Review: Upgrades keep Acura MDX crossover in fast lane – USA TODAY
For Acura, the changes made to its MDX crossover for 2017 were a little bit like polishing the crown.
MDX has long been the sales star of Acura’s lineup, so tweaks rather than drastic changes for the midcycle refresh were apparently all that were deemed as being required. The message seemed to be “don’t mess up a good thing” – even though sales were down a bit last year – when it comes to what Acura bills as the best-selling three-row luxury SUV of all time.
The result is that the MDX remains a solid, smart luxury SUV – certainly upscale enough to make an impression when you’re dropping your kids off at school without being ostentatious.
The 2017 model changes aren’t exactly going to bowl over your typical owner: The grille becomes a little bolder. MDX gets an electric parking brake, which we didn’t find that helpful, and automatic high-beam headlights, which were really great on a curvy road with intermittent traffic whizzing toward you through the darkness.
The “Advance” package includes 20-inch wheels, which significantly add to the sense of a higher seating position and a commanding view of the road. Just like before, the interior of the MDX feels decidedly upscale, with leather seats that add to the boardroom feel. So, too, do the second-row “captain’s chairs” that come in this particular package. Overall, MDX feels high-tech, with power outlets and plug-ins galore.
The MDX comes without a choice of engines. It is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 engine producing 290 horsepower. It offers plenty of pep, and the gas mileage rating is a respectable 20 miles a gallon in the city, 27 mpg on the highway and 23 combined in the front-wheel-drive version. Subtract a mile or two per gallon for the all-wheel-drive version. To save gas, MDX has a stop-start system to shut off the engine at stop lights. It worked quite well and we barely noticed it, but if some find it annoying, there’s a button on the center console to keep the engine continuously running.
It wasn’t the powerplant we noticed as much as the transmission: a nine-speed automatic. In a bid to save more gas, the automatic is constantly shifting through the gears even at speeds below 40 miles per hour. It’s not distracting. Rather, it just feels a little different than those who have become accustomed to six-speed automatics.
Also, as it relates to the transmission, MDX has the same push-button shifter as other Acuras. As simple as that sounds, we never quite became used to it – especially remembering to pull the reverse button backward. Even though it seems like a case of Acura trying to enhance the cool factor, it doesn’t come naturally.
The other bugaboo in the car is the infotainment system. Acura is still touchscreen-oriented, with a single volume knob. Whether it’s going between setting climate controls or picking a radio station, press a finger to the 7-inch display and one expects to feel a little vibration. The system never seemed intuitive and, in the end, we found it easier to use the audio controls on the steering wheel.
Acura has easy access to the third-row seats. A single push of a button moves the second-row seats forward and out of the way in order for the poor souls stuck in third row to climb back there.
Acura sold 55,495 MDXs last year, down 4.7% from the year before, Autodata says. That was only about 3,000 more vehicles than the smaller RDX, which saw a 2.6% sales gain. MDX competes against other luxury SUVs like BMW X5, Lexus RX and Mercedes-Benz GLE.
What stands out
How it feels: Upscale without being too plush
Styling: Some changes like a new grille
Infotainment: Too much touchscreen
2017 Acura MDX details
What? A luxury midsize SUV
When? On sale now
Where? Made in Lincoln, Ala.
What makes it go? A 3.5-liter V-6 with a nine-speed transmission good for 290 horsepower.
How thirsty? 20 miles per gallon in the city, 27 mpg on the highway and 23 overall.
How much? Starts at $43,950 plus $940 in shipping. Price as tested: $57,340.
Overall? Remains a solid choice