multi-links on both axles with amplitude adaptive dampers that cushion occupants against bumps in the road while maintaining a nice firm feel. The system utilizes two damping pistons: one for normal driving and a second larger piston to increase damping forces when the car is being driven aggressively.
Power electric steering provides plenty of feedback on the low end but is disappointingly soft at higher speeds. While soft on-center response is typical with EPAS, I had hoped Acura’s version would be more responsive.
Acura’s super-handing all-wheel drive system automatically moves engine power to the wheels with the best traction. Combined with torque vectoring that transfers up to 100 percent of rear axle power to the outside wheel, it gives the MDX sure-footed performance on rain and snow.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the car in firm, linear fashion.
With standard second-row captain’s chairs on the Advance grade, the new MDX carries up to four adults in comfort on long road trips. Hip and legroom is more limited in the third row, but the extra seats can be a life-saver when carrying kids to the weekend soccer game.
Both first and second-row occupants can stash everything from cell phones and small packs to tablet computers in the standard center consoles.
Keyless entry and start saves the driver from having to fumble for the key fob adding a measure of safety after dark. Side mirrors automatically fold flat when doors are locked to prevent parking lot accidents. New for 2017, the MDX automatically locks if the driver walks away from the vehicle.
Although cargo space with all three rows of seating in place is limited, folding third-row seats flat creates indoor space large enough for luggage, camping equipment, golf bags and more. Standard roof rails enable owners to add an external rack or carrier up top. Cyclists might prefer a hitch-mounted rack since lifting bikes up onto the roof requires some maneuvering.
The Acura MDX comes with seven airbags, surround view and rearview cameras, traction control, stability control, antilock brakes, tire pressure monitoring and a front end designed to minimize pedestrian injury in the event of a collision.
The MDX received a five-star overall crash test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Acura builds the MDX in its Lincoln, Alabama assembly plant.
Likes: A stylish versatile seven-passenger crossover with a high segment-leading active safety technology and a powerful engine.
Dislike: Soft on-center steering response.
Model: MDX Advance
Base price: $56,400
As tested: $57,340
Horsepower: 290 Hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 267 lbs.-ft. @ 4700 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 19/26 mpg city/highway2017, Luxury 2017, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, Acura, auto review, MDX Advance, performance, pricing, standard safety