In the summer of 2000, I was out for a walk. My travels took me past the local Acura dealership, where hordes of people were clustered in a make-shift lineup. I was at a loss to understand what was going on, until I saw the all-new Acura MDX pull into the parking lot. People poured out of the MDX, and new passengers piled in. Repeat in 15 minute intervals. I had never seen people line up for a test drive in the past, and I haven’t seen it since.
Acura was late to the sport-utility party, but they rapidly made up for lost time with the MDX. With lots of room for seven, “Made in Canada” credibility and Honda’s legendary reliability, it was a hit right out of the gate.
Fast forward to 2014 and two MDX generations hence. Acura has tightened and squeezed the MDX into a slightly smaller package in the name of better handling and improved fuel economy. Weight has been reduced some 125kg by using more high strength steel, magnesium and aluminum.
The new V6 engine is down in horsepower (297 vs 300) and torque (270 ft-lb vs 267) but I would defy anyone to actually notice the difference. The payback is improved fuel economy of 11.2 L/100km city and 7.7 L/100km highway. Last year’s vehicle sipped fuel at a rate of 13.2 L/100km city and 9.6 L/100km highway. Substantial savings for a very small sacrifice in power.
On the outside, MDX is tauter, looks leaner, with a more pronounced, sculpted front end. The dual cross-bar grille has been replaced with a single upper accent with a gap beneath to lighten the look. The upper belt line on the previous generation has been reduced and makes the side of the MDX look carved of a single piece of metal. The lower door crease picks up from the rear bumper and fades into the front bumper cut line. The look is harmonious and taut.
Once inside, you’re treated to a tasteful two-tone interior, with amply padded armrests and console covers. The centre console storage is enormous, and can easily swallow a laptop, a purse or a small dog.
MDX is still very family focused without the mini-van stigma. A one-touch button causes the second row seats to fold and slide forward automatically. This makes it much easier to get in and out of the third row seat. With third row headroom and legroom lower than last year, it’s still best to reserve the first two rows for adults. Increased fore and aft travel of the second row seats make the interior more practical. Thicker door and side glass, and triple seals on the door frames make the MDX quiet indeed.
Acura is also keeping up on the technology bandwagon. Connect your smartphone and use your data plan to access media channels and the inevitable apps. If you also subscribe to AcuraLink, which is MDX’s own cellular connection to Acura’s Assist services, you can check your tire pressure, odometer reading or track your car if it’s stolen, all from your smartphone.
With the Elite Package, MDX offers 5.1-channel sound, 546 watts of power and a 12 speaker audio system, featuring ceiling mounted speakers. It sounds terrific. To keep the kids entertained, a wide-screen 16″ screen will play DVDs, or use the provided 115-volt outlet and connect a gaming system using the HDMI port.
Let’s see what the year-over-year changes have wrought:
A very long list of standard equipment is no surprise for a vehicle in this class. Where things get interesting, is the value story:
Even with an increase at MSRP, the value is definitely there. Luxury items like a heated steering wheel, rain sensing wipers, auto-dimming mirrors and a remote vehicle starter are expected at this level, and Acura delivers. The safety quotient is also evident with Forward Collision Warning and Lane Departure Prevention features added.
The rest of the story:
Acura has made the MDX a little smaller and a little lighter. The wheelbase stretch adds to rider comfort, and helps the exterior lose the minivan-with-four-doors look. Looking at the numbers from 2013, Acura has shaved a few millimetres here and there from the interior dimensions. Bucking the trend in making successor vehicles larger, Acura has created a vehicle that is more maneuverable, easier to park, and achieves fuel economy rivalling a luxury sedan, but with room for seven. It looks like a foregone conclusion that Acura will duplicate the success of the 2001 MDX with this latest offering.