Steve Schaefer, Tue, 18 Mar 2014 02:29:47 PDT
The brand new 2014 Acura MDX is the third generation of this upscale family hauler. Despite being the luxury brand for Japanese Honda, it is designed in California and built in Alabama. That's the auto industry today.
The MDX is a popular brand and model, and it is about as new as a car can be. Every aspect of the vehicle has been improved, to increase fuel economy, upgrade safety, improve efficiency, and create more quiet and comfort inside. How did they do it?
For one thing, although a fully loaded 2014 MDX weighs more than 4,300 pounds, that figure represents a 275-pound weight loss. Part of that comes from moving to a more efficient 3.5-liter V6 engine, which replaces the 3.7-liter unit in the '13 model. With 290 horsepower and 267 lb.-ft of torque, it moves the MDX along nicely.
Another way to cut weight is to make a car smaller, and the MDX is changed for '14 by becoming a bit lower and a little narrower, while riding on a 2.8-inch longer wheelbase. That has the effect of lowering wind resistance and giving easier passenger access, both welcome in a tall SUV. The second row seat has been given a better sliding mechanism, so there is more space to step in.
With lighter weight and more engine efficiency, fuel economy numbers climb a bit. The all-wheel-drive model averages 21 Combined mpg (18 City, 27 Highway), up from the '13 model. My actual fuel mileage came to 19.3 mpg. New this year is a front-wheel-drive model, which is lighter and pushes those numbers to 23 Combined (20 City, 28 Highway). Although the SH-AWD system efficiently transfers torque between axles and wheels, you don't really need the extra weight and complexity in some climates, so why not skip it?
Acura has touted its electronic high-tech wizardry since the brand's inception, and this new MDX is bursting with features, too many to list here. But one of many is the Integrated Dynamics System (IDS), which lets you control the driving experience. It gives you a choice of three settings, which essentially alter the feeling of the new electrical steering system. Choose Normal and all is fine. Comfort softens the steering response, while the Sport setting not only firms up steering control, but changes the shift points of the automatic transmission, so you get more driving enjoyment. This may not be what you expect from a family SUV, but Acura is trying to give you a more visceral experience to compete with the European manufacturers.
The ambiance inside this new MDX is decidedly upscale. The subtlety of the matte black surfaces, accented with slashes of metallic trim, is the epitome of Acura design. A host of improvements create a virtually silent environment, including thicker windshield and side glass, improved insulation in the window pillars, sound-isolating coating along the floor, revised steering column, and much more. Time in the company's wind tunnel has essentially eliminated wind noise along the car's surface-and under it.
The car is all-new outside. A highlight of the new design is the unique Jewel Eye headlamps, which feature five LED lights on each side. Looking like glowing ice cubes, they are more efficient and brighter than the ones they replace. The overall look up front retains the softened Acura grille. In back, tail lights also use high-efficiency LEDs.
This is a car that you can explore over time. Its large touch screen offers many choices to customize settings. Even the seat heaters are part of the overall climate system, so it can configure the interior temperature more quickly and accurately.
There are numerous choices for sound systems, all excellent. My Advance model had a 12-speaker audio system with ceiling-mounted speakers, a 546-watt amplifier and 5.1-channel surround sound. It's probably better than the equipment found in most homes. Considering how long folks might spend in their cars today, it probably makes sense.
There's a rear entertainment system to keep rear passengers happy. It offers a wide 16.2-inch full WVGA screen - the largest and highest-resolution screen you can get in an Acura. It also accommodates gaming consoles. It could be more fun to ride in this car than to be the driver!
The MDX comes in four levels, depending on packages. The most basic format, the front-wheel-drive MDX, starts at $43,275 and is loaded with fine features. My top-of-the-line Crystal Black Pearl with all-wheel-drive and Advance came to $57,490. That's what you might expect to pay for an Audi or a BMW competitor.
Since 1987, Acura has offered high-tech-loaded upscale vehicles. Today's lineup includes the brand-new MDX SUV and its counterpart flagship, the RLX sedan. Compare them yourself with your favorite Mercedes-Benz or Audi offering and then decide. You may be very surprised.