2017 Acura MDX SH-AWD Navi Road Test Review
Stylish new design adds excitement to Acura's flagship SUV
The popular Acura MDX has been given a dramatic redesign for 2017, with a much more angular front grille inspired by the gorgeous Precision Coupe Concept that wowed Detroit auto show goers earlier this year.
Additional styling updates include reshaped LED Jewel-Eye headlamps, a sportier lower front fascia, a completely reworked hood that now bends overtop revised front fenders, updated LED taillights, a freshened rear bumper, and all-new wheels. The result not only changes the face of the MDX, but ushers in a new design era for Acura as well.
MDX fans will be happy to know that most everything else remains the same for 2017. This includes the seven-passenger SUV's interior that's more than equal to its $53,690 base price, with high-end soft-touch materials across the dash top, instrument panel and even below, where the knees and feet reside; glove box lid included. Likewise for the door uppers, while the centre console is nicely finished with satin-silver trim and genuine looking or beautiful real open-pore hardwood. The wood and metal theme graces the instrument panel and doors as well, while all the pillars are fabric-wrapped. Basically, the MDX dots the majority of its luxury i's and crosses most t's, while also delivering maximum space.
The cabin is large and comfortable, the driver's seat superb and visibility excellent all-round. Front and second-row occupants are wonderfully taken care of, with expansive rear legroom unless you slide each side of the 60/40-split bench forward to make room for third-row tagalongs. I did, setting the second-row so my five-foot-eight length and medium width was still comfortable, then pressing the handy "One Touch Walk-In" button on the lower side (or the upper rear corner) that automatically pulls the entire seat ahead while tilting its backrest forward for easy access, and finally planting myself in one of two surprisingly comfortable rearmost seats. I still had reasonable head, shoulder, hip, leg and foot room, meaning the MDX is a true seven-passenger vehicle, not five plus two afterthoughts like so many of its rivals.
Acura dresses up the cargo compartment with fancy chromed tie-down hooks and a snazzy stainless steel protector plate, plus nice carpeting on the load floor and sidewalls, so your lifestyle gear will be well cared for. It's commodious even with rear seatbacks upright, measuring 447 litres or about the size of a mid-size sedan's trunk, not including the hidden compartment under the cargo floor. When you need to load more there's up to 1,230 litres behind the second row and 2,575 litres when both are laid flat, which is more than average in this class.
The model driven was finished in the most popular MDX Navi trim. At $57,190 it sits second in hierarchy, above base and below the $60,190 Tech and $65,790 Elite. Other than available fogs, roof rails, and unique wheels, none look noticeably different from the outside, but there are considerable changes within.
Before delving into each optional trim line the best MDX story is what comes standard, with base models getting V6 power, a nine-speed automatic with steering wheel paddles, AWD, 18-inch alloys, wiper-linked auto on/off full LED headlamps with auto high beams, remote start, a heatable windshield, proximity access, pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, a powered steering column, ambient lighting, adaptive cruise control with low-speed following, a colour TFT multi-info display, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heatable powered side mirrors with driver recognition, reverse gear tilt-down, and integrated turn signals, plus tri-zone auto climate control, a multi-angle backup camera with dynamic guidelines, text message and email reading capability, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, Siri Eyes Free, 432-watt eight-speaker audio, satellite radio, a 10-way powered driver's seat including two-way powered lumbar and two-position memory, an eight-way powered front passenger's seat, heatable front cushions, a heatable leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather upholstery, a garage door opener, a powered moonroof, acoustic glass, active noise control, a powered liftgate, and much more.
As for standard safety equipment, all the expected active and passive features are included as well as AcuraWatch auto-sensing and driver-assist technologies such as road departure mitigation, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, lane keeping assist, and collision mitigation braking with pedestrian detection, resulting in IIHS best Top Safety Pick Plus status, along with an NHTSA five-star crash test rating.
The as-tested Navigation package adds unique 20-inch alloys on 245/50R20 all-seasons (up one inch from last year's optional rims), perimeter/approach puddle lights, rain-sensing wipers, upgraded HVAC with humidity control air-filtration and a sun position detection system, a larger eight-inch infotainment system with navigation, hard drive media storage and a sensational sounding 501-watt 10-speaker surround audio upgrade, AcuraLink phone connectivity, blindspot monitoring, rear cross traffic assist, and more.
Some highlights from the Technology package include rear door proximity access, power-folding auto-dimming side mirrors, 529-watt 11-speaker audio, gorgeous genuine olive ash open-pore hardwood, upgraded perforated Milano leather upholstery, heatable second-row seats, rear sunshades, nine-inch rear DVD entertainment, and a 115-volt power outlet; while the top-line Elite gets auto start/stop, LED fog lamps, a surround-view camera, passenger's side powered lumbar, cooled front seats, front and rear parking sensors, 546-watt 12-speaker audio, 16.2-inch widescreen rear entertainment, etcetera.
The Elite's auto start/stop system enhances efficiency with a combined city/highway rating of 10.7 L/100km compared to 11.0 for lesser trims, while the MDX' direct-injected and i-VTEC-enhanced 3.5-litre V6 makes a strong 290 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque for good performance off the line and impressive highway passing power, much thanks in both respects to the nine-speed auto. It's a wonderfully smooth and quick shifting gearbox, while the paddles allow plenty of driver engagement, important with such a nicely balanced SUV.
The MDX has always been a great handler, its adept Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) receiving an upgraded twin-clutch rear differential last year, which directs torque between front and rear wheels plus side to side for quicker, smoother operation through corners plus improved traction. Together with amplitude reactive dampers and Agile Handling Assist brake torque-vectoring, SH-AWD aids a taut body structure and superb fully independent suspension setup for much greater legerity than anything this large should be capable of.
Acura's Integrated Dynamic System (IDS) adds a Sport mode to enhance the experience, which quickens throttle response, lets the engine rev higher between shifts, increases the steering "weight" and relays more torque to the outside rear wheels in corners for better turn-in, plus it even makes the engine sound a bit sportier, and while I left it there most often I also found its default Comfort mode plenty enjoyable through the corners and nicer over rough inner-city pavement. Either way, the MDX provides an excellent ride that's also very quiet, just two more reasons why it's so popular.
The 2017 MDX remains an excellent crossover utility, but now its eye-catching new grille design will be sure to cause more mid-size SUV buyers to give it a closer look. When they do they'll experience above average performance, good fuel economy, impressive interior refinement, fabulous passenger and cargo capability, a great assortment of features, and a superb standard safety setup. That it's also one of the best value propositions in its mid-size luxury SUV segment is more than just icing on the cake, it's reason enough to give the MDX serious consideration.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press
Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.