2016 Acura MDX review

Acura's MDX has everything you want in an SUV, except a pulse

The Acura MDX checks nearly all the right boxes, but when compared to other luxury SUVs it lacks both panache and charisma.
The Acura MDX checks nearly all the right boxes, but when compared to other luxury SUVs it lacks both panache and charisma.
The Acura MDX checks nearly all the right boxes, but when compared to other luxury SUVs it lacks both panache and charisma.

Highs

  • Excellent tech features
  • Surprisingly agile and responsive
  • High quality interior components
  • Smooth shifting new transmission

Lows

  • Underwhelming styling
  • Poor infotainment
  • Lack of panache

DT Editors' Rating

Welcome to Acura’s best-selling model, the MDX. This luxury crossover may be the vehicle of choice for dentists, parents and realtors the world over, but that shouldn’t throw off an enthusiast. For those brave souls doomed to forgo sedans and two-seaters in favor of seven seats, the MDX offers a glimmer of excitement thanks to its V6 powertrain, and Super Handling All-Wheel Drive.

Autos.comThe rest of the car can’t live up to this heart thumping promise, unfortunately. But remember, it’s an Acura, meaning that thanks to its fancy Honda DNA, it is a spacious, comfortable, and exceedingly well built way to get from point A to point B.

Leaving Lexus Behind

The last several years have marked something of an identity crisis at Acura. The products have been good, if not always spectacular, but they have lacked anything that differentiates them from the competition — in particular their luxury segment foes at Lexus. The MDX is a different story. It may not outshine Lexus on design, but it definitely stands out from its Japanese competitor on performance.

The performance starts with a 3.5-liter single overhead cam (SOHC) V6. This engine may have started life in various Honda crossovers and minivans, but the Acura brain trust has gotten the most out of it possible, fettling it up to 290 horsepower and 267 pound feet of torque. In a vehicle as big as the MDX this might seem like barely enough juice, but for 2016 Acura has introduced a nine-speed automatic.

I didn’t much care for this transmission in the TLX, where I found the nine-speed box staggering between indecision and overt aggression. I have some of the same problems when the transmission is placed in its most aggressive Sport+ setting. This is really only suitable for absolute hoonage, as the transmission will under no circumstances change gear until redline. However, when left to its own devices the nine-speed box in the MDX is pure pleasure, offering silky smooth shifts and ever present torque.

It seems possible to play a solid game of tennis between the cargo area and the front row.

Still, the real performance story comes from Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive or SH-AWD. This system combines torque vectoring, stability, and traction control to produce nothing short of witchcraft. Throw the big MDX into a corner hard and the grip is just stunning.

Again in the TLX, I had problems with this system as I felt that it neutered steering feel, and didn’t give the driver much sense of involvement, but in the bigger vehicle it is a blast. During my week with the MDX I found myself constantly shocked at the crossover’s handling. It won’t out-corner a BMW X5 or a Range Rover Sport, but when compared to other premium crossover vehicles the MDX looks like a racecar in disguise.

The nice thing is that when you are done pretending to be an F1 Pacecar, you can slot the MDX back into comfort mode and let it do its best Honda Pilot impression.

Honda Plus

Speaking of the Honda Pilot, comfort isn’t the only place where the MDX apes its downmarket brother. The interior has some wonderful touches, but it also lacks the sense of class and flash that its luxury market position would seem to demand.

On the good side the materials are of the highest quality from top to bottom, with lovely leather on the seats, and some nice aluminum trim. Unfortunately aside from a few upmarket details, like the fancy-shmancy button shifter and massive rear seat entertainment screen (which is optional), there is little in the interior that tells you you are in a luxury vehicle.

The center stack may have two screens, but the AcuraLink infotainment system is decidedly clunky and user unfriendly. Besides, not one of the buttons or components looks like it couldn’t be found in a mid-range Honda or Toyota.

This is a big problem when compared to the downright impressive interiors on the new Audi Q7 and the Volvo XC90.

When compared to other premium crossover vehicles the MDX looks like a racecar in disguise.

Acura can still hang its hat on practicality. The MDX may be fairly light and compact from the outside, but the inside is positively cavernous. The third row seats are a bit cramped for adults, but it seems possible to play a solid game of tennis between the cargo area and the front row.

Then there’s the matter of the price; while it’s easily possible to spend nearly $60,000 on an MDX, my press demonstrator cost around $58,000, and a decently equipped all-wheel drive model can be found for as little as $46,000.

That may not be chump change, but it is a whole Honda Fit less than a similarly equipped BMW X5.

Conclusion

The Acura MDX is undeniably a good vehicle, and I very much doubt that any buyers will live to regret their choice of luxury crossover. But by that same token, the MDX is not especially exciting or dramatic, leaving the enthusiast in me a little cold. The bigger problem is that the MDX doesn’t always live up to the luxury billing.

Yet for those looking to enjoy upmarket perks wrapped in an innocuous package, the MDX is a very tempting choice.

Highs

  • Excellent tech features
  • Surprisingly agile and responsive
  • High quality interior components
  • Smooth shifting new transmission

Lows

  • Underwhelming styling
  • Poor infotainment
  • Lack of panache
Cars

Jaguar’s rally-ready F-Type roadster is happiest off the pavement

Jaguar is celebrating the XK120's 70th birthday by turning the F-Type roadster into a rally warrior. Built to FIA specifications, the model receives suspension and braking upgrades plus a full roll cage to protect the occupants.
Cars

Where are you going this weekend? These 5 off-road vehicles say 'anywhere'

The body-on-frame SUV is going extinct, but there are still several options for buyers looking to skip the asphalt. To help you sort the good from the bad, we've rounded up the best off-roaders currently available.
Cars

Camaro vs. Mustang: Differences and similarities between two premier pony cars

The Chevrolet Camaro and the Ford Mustang are two of America's favorite sports cars. In this comparison piece, we highlight the main differences between the two machines when it comes to their design and performance, among other factors.
Cars

Honda HR-V vs. Honda CR-V: The differences explained

The Honda HR-V and CR-V may overlap in some regard, but they're not the same vehicle. In this comparison, we highlight the design, technology, performance, and fuel economy unique to each ride.
Mobile

Lyft’s new rewards program promises ride discounts and comfier cars

If you're always hopping in and out of a Lyft car, then you'll be pleased to hear that the ridesharing service is about to launch a rewards program. Perks include discounts on future trips and upgrades to comfier cars.
Cars

Study suggests autonomous cars could become red-light districts on wheels

Fully autonomous cars can change the way we commute, but they can also have a far-reaching impact on the tourism industry. Two researchers published a study that outlines how self-driving technology could create a new dimension in tourism.
Cars

VW will use Siri as the designated driver for its connected car party

Volkswagen of America added Apple's Siri to help drivers control and interact with their cars. Owners can customize voice commands to tell Siri to change access settings such as interior climate, vehicle lock status, and fuel checks.
Cars

Meet the born-again Ford Bronco that will soothe your ’90s nostalgia

Ford has confirmed it will bring the Bronco back to American showrooms in a few short years. While it's still very much a work in progress, this is what we expect from the Blue Oval's born-again off-roader.
Cars

Waymo will launch its commercial autonomous ridesharing service in December

Waymo will launch a commercial ridesharing service using self-driving cars in December, according to a new report. As previously discussed by Waymo, the service will operate in specific areas around Phoenix, Arizona.
Cars

Quick! Someone petition Ferrari to make this luscious tribute to the F40

Ferrari looks toward the future as it designs hypercars like the LaFerrari. Designer Samir Sadikhov turned his eye toward the past to create a modern interpretation of the 1987 F40 without venturing into full retro territory.
Cars

BMW’s 2020 M340i will show off mix of tech and luxury at the Los Angeles show

The 2020 3 Series represents the seventh generation of BMW's bread-and-butter luxury sedan. Where previous generations emphasized the driving experience, the 2020 3 Series focuses more on tech than ever before.
Cars

From Rolls-Royce to Lamborghini, these are the most expensive cars in the world

If you recently discovered an oil reserve in your backyard, you probably have some extra cash to spend. Look no further, because we’ve rounded up the most expensive cars in the world.
Cars

Lime’s first carsharing service motors into Seattle this week

Lime may be better known for its app-based bike and scooter rental services, but in Seattle, Washington this week it's launching its very first carsharing service, similar to Car2go and Zipcar.
Cars

Land Rover shows its artsy side by previewing the 2020 Range Rover Evoque

Land Rover made life-sized wire sculptures to preview the 2020 Range Rover Evoque. The all-new SUV will make its debut during a private event held in London on November 22, and deliveries will begin in 2019.