Acura put its popular MDX sport-utility on a serious diet, tweaked its dimensions a bit and in the test version, attached every electronic gee-whiz feature its engineers could muster – hence the $57,400 price tag.
First, the sport-ute added considerably to its use of high-strength steel and a new rear suspension to trim 275 lbs. from the previous MDX. It also dropped the vehicle’s dual exhaust in favor of a single pipe, cutting weight and engine noise.
The former 3.7-liter V6 also was replaced by a 3.5-liter V6 that develops 290 horsepower. That’s down just slightly from the earlier model, but with the weight savings you’ll never notice. Power is good and the ute gets reasonable gas mileage too for something that will haul 8 people. It’s rated at 18 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. I got 21.7 mpg in about 60% highway driving. The engine’s variable valve timing helps it run more efficiently.
Acura mates the quiet V6 with a 6-speed automatic that shifts smoothly, but not as crisply as you might expect. It doesn’t seem to want to rev the engine up to provide tons of oomph. Still, you easily reach highway speeds.
Handling is good for a largish ute though, the SH-AWD, super-handling all-wheel-drive system, giving the MDX both good grip in sloppy weather and helping cut its turning radius. Steering feels much quicker than in most similar-sized utes.
You can adjust the steering effort and ride too with Acura’s adaptive system controlled via a button next to the shifter. Sport mode makes the wheel feel incredibly heavy, to the point that it could prove tiring. Normal was fine and Comfort mode delivered a light wheel feel. I could barely note any suspension change in the three levels though.
Acura bumped up the MDX’s wheelbase for 2014, stretching it 2.7 inches to 111.0. Overall the truck is 2 inches longer too, but 1 inch narrower. A benefit to the length is a sizeable 15 cubic feet of cargo room, plus room for a fold flat third row seat. Actually the second row will fold flat too.
All that room is meant to create good space for people and cargo, which it does, but the added wheelbase and revamped rear suspension doesn’t help the ride all that much. This still seemed rather trucky as it jiggled over our crumbling area roads.No complaints on the braking though. This big boy stops quickly with vented discs up front and large discs in back. Naturally stability and traction control are standard and the AWD would be a comfort in snow.
The outgrowth of being bigger is comfort and Acura mostly delivers that with MDX and this silver test unit got the Advance and Entertainment packages that absolutely ladle on gadgets and gizmos.
Start with comfort though, the dark gray over medium gray leather interior in the test truck featured well contoured leather seats, with both the front and rear seats being heated. The driver’s seat has a two-setting memory system too and the steering wheel is a powered tilt/telescope model. It powers up when the ignition is turned off, but the driver’s seat does not power back as many do at this price point.
I mention that because as a shorter driver, 5-foot-5, I tend to put the seat fairly far forward, which created an issue here. I found it hard to turn my feet and exit the vehicle easily because space is tight between the door opening’s edge and the seat frame. So I’d catch my left foot between the two on the way out.
I’d like the seat to power back an inch or so as the wheel powers up for easier entry and exit. Obviously this is not a problem for average height or taller drivers. And the MDX’s luxury interior is incredibly quiet and soothing in other ways, thanks in part to thicker acoustical glass.
First, the dash is handsome with matte silver trim and sparse wood inserts in the dash and doors and the lid of the storage area on the console. Buttons are large and everything is easy to see and read, plus there’s push-button start. The wheel’s hub includes buttons for a trip computer, cruise control and phone.There are two screens on the dash, the top one devoted to navigation. It includes real time traffic updates, warning you when a freeway is jammed up, especially helpful during construction season.
The bottom screen is a touch screen radio and also adjusts the heated and cooled seats and other functions. It wasn’t tough to use, but I miss having easy radio station channel buttons. Also, the radio volume knob was small, but a redundant control is on the steering wheel hub. There’s a big mouse dial mid-dash to make information and source choices on the lower screen. Navigation and radio also are voice activated.
This MDX model comes with a 540-watt stereo with 12 speakers, so you’ll be able to hear over the kids whining in back. Plus there are three video screens to allow them to watch Sponge Bob or whatever, as you head off to the relatives for Thanksgiving. Wireless headsets are standard on this upscale model, so you won’t have to sing along.
On the safety side there’s a rearview backup camera, blind-spot warning system and adaptive cruise control, which you can set at several levels to determine how much room you want to leave between you and the vehicle immediately in front. On the down side the MDX has a large A pillar that can create some sight-line concerns.
Overhead is a sunroof and naturally there are side airbags and a bunch of front and rear sensors to beep if you’re about to tap something. The rear sensors are helpful, but the front ones mainly annoy you as you pull into any parking space where another vehicle is nearby.
What’s all this cost you? This Advance and Entertainment enhanced model lists at $56,505 and with a $895 delivery fee hits $57,400. The test vehicle had no options, so that’s where it ended.
But for 2014 Acura offers a front-drive entry-level model that starts at $42,290 and gets 20 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. Moving up to AWD nudges that to $44,290 and there are various models between that and the top-flight test model, allowing you to fit this into your luxury ute budget.
FAST Stats: 2014 Acura MDX SH-AWD w/Advance & Entertainment
Hits: Big comfortable, quiet sport-ute with third row seat. Lighter than old model with good power, excellent handling with adaptable suspension/steering effort, and all-wheel drive. Good seats, plus all the bells & whistles like rearview camera, blind-spot warning and video screens with DVD player.
Misses: Despite improvements, the ute still has a fairly truck-like ride and for short drivers there’s tight foot space between the seat and door frame as you get in and out. The A pillar also is huge, creating some sight-line concerns.
Made in: Lincoln, Ala.
Engine: 3.5-liter V6, 290 hp
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Weight: 4,332 lbs.
Wheelbase: 111.0 in.
Cargo: 15 cu.ft.
Tow: 3,500 lbs.
Base Price: $56,505
Dealer’s Price: $52,195
Major Options: None
Test vehicle: $57,400
Sources: Acura, www.autos.yahoo.com
Photos: Courtesy of Acura