MDX is slightly dated, but offers a fantastic driving experience
Premium crossover SUVs like the Acura MDX are big business. Virtually every automaker builds a machine like this one to sell to Canadians looking to blast through Mother Nature’s frigid wintry depths, or escape in the lap of luxury to the cottage for a weekend.
Acura launched the original MDX about a decade ago, and it’s been a sales success since. That’s thanks in no small part to its continual focus on offering plenty of high-tech, plenty of performance, reliable operation and luxurious capability at a decent price. For many a Canadian luxury crossover shopper, MDX made more sense than dropping thousands more on something German.
The tested second-generation MDX was introduced for 2007, making it one of the oldest premium crossovers in its segment. It’s due to be updated and overhauled soon, but this seasoned veteran still has plenty going for it in most regards.
Of course, MDX has the same power tailgate, heated leather memory seats, automatic climate control and Bluetooth phone gizmo offered by all of its competition. The spec sheet on machines like this one are all pretty much the same, after all.
And your writer was disappointed at the lack of USB or Bluetooth audio connectivity, especially in a machine with pricing just north of 50 large. Strange that a 2012 Acura required me to brush off the CD case that’d been sitting in my closet for more than a year.
With the CD changer loaded up, drivers can take in the MDX’s cabin. Like its competition, it’s roomy, offers plenty of storage, some wood trim, and comfy seats arranged in three rows. And like its competition, MDX can carry seven occupants, the rearmost pair treated to a small, flip-up seat. Best for the kids.
Back up front, MDX gets a great big centre console, and even a hidden storage cubby near the front passenger’s left foot. It’s all upbeat, upscale, relaxing and slightly high-tech inside, except for the old-school stereo display. Extra points for the gorgeous instrument cluster.
End of the day, where features and specs are concerned, the MDX isn’t that different than anyone else’s premium SUV offering. Where Acura’s really set this machine apart is with the engineering under its skin — and what that does for the driving experience.
All MDX’s are motivated by a 3.7LVTEC V6 engine with 300 hp. That’s attached to a new six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shift control. The engine and transmission perform smoothly, work well with one another, and help the MDX turn in decent highway cruising mileage. Pushed, the engine sounds good, the transmission shifts cleanly, and it’s all very buttery and refined.
But the icing on the cake with this powertrain is actually the MDX’s super-sophisticated, Super Handling All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system.
In addition to splitting power between front and rear axles, SH-AWD can divvy up torque across the rear axle, and even accelerate the outer rear wheel in a corner. That effectively uses the AWD system to help steer’ the vehicle, and leaves the MDX feeling eager to steer and light but stable when pushed. There’s a hint of tail happiness on corner exit when drivers jam on it too.
The result, when pushed, is that the MDX feels like a smaller, sportier, rear-drive vehicle,- rather than a heavy, clumsy family hauler. So once you’ve dropped the kids off at soccer, or finished unloading that trunkful of gear from Home Depot, you can actually get some excitement from the driving experience here.
Of course, with that slick AWD system and powerful xenon lighting with headlamp washers, MDX will cut through winter driving with a smile on its face.
Really, the MDX is considerably more fun to drive than it needs to be, if that’s your thing. It’ll tackle moderate trails, and a fairly comfortable and quiet highway ride works towards a relaxing atmosphere on the road more travelled, too.
Though a little dated, the MDX should satisfy the family SUV shopper looking for a proven nameplate, good fuel economy and sporty driving dynamics. Pricing starts in the low 50s.
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