Acura’s redesigned 2014 MDX reflects the current trend of making utility vehicles as quiet and smooth as a luxury sedan, and it does so with understated styling that is visually pleasing but not boldly eye-catching.
If you liked the previous models, the new car will seem like a natural evolution, not a revolution. Yet underneath the skin, the new model has greatly improved drivability, a much better ride and handling and features numerous technological advancements.
Acura describes its approach as “synergy between man and machine” wherein the pairing of “useful technologies and luxury features” results in making driving simpler, more efficient and more enjoyable.
The 2014 is the third generation of the seven-passenger MDX, and it rides on a new platform whose wheelbase is 2.8 inches longer (for greater ease of entry to the rear seat). Overall vehicle length is up by just 2 inches. The vehicle is 1.5 inches lower and 1.3 inches narrower. The slightly smaller frontal area is more aerodynamically efficient.
Getting in and out is easier because the rear step-in height is 1.8 inches lower, and the front seat hip point is 1.2 inches lower.
The MDX is available with front-wheel drive or Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive. Prices start at $44,290 for front-wheel drive. The technology package with SH-AWD begins at $48,565. Add an entertainment system and the base price grows to $50,565. A model with the SH-AWD, the tech package, entertainment system and the Advance package is $56,505.
The 3.5-liter V-6 delivers its 290 horsepower with strong power all across the rpm range. The six-speed automatic transmission can be shifted manually if so desired. Fuel economy is rated at 18 miles per gallon in the city and 27 on the highway although I was not able to match the highway figure.
The test vehicle, from Acura’s press fleet, was equipped with all-wheel drive and the technology package that includes navigation, rearview camera, blind-sport warning, lane departure warning and forward collision warning. Forward collision warning does not apply the brakes, but that function is in the advance package.
The advance package has a collision mitigation system that warns the driver of a potential collision and begins applying the brakes to reduce the vehicle’s speed. Acura stresses that the system will not apply enough braking force to prevent a collision – that job is for the driver. Advance also adds lane keeping assist, where a camera mounted in the upper portion of the windshield reads lane markings and assists the driver in staying in the middle of the lane.
Super Handling All-Wheel Drive is an excellent system that splits power front-to-rear and side-to-side. The side-to-side split is beneficial for starting out with two wheels on a slippery surface, such as a snow-covered road shoulder, but it also helps the vehicle turn on dry pavement. The all-wheel-drive system does not have a way to lock it into four-wheel drive for really bad conditions.
The cabin is plush and cozy, thanks to a combination of soft textures, leather and woodgrain trim. The front seats have excellent lumbar support and a wide range of adjustability. Instrumentation is simple and direct. Two LCD screen dominate the center stack. The radio touch-screen was frustrating at times because tuning to a station requires more steps than just grabbing a knob and twisting it. The Elliot Scheiner sound system is one of the best around.
The steering wheel has fingertip controls for operating audio, cruise and navigation.
Seating for seven passengers is standard. The second-row seatbacks have five reclining positions, and they have 5.9 inches of fore/aft travel to accommodate the needs of second- and third-row passengers. One touch of a button moves the second seat forward for access to the third seat. It was hard for me to get into the third seat. Once there, the space was tolerable for a short drive, but the third seat is best saved for children.
The base price of the test vehicle was $48,565. Destination charges brought the sticker price to $49,460.
Four years or 50,000 miles, with a six-year, 70,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Tom Strongman’s e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org