LIFESTYLE

All-new 2014 Acura MDX: Lighter, faster

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Farm Forum

Acura’s MDX is all-new for 2014. Unlike last generation’s MDX (which shared its chassis with Honda’s Odyssey and Pilot), this 2014 Acura rides on a new platform.

Today’s MDX has a larger body, but a smaller curb weight than the outgoing version. The tale of the tape and the scale show an SUV that’s longer by 2 inches and 275 pounds lighter.

Smaller, too, is the engine. The new 3.5-liter V-6 makes 290 horsepower and 267 lb.-ft. of torque. That compares with 300 hp and 270 torque from the previous 3.7L V-6. However, the lighter weight 2014 MDX is both faster and more fuel efficient than the 2013 version. The stopwatch clocks the new MDX from 0-60 mph in the low 6-second range; roughly half a second faster than the outgoing model.

The EPA estimates fuel economy at 20 mpg city/28 highway (FWD); 18/27 mpg (AWD). Linked to the 6-speed automatic transmission, the MDX powertrain is smooth and quiet; engine noise is only noticeable at full throttle.

Prices for the midsize crossover SUV start at $42,290. My MDX tester had an as-tested price of $57,400.

MDX is available in front and all-wheel drive versions. Acura’s AWD system pays dividends on wet or dry road surfaces. The Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system is full-time and fully automated, requiring no input from the driver. Under normal conditions, almost all (90 percent) of the available torque is channeled through the front wheels. SH-AWD uses torque vectoring to monitor vehicle grip and apportions power not only front-to-rear, but also side-to-side as needed to provide maximum traction. The system provides cornering assistance, transferring torque to the wheels with most grip, and overdriving the outside rear wheel, to usher the MDX through turns.

The MDX seats six to seven people in its three rows. The driver faces a bright, legible instrument cluster. Shifting our focus slightly to the right we noticed the most obvious change in the latest model.

Premium class vehicles have lots of bells and whistles. Those features require controls. Acura’s former, switchgear solution was to populate the center stack with a sea of buttons, the sheer number of which was a driving distraction. In the new cabin configuration, the center stack houses a pair of display screens, accompanied by a reduced number of buttons. Less is more when it comes to controls, and to this extent, the 2014 array is an improvement.

We think, however, there’s more simplifying to be done. As an example, the HVAC fan and ventilation modes are accessed via the lower touchscreen. In order to adjust them you first have to get to them, so a process that only takes one step in a conventional array takes two here.

Visibility is generally good, with the exception of the quarter rear view, where the roofline and the rear seat headrests combine to create a blind spot. The option list provides a fix, in the form of a blind spot warning system. Second row seats adjust up and back almost 6 inches and hold a pair of adults, with room for a child in between. The rearmost row is strictly kid size. While it helps to have a child’s limberness to get back there, illuminated buttons on the seats allow for helpful one-touch movement of the second row fore and aft.

Pack the back row with passengers, and you’re left with 15.8 cubic feet of cargo space. Folding one row forward raises the cargo ante to 45.1 cu.-ft, and flattening row two yields 90.9 cu.-ft. That total is 7.4 cubic feet more that the outgoing model. Liftover height in the cargo bay is reasonably low, and there’s a covered storage bin hidden under the load floor.

The 2014 MDX is actually sporting to drive, as well as useful and comfortable. Add an option list brimming with safety and infotainment features and the latest MDX is a solid choice in the midsize luxury SUV segment.