When a conversation with a stranger moves around to the ?what do you do? stage, we always know that the first question we will hear is after we tell them we are auto writers is, ?What do you recommend?? When the vehicle in question is an SUV or crossover, a good safe answer without a handful of filtering questions is, the Acura MDX.
We respond like this because we know the quality is good; the MDX is innovative, without being too far out, its user friendly, and it?s an Acura ? an upscale Honda product — and everyone trusts Honda.
Moving into its third generation, the 2014 Acura MDX, more than ever qualifies as the default answer for someone thinking luxurious SUV. On the surface, the MDX appears to be an evolutionary update on the Acura?s best-selling model, but on closer examination, the 2014 version is all-new from the ground up, including a new purpose built platform.
As the Acura flagship wagon-style vehicle, it shares technologies and features with the new RLX flagship sedan.
Engineers and designers have taken the approach of creating the highway version of the ?Executive Family Jet,? which is maybe even more appropriate since Honda?s long awaited business jet is scheduled to go on sale in fall 2014.
The Acura engineers targeted three core values, seven-passenger MDX class-leading fuel economy ratings; new levels of prestige and luxury comfort; and top-level safety performance. They hit a bull?s eye on all three.
The new platform allowed designers to make the MDX two inches longer, on a 2.8-inch longer wheelbase. The new platform contributes quickly with a lower vehicle, easier to get into, with a lower center of gravity, improved aerodynamics, more interior room and even better ride and stability. The new platform is also noticeably stiffer than the previous generation.
The MDX rides on a totally new suspension with struts up front, more compact multilink system in the rear and Amplitude Reactive Dampers with variable damping rates. Even though it?s larger, the new MDX is 275 pounds lighter.
We don?t pretend to understand the naming nomenclature, but the MDX has the same Earth Dreams Technology engine architecture as the new RLX sedan, Acura?s first direct-injected engine, incorporating a new i-VTEC valvetrain with two-stage Variable Cylinder Management? . The Variable Cylinder Management cuts the engine back to only three cylinders in low load conditions like cruising or coasting. The Engine displacement has been dropped from 3.7-liters in the previous model to 3.5-liters in the new MDX. As a result, horsepower is down from 300 to 290, but Acura says it?s a half second quicker from 0 to 60 mph. On the flip side, they also tell us it has a shorter stopping distance, and navigates the infamous Nurburgring Nordschleife (North Ring) circuit in Germany eight seconds faster than the 2013 model. Of course, the changes were to create better fuel economy and it worked. EPA estimates are up 17 percent to a class leading 18 mpg city, 27 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined. On a drive to the coast, we actually averaged 24.5 mpg.
The reengineered six-speed automatic transmission has a silky smooth Sequential Sport Shift with nicely placed steering wheel shift paddles. The system also has a Sport mode that reacts quicker, Grad Logic that prevents the transmission from always searching for a better gear and Shift Hold Control to lock the gears until you want to shift.
Acura Super Handling All-Wheel Drive? (SH-AWD) was the first system to offer side to side torque vectoring in the rear, in addition to between the front and rear axles. This not only improved traction in the muck, but also cornering prowess. For the first time since the MDX debut, it is being offered in a front-wheel drive configuration.
The 2014 Acura MDX also has a new Integrated Dynamics System with three driving modes ? Comfort, Normal and Sport. Switching between the settings allowed us to change the steering feel and response along with changing the throttle response and SH-AWD torque portioning. It also changes the Active Noise Control system to allow for a bit more aggressive engine sound in the cabin.
The 2014 Acura MDX pricing starts at $43,185 for the well-equipped front-wheel drive base model. The SH-AWD adds $2,000; Technology Package adds $4,275 and the Advance model with Entertainment Package tops the pricing at $57,400.
The Acura MDX is like the comfort food of cars. We know you can count on it and it is ?comfortable?. Some the new features even add a new level of zest or spice making it even better.
Acura maintained all the character and strengths of their seven-passenger SUV with this new, from the ground up model. It should remain as the one we can count on for a quick answer when we hear the question.