Although Acura’s popular midsize crossover, the family oriented MDX, was redesigned for its third generation just two years ago, it returned for 2016 with a new nine-speed automatic transmission and other significant upgrades.
It also brought some new technology, including the AcuraWatch suite of advanced safety features. Those features include the first application of Acura’s Road Departure Mitigation and Rear Cross Traffic Monitor systems to the MDX.
The new automatic transmission, which us standard across the line, also has a pushbutton electronic gear selector that Acura says was designed to free up room above the center console.
Also added for 2016 was a revised Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system, which now has a new twin-clutch design with enhanced torque transfer and handling capabilities.
Among other new features are a frameless rearview mirror, Siri Eyes Free voice recognition, an easy-entry/exit driver’s seat that slides about 1.5 inches to the rear when the driver’s door is opened, and a tire-pressure monitoring system similar to that introduced earlier by Nissan, which sounds an alert when the tire is inflated to the correct pressure.
There’s also a new Multi-View Angle Rear Camera with Dynamic Guidelines, standard on all models.
For 2016, there are now 16 model variations that include front- or all-wheel drive and a choice of technology and infotainment options.
And, as always, the seven-passenger MDX continues to shine as one of the most family-friendly vehicles on the market, making it a great choice for everyday chores, weekend jaunts, or long vacation trips.
In our own family, we’re already on our second MDX, and are looking at an upgrade to the newest model if we can ever wear out the one we already have. At nearly 140,000 miles, it’s showing no signs of fatigue, and still looks like a new car inside and out.
This newest MDX – just like our own earlier model — is perfectly capable of handling a family of five and their gear for a long road trip, or a family of seven with less luggage if you need that third row for people instead of cargo.
The MDX is the best-selling three-row luxury sport utility of all time, Honda says. Since its introduction in 2000, Honda has sold more than 700,000 of them in the United States
For 2016, MDX prices start at $42,865 (plus $940 freight) for the base front-wheel-drive model, and range as high as $57,080 for the fully-equipped all-wheel-drive version with Advance, Entertainment and AcuraWatch packages – basically everything that can be added to the vehicle.
Those prices are up slightly for 2017: The base front-drive model is $43,950, and the top model, the all-wheel-drive with Advance and Entertainment packages, is $58,400.
In between for 2016 are these front-drive models: the base version with the AcuraWatch package ($44,365); with the Technology Package ($47,920); with Technology and AcuraWatch ($48,490); with Technology and Entertainment ($49,290); with Technology, Entertainment and AcuraWatch ($50,490); with Advance and AcuraWatch ($53,080); and with Entertainment, Advance and AcuraWatch packages ($55,080).
For all of those, just add $2,000 to tack on Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system; this applies to the 2017 models as well.
Just like Honda, all Acura vehicle trim levels are determined by the options packages added to them. All levels are available either with front drive or Super Handling All-Wheel Drive.
Under the hood of all MDX models is a direct-injected 3.5-liter V-6 engine rated at 290 horsepower and 267 foot-pounds of torque.
The new nine-speed automatic transmission replaces the 2015 model’s six-speed. During our test, shifting was always smooth and sure, and there was a lot of it as the gearbox maneuvered through its range.
Also new for 2016 is the stop/start system on top-end models, which cuts off the engine when the vehicle stops in traffic, and automatically restarts when the brake pedal is released.
EPA ratings are 19 mpg city/27 highway/22 combined for front-drive models without stop/start, and 20/27/23 with it. For all-wheel drive models, ratings are 18/26/21 without stop/start, and 19/26/22 with it. During our test, with a majority of open interstate driving, our all-wheel-drive MDX with all of the extras averaged 23.7 mpg.
The MDX is well-equipped, even at the base price, although I do recommend going ahead and spending the extra $2,000 for the all-wheel drive, which adds improved handling capability on all types of road surfaces — wet, loose or dry.
Leather upholstery is standard on the first- and second-row seats, and the front seats are heated.
Also included are interior LED lighting; an Extended Slide second-row seat with One-Touch Walk-In for access to the third row; an eight-inch driver-information system with touch screen; an expanded-view outside driver’s mirror; and acoustic glass front windows and windshield.
Acoustic glass helps keep the interior very quiet even at interstate highway speeds and mild off-road jaunts on gravel, dirt and sand (the beach!). We had the first and second rows full of passengers during much of an extended weekend road trip, and conversations were easy at normal voice levels.
Other standard features include keyless entry (front doors and tailgate) and pushbutton start, a 432-watt audio system with eight-speakers, 18-inch alloy wheels, and Acura’s “Jewel Eye” LED headlights.
The Technology Package brings 19-inch alloy wheels, keyless access for all four doors, the Acura Navigation System with Voice Recognition, a 501-watt Acura/ELS Studio audio system with 10 speakers, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning and the Blind Spot Information System.
With the Entertainment Package, you’ll get a 529-watt Acura/ELS Studio audio system with 11-speakers and HD Radio, a DVD rear entertainment system with nine-inch display, rear-passenger window sunshades, and more.
The Advance and Entertainment model has the key Technology package items, and adds even more, including some upgrades not available in the other packages. AcuraWatch is included at no extra charge with the Advance package.
Advance extras include unique seven-spoke, 19-inch alloy wheels; a 605-watt Acura/ELS Studio audio system with 12 speakers; an Ultra-Wide Rear DVD Entertainment System with 16.2-inch display; perforated Milano leather first- and second-row seats; heated and ventilated front seats; front and rear parking assist; remote engine start; Lane Keeping Assist System; Collision Mitigation Brake System; and Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow.
The adaptive cruise automatically maintains a safe distance between the MDX and the car in front. It also flashes a red BRAKE warning on the dash if a car gets too close in front.
A dealer-installed trailer-towing package allows towing of trailers up to 5,000 pounds. Without, it can tow 3,500 pounds.
The front and middle seats were quite comfortable, but even with the One-Touch Walk-In feature for third-row access, that seat is better left to kids or young, nimble adults.
The middle row’s slide feature allows it to be moved forward or backward up to six inches, but to keep the third-row knee- and legroom suitable for adults and teens, it can’t be pushed all the way back. Passengers in the middle row enjoyed the extra room the seat gave them when it was in its rearmost position. Our bucket seats were equally pleasant for the long drive.
The MDX comes with a standard Integrated Dynamics System that lets the driver choose a driving mode — Comfort, Normal or Sport. Comfort keeps the ride cushier for all on board.
There is 14.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat, about the same as the trunk of a midsize car. But that expands to 38.4 cubic feet with the third row folded down, and to 68.4 cubic feet with both rows of rear seats folded.
There is a large center console between the front seats. It has a comfy leather armrest on top, and inside, it’s roomy enough to keep purses, a laptop and other electronics and valuables out of sight. There are numerous cubbies and storage spaces throughout the MDX cabin, a hallmark of Honda/Acura family vehicles.
The MDX has the newest generation of the AcuraLink system, which connects to the internet through a compatible smartphone. The system also has lots of features similar to GM’s OnStar, including collision notification, remote unlocking, stolen-vehicle tracking and traffic information, all through a built-in cellular connection (with subscription fees).
For safety, the MDX uses Honda’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure. There are seven air bags, including a new driver’s knee bag. The MDX received the highest safety rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety – the “Top Safety Pick Plus” designation.
Premium fuel is recommended, but unlike its predecessor, it’s not required. On our trip, we just opted for regular gas. I never noticed any loss of performance.
The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @gchambers3.
2016/2017 Acura MDX
The package: Midsize, front- or all-wheel-drive, five-door, seven-passenger, V-6 powered, premium crossover utility vehicle.
Highlights: The MDX is Acura’s family-size crossover, with seating for up to seven. It has plenty of power, along with a family-friendly interior suited for daily around-town duties or long road trips. For 2016, it gets some significant upgrades, including a nine-speed transmission and new optional safety technology in the AcuraWatch package.
Negatives: Third row not suitable for larger people or older adults.
Overall length: 193.6 inches.
Curb weight range: 4,025-4,332 pounds.
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6.
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic.
Power/torque: 290 HP./267 foot-pounds.
Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.
Cargo volume: 14.8 cubic feet (behind third row); 38.4 cubic feet (third seat folded); 68.4 cubic feet (both rear seats folded).
Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds; 5,000 pounds with optional tow package.
Electronic stability control: Standard, includes traction control.
Side air bags: Front seat-mounted; roof-mounted side-curtain, all three rows.
EPA fuel economy: 19 mpg city/27 highway/22 city (20//27/23 with optional stop/start), front drive; 18/26/21 (19/26/22 with stop/start), AWD).
Fuel capacity/type: 19.5 gallons/unleaded premium recommended but not required.
Key competitors: GMC Acadia/Buick Enclave/Chevrolet Traverse, Infiniti JX, Nissan Pathfinder, Honda Pilot, Audi Q7, Volvo XC90, Toyota Sequoia, Lexus LX 570, Lexus GX 470, Ford Explorer, Ford Flex.
Base price range (2017): $43,950-$58,400, plus $940 freight.
Price as tested: $58,020, including freight (2016 all-wheel drive model with Advance/AcuraWatch and Entertainment packages).
On the Road rating: 9.3 (of a possible 10).
Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.