Honda is not known for being flashy in the marketplace but there is good reason for jubilation in their luxury car division.
The Acura MDX mid-level crossover SUV is an elegant and well-appointed car with few drawbacks. Its Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and BMW competition is pricier making the Acura brand more appealing to many buyers.
While unchanged from last year’s model, the MDX is packed with technology, supple leather seating, wood grain panels and a choice of firm or soft ride. What more could you want in a luxury crossover?
MDX pricing starts in the low $40s but moves into the $50s quickly with available Technology, Advance and Entertainment packages. The test car I drove for a week included all of the above packages, typical of journalist review cars provided by factory marketers.
At highway speed, the Acura drives like a much smaller car thanks in part to its SH-AWD, short for Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive system. While much of the time drive gear remains in front wheel mode, when called for, the all-wheel gearing slides seamlessly into place.
The SH drive is evident when putting the Acura through steering, braking and cornering maneuvers. The result is a road–gripping feel that holds footing securely with little body roll. Steering adjusts continuously and the 6-speed automatic operates seamlessly with a 300 horsepower V6 engine.
Ride characteristics are adjustable between Sport and Comfort mode through a center dashboard mounted toggle switch that tweaks suspension harshness.
Inside the cabin, there is generous room for seven passengers in three rows of seating although the third row is better suited for smaller occupants. The MDX is available in one posh trim level.
Standard equipment includes a full power interior with lumbar support for driver, backup camera, leather upholstery, Bluetooth connectivity and an eight-speaker sound system, tri-zone climate control, satellite radio and power sunroof.
A large round dial center mounted ahead of the gearshift serves as a mouse-like interface connecting a multitude of tasks with ease. At first glance, the host of controls, buttons and knobs seems intimidating but after a few days of use, they become second nature.
Steering wheel controls are also numerous. They provide the usual media volume and mode, phone buttons, voice command and adaptive cruise setup that keep the Acura a safe distance away from traffic ahead.
Safety marks are high from both reporting agencies that record crash test results (See ratings below).
Tech package equipment includes a navigation system with voice recognition and rear camera, Acura link for live weather, traffic and stock information, surround sound with 10 speakers, Bluetooth connectivity and GHPS-linked tri-zone auto climate control.
An Advance package adds an active damper system, collision mitigation braking, blind spot monitors, ventilated front seats, adaptive cruise and 19-inch wheels. Entertainment package adds a motorized DVD rear entertainment system with 9-inch display and wireless headsets and heated second row seats.
The MDX might be one of Honda’s better-kept secrets. You would be hard-pressed to find another luxury SUV similarly equipped for the money.
Len Ingrassia is an automotive columnist for CNHI News Service. Contact him at email@example.com