2014 Acura MDX Road Test & Review: Introduction
Completely redesigned for the 2014 model year, Acura’s popular MDX crossover sport utility vehicle now boasts better fuel economy, a nicer interior treatment, and a quieter cabin environment for its passengers as well. Acura’s planning team replaced the 2013’s 3.7-liter V6 with a 3.5-liter V6 engine for 2014, and added a host of new standard features to keep the MDX one of the top considerations in its competitive set.
This marks the third generation of one of the segment’s most desirable automobiles. One of the defining models of its segment, the MDX was one of the first luxury suvs to eschew body on frame construction in favor of the unibody design modern passenger cars employ. This endowed the Acura crossover suv with a light, yet rigid structure—enabling it to achieve ride and handling capabilities more like that of a car. However, the MDX was also big enough to support a third row of seating, which could be folded flat into the floor to improve cargo capacity.
Over the years, Acura has applied a strategy of continuous improvement to the MDX. For example, the “super handling” all-wheel drive system fitted to the model during its second generation made it one of the best handling crossover suvs on the market. This formula continues, with a number of enhancements for the 2014 model year; among them are better fuel economy, a nicer interior treatment, and a quieter passenger compartment.
Also, for the first time ever, there is a front-drive version of the MDX on offer to make the model more affordable as well as more fuel-efficient for drivers who live in temperate climates and don’t really need all-wheel drive.
2014 Acura MDX Road Test & Review: Models & Pricing
While the MDX is offered in but one trim level, there are a variety of packages applied to the model to enable buyers to more sharply hone the MDX to reflect their particular needs and desires.
Pricing for the base model front-drive 2014 Acura MDX starts at $42,290. Add the Technology package and the price increases to $46,565. The MDX Technology and Entertainment package comes in at $48,565, while an Advance and Entertainment package equipped MDX carries a sticker price of $54,505. All of the above packages are offered with all-wheel drive for an additional $2000. A destination charge of $985 should be added to all of the above pricing.
A power rear liftgate, keyless entry and start, Bluetooth; heated ,power adjustable front seats; three-zone automatic climate control, automatic LED headlights, keyless entry and start, and leather upholstery are among the highlights of the standard equipment list for the 2014 Acura MDX.
The Technology package adds features like navigation, a surround-sound audio system, smart windshield wipers, keyless entry for the rear hatch, a GPS linked solar sensing climate control system, lane departure and blind spot monitoring, as well as forward collision warning.
The Tech and Entertainment package adds heated rear seats, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with a nine-inch monitor, sunshades for the rear windows, and an AC outlet for plugging in household devices.
The Advance and Entertainment package pretty much fully loads the MDX by adding details like roof rails, remote start, collision mitigation, lane keep assist, smart cruise control, and a 16-inch screen for the rear-seat entertainment system, which also gains an HDMI input.
2014 Acura MDX Road Test & Review: Design
The all-new design rides on an entirely new platform. The wheelbase is about three inches longer, and the body is also lower and narrower—to improve aerodynamics. By employing a judicious mix of high-strength steel, aluminum and magnesium, Acura’s engineers shed some 275-pound from the 2014 MDX when compared to the 2013 model. This also makes the MDX the lightest model in its segment.
If you’ve any car-consciousness at all, you’ll know at a glance the MDX is an Acura product. All the identifiable cues are there; the Acura shield on the grille, the sharply drawn angular face with squinty headlights, the nicely sculpted side details, and the forward leaning stance, which makes every Acura model look as if it is leaning into the wind.
While the design is all-new, you’d be forgiven for not recognizing the fact you’re looking at an all-new model. The Acura product planning team went with more of an evolutionary design. You really do need to see the 2013 and the 2014 side-by-side to discern the differences.
The good news is the MDX is strongly regarded in the marketplace, accounting for some 40-percent of Acura’s sales. So this was probably a wise move strategically. As crossover SUVs go, it’s a pretty dynamic design. While something like the Infiniti QX70 is considerably more radically styled, the MDX does have a following all its own.
2014 Acura MDX Road Test & Review: Features & Controls
Like every Acura model, the driver is given a great deal of consideration. The substantial rim of the steering wheel is sized to fill your hands nicely, while providing considerable reassurance in terms of the control afforded. A tidy arrangement of buttons on its center spokes gives you control over audio, telephone, and cruise functions. Looking through the wheel (when it is properly adjusted) the analog instrumentation is readily legible, and very distinct in terms of the information conveyed. The wheel also houses a set of paddles for managing the transmission.
Occupying a prominent position atop the dash—hooded from sunlight—an eight-inch video monitor displays the navigation system along with the output of the rearview camera. Meanwhile, a secondary seven-inch touchscreen monitor just beneath it is dedicated to the audio system, communications, climate control, and other comfort features. Splitting the workload between two monitors means you don’t have to sacrifice information in one area to be informed about another. Further, it cuts down on the buttons you need to access the Acura’s comfort and convenience functions.
That said, the touchscreen setup does make accessing some functions—like the seat heaters for example—a bit cumbersome. But the tradeoff is a cleaner look to the center stack. Compared to the outgoing model, this layout represents a significant improvement. A choice of four audio systems is offered for the 2014 MDX, ranging from an eight-speaker 432-watt setup to a 546-watt, 12-speaker arrangement with ceiling mounted speakers and 5.1-channel surround sound.
2014 Acura MDX Road Test & Review: Comfort & Cargo
The well-shaped, highly supportive seating in the Acura is exceptionally comfortable over long drives. Vehicles like the Acura MDX are today’s family cars. This means they’ll be called upon to do vacation road trips, as well as ferry tykes to and from school, practices, rehearsals, games, matches, and recitals.
The seven-passenger capability of the MDX is made possible by its fold-flat third row of seating. Designed to fold into the floor, the seat leaves behind a level load surface to make handling cargo more efficient. When the rear seat is deployed, the MDX offers just under 16 cubic feet of storage. A positively cavernous 91 cubic feet of cargo capacity is afforded when both the second and third rows are folded away.
Speaking of that second row, it’s configured to slide fore and aft to ensure the comfort of passengers there. This also enables it to provide a touch more legroom for passengers in the third row if needed. Further, it’s power operated to make it easier for third row passengers to get in and out of the 2014 MDX.
Ensuring a quiet ride are three-layer acoustic glass for the windshield and front side windows, thicker rear door glass, triple side-sill door seals, and the employment of active noise cancelling technology. Further, the cabin is finished in high-grade materials, which also enhances the experience of riding in the Acura. Both luxurious and practical, the new Acura MDX hits pretty much all the right notes in both comfort and cargo handling capability.
2014 Acura MDX Road Test & Review: Safety & Ratings
The 2014 Acura MDX safety suite incorporates the latest in active safety technologies to help prevent accidents. Among these features are lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring. Other available safety kit includes collision mitigation braking, forward collision warning, and lane keeping assist. The collision mitigating braking system will apply the Acura’s brakes if a crash is deemed imminent and the driver has taken no evasive action.
Additionally, the Acura’s lane keep assist is one of the best we’ve ever experienced. During our highway testing, with the adaptive cruise control set to match the flow of traffic and the lane keep assist switched on, the 2014 Acura MDX came as close to autonomous driving as we have ever experienced. The system will even guide the Acura gracefully through mild curves on the highway.
The more typical safety features are included as well; antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, a driver's knee airbag, and active front head restraints, in addition to both traction and stability control.
NHTSA says the Acura MDX is a five-star vehicle in all of its crash testing procedures. Similarly, the IIHS (Insurance Institute of Highway Safety) rates the Acura as “Good” (the institute’s highest ranking) in all of its crash test categories.
2014 Acura MDX Road Test & Review: Engines and Fuel Economy
The Acura’s new 3.5-liter V6 engine produces 290 horsepower and 267 ft-lbs of torque. And while this is down 10 horsepower from the 2013 MDX’s 3.7-liter’s output, the 2014 Acura MDX is quicker to 60 because it’s lighter than the 2013 model. Completing the powertrain is a six-speed automatic transmission equipped with sequential sport shift. This allows the driver to take over transmission functions when required to maximize engine output for any given situation.
For the first time in the history of Acura’s MDX, all-wheel drive is available as an option. Prior to this, all MDX models featured all wheel drive as the standard offering. With this new 2014 model, front-drive is standard and Acura’s (OK—Honda’s) Super-Handling all-wheel drive system is optional.
Variable cylinder management enables the engine to switch between six-cylinder and three-cylinder operation to improve fuel efficiency. Speaking of which, fuel economy is rated at 20 miles per gallon in the city, 28 on the highway, and 23 miles per gallon combined; with the front-wheel drive system. The all-wheel powertrain is said to be capable of returning 18 miles per gallon in the city, 27 on the highway, and 21 combined.
With its optional towing kit, the MDX can tow up to 5,000 pounds
2014 Acura MDX Road Test & Review: Driving Impressions
One of the few mainstream crossover SUVs track tested on the Germany's Nürburgring Nordschliefe (North Loop), the MDX offers road manners superior to most of its competition. Dare we say, the 2014 Acura MDX, particularly with its all-wheel drive powertrain fitted is quite the engaging automobile.
The Acura corners crisply, stops determinedly, and steers with a great deal of accuracy (come on, you had to know that was coming at some point). Further, the electric power steering system offers the opportunity to allow drivers to select the amount of assist desired. The Acura’s Integrated Dynamics System offers a choice of Comfort, Normal, or Sport settings to enable the driver to tailor the responsiveness of the MDX to their personal preference—or mood.
Throttle response is crisp, and the transmission is almost prescient in its ability to find the right gear for any given situation. Further, it allows you to take over and shift for yourself if you’d prefer to do so. The Acura also offers a feature its marketers are calling Agile Handling Assist, which selectively uses the MDX’s brakes to help the Acura turn in to corners more crisply and impart a more confident handling feel.
Of course, with all of this dynamic capability can come a firm ride, and compared to many of its competitors the Acura does feel—let’s call it—“tighter” going down the road. Some may be a bit put off by this, but if you appreciate the dynamic capabilities of the MDX, you’ll likely accept it as a fair tradeoff for a more engaging driving experience.
2014 Acura MDX Road Test & Review: Final Thoughts
All in all, the 2014 Acura MDX represents a number of considerable advancements over the 2013 model it replaced. The interior features some 41 fewer buttons, while simultaneously offering more features and functionalities. Similarly, the new MDX is lighter, quieter, more fuel efficient, and yet gives up nothing in terms of its performance potential.
Yes, the Acura’s competitor’s seven and eight speed transmissions make the six-speed seem a bit dated, but the way it responds to a demanding driver pretty much speaks for itself. Flicking the paddle shifters behind the Acura’s steering wheel produces the sort of deeply satisfying responsiveness from the transmission, which is often missing in seven- and eight-speed gearboxes.
Long story short, in the Acura MDX you’ll find a nicely styled crossover SUV, with a very strong array of the most contemporary technology, excellent road manners, respectable fuel economy, and a highly luxurious and well-finished interior treatment.
If you really like to drive, and you have to haul a bunch of people around while keeping younger children entertained, you’d do well to consider the 2014 Acura MDX.
2014 Acura MDX Road Test & Review: Pros & Cons
Pros: Handsome styling, strong feature-set, respectable fuel economy, quiet, engaging driving characteristics…
Cons: Might ride a bit hard for some…