Written by: Calvin Chan
Photography by: Calvin Chan
The 2014 Acura MDX has been on sale for quite some time now, and has proven to be Acura's number one selling SUV above the smaller RDX and the now-extinct ZDX. The MDX is carrying over to 2015 unchanged, but we're here to take a second look at the 2014 model and explore the reasons why it's been so successful in the Canadian market.
Aimed at the crosshairs is the Lexus RX350, but the MDX also desires to attract customers that would normally purchase a German SUV alternative, say the BMW X5 or Mercedes-Benz ML350. Keeping in mind that a fully loaded MDX costs just as much as a base X5, the Acura has the category of value under its belt, but can it really stack up with the big boys?
Acuras have always been wonderful to drive, and the MDX is no exception. Under the hood houses a direct injected SOHC V6 engine that carries 295 ponies and 267 lb-ft of torque, enough to hastily launch the 2000 kg behemoth without breaking a sweat. Despite the large body mass index, the MDX maneuvers with finesse and delivers excellent ride quality. The suspension is surprisingly soft and bumps are absorbed with an uncanny suppleness. All-wheel drive is standard for Canadians, but is optional for our neighbours down south - they get front-wheel drive out of the box. But the main advantage the MDX has over its competitors is driving technology.
Our tester was fitted with the Elite package, which adds an entire list of gimmicks, most notably the Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keeping Assist System. These two systems work in unison and essentially lets the MDX drive itself on the highways - tap on cruise control, set your speed, and let the computers take over. The MDX will keep a set distance from the car ahead of you, accelerating when they speed up and braking when they slow down. In addition, the MDX will proactively keep the vehicle inside the highway lanes by applying a small amount of torque to fix the steering angles without any driver input. My 100 kilometer commute on the QEW to Hamilton was a breeze, almost tempted me to put my legs up and start reading a newspaper, but the tech still has some flaws.
Frankly, watching the MDX steer itself is fundamentally frightening, and it's even more alarming when I tell you it doesn't work 100% of the time. The MDX tapers and hugs the highway lines way too tightly, and though I'm sure it won't steer astray, it weaves so closely to the neighbouring lane that an unsuspecting driver might scrape the sides. The system works better for mild highway curves rather than sharp ones where the cameras don't seem to react fast enough and caresses the streaks of white too closely for comfort. Acura says the systems are not to replace actual driver input and enforces keeping both hands on the wheel at all times. There's even a warning that flashes if the computers have detected no driver input for a set period of time. The steering assist is a nifty function when it actually works and it is awe-inspiring to see the wheel turn by itself on the highway, a glimpse of the future and definitely not something you see in the rival Lexus or BMW. But the feature is undeniably in its early stages and should be used for guidance rather than for autopilot.
Fuel economy in the MDX is average, our tester rang up at 12.1 L/100km with a mix of both city and highway stretches. The X5 and ML350 rack up around the same numbers, but I really wish the MDX had a diesel or hybrid engine option. An 8-speed automatic transmission wouldn't hurt either. Only then would we see major fuel savings, breaking down a barrier that normally pushes buyers away from purchasing thirsty SUVs.
The MDX takes a route in simplicity when it comes to looks. The beaky front end of the MDX doesn't compare to the menacing look of an X5, or the sharp curves of an RX350, but it keeps a crisp and modest design that wouldn't make me worry when driving through a sketchy part of downtown Detroit. The MDX is a large vehicle and sports a wheelbase of 4917mm - parking is no easy feat, but visibility out the cabin is great and there are enough cameras around the car to make it less of a chore. LED headlights stolen from a Bejeweled game are located in the front, similar to the ones you'll find in the TLX and RLX, and I think they look great especially at night. LEDs carry over to the rear lamps and if you look carefully, the tailpipe is integrated and hidden away below the rear bumper making the back end look symmetrical and tidy.
The interior is where the MDX begins to pale in comparison with its rivals. Sitting in the MDX feels no different from an ILX or TLX. Lodged inside are many Honda-inspired elements such as the redundant dual tier displays - I don't get why you need two screens when the lower display essentially shows a summarized touch-screen version of the above. However I am glad Acura has kept hard buttons and dials in their vehicles rather than switching to touch inputs as they have in the 2015 Hondas. The AcuraLink navigation works brilliantly but takes a few tries to get the hang of it - it's not the most intuitive. The responses are smooth and there is no lag present. The interface is simple and there are enough buttons littered on the dash that you will always find what you need. The click knob works well, though I wish it was located closer to the center console rather than positioned vertically (German car bias, I know). The steering wheel controls are perfectly positioned and ergonomically placed. The heated steering wheel buttons and lane control buttons are easy to reach and are big and tactile enough that you won't have to look to see what you're pressing.
The wood trim does a good job livening up the interior atmosphere and makes the cabin look less Honda and more Acura. Without it, the cabin is draped into too much black and would benefit from colour contrast stitching. Storage is an aspect of the MDX's interior that it excels upon. There are storage areas littered everywhere to house your phone, pens, and loose change. Acura has done a particularly amazing job with the center console storage and have made it better than a Range Rover's. The center wooden panel is fitted with traction strips to keep anything placed on top from shifting around, and flip open the multi-tiered setup to uncover the main bin - it's massive and spacious enough to fit a computer or even an average sized purse.
The MDX comfortably seats 7, a component that already puts it ahead of the X5 and ML350 as a family hauler. The front leather seats are supportive and spacious, everything you would expect from a luxury SUV. The same can be said about the rear seats. The third row can be folded down with 50/50, enlarging cargo volume from 447 liters to 1277 litres. And with the touch of a button, the second row will automatically fold and slide to its most forward position, improving third row access and further expanding cargo room to 2575 litres, 706 litres more than the X5 and 301 litres more than the RX350.
Active noise cancellation and acoustic glass for the windows keep the cabin as silent as a Vatican church. If you're accompanied by troublesome little passengers sitting in the back, the Elite package equips the MDX with a 16.2-inch DVD display wide enough that even regular widescreen movies won't fit the screen properly, but it does the job of keeping the kids quiet and entertained - there's even an HDMI input jack.
The MDX is a persuasive and affordable alternative to its German SUV competitors. It offers a lot of cargo space, state-of-the-art driving technology, a rear entertainment system, and subtle good looks at a fraction of the price. The 2014 MDX has been on the market for more than a year now and I wouldn't be surprised if you could snatch a used MDX Elite for $50,000 or less, seemingly cheap when you consider a fully loaded X5 nets around $80,000. It comes to no surprise that the MDX is selling well, it's an SUV loaded from head to toe with gadgets to entertain the daily commuter and the restless kids sitting in the back. Forget about test driving the X5, don't even bother with a minivan. The family-hauling MDX should be at the top of your list.
Read our Chinese review of the 2014 Acura MDX here:
型号 Model: 2014 Acura MDX Elite
顏色 Paint Type: Alabaster Silver Metallic
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $49,990
試車售價 Price as Tested: $63,990 (without tax, frieght or PDI)
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2820
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4917 / 1962 / 1716
車重 Curbweight (kg): 1970
引擎 Engine: 3.5-litre Direct Injection SOHC, i-VTEC V6
最大馬力 Horsepower: 290 hp @ 6200rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 267 lb-ft @ 4500rpm
波箱 Transmission: 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, SH-AWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption (City/Highway/Combined)- L/100 km: 12.7 / 8.5 / 10.8
輪胎尺碼 Tires: Michelin 245/55R19