Review: 2014 Acura MDX
Quieter, sportier and easier on gas

Improved handling and countless frills make the price worth it

NEWBERG, OREGON ? Three generations can make a big difference in the evolution of a species. Well, at least, it can when you are talking about automobiles. The 2014 Acura MDX is the third generation of the luxury performance SUV introduced in 2001.

It?s an entirely new vehicle based on a new, dedicated platform.

The number of changes made to the completely redesigned MDX will make you dizzy.

The folks at Acura have managed to make the MDX lighter, sportier, quieter, more luxurious, safer and more fuel-efficient. That?s a tall order.

Starting at $49,990, the new MDX is still easily recognizable.

The fender flares have been smoothed out and a redesigned front end has a slightly larger grille opening, flanked by new ?jewel-eye? LED headlights. Its styling might be on the conservative side, but so is everything else in this segment. The new front end does give it a slightly edgy appearance.

Elsewhere, there are more significant changes.

Once shared with other Acura and Honda models, the platform, is now unique to the MDX, although I?m told it will likely be adapted to other models in the future.

Interior and exterior dimensions have been tweaked based on customer feedback, and the new MDX is 5 cm. longer, has a 7-cm. longer wheelbase, is 3.2 cm. narrower and sits 1.7 cm. lower. The added length provides more interior space, most of it behind the third-row seats, where cargo space has increased by 22 litres to 447 litres.

Occupants sit more than 3 cm. lower, and the rear step-in height has been dropped by 4.6 cm., which may make it easier for kids to get in and out.

The second-row seat is now adjustable ?fore and aft. over a 15-cm. range, and a single-touch button flips the second-row seatbacks and moves the seats forward for easy access to the third-row seats. Adults have plenty of seating room in the first two rows, but those relegated to the last row will find quarters tight although not unbearable.

An all-new, 3.5-litre, direct-injection V6 replaces the outgoing model?s 3.7-litre V6.

Rated at 290 hp and 267 lb.-ft. (a reduction of 10 hp and 3 lb-ft.), it produces a bit less power, but it feels no slower, as there?s more torque available below 3,000 r.p.m. and the MDX has lost 131 kg. through a number of weight-reduction measures.

Premium fuel is recommended for the new engine, and is not a requirement as it was for the previous engine, so if ultimate performance isn?t on your list of priorities, you can save a few bucks by using regular fuel.

The engine now incorporates variable cylinder management (VCM), which cuts out three cylinders at low loads during highway cruising to improve fuel economy. This combines with improved aerodynamics and friction-reduction measures, such as the use of narrower tires, to reduce fuel consumption considerably.

This is said to now be 9.6L/100 km.

This marks a 2L/100-km. reduction over the current MDX.

The VCM is seamless to drive. Adaptive engine mounts reduce undesirable vibration to nil. A six-speed automatic drives all four wheels. (It?s the only drivetrain available in Canada.)

The dashboard has been entirely reconfigured. Button-shy drivers will be glad to learn that the centre-console clutter has been cleaned up; the number of buttons has dropped from 41 to nine. Many of the functions formerly controlled by push buttons are now called up on a 7-inch touch screen. The menus are fairly intuitive.

During my brief test drive of the car, I found it relatively easy to call up various functions such as climate control and the sound system?s functions.

A fourth trim level has been added for 2014 You can now choose between the base MDX, Navi (the new one), Tech and the top-of the line, Elite. All trim levels feature push-button start, and the navigation system and AcuraLink connectivity are available from the Navi trim level on up. If your rug-rats are rowdy, you might want to choose the Elite model ($65,990); it comes with an ultra-wide, 16.2-inch DVD screen to keep children occupied.

To compensate you somewhat for the extra cash you spent to keep the kids happy, the folks at Acura included real olive ash wood trim in the Elite model.

Standard throughout the MDX range are the LED headlights, first seen on the 2014 RLX sedan. Each headlight includes a row of five LED lights, which are brighter than HID headlights (which are said to add 25 metres of illumination at night), consume less energy and last longer than either HID or halogen bulbs.

The Elite gets a plethora of driver-assist features, including lane-keeping assistance, collision mitigation and adaptive cruise-control with a low-speed-follow feature that slows the vehicle when you are following another vehicle, and brings it up to speed when things get moving again. These driver aids are on top of the lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning and blind-spot-warning systems available from the Navi trim on up.

If all of these systems fail to prevent you from avoiding a collision, the new body is designed to absorb front and side impacts better, and there are front, side and side-curtain airbags on all models, as well as driver?s knee airbags on the Elite. Acura is predicting that the 2014 MDX will achieve top scores in NHTSA crash and rollover ratings.

A back-to-back comparison with the outgoing model reveals that, although the second-gen MDX had perfectly acceptable interior noise levels, the latest MDX is considerably quieter, with less wind noise, less road noise and less engine noise making its way into the cabin.

Most noticeable is the reduction of tire noise on wet pavement, which is almost imperceptible in the new MDX. The noise reduction was achieved by using sound-absorbing materials, soundproof glass, and noise-cancelling technology that uses the sound system to reduce interior noise.

The MDX is among the quietest luxury SUVs I?ve driven lately.

The completely redesigned suspension is more compliant, especially over sharp bumps. The electric power steering has variable-assistance and three selectable drive modes; most drivers will probably settle on the firmest of these, which provides the most communicative feedback when you?re driving. The MDX now has torque-vectoring, which uses the brakes on the inside wheels to assist the vehicle in cornering, something that should make winter driving less stressful.

The only thing I notice that detracts from the new MDX?s sportier feel is a softer brake pedal. A glance at the spec. sheet reveals smaller front discs are used on the latest MDX, probably because the vehicle is lighter, which might explain the softer pedal.

It?s hard to find fault with the 2014 MDX. It has seen a huge step forward in refinement over the previous model, which was no slouch to begin with.

Although it?s priced slightly above its Japanese competitors, with the added safety features, improved handling and countless standard and available frills, it?s not hard to imagine it will top the category in value.
2014 Acura MDX

PRICE: $49,990?$65,990

ENGINE: 3.5 litre, 60-degree V6

POWER/TORQUE (hp/lb.-ft.): 290/267

TRANSMISSION: Six-speed automatic

FUEL ECONOMY (premium recommended; L/100 km): 11.2 city, 7.7 highway, 9.6 combined

COMPETITION: Audi Q7, BMW X5, Buick Enclave, Infinity JX35, Lexus RX350, Mercedes-Benz ML350

WHAT?S BEST: Ride quality, cabin quietness, improved fuel efficiency

WHAT?S WORST: Mushy brake pedal ? and that?s about it

  • Review: 2014 Acura MDXQuieter, sportier and easier on gas
  • Review: 2014 Acura MDXQuieter, sportier and easier on gas Subject: 2014 Acura MDX pictures, 1 of 2 On 2013-06-03, at 1:32 PM, McDonald, Norris wrote: More Acura MDX photo credit Costa Mouzouris 2014_Acura_MDX_int.jpg 2014_Acura_MDX_lf.jpg
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