2016 Acura Mdx - The Car Connection

   
Data Provided By

The Car Connection Expert Rating Breakdown



The Car Connection Expert Review


Mitch McCullough

Mitch McCullough

Editor


  • Likes
  • Refined and quiet
  • Roomy for six
  • Easy to operate
  • Nice interior trim
  • Smooth, powerful engine
  • Dislikes
  • Unrefined transmission
  • Glare from bright trim
  • Lacks steering feedback

The 2016 Acura MDX remains one of the best luxury three-row SUVs, but the benefits of its new nine-speed automatic are unclear.


In a crowded luxury mid- to full-size SUV class, the 2016 Acura MDX stands out—and not just because of its size. While it's among the roomiest three-row family utilities, our high ratings also come from an abundance of features, excellent ride, and comprehensive safety ratings.

The big crossover SUV can seat up to seven passengers, and it's positively stuffed with convenience features that make it easy for everyday transportation of large families and a lot of their belongings.

The MDX gets significant upgrades for 2016 that further improve this highly rated seven-seat SUV. Chief among them is a new 9-speed automatic transmission with a push-button electronic gear selector that saves space on the console. It's a very nice transmission, but it had little impact on real-world fuel economy in our testing.

The 2016 MDX also offers a new all-wheel-drive system, new safety features, Apple's Siri Eyes Free voice recognition, a revised driver's seat that moves slightly rearward when the door is opened for easier entry and exit, and a few other minor upgrades.

The Acura MDX competes with the Lexus RX, Buick Enclave, Volvo XC90, BMW X5, Infiniti QX60, Audi Q7, Mercedes-Benz ML-Class. The Lexus offers only two rows of seating, however. The Acura offers three rows of seating for up to seven passengers.

Exterior styling hasn't changed for 2016. The MDX looks more like a sport-wagon than a utilitarian SUV, with its tapered roofline, chiseled front end, and smooth rear. The chevron-like chrome strip across the top of the grille and jewel-eye LED headlights distinguish it as an Acura.

Inside, the front-end theme is echoed by the dash, with its V-shaped center stack and sloping, tiered design. The dash design complements the rest of the cabin, and the materials used for interior trim are nicely coordinated.

The MDX is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6. Front-wheel drive is standard, all-wheel drive is optional. The V-6 benefits from direct injection to produce 290 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 267 pound-feet of torque at 4,500 rpm, so there is plenty of power whether moving from a standstill or needing to pull off a pass on a two-lane road. The engine feels smooth and refined.

Compared with the previous 6-speed transmission, the new 9-speed automatic improves acceleration performance by 0.5 seconds, according to Acura. However, the transmission lacks refinement. It wasn’t as smooth nor as seamless as we expected—a common thread we’ve found in other vehicles equipped with the latest 9-speed automatics.

The MDX is one of the better-handling luxury SUVs. The Integrated Dynamics System (IDS) lets the driver increase steering feel and quicken throttle response by pressing an IDS button next to the shift buttons. The Sport setting quickens steering response, while the Comfort settings results in lighter steering feel. On all-wheel-drive models, the system more aggressively distributes power to the outside wheels in a curve.

The all-wheel drive system in the MDX is unique in its class: it's a mechanical torque vectoring system, which can move power front-to-back, and side-to-side. It may not sound significant, but it's one of the few systems on the market and it greatly improves drivability and capability in the MDX.

Inside, the MDX has a smartly detailed cabin, one that’s highly functional and one of the roomiest three-row crossovers in its class. The front seats are supportive yet plush. Low side bolsters make getting in and out easier. The driver's seat on 2016 MDX models slides rearward whenever the door is opened, making getting in and out easier.

The second row slides fore and aft 6 inches, giving back-seat passengers more leg room, or providing more space for third-row passenger or cargo. A small Illuminated button beside the second-row outboard seats is provided to aid third-row access: Pressing an illuminated button enables a neat, cleverly designed semi-powered spring-loaded process. Getting into the third row is still difficult, however, and best left for the young. Once back there, the high floor level makes it uncomfortable for all but children who don't seem to notice discomfort.

The cabin is trimmed out nicely with high-quality, well-coordinated materials and trims. The MDX is also very quiet underway.

Safety is one of the MDX’s best selling points. The MDX earned top ratings from the IIHS, including the Top Safety Pick+ accolade, as well as five-star scores from the federal government in overall, frontal and side impact. High-tech options are available, from lane-departure warnings, to rearview and surround-view cameras, to adaptive cruise control.

The 2016 MDX comes standard with tri-zone automatic climate control and a leather-trimmed interior with a 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat. The Acura Premium Audio System with eight speakers is standard, with 10- and 12-speaker systems part of the Advance or Technology packages. Navigation is optional.

The 2016 MDX is on sale now, and starts at $43,955 with front-wheel drive and goes up to $58,170, including destination.

Fuel economy for the 2016 MDX is an EPA-estimated 19 mpg city, 27 highway, 22 combined with front-wheel drive. The 2016 MDX SH-AWD is rated 18/26/21 mpg. Premium gasoline is required.

Styling
7.0

The MDX is styled more like a sport wagon than an SUV. It's attractive, if a little anonymous.


The styling of the current MDX has not changed since 2014.

The current MDX design looks slightly more sport-wagon than the more upright SUVs in this class. Still, the MDX profile is more similar than different to that of the other premium mid-size SUVs.

There's more distinction when viewed from the front. The MDX nose resembles a beak, drawing mixed reviews, though the beak is more flattering on this SUV than on Acura sedans, and crisp matte-chrome details and LED headlamps lend a streamlined, elegant look.

While the smaller Acura RDX looks a bit larger than it is, it’s the opposite with the MDX. The tapered roofline, the chiseled front end, and the smooth rear end all serve to make the MDX look more than ever like a sport wagon.

Inside, the MDX cabin looks similar to Acura's sedans. The dash, with its sloping, tiered look and V-shaped center stack, is in pace with the sedans—not opulent, not overly festooned with wood trim or glitzy add-ons. We're not in love with the center stack's functionality, but we like the way the entire dash fits in with the rest of the cabin, from a design standpoint. The chrome surround can glare in the sun at some angles, however.

The MDX is styled more like a sport wagon than an SUV. It's attractive, if a little anonymous.

Performance
8.0

Responsive handling is a hallmark of the MDX, but we're not completely sold on its new nine-speed automatic.


The Acura MDX performs admirably for a vehicle this large; it’s as close to nimble and responsive as you can find in a vehicle with seats for seven people. It’s a very easy car to drive.

The MDX’s 3.5-liter V-6 was the brand’s first direct-injected engine. It uses the i-VTEC valvetrain with two-stage cylinder deactivation; when cruising along or under other light-load conditions, the system closes the valves and shuts off the fuel injectors to the rear three of the six cylinders for additional fuel efficiency. This engine was developed from Acura’s successful endurance racing engine, a 60-degree aluminum V-6, single overhead cam with 24 valves. It’s rated at 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. The torque is produced at low rpm, useful for driving around town and on winding roads. We found the V-6 smooth and willing to rev to the 6,700-rpm limit.

The new 9-speed automatic transmission is smooth enough in most driving situations, but it’s not perfect. Pressing the "D/S" button on the push-button transmission selector on the center console area switches the shift mapping between "Drive" and "Sport." In Drive, the transmission does all the shifting automatically. Pressing the D/S switch changes it to Sport mode. Using the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel when in Sport mode generates quick throttle-blip downshifts or upshifts.

The 9-speed has many ratios to choose from, and it occasionally gets confused by all those gears. When merging onto a freeway and transitioning from maintenance throttle to moderate acceleration it would hesitate for a moment as if trying to decide whether downshifting was needed. Pull into a parking space and switch off the engine and the transmission will automatically shift into "Park," a nice feature.

Special shock absorbers smooth the ride over rough pavement. This helps provide a balance between ride comfort and handling.

The steering does not transmit a lot of feedback to the driver, but the vehicle as a whole feels capable and coordinated when driven near the limit.

Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) available for the MDX provides excellent all-weather traction. The SH-AWD system is one of the few mechanical torque vectoring systems on the market, despite being in Acura vehicles for more than a decade. The system can vary front-wheel torque distribution from 90 percent down to 30 percent (70 percent to the rear), or up to 100 percent to either the left or right wheels. That greatly improves stability when driving in inconsistent wintry conditions: for example, patches of snow and ice mixed with patches of wet pavement or when the left wheels are on ice and the right wheels are on dry pavement. Front-wheel drive is standard.

All 2016 MDX models are rated to tow up to 3,500 pounds, with a 350-pound tongue weight. That’s a lightweight towing capacity, good for a personal watercraft, snowmobile or motorcycle, but a bass boat might be pushing it, so don’t hook a heavy trailer up to one of these.

Responsive handling is a hallmark of the MDX, but we're not completely sold on its new nine-speed automatic.

Comfort & Quality
9.0

The MDX has exceptional comfort for its three rows of passengers; space is excellent and so is refinement.


The MDX is roomy for its class, and the front seats are comfortable, with sporty bolstering and better-than-average support.

A push-button transmission shifter is the most notable arrival for 2016. It's intuitive, and frees up considerable space on the center console. The shifter buttons are distinctive from one another both in appearance and feel and are very easy to use. It's a brilliant design. The "Reverse" button resides in a tiny well, which could attract crumbs should you decide to eat Doritos while driving.

The center stack has a chrome surround and, while driving, we noticed it can reflect sunlight into the driver's eyes at certain angles.

The center console has a deep bin, which is a great feature. Just aft of that and above is a smaller tray for a smartphone or other small items. Ahead of the console top, which doubles as an elbow rest, is a nice-looking wood grain tray that slides to hide what's inside. On top are traction strips where you can set small items while driving. Cup holders are in a convenient location ahead of the center console bin. Ahead of those is a small bin for keys with a power outlet.

The 2016 MDX models get a new frameless rearview mirror that's slim and unobtrusive, refreshing when so many nowadays are bulky and saddled with other features.

In spite of all the electronic controls, the parking brake is a foot brake similar to what's found in a pickup truck. You know the routine: Push down to engage, push again to disengage.

The second row has ample room for adults big and small. It's split 60/40 and folds almost perfectly flat though there are a lot of gaps and holes. Pressing an illuminated button performs this task partly by power, partly by mechanical engineering, which is a clever design.

The third row is big enough for medium-sized adults and children of almost any size. It's easier to access than before, too, as the second-row seats slide out of the way. The third-row seat also folds away by pulling a lever that mechanically flips it down; the head rests flip forward and out of the way and remain there so they don't go unused when someone sits back there—a good safety feature. The third row folds perfectly flat, but leaves small square holes in the corners; you may want to stuff rolled up towels before putting your dog back there to insure it doesn't get a leg caught in there when you’re braking.

Cargo space is large enough for small furniture, and the cargo area is fully flat when the second-row seats are folded. An underfloor storage area is provided with enough space for a laptop or camera bag or an extra pair of shoes, and it has a lid that can be propped up and out of the way when loading.

The MDX is very quiet inside. An active cancellation system inside the cabin helps, as well as an active engine mount system that helps quell low frequency vibrations from the powertrain. Full-on acoustic glass is used for the windshield and front windows, while thicker, noise-insulating glass is used elsewhere; and Acura has added a load of insulation elsewhere, while looking at cabin air leakage to help seal out residual noise.

The MDX has exceptional comfort for its three rows of passengers; space is excellent and so is refinement.

Safety
10.0

With some of the latest safety features and a history of good crash-test scores, the MDX is a safe bet.


The 2016 MDX has earned top ratings from the IIHS, including the Top Safety Pick+ accolade, as well as five-star scores from the federal government in overall, frontal and side impact.

A rigid structure contributes to top-tier safety ratings. Advanced-technology safety features include lane-departure and forward-collision warnings with automatic braking; blind-spot monitors; and a wide-rearview camera. A driver's knee bag rounds out an already complete safety set, and there's also active lane control, which will provide a gentle, proactive nudge to the steering to help you stay in your intended lane.

Fortunately, most of these features can be selectively switched off if the driver finds them annoying.

A full roster of airbags comes standard, including a driver's knee airbag. The camera system is included on all models, and blind-spot monitors are included in all models except for the base MDX.

With some of the latest safety features and a history of good crash-test scores, the MDX is a safe bet.

Features
9.0

Multi-view cameras, stop-and-go adaptive cruise control, and streaming audio are just a few of the features the MDX has to offer.


All 2016 MDX models come with a V-6 and 9-speed automatic with paddle shift controls. Front-wheel drive is standard. All-wheel drive is included on the MDX SH-AWD model.

The 2016 Acura MDX comes loaded with premium features. Standard MDX equipment includes automatic climate control; leather seating; heated power front seats; folding second-row seats; power tilt/telescope steering; steering-wheel audio and phone controls; and 12-volt power outlets in the center console and front armrest.

The base audio system includes eight speakers and 432 watts. The optional Acura/ELS audio system comes in three configurations. With the Technology Package, you get 10 speakers and 501 watts. Step up to the Tech and Entertainment Package, with its DVD rear entertainment system, and there are 11 speakers and 529 watts. At the top of the line, with the Advance Package (and its 16.2-inch ultra-wide HDMI entertainment system), sports 12 speakers and 546 watts. Streaming apps are available through Aha and Pandora.

The Technology and Advance packages are available with or without a rear-seat entertainment system that includes a DVD player, an AC power outlet, heated second-row seats, and second-row window shades.

The Technology Package adds navigation; premium audio; a multi-rearview camera; blind-spot monitors; forward-collision warnings; lane-departure and lane-keeping assist; and 19-inch alloy wheels.

The Advance Package adds remote start; stop-start; front and rear parking sensors; adaptive cruise control with a low-speed follow feature; collision mitigation braking; the wide-screen rear entertainment system with HDMI; 12-speaker ELS audio; roof rails, and "Milano" premium perforated leather upholstery with ventilated front seats.

The adaptive cruise control that's included in Advance Entertainment models includes a low-speed follow feature that will maintain a set following distance and will come to a complete stop with slow-moving stop-and-go traffic.

The MDX's AcuraLink system includes a complimentary three-year subscription to the Standard Package with traffic info for surface streets and freeways, vehicle messaging, and integrated Aha and Pandora entertainment. A Connect Package adds assist and map services, and MyVehicle (remote vehicle services and diagnostics). Full-on concierge services are available with a Premium Package.

Multi-view cameras, stop-and-go adaptive cruise control, and streaming audio are just a few of the features the MDX has to offer.

Fuel Economy
6.0

The new 9-speed doesn't boost fuel economy, but the MDX already was one of the more efficient three-row SUVs around.


The MDX delivers very good fuel economy for the class.

Fuel economy for the 2016 MDX is an EPA-estimated 19 mpg city, 27 highway, 22 combined with front-wheel drive. The 2016 MDX SH-AWD is rated 18/26/21 mpg. Premium gasoline is required.

Opting for the top Advance trim level improves the EPA ratings very slightly, because it's equipped with a start-stop feature that shuts the engine off when the car is stopped, for example, at an intersection.

Surprisingly, those EPA highway ratings are down 1 mile per gallon from the 2015 models with 6-speed automatics—perhaps due to gearing. We observed 26 miles per gallon during a week-long test drive.

The new 9-speed doesn't boost fuel economy, but the MDX already was one of the more efficient three-row SUVs around.




Feedback Report Bug