Say you’re looking for a luxurious seven-passenger crossover with all of the goods: All-wheel drive, a posh and stylish interior, lots of technology, and great power. Of course versatility and reliability are important, too. Originally introduced in 2001, the Acura MDX is a veteran of the premium crossover market. Offering a host of techy features, a powerful engine, and rock-solid build quality and reliability, the latest MDX continues to be an attractive choice.
I’m actually quite familiar with the MDX, as I reviewed the 2010 version last year. And although it’s nearly 2012, I got ahold of one of the last 2011s in the media review fleet. Why would I review a 2011 so late in the year? Two words: Family visit.
Three of my Midwestern family members were visiting Oregon during the week of Thanksgiving, and it just so happened there was a seven-passenger 2011 Acura MDX available for review. Perfect. Last time I reviewed an MDX, the biggest thing I put in the vehicle was a small load from Costco. This time I put the MDX through its paces hauling suitcases and four passengers every day for five days.
Our family, which this year consisted of my mom and uncle, and my mother-in-law, were quite happy to be shuttled around in the classy MDX. Everyone thought it was extremely comfortable—except the person sitting in the third row—aka my wife, Mercedes.
“It’s cramped, but doable. I’m 5’3” and my knees were against the seatback,” said Mercedes. Sometimes, she opted to sit in the middle of the second row with “the moms,” which was more convenient than having to contort herself to get into the tiny third row set. To get back to the third row, you have to fold down the passenger side of the middle-row seat, tilt it, and slide it forward. It requires some acrobatic maneuvers to enter.
As the fifth person, it’s either cram together in the second row or have the entire, albeit small, rear seat to yourself, and figure out what to do with your legs. Mercedes opted for the third row on our hour-and-a-half trip up (then back down) Mt. Hood to see Timberline Lodge. To reiterate, not exactly comfortable, but doable.
For those lucky enough not to be relegated to the third-row, the MDX is quite comfortable. Driver/passenger seats are large and very comfy. They are also heated and air conditioned with multiple degrees of heat/cold for each. The rear seats are also heated, roomy, and there is a climate control system for back-seat passengers. The family had some difficulty figuring out the rear climate control, though. Oh well. There was plenty of back-seat entertainment available, anyway. The rear seating area gets its own entertainment system via a fold-down LCD screen and headphones located in the seatbacks. How cool? There’s even a detachable remote control. In addition to comfort, the interior is stylish, too. Soft touch materials, well thought out lines and trim all make this a premium people mover. To cap it off, the MDX’s large power moonroof allowed for panoramic views while ascending Mt. Hood.
My biggest beef with the MDX, and most other Acuras, is the veritable glut of buttons on the dashboard and steering wheel. Everything has a button. I found myself regularly hunting for the right button to do the simplest tasks—not something I like to do while driving. Ditto this for the navigation, which is also complicated. Hey, you want tech, you got it, and every button you could ever want and then some. Too many if you ask me.
One of my favorite tech features was the adaptive cruise control, which was wonderful for the highway driving we did. If you’ve got the cruise control on, and you come up behind another vehicle, the MDX will automatically slow down and adjust its speed. You can also vary the amount of gap you want between the MDX and the car in front of you. Additionally, a blind-spot detection system works very well to notice traffic alongside the vehicle. The entire family was quite impressed by this feature.
The MDX drives as luxuriously as its high-class interior suggests. You can choose from either sport or comfort suspension settings, although I didn’t notice a whole lot of difference with everyone in the car. The powerful 3.7-liter SOHC VTEC V-6 engine makes 300 hp and 270 ft./lbs. of torque. It’s very quiet under most circumstances, but makes a wonderful symphony when you “get on it.” Most of the engine’s power is found in its upper rev range, so down low power isn’t breathtaking. But rev it up, and this mill screams. You won’t save much cash at the pump, as the V-6 drinks premium fuel and is rated 16 city, 21 highway. The six-speed automatic offers up smooth, quick shifts, and there are paddle shifters on the leather-wrapped wheel. Acura’s SH “Super-Handling” AWD system aids in its keen reflexes. It isn’t exactly a race car, but does well for a CUV. The SH-AWD handled Mt. Hood’s snowy, slushy roads very well. The 19” all-season tires weren’t optimal, but the car still felt confident even when things got slippery.
Those 19” wheels and tires do add to the MDX’s overall look, which is simple, sophisticated, and classy. Well, except the large chrome shield grille, which I don’t like, and have never liked. Acura says the latest grille has been polarizing, and I concur. But there’s a lot more to the styling than the grille, and its overall look is attractive.
With the third-row folded down, the MDX has plenty of cargo space. But, with it up, cargo is limited. That far rear bench seat does fold 50/50, so you can still get one person in the far back and slide a suitcase back there, too—something we took advantage of a number of times.
So in a nutshell, the MDX is definitely luxurious, has good upper end power, and gobs of technology. It’s comfortable for four, gets noticeably tighter with five, and likely a full-house with six or more full-sized people. You might want to get an engineering degree, or at least spend some time familiarizing yourself with the gazillion buttons on the dashboard before hitting the road. And be sure to keep an eye on how much cargo you’re stowing if using the third row. It was, however, a great vehicle to carry our family in for the week, and still feels like it was chiseled out of a block of steel.
My MDX—the “Advance Entertainment” package with SH-AWD —comes in at $55,340. Not exactly a bargain, but this is after all a premium CUV.