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REVIEW
From Edmunds.com
2016 Acura  MDX Picture
PROS
  • Generous number of features for the money
  • Adept handling
  • Good fuel economy
  • Confident acceleration
  • Quiet cabin
  • Excellent crash-test scores
CONS
  • Distracting tech interface with subpar graphics
  • Cabin looks and feels less luxurious than rivals
  • Modest cargo space behind the third row
  • Dim-witted adaptive cruise control

Shoppers have flocked to the reasonably priced Acura MDX for years due to its strong resale value and reputation for reliability. The 2016 MDX boasts numerous updates, including a standard nine-speed automatic transmission and a widely available AcuraWatch Plus bundle that provides cutting-edge safety technologies. Add the MDX's rewarding driving dynamics to the mix and you're looking at one of the best picks for a three-row luxury crossover SUV this year.

The popular 2016 Acura MDX receives a few changes this year, including a new nine-speed automatic transmission.

Notably, the AcuraWatch Plus package isn't completely new, although it does mark the debut of both rear cross-traffic alerts and a camera-based lane-keeping assist system that Acura calls "Road Departure Mitigation." Many of its features were offered on the 2015 MDX, too, including lane-departure and blind-spot warning systems, adaptive cruise control and a collision mitigation system with automatic braking. In order to get them, however, you had to specify the top-of-the-line Advance package, whereas AcuraWatch Plus is available across the lineup. That means safety-minded consumers can save a hefty chunk of change for 2016 by specifying AcuraWatch Plus on lower-priced MDX models.

On the road, the 2016 Acura MDX remains one of the more satisfying three-row crossovers to drive, with a quiet interior at highway speeds and surprising athleticism when driving around turns (especially with all-wheel drive). The standard 3.5-liter V6 engine lacks the strong low-rpm torque of some turbocharged rivals, but wind it out a bit and you'll find that the MDX is still one of the quicker vehicles out there.

Add it all up and this versatile, well-made and feature-packed Acura is arguably the most sensible choice in the midsize luxury SUV segment. As such, we gave it an "A" rating, but know that there are other options out there that can be more desirable, if not more sensible. The 2016 Volvo XC90, redesigned at long last, has wowed us with its slick styling, exquisite interior and strong yet fuel-efficient power plants. When similarly equipped, it also offers similar value to the MDX. The overhauled 2016 Audi Q7, meanwhile, has a more restrained design, but it offers a sumptuous cabin, an advanced infotainment interface and an available turbodiesel V6.

Other popular picks include the BMW X5, which serves up the most engaging performance of the bunch but has less third-row space and a substantially higher price. The Infiniti QX60 is well-equipped and spacious, but is comparatively slow and unexciting to drive. We would also be remiss if we didn't mention the redesigned 2016 Honda Pilot, which gives up little to its pricier Acura corporate cousin, while being less expensive and offering even more utility. All are worth a look, but the well-rounded MDX may represent the best balance of value, utility and luxury of them all.

WHAT'S NEW FOR 2016

The 2016 MDX gets a standard nine-speed automatic transmission with push-button gear selection, an optional suite of safety technologies called AcuraWatch Plus and a revised all-wheel-drive system that Acura says is lighter and more responsive. Other changes include a standard frameless rearview mirror, Siri Eyes Free voice controls for compatible Apple devices, an easy-entry driver seat and (via the Advance package) auto stop-start.

2016 Acura  MDX Picture

TRIMS & EQUIPMENT

The 2016 Acura MDX is a luxury crossover SUV that seats seven. Standard features include 18-inch wheels, automatic LED headlights, heated mirrors, a power liftgate, a sunroof, rear privacy glass, keyless entry and 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. Technology highlights include twin dashboard displays (lower 7-inch touchscreen and upper 8-inch information display), a multi-angle rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Siri Eyes Free voice controls for compatible Apple devices and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, an iPod/USB interface, Pandora and Aha compatibility and satellite radio.

The AcuraWatch Plus package adds a forward collision mitigation system with automatic braking, lane-keeping assist, Road Departure Mitigation and adaptive cruise control.

A navigation system is standard on the 2016 Acura MDX if you select the Technology, Entertainment or Advance option packages.

The MDX Technology (available with or without the AcuraWatch Plus package) adds a navigation system, voice controls (navigation and audio), a color driver information center, AcuraLink 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 a trio of safety systems: lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring (with rear cross-traffic alert) and a forward-collision warning system (but without the automatic mitigation braking that's part of the AcuraWatch package).

The Entertainment trim level requires the Technology package and adds a 110-volt power outlet, heated rear seats, rear door window sunshades and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with a 9-inch screen and an additional speaker. AcuraWatch Plus is again available for this MDX combination.

The Advance trim level includes the contents of the Technology and the AcuraWatch Plus package, and it adds roof rails, front and rear parking sensors, remote engine start, automatic engine stop-start, auto-dimming sideview mirrors, upgraded leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, power lumbar for the front passenger and heated second-row seats.

You can also get the Advance and Entertainment trim level, which combines the respective features of those two lower trim levels while adding an upgraded rear-seat entertainment system with a bigger 16.2-inch screen, another speaker (bringing the total to 12) and an HDMI input.

2016 Acura  MDX Picture

INTERIOR & SAFETY

The Acura MDX is one of the more functional luxury crossovers. Its front seats are nicely shaped and supportive even if it lacks the extra adjustability offered by certain competitors in the segment. The second-row seats slide fore and aft for added flexibility, providing generous legroom in their rearmost position. It also slides forward for third-row access at the press of a button, though the resulting pass-through is rather small -- especially compared to the Infiniti QX60. The third row is best suited for kids, as only small, limber adults will fit back there, but that's actually pretty good for a luxury seven-passenger SUV. If you want something bigger, you'll have to go for a non-luxury model.

Interior storage is excellent, with big cupholders and door bins, plus a deep center bin that can hold a small purse or tablet. The MDX doesn't give you much room for groceries with all three rows of seating in use, but folding those rearmost seats opens up a respectable amount of space suitable for lengthy road trips. When you fold both the second and third rows, its maximum cargo capacity is better than most two-row midsize crossovers, but considerably less than in mainstream models like the 2016 Honda Pilot.

Behind the second-row seats of the 2016 Acura MDX you'll find about 40 cubic feet of cargo space.

The MDX's cabin is meticulously well-constructed with quality materials, but it lacks the style and luxurious ambience of competitors like the Lexus RX and Volvo XC60. It just feels less special. There are also a few Honda-grade plastics and switchgear if you look closely. Some unintuitive controls are also problematic. The push-button gear selector is gimmicky, requiring you to pull a switch for Reverse and push buttons for Park and Drive. The dual-screen infotainment system is confusing as well, especially for the audio system. You use the lower touchscreen for many functions, but others such as media player control require the multicontrol knob and upper display screen. Certain climate controls are also in the touchscreen, resulting in multiple button presses for things like heated seats that used to require only one. Neither screen boasts the super-crisp graphics we've come to expect in this class either.

Standard safety equipment for the 2016 Acura MDX includes antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags, a driver knee airbag, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. A rearview camera is also standard, and AWD models come with a stabilizing function for trailer towing. Optional or standard, depending on the trim level, are blind-spot monitoring (with rear cross-traffic alert), a frontal collision warning system, automatic braking for frontal crash mitigation, a lane-departure warning system, lane keeping assist and Road Departure Mitigation. The latter essentially combines the functions of the camera-based lane-keeping system and the automatic braking system to help you avoid drifting off the road into roadside objects.

In Edmunds brake testing, an MDX required 122 feet to stop from 60 mph, which is a decent stop, but it displayed brake fade on subsequent stops. This could be an issue on mountain roads and grades.

In government crash tests, the MDX earned a perfect five-star overall rating, with five stars each for total frontal impact safety and total side-impact safety. The MDX also aced the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's crash tests, earning the top score of "Good" in all categories and additionally garnering a second-best "Advanced" rating for its optional frontal collision mitigation system.

2016 Acura  MDX Picture

PERFORMANCE & HANDLING

The 2016 Acura MDX employs a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. A nine-speed automatic transmission is standard, as is front-wheel drive, with all-wheel drive (SH-AWD) available as an option.

EPA-estimated fuel economy starts at 22 mpg combined (19 city/27 highway) with front-wheel drive. Adding the Advance package with its auto stop-start feature to the front-wheel-drive MDX bumps the rating up to 23 mpg combined (20 city/27 highway). As for the AWD models, they return 21 mpg combined (18/26) in standard form and 22 mpg combined (19/26) with the Advance package.

In Edmunds testing, the 2016 MDX with SH-AWD went from zero to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, making it a solid, mid-pack performer. Properly equipped, the MDX can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

The MDX's V6 is a sweet engine with a nice-sounding snarl when you plant your right foot. Nine-speed transmissions have a tendency to produce odd low-speed tendencies and inappropriate gear selections, but that's not the case with this new-for-2016 automatic gearbox. It's smooth, smart and has resulted in improved acceleration and fuel economy, although its automatic stop-start system included with the Advance package can send some uncouth shivers through the car when it's stopped. We also aren't enamored with the optional adaptive cruise control, which is too quick to slam on the brakes, too slow to speed up again and generally mediocre at keeping the set speed.

Thanks to its strong V6 and composed handling, the 2016 Acura MDX is pretty sporty as three-row crossover SUVs go.

We do know that the Acura MDX rides a little more firmly than some competing crossovers on the highway and around town, but most owners likely won't find it objectionable. Overall levels of wind and road noise are quite low, an area in which the MDX has improved markedly in recent years. Should you elect to hustle this three-row luxury crossover along a winding road, you'll be rewarded with responsive steering and composed handling. The all-wheel-drive version is particularly adept at powering out of turns.

VERDICT

Offering familiar comfort, value and performance plus a slew of updates, the 2016 Acura MDX is a top pick among three-row luxury crossovers.

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