2013 Acura MDX Road Test and Review: Introduction
Acura says it benchmarked performance SUVs and tuned the MDX on Germany’s Nurburgring racetrack when it developed the second-generation version of its luxury crossover suv, which is one reason why, seven years after it debuted, after having spent a week with a 2013 Acura MDX, my family has decided that despite its age and atrocious fuel economy, the MDX would be on the short list of candidates if we were planning to spend about $50,000 on a luxury crossover SUV. You see, at my house, we like cars that are fun to drive.
Sheer entertainment value isn’t the only thing the Acura MDX has going for it, though. This SUV is distinctively styled, and it offers incredibly comfortable seats in a cabin constructed of materials that exude quality. Add excellent crash-test ratings, impressive reliability, plenty of practicality, and pricing that represents real value in contrast to key competitors such as the Audi Q7, BMW X5, and Lexus GX, and the 2013 Acura MDX remains a compelling choice despite its age and imminent replacement by a completely redesigned 2014 MDX.
Acura makes it easy to select a 2013 MDX. Basically, you choose between one of four package combinations, pick your colors, and you’re done. The base price is $44,175 including the $895 destination charge. Highlights from the standard equipment list include Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD), 7-passenger seating, a 10-way power driver’s seat, an 8-way power front passenger’s seat, heated front seats, leather upholstery, triple-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, and a reversing camera.
Add the Technology Package, and the MDX’s price climbs $3,675 to $47,850. The Technology Package contains premium Milano leather, a navigation system, real-time traffic and weather reporting, a multi-view reversing camera, a premium audio system with a USB port and iPod connectivity, a GPS-linked climate control system, and more.
Add the Advance Package, and Acura levies a $9,625 tariff over the base model. The Advance Package includes the Technology Package plus perforated leather, heated and ventilated front seats, an active damping sport suspension, 19-inch aluminum wheels, and auto-leveling headlights. Three safety technologies are also included in the Advance Package: Adaptive Cruise Control, a Blind-spot Information System, and a Collision Mitigation Braking System.
Models equipped with the Technology Package or the Advance Package can be upgraded with an Entertainment Package that costs $1,900. This adds a rear-seat DVD entertainment system including a motorized single rear screen, two wireless headphones, a remote control, a 115-volt power outlet, and a heated second-row seat.
My 2013 Acura MDX test vehicle, painted Graphite Luster Metallic and equipped with both the Advance and the Entertainment Packages, came to $55,700. That strikes me as money well spent.2013 Acura MDX Road Test and Review: Design
- No changes for 2013
You can blame the current-generation MDX for Acura’s brief descent into madness with the whole oversized shield grille design motif. When the MDX was redesigned for the 2007 model year, it was the first Acura to arrive wearing the automaker’s now familiar shield-style grille, which looked different, bold, and even appealing on a large, 3-row, 7-passenger crossover SUV. Unfortunately for Acura, the striking grille treatment didn’t transition seamlessly to the company’s other models, not even the smaller RDX crossover. And yet, even today, the Acura MDX remains stylish, technical, and upscale in appearance, one of the best looking models in the automaker’s lineup.
Quality materials, rich tones, and appealing textures abound inside the opulent Acura MDX, the driver facing a set of gauges and controls that provide refreshing clarity in a luxury class increasingly dominated by frustrating touch screens and haptic feedback touch panels. The standard dashboard timber is appealing, but I’d prefer genuine brushed aluminum with my test model’s black interior.2013 Acura MDX Road Test and Review: Comfort and Cargo
- No changes for 2013
My Acura MDX test sample came equipped with front seats offering exceptional comfort and support in all the right places, wrapped in soft premium Milano leather and featuring heating and ventilation. This SUV is more comfortable than any single piece of furniture in my home, a sorry state of affairs to be certain. Furthermore, the driving position is perfection, with outward visibility compromised only by side mirrors that are rather small and which require frequent repositioning depending on the driver’s slouch factor.
The second-row seat offers plenty of leg and foot space for adults, a reclining backrest, and the same enveloping comfort levels as the front seats. Adults, however, can just barely squeeze into the third-row seat, which sits low and offers scant leg, foot and head room. Therefore, I think this seat is best kept folded for maximum cargo carrying capacity.
Acura claims the MDX will hold 15 cu.-ft. of cargo behind the third-row seat, which is about the same amount of volume as a midsize sedan’s trunk, but that’s a floor-to-ceiling measurement that includes the hidden compartment under the cargo floor. Fold the third-row seatbacks flat, and the MDX provides 42.9 cu.-ft. of cargo room. Fold the second-row seats, and the MDX swallows 83.5 cu.-ft. of your stuff.2013 Acura MDX Road Test and Review: Features and Controls
- No changes for 2013
An array of buttons is sprinkled throughout the Acura MDX’s cabin, frequently controlling functions that other luxury automakers bundle into systems operated using a touch screen or a capacitive-touch control panel. I prefer the hard-key solution to aimlessly wandering through a maze of menus or waiting for half-baked technology to recognize my fumbling touch, but in a vehicle with this much stuff, the dashboard does appear littered with too many controls.
The good news is that appearances can be deceiving, as the MDX’s primary functions are easy to find and use, and everything is logically grouped. If there’s room for improvement here, Acura could add greater spacing between the buttons, and make them a larger size.2013 Acura MDX Road Test and Review: Safety and Ratings
- No changes for 2013
My MDX had the Advance Package, with a blind-spot information system displaying warnings as an orange light on the upper door trim near the windshield pillar, a location somewhat disassociated with the side mirrors where the driver is actually looking. The warning remains in the driver’s field of view, but is not as obvious as might be preferable.
In addition to the blind-spot information system, the MDX’s Advance Package includes an Adaptive Cruise Control system and a Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS). In heavy traffic, the CMBS reveals its sensitivity when the MDX’s driver accelerates to change lanes as opportunity arises.
Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of adaptive cruise control systems, and that includes the one installed in the MDX. In my opinion, if a driver requires one of these, perhaps that person ought to reconsider public transit. In any case, the Acura’s system works as advertised, but isn’t particularly smooth with regard to moderating speed and, with the distance control set to the middle setting, tended to brake too soon and too much, turning the MDX into a rolling traffic cone in moderate L.A. traffic.
2013 Acura MDX Crash-Test Ratings:
Though it was engineered almost a decade ago, the 2013 Acura MDX receives excellent crash-test scores, reflecting a strong likelihood that it will protect its occupants in a collision, especially in light of base curb weights between 4,594 lbs. and 4,669 lbs.
In crash tests conducted by the NHTSA, the 2013 MDX receives an overall rating of 4 stars, with either 4-star or 5-star ratings for each individual assessment. Results from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) are equally impressive, with the MDX named a “Top Safety Pick” for 2013.2013 Acura MDX Road Test and Review: Engines and Fuel Economy
- No changes for 2013
Acura offers a single powertrain for the 2013 MDX, a quite satisfying 3.7-liter V-6 engine making 300 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 270 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,500 rpm. A 6-speed automatic transmission with Sequential SportShift, Grade Logic Control, and Hill Start Assist is standard, and offers paddle shifters mounted to the steering wheel for manual control.
Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) system is standard equipment. The “super handling” part is thanks to rear axle torque vectoring that can deliver the majority of engine power to a single rear wheel to improve handling in dry, in the wet, and on loose surfaces. It works brilliantly, making the rather hefty MDX feel far more athletic than it otherwise would.
Fuel economy is likely the single worst aspect of Acura MDX ownership. According to the EPA, the MDX is expected to get 16 mpg in the city, 21 mpg on the highway, and 18 mpg in combined driving. We fell short of that 18-mpg rating, extracting just 15.9 mpg. Adding insult to injury, the MDX slurps pricey premium unleaded.2013 Acura MDX Road Test and Review: Driving Impressions
Thanks to its 300-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6, the Acura MDX feels energetic around town, and when entering freeways, pulls strongly in the upper part of the rev range, uttering a delightfully guttural growl while doing so. The driver never wants for motive force in this SUV, and because the 6-speed automatic transmission features Grade Logic Control and recognizes when the MDX is driven with gusto, it automatically holds revs for improved response when the driver wants it most.
Acura’s SH-AWD system really helps the MDX to stick and rotate in turns when the driver is covering ground at a rapid pace. It didn’t rain in Southern California during my week with the Acura, but personal experience lapping a second-generation MDX around a racetrack in a driving rainstorm makes it easy for me to assert that this SUV handles slick pavement and standing water with no trouble. Snow? I dunno.
Back on dry ground, the MDX’s steering wheel feels great in the driver’s hands, but effort levels are a bit heavy at parking speeds and a bit light at freeway speeds. Also, when running down twisty mountain roads, the steering proved slower off-center than I would like. Around town, none of these issues represent liability, and the Acura’s turning radius is impressively tight.
I took no issue with the MDX’s brakes, an effective system actuated using a pedal with outstanding feel and calibration. The active damping sport suspension included with the Advance Package, however, seems like unnecessary overkill, particularly in light of how I’ve previously characterized the MDX standard suspension tuning, which I’ve found to offer an impressive balance between compliance and firmness, like the best European vehicles.
By contrast, the adaptive damping sport suspension either feels too taut or too soft, and over sections of Los Angeles freeway notorious for causing suspensions to jitterbug, the MDX filtered vibration in either mode. Driven with verve across the Santa Monica Mountains, the MDX’s suspension did a good job of limiting body roll and motion, revealing the SUV’s 19-inch tires to be weak handling link.
Still, few MDX buyers are actually going to drive one of these luxury crossovers anywhere near the limit, which makes me think Acura could save Advance Package buyers some money by ditching the fancy suspension and keeping the handsome 19-inch aluminum wheels.2013 Acura MDX Road Test and Review: Final Thoughts
Despite its advanced age, the 2013 Acura MDX is a terrific luxury crossover SUV, blending equal parts comfort, capability, practicality, performance, and technology into a single stylish and value-laden package. The worst thing about the MDX is its voracious appetite for premium gas.2013 Acura MDX Road Test and Review: Pros and Cons
- Distinctive design
- Comfortable, high-quality cabin
- Old-school buttons and knobs
- Strong V-6 engine
- Super-Handling AWD
- Top crash-test ratings
- Fuel economy
- Third-row seat is for kids only
Acura supplied the vehicle for this review
2013 Acura MDX photos by Christian Wardlaw