By Jim Bray
The Acura MDX has traditionally been a very nice luxury SUV and this might explain why the 2017 version hasn't changed a lot from the previous year.
Probably the biggest change is to its front end, which now sports a new grille the company calls "diamond pentagon." I had no issues with the last schnozzola on the MDX - my issues with the vehicle stem more from an interior treatment that hasn't been changed significantly, and that's a shame.
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Besides the new grille, the MDX gets a more sharply sculpted hood, front fascia and front fenders, new LED fog lights and the cool Jewel Eye headlights that are appearing on the company's inventory. There's also a new chrome rocker panel design, the rear bumper has been redesigned, and you now get twin tailpipes. It's a handsome exterior, indeed.
Acura Canada says this is the most premium and technologically advanced MDX in history, and points out that it's now available with 20 inch wheels and captain's chairs for the second row seats. The third row is still a tight bench suitable mostly for small kids or emergency use, but over the generations the manufacturer has at least made it easier to get into and out of it, which is very welcome.
All MDX models see their standard luxury and technology features upped for 2017, including stuff like an electric parking brake with automatic brake hold, automatic high beam headlights, four USB charging ports and the kind of capless fuel filler first introduced a few years ago by Ford. Opt for the Elite trim level (which raises the MSRP from its entry level of $53,690 to $65,790 CAD) and you get stuff like LED fog lights, genuine Olive Ash Burl (or new Black Limba) wood trim, and a handy surround-view camera system that gives you six selectable viewing angles.
There's also a six passenger version of the MDX Elite, for the same price as the seven seater, which features the second row captain's chairs and also adds a centre console with two more USB ports for those unlucky people riding back in steerage.
There are also Navi and Tech trim levels, which retail on Acura's Canadian website for $57,190 and $60,190 respectively. Acura's sample was of the Elite variety and it included upgraded audio and video capabilities as well: a cool Ultrawide Rear Entertainment DVD System with its 16.2 inch display and HDMI input jack that lets you plug in your own player or game platform if you have one. The ELS Surround system has traditionally been one of the best sounding I've experienced, and though it's lost some of its functionality (SACD and DVD-Audio playback) over the years, its 546 watt total power output and 12 speakers (including a subwoofer) still rock very well.
The Elite also gets parking sensors front and rear.
Even the "entry level" MDX is equipped well, with such amenities as the suite of annoying AcuraWatch Driver Assist features, keyless lock/unlock with pushbutton start, a power tailgate, remote engine start and heated front seats.
It's still a pretty great vehicle to drive, too, however you configure it. Power goes to all four wheels (thanks to Acura's SH-AWD - super handling all wheel drive - system) through a reasonably smoothly shifting nine speed automatic transmission (with paddles). Power originates in a 3.5 litre direct-injected i-VTEC 24 valve V6 engine rated at 290 peak horsepower and 267 lb.-ft. of peak torque. It's plenty of poop to get the big SUV going, while the four wheel disc brakes (with ABS, etc.) do a fine job of getting rid of your speed when the time comes.
Where Acura and I depart, besides the intrusive nannies, is with the centre stack and its two sometimes-redundant LCD screens. Between the two of them, you can control the navigation, audio system, and HVAC, but the interfaces are bizarre and annoying. Heck, even tuning in radio stations or changing the temperature are more difficult than they need to be. And pairing my Android phone was also a chore.
The nannies that make up the AcuraWatch suite, include a Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Lane Keeping Assist (LKAS), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Low-Speed Follow (LSF) and Road Departure Mitigation (RDM). Blind spot monitoring is optional, as are the parking sensors and rear cross traffic monitor. If I were designing the vehicles' various trim levels, I'd put the blind spot monitor, parking sensors and cross traffic monitor as standard and offer the other stuff as options, but as usual no one consulted me. It's probably a defense mechanism on their part.
The MDX's suggested retail prices are pretty reasonable when you look at the luxury SUV/crossover market - vehicles such as Audi's Q7 ($61,900 base price) and Lexus GX 460 ($72,850, but with a V8), for example.
I can think of another couple of good choices too, however, ones that don't pretend to be luxury utes but which are really nice (and plenty luxurious) anyway: the Kia Sorento and Mazda's new CX-9. You can't get a V6 with the Mazda any more, though you can with the Kia, but they're both worth a look if you're eyeing an MDX - they're that good.
And they can cost less: the top line, loaded, three row Sorento with V6 power lists on Kia's Canadian website for $43,595, while a loaded CX-9 Signature (whose turbo four puts out 250 hp but 310 lb.-ft. of torque) comes in at $52,130 according to Mazda's Canadian website. The Mazda's loaded price is darn close to the MDX's base, it's true, but I still think it's a more interesting and less off-putting choice.
Still, the new MDX will undoubtedly continue to be a good seller for Acura. The things that drive me nuts about it may not bother you a whit, which is fine (though you're wrong!), and at heart it's still an Acura - so how bad can it be?
Not bad at all, but definitely not as pleasant to live with as it could have been.
Copyright 2017 Jim Bray
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