Acura continues to hit a home run with the MDX, and this A-Spec trim adds a touch of sport without losing the everyday performance that’s won it a slew of awards for being a Best Buy1, among the safest vehicles 2, and among the most American-made vehicles3. Even with all of that goodness, the newer competitions’ designs highlight a few areas in need of improvement, however, the MDX is unlikely to leave one disappointed.
Taking a walk up the MDX’s trim levels, the A-Spec starts with the mid-level Tech package and adds a dose of unique performance-inspired exterior details like gloss black exterior trim, dark-chrome badging, unique black 20-inch wheels, and darkened exterior lighting housings. The A-Spec includes several notable upgrades inside such as grippy and well-bolstered Sport seats with Alcantara coverings for the front and rear passengers and an excellently shaped sport steering wheel, while red instrument gauge lighting, a black headliner, and a woven-metallic-looking interior trim complete the unique sports theme. Other features that are a part of the Tech Package include distinctive LED jewel-eye headlights and fog lights, a remote engine start system with status indicator lights on the remote, proximity entry sensors in all doors, power-folding mirrors, a sunroof, and a power tailgate. The package also includes heated and cooled front seats that allow for a wide range of positions with 12-way power adjustability, an excellent ELS audio sound system that provides a balanced level of sound at any volume, acoustic front glass that helps bring the noise levels of the Acura down to an appropriate level, and a GPS-linked tri-zone climate control that makes adjustments for the incoming angle of the sun’s rays. The infotainment system is controlled through a touchscreen that is fast and easy to learn, however, its overall performance pales in comparison to the system in the new RDX. The same goes for the navigation system; it’s easy to use but ready for a major update.
All Acura models are fitted with AcuraWatch, which includes automatic emergency braking, an adaptive cruise control system that was too conservative for busy highway driving, and lane-keep assist which was found to be pleasantly passive yet effective at helping guide the vehicle through turns. The A-Spec trim further includes blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, rain-sensing wipers, and automatic high beams. The IIHS awarded Good ratings and noted that, in their test, the MDX successfully avoided a collision at 25 mph. NHTSA awarded the MDX five-stars for its crash-worthiness.
Styling and Size
The MDX received a significant styling update for 2017 which sharpened the exterior styling and updated the interior materials. Acura’s signature jewel-lights give the MDX a unique appearance while the A-Spec styling is effective at bringing a sportier look. Acura even offers a new level of attention to detail in the form of the PMC Edition which adds concept-car-level paint quality and is even hand-assembled in the same factory in Ohio that produces the NSX. That makes for a pretty special model in this engineer’s mind.
While the interior trim pieces look well designed and are endowed with purposeful-looking patterns, the infotainment screen surround, vent surrounds, and upper dash panel lack the special touches that differentiate the entry-level luxury segment with the next tier. Expect the next-generation MDX to step it up in those areas.
The Acura MDX is roomy in the front two rows while the third row is best left for children or your least favorite adult friends. The second-row seats are comfortable and the seatbacks recline to a comfortable angle. Storage room is good throughout, with an extremely large front console in front, and generous cargo room with the third-row seatbacks folded. With them in the upright position, there is more than enough space for a row of groceries.
Power and Efficiency
The MDX is equipped with the tried and true, 3.5-liter single-overhead-cam V6 which generates 290 horsepower and 267 ft-lb of torque. The 9-speed transmission received improved shift logic for the 2019 model year and it promotes better use of first-gear for keeping ahead of traffic from a stop. More efficient starts begin in second gear however, the engine’s lack of low-end grunt is noticeable and the large gaps between the subsequent widely-paced gear ratios only highlight that impression.
The sound and vibrations that it makes, however, bring a level of enthusiasm that’s rare in this segment. Fitted with all-wheel drive and wider tires, the MDX A-Spec is the least efficient MDX trim though it earns an EPA estimated 19 mpg city, 25 highway, and 21 combined which is on par for the segment. During my time enjoying the sounds of the V6, the MDX returned slightly almost 22 mpg, which seemed entirely reasonable.
Ride and Handling
The super-handling all-wheel-drive system never failed to impress and provided confident full-throttle traction whether darting through an intersection or slinging around winding mountain roads. The MDX lacks the quick immediate chassis response of its lighter RDX sibling, however, the everyday ride is pleasantly smooth and unlikely to ever offend the passengers. Riding over large highway dips reveals the soft dampening of the shocks while the steering feedback is also tuned for everyday duty yet can still transmit the road imperfections to provide a sense of driver engagement that’s better than most in this segment.
The Acura MDX may be aging but it still has all of the right moves and its thoroughly engineered ways are a delightful everyday experience. While there’s little to fault, the MDX has aged in several areas where adopting the designs of the RDX and Type-S concept would further the emotional experience.