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.
Aside 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.
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.
I 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.
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.