Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: April 26, 2016
The Acura MDX is Canada’s best selling three-row luxury SUV, and for good reason. It’s got a spacious interior, is fairly good looking for such a conservatively designed crossover, stickers at a reasonable price for the amount of luxury options it offers, and it’s got one of the best reliability ratings and resale values across the board.
So why tweak a formula when it’s running so smoothly? Well despite sky rocketing sales, the 2015 Acura MDX wasn’t perfect. It’s clunky and maturing six-speed automatic transmission wasn’t too eco-friendly, the all-wheel drive system felt unrefined and heavy, and all of the nifty and new technological features that the MDX offered came only in the higher priced trims, pushing its price tag into German car territory.
Now before this generation of MDX is sent off to the history books, Acura is having one last go at the formula. Yes, the new 2017 Acura MDX has already been unveiled at the New York International Auto Show, and we were there to witness it first hand, but let’s take a look at the swan song of the current model, and see if Acura has finally perfected their best-selling crossover for 2016.
The first thing you might notice is that the starting MSRP has ballooned past the $50k barrier, and now starts at an eye-watering $53,250, which is $3,260 more than the outgoing 2015 model. Compared to the ever-so-popular Lexus RX 350 ($54,350), the pricing is still competitive, but there is reasonable justification for Acura’s price hike.
Now standard on every MDX model is AcuraWatch, the automaker’s high-tech suite of driver assistance technologies. Previously available on higher end trims only, this array of nifty features is now found even on the base MDX model. Included are: Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow, Collision Mitigation Braking System, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist System, Road Departure Mitigation, and a rear view camera.
We won’t bore you with what each of these features mean, but we will mention notable interests. One thing you may have noticed is that Blind Spot Monitoring didn’t make the cut – that feature is only available on the next trim up the ladder. The one system that does make the MDX stand out is Adaptive Cruise Control and Road Departure Mitigation.
At highway speeds, the MDX will use radars and sensors to follow the car in front of you, slowing down and speeding up as necessary. Furthermore, the MDX will use cameras to keep the car inside the detected lane, automatically using steering input and braking force to correct the angles. It comes quite close to having an autonomous commute, but the MDX will ping to keep your hands on the wheel every few seconds to make sure you’re awake. Overall, the safety systems work well to keep the driver alert, safe, and comfortable – it’s also nice to have these as standard options.
In the name of fuel economy and efficiency, Acura has also swapped the MDX with a brand new 9-speed automatic transmission that offers more closely spaced gear ratios, 25% faster shifts, and weighs 30 kg less than the outgoing six-speed. It’s also a similar application to the one we tested in the TLX sedan. Mated to the venerable 3.5-litre direct-injected V6 engine that also comes with cylinder deactivation, the gearbox produces some crisp shifts on demand via the paddles. The gear changes aren’t quick on the trigger, but they are smooth as silk. The car never lurched in transition, but we did notice the systems constantly searching for the correct gear every time power was demanded via the pedal.
Oh, and the new electronic push-button gear selector that is slotted in the center console is pretty neat. It not only frees up a lot of storage space in the center stack, but it reminds me of the one they use in the new Acura NSX. There was more than a few times however that I did catch myself reaching for a phantom gear shifter when backing in.
Regardless, with the addition of three cogs and an Acura-first start/stop feature (only on Elite models) that turns off the engine when idling, fuel consumption has been mildly improved. Over our week we averaged 12.5 L/100km.
While the SH-AWD system has been improved and feels more responsive than the last model we’ve tested, the MDX still feels a little rough around the bends and not as taut as we would have liked. Steering wise, it handles very well, though not as direct or responsive as a BMW X5, and body roll does like to make its arrival heard. However it wasn’t enough to upset the overall ride.
That doesn’t stop us from loving the MDX though. Subtle fuel efficiency tweaks and handling upgrades aside, the MDX is a wonderful SUV to drive. One of its most notable features is its deceptive 7-passenger capacity, which surprises most people as the MDX is only 27 mm longer than the 5-passenger Lexus RX 350 and 31 mm longer than the 5-passenger BMW X5. In fact, averaged-sized adults will fit in the commonly neglected third row, although they will probably be a bit snug.
There’s even a little button on the second row seat that given a push, will flip and fold in a split second, allowing for third row passengers to jump right in or jump right out. The button is even illuminated at night for easy spotting. Take note, fellow automakers.
But of course there is a small catch, and that with the third row of seats up, there’s not much cargo space left over to store your belongings. Nevertheless, if a luxury SUV is what you’re looking for, and you’ve got a large family to haul around, the MDX gets the advantage over its 5-seater competition. Of course, if you aren’t particularly looking for a luxury SUV but want a few less expensive alternatives to 7-passenger hauling, the Toyota Highlander and Nissan Pathfinder are also great choices that are just as well equipped as the MDX.
Other aspects we love about the MDX are the unrelenting power from the V6 engine, providing 290 hp and 267 lb-ft to be exact. It’s a phenomenal motor that delivers some of that crucial low-end torque that makes the MDX feel faster than it really is.
We adore the elephantine steering wheel, even though it makes some of the same electric steering rack noises as my Playstation 3 Gran Turismo wheel, the elevated driving position is ace, and even though the MDX shares much of its DNA with the Honda Pilot, leather dressings and a well thought-out design hides the its origins very well.
Things we don’t like are the redundant and rather confusing infotainment unit. Seriously, ask a non-MDX owner to try and change the radio station. It’s almost impossible without diving into a series of sub-menus using the sole rotary dial. There’s no dedicated button for the heated seats either (thankfully there is one for the heated steering wheel), and the key fob looks like a brick made of obsidian and weighs a decent ton too.
Minor gripes aside, there aren’t many valid reasons not fall in love with the MDX. It’s just so well equipped, even in the base MDX model. If you want navigation, blind spot monitoring, heated second row seats, or a rear seat DVD entertainment system, take a look at the higher trims but we don’t seem much reason to otherwise.
We have yet to drive the recently unveiled 2017 Acura MDX, but here’s our advice for those waiting. Snatch up the 2016 models while you still can – these MDXs are truly one of the best SUVs to date.
型号 Model: 2016 Acura MDX Elite
顏色 Paint Type: Crystal Black Pearl
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $53,250
試車售價 Price as Tested: $65,250
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,820
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,917 / 1,962 / 1,716 (including antenna)
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,954
引擎 Engine: 3.5-litre, Direct Injection SOHC, i-VTEC® V6
最大馬力 Horsepower: 290 hp @ 6,200 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 267 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 9-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 12.2 / 9.1 / 10.7
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 12.5
輪胎尺碼 Tires: Goodyear Ultra Grip Winter; P245/55R19