American Honda CEO Tetsuo Iwamura told reporters at Tokyo Motor Show in November that his biggest challenge is Acura. Sadly, it's easy to see why Iwamura says this. Most of Acura's lineup are either half-baked ideas or showing their age. Even with those issues, sales for the brand were up 5.9 percent at the end of 2013. Thats thanks to Acura's refreshed SUV lineup which includes the MDX and RDX. These two models made up 59 percent of Acura's total sales for 2013. This begs the question of what is the automaker doing right with their SUVs. To find out, I spent a week with the 2014 Acura MDX.
There are two ways to describe the 2014 MDX's design. Its either a last-generation MDX that has been smoothed over or the RDX hit with an enlarging ray. Either way, the MDX's design is not as polarizing as the last-generation model which in my eyes is a very good thing. The front end still has the bread-slicer/bucktooth grille, although a bit toned down. There is also a set of jewel-eye headlights sitting on either side of the grille. There is some RDX influence in the back as the two models have a similarly styled tailgate.
Moving inside, Acura has made massive improvements to the MDX. The most noticeable one is the center stack. With the previous-generation MDX and a few other Acura models, the center stack was filled to brim with buttons to control the climate control and infotainment system. Trying to find the button for the certain function you wanted was a nightmare. To solve the button overload, Acura is using a dual screen setup. There is a seven-inch touchscreen on the bottom that features haptic-feedback and an eight-inch screen that is controlled by a knob at the bottom of the stack. This setup is very easy to use since Acura made the interface very understandable and has kept certain buttons and knobs. But Acura's setup isn't all flying colors. For example; if you want to enter an address into the navigation system, you have to use the knob and top screen to enter it. There is no option to punch in the address on the lower touchscreen which would be much easier. Also, do I really need to see my presets on both screens when changing a station?! This new setup shows Acura going in the right direction, but it needs some more work.
Aside from the center stack improvements, the 2014 MDX really shows a step up in design and materials. The interior is appointed with leather and wood trim throughout making it feel very special. Comfort is up as well with supportive seats and loads of head and legroom. There is a third row, but its best reserve for small kids or folded into the floor.
See the next page for impressions on the powertrain and handling.
A peek under the MDX's hood reveals a brand new 3.5L Earth Dreams V6 with variable cylinder management. The engine is rated 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and a choice of either front-wheel or Acura's Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD). While the 2014 MDX is down 10 horsepower and 3 pound-feet when compared to the 2013 model, the engine is more than powerful to handle it. This comes down to two things. One is that the 2014 MDX is 275 pounds lighter than the outgoing model thanks to new platform which is comprised of high-strength steel, aluminum, and magnesium. The other reason comes down to the six-speed automatic which is lightning fast on up and downshifts to keep you right in the power. One other item of note: I had a front-wheel drive MDX and was worried that torque steer would be a problem. I can say that there were no signs of it at all with the MDX during the week. Well done Acura.
The EPA rates the 2014 Acura MDX FWD at 20 City/28 Highway/23 Combined. During my weeklong test, I hit the combined number. This is partly thanks to the variable cylinder management system which can cut the 3.5 V6 from running on six-cylinders to three.
The Acura MDX was known for being a fun to drive crossover and the 2014 model continues that. Acura has fitted the Integrated Dynamics System (IDS) which alters the electric power steering, throttle response, suspension, and even the engine note. There are three different settings to choose from; Comfort, Normal, and Sport. Put the MDX into Sport and it becomes a joy to drive. The steering and suspension firm up and make the MDX feel like a sports sedan and not a crossover.
Even more impressive was the balancing act Acura was able to do MDX's suspenion. Put IDS into Normal or Comfort and the MDX becomes a very relaxing crossover. The suspension softens up to provide a comfortable ride that is very capable of smoothing over bumps and imperfections. The MDX is also very quiet. Acura worked hard on improving the NVH levels on the MDX with such items as Active Noise Cancellation and special engine mounts.
The 2014 Acura MDX is marked improvement over the previous model. Acura kept the items that worked on the MDX and focused on the areas that needed to be improved. With that mindset, the 2014 Acura MDX stands out as being one of the best luxury crossovers.
That's my big takeaway with the 2014 Acura MDX. They focused on the parts which needed to be changed and kept what worked pretty much the same. If they can apply this to their other models, then maybe Acura can enjoy the sweet success all around.
Disclaimer: Acura Provided the MDX, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Trim: Tech Entertainment
Engine: Earth Dreams 3.5L SOHC V-6 W/Direct-Injection
Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic
Horsepower @ RPM: 290 @ 6,200
Torque @ RPM: 267 @ 4,500
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 20/28/23
Curb Weight: 4,063 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Lincoln, Alabama
Base Price: $48,465.00
As Tested Price: $49,550.00 (Includes $985.00 Destination Charge)