2018 Acura MDX: Multi-dimensional Luxury Crossover Makes Infotainment Gains

By Mike Blake Carlisle Events
Thursday, April 26, 2018

Acura upgraded its luxury SUV lineup in 2001, when it replaced the under-selling SLX with a newly initialed mid-size crossover that was created to supply “Multi-Dimensional luXury," or MDX.

The third-generation Acura MDX received a complete redesign for the 2014 model year and received a major refreshening in 2017 that included tweaked exterior styling, a bold new diamond pentagon grille drawn from the Acura Precision Concept, and a suite of safety and driver-assistive technologies -- AcuraWatch™. With a full redesign scheduled for the 2020 model year, MDX stands pat for the most part for 2018, gaining a redesigned dual-screen infotainment interface with more menus and faster response; a new 7.0-inch capacitive touchscreen; standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility; and two new exterior colors -- Basque Red and San Marino Red.

Acura’s only three-row vehicle, MDX was designed at the Acura Design Studio in Torrance, Calif., with the new grille integrated with a sharply sculpted hood, front fascia and front fenders coupled with unique LED fog lights and restyled Jewel Eye™ headlights, for an “executive athletic” demeanor. A full complement of bright, efficient LED lighting enhances the elegant look, and luxury exterior features include a one-touch power moonroof, power folding outside mirrors, high-performance all-season tires, available roof rails, and remote keyless entry.

Thanks to its use of advanced materials including aluminum, high-strength steel and magnesium, MDX offers refined ride quality, while a 4.5-mm thick, 3-layer acoustic windshield and 4.8-mm front door glass help mitigate vibration, and wind, road and traffic noise in the cabin.

Sculpted with roundness and refined softness, MDX measures 193.6 inches long, 77.2 inches wide and 67.6 inches high on a 111-inch wheelbase. MDX has a ground clearance of 7.3 inches empty and 5.3 inches full, weighing in with a curbweight of only 4063 pounds with the Tech and Entertainment packages.

MDX is a class-leader with its combination of power and fuel efficiency. Muscle comes from an advanced 3.5-liter direct-injected i-VTEC® V-6 engine rated at 290 peak horsepower and 267 lb.-ft. peak torque. Acura’s i-VTEC® (intelligent Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control) for the intake valves is combined with Variable Cylinder Management™ (VCM®) to widen the power band and maximize fuel efficiency. During startup, aggressive acceleration or when climbing hills, VCM operates the engine on all six cylinders. During moderate speed cruising and at low or moderate engine loads, the system operates just the front cylinder bank.

Coupled with a 9-speed Sequential SportShift automatic transmission with paddle shifters, I found good passing power and decent off-the-line speed. A trip to the track showed a 6.7 second zero-to-60mph sprint and a 14.2-second quarter-mile.

My AWD test ride was rated at 19mpg/city, 26mpg/highway, and my week of mixed-use tests including some soft-road excursions yielded an economy average 24.1mpg.

While I wouldn’t recommend extreme off-road challenges with this crossover, the suspension was equal to most pothole tasks, and the quiet cabin was stable with responsive steering and minimal yaw and wobble during quick maneuvers.

Inside, MDX is luxurious, quiet, roomy (for the first two rows), and filled with tech, safety and convenience, though that might also be due to the option packages installed. With seating for seven, headroom is good for average-sized inhabitants, but crunched for the tall. Front headroom is 38.1 inches, second row headroom is 38.3 inches and the third row shows 35.6. Legroom goes 41.4, 36.6 and a very tight 28.1 in the kids’ third row. Shoulder room comes in at 61.1, 59.1 and 54.7.

An IIHS Top Safety Pick+ and NHTSA 5-star rating-winner, every MDX model and trim level includes the AcuraWatch™ suite of advanced safety and driver-assistive technology, including Collision Mitigation Braking System™, Lane Keeping Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow and Road Departure Mitigation. Using millimeter wave radar and a monocular camera to detect other vehicles as well as lane markings, AcuraWatch can help intervene to prevent or mitigate the severity of a collision.

The 2018 Acura MDX starts at $44.200 for front wheel drive and $46,200 for the SH-AWD model. The Sport-Hybrid in SH-AWD starts at $52,100.

The MDX SH-AWD Technology Package model (GPS-linked climate control, Rain-Sensing Windshield Wipers, Power Folding Side Mirrors with LED Puddle Lights, Remote Engine Start Color Multi-Information Display with Turn-By-Turn Guidance, Blind Spot Information System, Rear Cross Traffic Monitor, Acura Navigation System with 3D View and HD Traffic™ and Traffic Rerouting™, 10-speaker premium audio system, and more) adds $4400 and starts at $50,600; the Advanced Package (Idle Stop for improved fuel efficiency, perforated leather interior, Heated and Ventilated Front Seats, Heated Steering Wheel, Auto Dimming Side Mirrors, Front and Rear Parking Sensors, Surround View Camera and more) adds $6050; and the Entertainment Package (9-inch Full VGA Screen, 11th Speaker for Improved Surround Sound, heated second-row bench seats and more) adds $2000.

My test ride was the MDX SH-AWD with Tech, Entertainment and the Advance Packages included. Also added were Cross Bars for $250; Body Side Molding for $259; Door Edge Guards for $109 and Moonroof Visor for $172. Destination charges increased the sticker by $995, for a price-as-tested of $60,435.

> Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.

Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.

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