Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: October 18, 2020
There’s a new Acura MDX in the works for a 2022 model year launch, and reports have it using the same V6 engine but with a new 10-speed automatic gearbox. The exterior and interior are to receive a major revision, with updated tech and gizmos to bring Acura’s cash cow mid-size SUV up to modern standards. But we’re taking one last look at this current generation model, evaluating why it’s been so successful in the Canadian market, and what we want to see changed for its successor.
The MDX has always been an easy recommendation for those looking for a family hauler with some luxury garnish. It’s a substantial-feeling SUV, heavy, and large and in charge. Its sole engine choice, a naturally aspirated 3.5-litre V6 dishes out 290 hp and 267 lb-ft, not exactly mind-crushing numbers but it’s still enough to get this 7-passenger SUV up in a jiffy. The engine is smooth, and a breath of fresh air among its many competitors that rely on turbocharged units. We are glad that they are keeping it for the next-generation model, hopefully with more improvements to fuel efficiency. The V6 does come equipped with cylinder deactivation where it shuts down three cylinders under light loads to improve mileage. It also comes with automatic start/stop to further save fuel. Like most vehicles in its class, the MDX likes to drink premium 91-octane fuel but the manual says it’s not required.
The MDX consistently delivers a composed and absorbent ride. It’s a bit rougher around the edges than the rivaling Lexus RX 350, but that’s not a deal breaker should you require a long distance companion. The MDX comes standard with all-wheel drive as well, almost a necessity in the Canadian north. But it’s not just your run of the mill AWD system. Acura dubs it SH-AWD, or Super Handling All-Wheel Drive. Using a twin-clutch rear differential, it allows for active torque vectoring. That means the MDX is capable of shuffling power between the front and rear axles, as well as between the two rear wheels. This means more responsive and neutral handling characteristics, and you feel it when hustling around corners at speed. You can put power down earlier than you would in an RX 350 or Land Rover Discovery, and you never have to be afraid at speed as the AWD system will cleanly sort it out for you. Granted, you will never be able to corner as flat as a BMW X5 M, but there’s enough here to enjoy a quick sprint on some twisty back roads.
Every new MDX I’ve seen on the road seems to be in the A-Spec trim. Much like the popular F Sport models in the Lexus lineup, it’s a mid-trim level that adds sportier front and rear bumpers, attractive 20-inch wheels, larger chrome exhaust tips, and dark chrome surrounding the exterior elements. After seeing it on the road for years, the signature Acura beak has become somewhat easy on the eyes, and the overall A-Spec aesthetics gives this aging platform such much needed character. It’s even more distinctive when wrapped in Apex Blue paint, exclusive to the A-Spec model.
So dynamically and aesthetically, the MDX is ace for what is essentially a seven-person family hauler. But it’s the interior that clearly lags behind the group, and we’re glad it’s receiving a heavy overhaul for the next-generation model, borrowing much of its design from the newly revamped RDX and TLX. With a dated dual-infotainment unit that lacks high-definition graphics, its frustrating menus has us wondering whether we’d prefer the Lexus trackpad nonsense. The one easy remedy is plugging in your smartphone and utilizing Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, both of which work seamlessly on the top screen in the MDX. The large rotary dial works seamlessly to navigate through your apps but one thing to note is that the next-gen MDX’s infotainment unit is currently in use in the RDX, and frankly isn’t much better. It utilizes a trackpad-like unit, kind of like the Mercedes models, but it’s tricky to use, the learning curve is steep, and it still detracts your attention away from the road ahead and needs extra focus to click the menu prompts that you so desire. Let’s hope that the sensitivity of the trackpad and learning curve has been improved by the time the MDX debuts next year.
Push button gear selectors seem to be the norm these days, and they are pretty neat. They not only free up a lot of storage space in the center stack, but it makes the cabin feel more open with the lack of a phallic monument sticking out. The steering wheel ranks amongst one of my favourites as well. The leather grips on the 3- and 9-o’clock positions are nicely molded for a firm grip, the vertical scroll wheels make for easy access to audio controls, and the buttons give substantial and positive feedback. Furthermore, the analog gauges are crisp and quite rare in the luxury SUV segment, and even though the MDX shares much of its DNA with the Honda Pilot, leather dressings and a well-thought out design hides its origins very well.
Nevertheless, if a luxury SUV is what you’re looking for, and you’ve got a large family to haul around, the MDX gets the advantage over its five-seater competition. We would also recommend cross shopping with the slightly pricier Land Rover Discovery, venerable Lexus RX 350 L, and even the stylish Volvo XC90. Of course, if you aren’t particularly looking for a luxury SUV but want a few less expensive alternatives to seven-passenger hauling, the Toyota Highlander and Buick Enclave are also great contenders. Either way, we can’t wait to see what the next-generation model has in store. If it fixes the infotainment issue and dresses up the interior with some modern amenities, it may just be the SUV to get.
Model: 2020 Acura MDX A-Spec
Paint Type: Apex Blue Pearl
Base Price: $60,990
Price as Tested: $61,490
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,984 / 2,223 / 1,713
Curb weight (kg): 1,946
Engine: 3.5-litre V6
Horsepower: 290 hp @ 6,200 rpm
Torque: 267 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 12.2 / 9.0 / 10.7
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 12.6