- Capable handling
- Good fuel economy
- Quick acceleration
- Quiet ride
- Excellent crash test safety scores
- Long list of standard and available features
- Touchscreen has so-so graphics and a distracting interface
- Less cargo space behind the third row than some rivals
The 2014 Acura MDX illustrates the benefits of smart and selective evolution. The previous generation was a success, popular with buyers who enjoyed this midsize luxury crossover SUV's sporty performance and luxurious nature. Still, there's always room for improvement, and canny upgrades have produced an even more refined adaptation, poised to achieve even broader appeal.
Last year's MDX shared its platform with the Honda Pilot and previous-generation Odyssey. For 2014, the crossover gets a new platform that offers a slight increase in interior room. Within the MDX's cabin are useful new features, such as a second row that slides forward with the touch of a button to facilitate third-row access. A 7-inch touchscreen largely replaces the endless array of buttons that dominated the center stack of previous models, and this upgrade gives the dash a cleaner, more modern look.
There's a new 3.5-liter V6 under the hood, and though it offers 10 less horsepower than the 3.7-liter it replaces, it boasts more low-end torque thanks to direct fuel injection technology. There's also less weight to push around -- the new MDX is about 275 pounds lighter this year -- and the combination of the two helps the 2014 MDX accelerate from zero to 60 mph half a second quicker than last year's model. The new engine brings fuel economy gains, too, and AWD models in particular offer a 17 percent improvement in combined mpg. And for the first time ever, Acura's midsize crossover is also available with two-wheel drive, which gives buyers in mild climates a less expensive (and more fuel-efficient) entry point into MDX ownership.
The MDX's talents are formidable, but it faces strong competition. The 2014 Buick Enclave is roomier and less expensive, but falls short of the Acura in refinement and handling. The 2014 BMW X5 is more performance-oriented, but it also represents a significant step up in price. Infiniti's QX60 and Lincoln's MKT are solid picks, but neither is as enjoyable to drive as the MDX. With its pleasant handling and ride dynamics, great safety scores and generous feature content, the highly evolved 2014 Acura MDX earns our recommendation for drivers seeking a three-row crossover that hits the sweet spot when it comes to driver engagement, luxury and value.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2014
The Acura MDX has been completely redesigned for 2014. Highlights include improved fuel economy, a higher-quality and quieter interior, and a new control interface.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2014 Acura MDX is a midsize luxury SUV that seats seven. It is offered in one well-appointed trim level with progressive add-on packages.
Standard features include 18-inch wheels, automatic LED headlamps, heated mirrors, a power liftgate, a sunroof, rear privacy glass, keyless entry/ignition, heated eight-way power front seats (with driver power lumbar), driver memory settings, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, leather upholstery, tri-zone automatic climate control and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Electronics features include twin console displays (7-inch touchscreen and 8-inch information), a multi-angle rearview camera, Bluetooth phone connectivity, and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, an iPod/USB interface, a Pandora radio interface and satellite radio.
The Technology package adds a navigation system, voice controls (navigation and audio), Bluetooth audio connectivity, AcuraLink (with the Aha smartphone app interface) and a 10-speaker Acura/ELS surround-sound audio system with HD radio. Also included with this package are 19-inch alloy wheels; rain-sensing wipers; rear-door keyless entry; GPS-linked and solar-sensing climate control; and lane departure warning, blind spot warning and forward collision warning systems.
The Technology and Entertainment package adds a 115-volt household-style power outlet, heated rear seats, rear-door window sunshades, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with a 9-inch screen, and an additional speaker for the surround-sound audio system.
The Advance and Entertainment package builds on the above features with roof rails, front and rear parking sensors, remote start, auto-dimming sideview mirrors, upgraded leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, a collision mitigation braking system, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, an eight-way power front passenger seat (with power lumbar) and an upgraded rear-seat entertainment system with a 16.2-inch screen, two additional speakers and an HDMI input.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
The MDX's interior is driver-focused, with a pleasantly thick, leather-wrapped steering wheel and easy-to-read gauges. Materials quality is high grade, a step up from last year's model. The center stack has been simplified, with a cleaner layout and two display screens that largely replace the previous generation's seemingly endless ocean of buttons. Overall, the cabin is a pleasant and luxurious place in which to spend time.
Using the navigation system is simple and intuitive, as Acura allows you to look up destinations by using the central control dial, a new 7-inch touchscreen interface (mounted below the 8-inch nav screen) or an enhanced voice recognition system. Unfortunately, neither screen boasts the super crisp graphics we've come to expect of this class, and some of the more basic functions (such as turning on the seat heaters) require multiple pushes of virtual touchscreen buttons, which can be distracting. A relative lack of radio presets is another disappointment.
Second-row seats now slide fore and aft, with an adjustment range of 5.9 inches, for added flexibility. Rear legroom is reasonably generous. The front seats are comfortable, though in comparison to other models in this segment, they offer only basic adjustments. The third row is best suited for kids, but adults should be OK back there on short trips.
With 15.8 cubic feet of space behind its third row, the MDX trails its bigger competition in cargo room when all three rows are in use. However, when you fold the second and third rows, cargo capacity becomes quite generous, with 90.9 cubic feet of room available for luggage and belongings.
Standard safety equipment for the 2014 Acura MDX includes antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, a driver's knee airbag, active front head restraints and traction and stability control. At our test facility, the MDX required 129 feet to stop from 60 mph, and successive stops took even longer. This performance is not as good as others in its class. A multi-angle rearview camera is also standard, and AWD models come with a stabilizing feature for trailer towing.
Optional safety features include lane-departure and blind-spot warning systems. A forward collision warning system is also available, and it works by warning the driver of a possible collision with auditory and visual alerts. The MDX is also offered with collision mitigation braking, which automatically applies the brakes to prevent or mitigate an impending collision. A lane-keeping assist system is available as well, and it provides automatic steering assistance to keep the MDX in its lane.
In government crash tests, the top five-star overall rating (out of a possible five), with five stars for total frontal impact safety and five stars for total side-impact safety. The MDX also aced its Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests. Here it earned a top score of "Good" for its performance in the moderate-overlap and small-overlap frontal-offset impact tests. It also received a "Good" rating in the side-impact, roof-strength and whiplash protection (head restraints and seats) tests. The MDX's optional frontal collision mitigation system earned a second-best "Advanced" rating.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The 2014 Acura MDX is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 290 hp and 267 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard, and all-wheel drive is available as an option. In Edmunds testing, a 2014 MDX SH-AWD accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds, which is a quick time for this class of vehicle.
EPA-estimated fuel economy with front-wheel drive is 23 mpg combined (20 city/28 highway), while the 21 mpg combined (18/27). Properly equipped, the MDX can tow up to 5,000 pounds.
The 2014 Acura MDX is one of the more enjoyable luxury crossovers to drive. Though its V6 engine is slightly less powerful than the old V6, it actually provides quicker acceleration. It also makes a nice-sounding snarl when you plant your right foot and the revs approach redline. Having just six forward gears might seem a little behind the times for a sporting luxury crossover SUV, but the transmission is smooth and downshifts quickly whether you're pressing down on the gas or using the shift paddles.
On the highway and around town, the MDX does ride a little more firmly than some competing crossovers, but we don't think owners will really find it objectionable. Overall levels of wind and road noise are very low. The true highlight, however, is how the MDX behaves when driven around turns. It turns in smartly, feels secure and imparts a sporty feel that's often absent on vehicles this size. The MDX's all-wheel-drive system provides an extra helping of athleticism as well as traction.
Even more complete and desirable than its successful predecessor, the all-new 2014 Acura MDX is a top pick for a luxury crossover SUV, offering abundant refinement, luxury and comfort.