SUV Review: 2017 Acura MDX
La prova di driving.ca della Acura MDX 2017
Acura’s refreshed MDX is competent all around, but it might be too smart for its own good
Commuter comfort with a sportier side
Pros Strong engine, good handling and a smooth ride
Cons Overly complicated controls, too-tight third row
Value for money Average
What would I change? Simplify the centre stack
How I would spec it? The Navigation package would be enough for me
When I was growing up and thought I knew it all, my folks would warn me not to be “too smart for your own good.”
If only they’d told Acura. Its MDX is one of the best-driving seven-seaters on the market and earns the “sport” in sport-utility vehicle, but it’s also burdened with a clunky, “too smart” control interface that can be downright distracting.
For 2017, the MDX receives a handsome new grille, redesigned hood and headlights, and twin tailpipes. The top-of-the-line Elite trim, which I drove, can now be ordered with second-row captain’s chairs, although mine had a conventional three-passenger middle seat. Four trim lines — Base, Navigation, Tech and Elite — range from $53,690 to $65,790.
All use a 290-horsepower, 3.5-litre V6 engine with a nine-speed automatic transmission. The engine includes variable cylinder management, running on only three cylinders when full power isn’t needed. The Elite trim line also includes auto start/stop, which shuts off the engine at idle, such as when you’re stopped at a light, and can be disabled if desired. Premium 91-octane fuel is recommended but not required.
Created with Raphaël 2.1.2
Created with Raphaël 2.1.2
2017 Acura MDX Elite
American buyers can opt for a front-wheel-drive version, but all Canadian MDX models come solely with Acura’s SH-AWD (Super Handling all-wheel drive) system; it seamlessly increases or reduces torque to individual wheels as needed, depending on what you’re asking the vehicle to do. On a right-hand curve, for example, it’ll send more power to the left rear wheel, effectively tucking the front end in tighter around the corner. It also sends more power to the rear on acceleration, and distributes it evenly when on slippery surfaces. Overall, 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 feels lithe and athletic: The steering is quick and precise, it’s well-planted on the highway and the ride is smooth without being too soft. Steering weight, throttle response and the SH-AWD bias can be tightened up or dialed back into Comfort, Normal or Sport settings. Overall, this sport-ute is a real pleasure to drive.
Acura packs in a boatload of electronic nannies, and all trim lines include adaptive cruise control that will obediently keep its distance from the vehicle in front, even at low speeds — although its braking and acceleration are jerkier than in many systems I’ve used. Automatic high-beam headlights, forward collision warning and braking, a multi-angle rearview camera and lane-keeping assist, which guides the vehicle to stay between the lines — and which I mostly kept off, because I dislike the squirmy feel of the steering wheel — are also standard. Oddly, though, the base model lacks the blind spot monitoring and cross-traffic alert that’s standard on all other trims.
All that electronic watchfulness is handy, I guess, because if you want to change something on the stereo or adjust the climate control, you’re probably going to be looking away from the windshield for a while. The shifter is a row of buttons that are unattractively mismatched to avoid mistaking Reverse for Drive, but I still had to peer down each time to be sure I was reaching for the right one.
Two screens are stacked in the dash. I like the theory behind it: one function, such as navigation, can stay in place while you switch other functions on the lower screen, avoiding the issue of the map disappearing just when you need it for guidance, but too much is buried in the centre screens.
Logically, I should just be able to tap the heated-and-ventilated seat’s icon to change the temperature, but it opens to a second screen where I have to tap again, and look even longer, to be sure I’m in the right spot on the glass. Adjusting the climate control mode or fan speed also requires extra steps. It’s far more complicated than it needs to be when one’s attention should be on the windshield, not on the screen.
There’s a ton of storage space, including a massive box in the centre console and a cubby hidden under the rear floor. First- and second-row passengers have it made, with good legroom and comfortable seats, but the third row is tight and hard to access for adults, and with hard, flat cushions. It’s good for children, but be sure to do the math: multiply how long you’ll keep your MDX by the number of growth spurts they’ll have.
Even the base MDX comes well-appointed, with power liftgate, the aforementioned safety items, leather chairs and a heated steering wheel, with the top trims adding such items as rear-seat entertainment, navigation and premium stereo. The MDX is a great driver and a winner in this segment overall, but I wouldn’t mind if Acura took a long look at those controls and fixed them so I don’t have to.