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The Safest Vehicle? 2014-2015 Acura MDX Review: Kids, Carseats & Safety

What’s the safest vehicle you can buy today?  It may well be the 2014 and 2015 Acura MDX, especially among vehicles for 6 or more passengers.  It aced the IIHS crash tests, achieving a “Good” result in every test and in every single sub-category evaluation for each of those tests.  It’s the only 3-row vehicle to accomplish that!  With the tech package, it earns a “Basic” IIHS front crash prevention score and a Top Safety Pick+ rating.  The Advance package has a full set of advanced safety features including autobrake and active lane keep assist, earning an “Advanced” IIHS front crash prevention rating.  It also earned a 5-star NHTSA overall crash rating, with 5-stars in all five crash tests as well!  It’s one of a few SUVs and minivans that earned a top overall ratings from both agencies, and one of a handful of vehicles in any class to get top results in each and every crash test from both agencies.  At nearly 4400 lbs., it has the advantage of weight in a frontal crash combined with handling that is better than average for a midsize SUV.

What You Get:

The MDX was redesigned for 2014 and the 2015 model reviewed here is essentially identical.  Acura really left nothing on the table when it comes to safety, except that more of these features could be standard or at least available on the base model.  You sort of expect to pay more for advanced safety features on mainstream sedan, but when Subaru offers them for less than $1200 on most of its family vehicles, even mid-level trim versions, we do wonder what some luxury brands are thinking when it comes to a 3-row family hauler.

For example, with the MDX, you must add the $4,300 Tech package to get the Blind Spot Information system, a basic Forward Collision Warning system and Lane Departure Warning.  Definitely opt for at least this trim level.  To equip a frontal crash prevention system competitive with the $1,200 Subaru Eyesight system, you must tack on over $12,000 to get the Advance Package with Entertainment Package.  Yes, that is 10x the cost to protect your family!  The Advance package adds an IIHS Advanced rated Collision Mitigation autobrake system with front seatbelt pretentioners as well as a Lane Keeping Assist system.  You also get the handy Adaptive Cruise Control with the unique low-speed follow system and an array of parking assist sensors.  I’m not a fan of leather seats without ventilation in the summer, but Acura also forces you to buy the most expensive model to get this feature as well.

mdxheadlightAside from these marketing issues, the MDX is quite simply an excellent vehicle.  Plus, with the new 3.5L engine, fuel economy got a nice bump and you can now order a 2WD version with even better gas mileage, up to 20mpg city.  The styling is sharp and more aggressive than the previous generation.  The Jewel Eye headlight treatment is very slick.  Kudos to Acura for avoiding the trend to add ubiquitous Christmas tree running lights around their headlights.  The interior is also very nice, though I wish luxury manufacturers would use more realistic-looking wood trim if they must use wood grain at all in their interiors.

The Drive:

Unlike the Infiniti QX60 I drove recently, the MDX is a much nicer driver’s vehicle.  The Integrated Dynamics system is adjustable.  I prefer the Sport setting for a heavier steering feel and a little more performance tuned throttle and more aggressive transfer of power in turns.  A driver with another keyfob could have their preferences saved to Comfort, for easier turns and more conservative throttle.  A nice setup that automatically switches for each driver!  In any setting, the MDX is a better handling ride than the QX60 and many other larger midsize SUVs.   The only peculiar thing I noticed is a little cabin vibration at idle, mostly on the steering wheel and armrest.

acuramdxwheelI also found the transmission to be very smooth overall, but perhaps a bit quick to downshift in Sport mode when coasting.  Paddle shifters let you override this one quibble.  Acceleration, emergency handling and braking all seemed competent overall.  Zero complaints.  No, it’s not like a sport sedan, but it’s far superior to any truck-based SUV.  The 290 hp V6 engine has plenty of power, but can also shut off three cylinders to bump its fuel economy to 20/28/23 in 2WD trim and 18/27/21 with SH-AWD.  My SH-AWD tester managed 19mpg around town.  Not all that good overall, but still respectable for the class.  With the optional tow package, you can pull 5,000 pounds.

Access is pretty easy front and back, even for kids.  I found the seats to be pretty comfortable and supportive overall.   All the adjustments were adequate.  Visibility is mediocre, typical for a midsize SUV.  With the rear head restraints UP and the entertainment screen DOWN, the rear-view mirror is all but worthless.  Thankfully a backup camera is standard.  The gauges and forward display are great.  The split-screen console stack is a little confusing at times and has a little more of a learning curve than some others, but ultimately is fine once you learn the setup.

Overall, it’s an excellent vehicle on the road.  Smooth, quiet and it just has that well-built and solid feel to it that many other vehicles lack.  I rate it very close to the Mercedes GL450 in this regard and that is high praise.  I also appreciate the adapative cruise with low speed follow.  One of those features that just strikes you as making a difference.

Fitting your Precious Cargo:

The second row is an oddity for midsize SUVs.  It not only has three top tether anchors, but it also has three separate pairs of lower LATCH anchors.  Combined with two more top tether anchors in the third row, it is nearly as flexible in this regard as the Honda Pilot.  The 2nd row does have some issues with the center seat, as is the case in many midsize SUVs.  With the plastic seat hardware, a somewhat narrow width and some issues with seatbelt and LATCH anchor crossover, it’s not nearly as easy to fit 3-across carseats as it is in a Honda Odyssey minivan.  It can be done with careful selection, though.  The third row is mainly for kids, especially on long trips. Access is relatively easy and it is comfortable for kids in forward-facing carseats, boosters and pre-teens as well.  We wish manufacturers would add more rear-seat USB or other charging outlets in their family vehicles, though.

 Gallery:

Below left, a handy spot for a rear-facing tether accessory strap as can be used on a few select convertible carseats, like those from Diono, Combi or Britax.

2015 Toyota Sienna 3rd Row Preview

2015SiennaHere is a quick look at the refreshed 2015 Toyota Sienna.  The big news for some families is that Toyota has added a fourth LATCH position.   You can now install a child safety seat with LATCH in either second row captain’s chair, the third row “center” position and now the third row passenger-side seat as well.  Another new available feature that some parents may appreciate is the Driver Easy Speak system.  It’s essentially a microphone that can be enabled so the driver’s voice is amplified for those in the second and third row seats.  Now the kids will hear you when you say, “If you don’t cut that out right now I’m going to turn this Swagger Wagon around!”

 

Toyota now makes a backup camera standard on all Sienna models, which is essential for safety.  Bluetooth hands-free is also standard.  They also added a front passenger seat-cushion mounted airbag to reduce leg injury risk.  The driver’s seat retains a knee cushion airbag.  In addition, the side curtain airbag coverage has been increased around 30%.  There is also a handy new multi- information display right in front of the driver, between the main gauges, to help you keep your eyes off the road as briefly as possible.  This standard 3.5 inch screen can be configured to show the information you want without having to turn to the main dash screen and searching for it.

Updated crash tests results are not yet available from the IIHS or NHTSA, but Toyota expects it to do as well as the 2014 model.  Perhaps the one drawback of this refresh?  A full complement of advanced safety features (including pre-collision frontal crash prevention) is only available on the Limited Advanced Technology Package in the new Limited Premium trim.  This package also includes Dynamic radar cruise control, vehicle dynamics integrated management and hill start assist control. Features like Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert are standard or available in packages on various trim levels.

Stay tuned for our full review coming later this fall!

Thank you to Toyota USA for the preview of the Sienna, Camry and Yaris.

Britax Combination Seats: Booster Lap Belt Guide Changes

Earlier this year, we reported some improvements to the Britax Pioneer 70 along with some changes for all Britax combination harness-to-booster models.   Britax has made some additional improvements to all these models in response to a “Check Fit” rating from the IIHS that we reported last year.   For many kids, there was no issue at all.  For some, especially smaller kids in certain vehicles, the booster fit was not as good as it could be.  Britax resolved this issue immediately by offering a SecureGuard clip upon request to owners using these products as boosters.  This not only improved lap belt fit in booster mode, but also provided a 4th point of restraint, unique to Britax boosters.

In mid-July, Britax revised the lap belt guides to improve lap belt fit without the need for a SecureGuard clip.  Below you can see some comparison photos between the original and revised products.  In general, the original design is on the left, while the updated design is on the right.  The improvement is modest, but can make a difference depending upon the child and vehicle.

The Frontier 90 and Pinnacle 90 are on our Recommended Car Seats list.

 

BritaxPioneerIIHSFront BritaxPioneerIIHSSide2

BritaxPioneerIIHSoldC BritaxPioneerIIHSnewC

BritaxPioneerIIHSoldB BritaxPioneerIIHSnewB

 

BritaxPioneerIIHSoldA BritaxPioneerIIHSnewA

 

BritaxPioneerIIHSTop

 

Britax Boulevard ClickTight Unboxing and Giveaway!

Our comprehensive review of the Britax Boulevard ClickTight is now posted here: http://carseatblog.com/30080/britax-boulevard-clighttight-convertible-review-sometimes-things-just-click/

 

Britax Blvd CT

Order Britax ClickTight convertibles at Amazon.com

Order Britax ClickTight convertibles at Albee Baby

 

For more detailed info on the new ClightTight convertibles see our previous posts on the subject:

Rear-Facing Space Comparison: Britax G4 Convertibles vs. New Britax ClickTight Convertibles

Comparison between current Britax Convertibles and new ClickTight Convertibles

This promotion is now closed. Thank you for participating – a winner will be announced soon!

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Contest open to all residents of the USA, including those residing in Alaska and Hawaii. :) 

Now for the fine print (these may be in addition to the rules listed in the Rafflecopter terms)

Winner must have a USA shipping address to claim the prize. Only one prize will be awarded, choice of colors will be limited to those in stock at Britax USA at the time the contest closes.

You are not eligible if you have previously won a carseat or any sponsored giveaway at CarseatBlog.com during 2013 or 2014 (our own giveaways of goody bags and such don’t count if no sponsor was mentioned). Blog writers and editors are also not eligible. Only one entry per household/family, please. If you leave more than one comment, only the first one will count.

We reserve the right to deem any entry as ineligible for any reason, though this would normally only be done in the case of a violation of the spirit of the rules above. We also reserve the right to edit/update the rules for any reason.

The contest will close on October 12, 2014, and one random winner will be chosen shortly thereafter. If a winner is deemed ineligible based on shipping restrictions or other issues or does not respond to accept the prize within 7 days, a new winner will be selected.

Good luck!

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