For years the upscale Acura MDX has been a very popular choice amongst Canadians, proving it to be a well rounded, functional, and competitively priced vehicle. You could even say it was a jack-of-all-trades, with seating for seven and handsome looks that please the eyes. So you would be hard pressed to blame Acura for playing it safe with its yearly revisions.
And the same applies for the 2017 MDX, which receives a new and aesthetically pleasing pentagon front grille (looks like a bird doesn’t it?), redesigned Jewel LED headlights, and integrated dual exhausts in the rear bumper. The range-topping Elite trim can now be ordered with second-row captain’s chairs as well.
The rest of the MDX is pretty much carried over. Those looking for Japanese-style Range Rover levels of driving pizzazz won’t find solace here. While the MDX is a competent and secure family hauler, it has no sporty pretense. Body lean is well controlled, which makes this big SUV feel responsive, but the steering is short on feedback and this big luxo-Honda lacks the agility found in competitors like the BMW X5 or even the GMC Acadia.
The sole engine option, a 290-hp 3.5-litre V6, dishes out admirable performance with competitive acceleration times within the luxury SUV segment. The engine is smooth and always seems to have power on tap. The V6 also features direct fuel injection and can shut off fuel down to three cylinders under light loads to improve mileage. Like most vehicles in its class, the MDX likes to drink premium fuel, but in this case it is not required. The Elite trim also includes auto start/stop, which shuts off the engine when idling to further save fuel.
The new 9-speed automatic transmission, which was introduced in 2016, is a bit of a disappointment. Unlike the previous six-speed, which was always smooth and responsive, shifts with the 9-speed are abrupt and slow at low speeds. Some gear changes are punctuated with a bump and downshifts come with a delay, leaving you wanting more from the platform. It’s close to perfect, but Acura needs to iron out some kinks in this gearbox before calling it a day.
Here in Canada, the MDX comes solely with Acura’s SH-AWD system. It is a clever all-wheel drive unit that seamlessly increases or reduces power to individual wheels as needed, depending on what you’re asking the vehicle to do. For example, on a left hand curve it will send more power to the right rear wheel, helping you grab the apex tighter and more efficiently.
It will also send more power to the rear on hard acceleration and will distribute it evenly on slippery surfaces. In extreme situations, it can send a maximum of 70 per cent of torque to the rear axle and from there, can distribute as much as 100 per cent to either the left or right rear wheel.
The MDX has a comfortable and roomy cabin without much visual stimulation. There is just enough atmosphere and appeal however to keep the interior from feeling dated, which appears to be more purposeful than plush. Most dashboard and door surfaces are padded and the front seats are large with soft cushions that are supportive and hold occupants in place well in corners.
Access to the third-row seat is simple and you don’t have to be a pro at Twister in order to get in. Such interior flexibility makes the MDX an excellent, dare I say, soccer mom SUV. There are 2nd and 3rd row entertainment screens as well to keep the passengers occupied with DVD movies and video games.
The MDX is a natural choice for those looking for an SUV to comfortably haul a large family. As tested, our MDX Elite rang in at $65,790. Personally I would rather opt for the Navigation trim instead and save around $8,000. Hell, even opting for the base MDX would be a great choice, offering a power liftgate, leather seating, and a heated steering wheel straight out of the box.
The MDX may not be the sportiest SUV on the lot but that’s not its mojo. It’s a great competitor with enough tricks up its sleeve to gain the advantage over more established luxury SUVs like the BMW X5. Though the MDX does have its quirks like its awkward infotainment screen and beaky front noise, the MDX is just about ready for anything you throw at it. It’s one of the best SUVs around and I’d be more than happy to stick one in my garage.