Keeping up in today’s fast-paced world of technology can be a hard thing to do, and just like with cameras and smartphones, the automotive industry seems to be moving faster than ever.
So how do automakers cope with the speed of things when they are not ready with an all-new model? By wrapping new skin around an old frame and selling it as all-new. A prime example? Meet the 2017 Acura MDX.
New Skin, Old Bones
For 2017, what’s newest about the MDX is what you see. There are some packaging changes and some added content, but for the most part, the new styling is the biggest change here. Some of the visual additions include the diamond pentagon grille, restyled jewel eye headlights and a fresh front bumper. I’ll let you decide if it’s good looking or not, but one thing seems certain. The exterior redesign was extensive, but the changes on the inside, not so much.
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Moving inside the MDX, you would be hard pressed to name it as a new model, though that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad cabin. First the positives. The Olive Ash Burl wood fund in our fully loaded model is gorgeous, as is the leather that wraps the comfortable seats. It feels especially nice on the steering wheel, offering a supple tactile feel.
To look at, the interior including its dual-screen center stack is quite nice to look at, though the aesthetics of the infotainment are let down by the operation. Thankfully Acura hasn’t done away with the volume knob like Honda has in its products, but still, this infotainment system is not all that intuitive.
Using the small touchscreen while driving can be annoying, especially considering some of the HVAC controls, like the fan speed, are controlled through touch screen buttons while the temperature controls have real switches. The choice between a physical switch and touchscreen controls seem arbitrary and lacks the cohesion that makes a setup like this operate smoothly.
Moving into the back, the second row offers 36.6 inches of legroom. That falls short of its biggest rival the Infiniti QX60, which offers 41.7 inches, and is also slightly less than the 38.0 inches found in the Lexus RX350.
ALSO SEE: 2016 Infiniti QX60 Review
The Lexus doesn’t have a third row, but the MDX and the Infiniti do. In the Acura, you get 28.1 inches back there, while the QX60 manages to offer 30.8 inches, once again out spacing the MDX.
All the way in the back, the trunk offers 15 cubic feet of storage with the small third row in use, once again falling slightly short of the 15.8 offered in the QX60.
So it’s not the most spacious luxury SUV in its class and the interior isn’t laid out the best, but the MDX certainly does drive quite nice.
Slightly thicker sway bars on this SH-AWD model help in part to provide excellent body control in this 4,292-lb (1,946-kg) crossover. The MDX handles corners fairly flat, with handling that feels slightly tighter than its competitors. Some of that can also be chalked up to the SH-AWD system, which can send different amounts of torque to individual wheels to help the MDX rotate and stay nimble.
It’s also nice and quiet in the cabin, while the V6 simultaneously manages a nice exhaust note; on the quieter side of aggressive but enough to remind you that the V6 has a little bite to it.
It’s a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. Power doesn’t come on until higher into the rev range, but the nine-speed transmission allows for power delivery to feel fairly strong on the low end.
The shifting from this nine-speed has to be mentioned. It isn’t exactly silky smooth, with small jerks at every upshift, though in my experience it certainly isn’t horrible.
Fuel economy is rated 19 mpg city/26 highway/22 combined. In our time with the Acura MDX, we saw 21.3 mpg, which exceeds the combined rating and puts it right in line with its competitors.
Technology Take the Wheel
For 2017, every single MDX model comes equipped with the AcuraWatch suite of safety features and driver-assist technologies, which includes collision mitigating brakes, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, road departure mitigation and lane keeping assist.
That last one is probably the most noticeable, as the lane keep assist in the MDX is quite aggressive and works quite well. To use it optimally, you keep your hands on the wheel but slightly loosen your grip, allowing the MDX to do some of the work for you. The steering stays nice and smooth and Acura’s suite of sensors keeps you nicely centered in the lane.
You can even remove your hands from the wheel and watch the MDX drive itself, although, of course, AutoGuide.com would never recommend that, and even the MDX won’t let you keep your hands off the wheel for more than a few seconds before it becomes upset. The system really helps in crawling traffic, while the low-speed follow feature allows you to forget about operating the gas and brake pedal in the heavy traffic.
That system, coupled with the adaptive cruise control, which controlled the speeds of this crossover calmly and smoother, makes the MDX an excellent vehicle to drive thanks to a combination of good inherent dynamics and some great tech.
Pricing for our fully loaded MDX with the Advance and Entertainment packages rings in at just over $59,000, though a basic front-wheel-drive MDX is available for about $44,000. That puts it a little on the high end of its class as the Infiniti QX60 will sell for around $56K once loaded with comparable content while the RX350 will sell for around the $50K mark, though keep in mind that the Lexus doesn’t offer a third row.
In Canada, a base MDX costs $53,690, while fully loading it up brings the price to just north of $65,000. Just like in the U.S., the Infiniti QX60 undercuts the MDX’s base price, selling for $47,890, while a fully loaded QX60 goes for about $60,000.
The Verdict: 2017 Acura MDX Review
This Acura MDX does everything fairly well. Whether you’re looking to transport seven people in comfort or for an engaging ride, the MDX manages to deliver both consistently. And with this new refresh, the “all-new” MDX should be able to hold onto its sales crown in the three-row luxury crossover segment.