2013 Acura MDX
The second-generation Acura MDX may be getting up there in age - it was launched for the 2007 model year - but for 2013, it still manages to hold its own against competitors despite being surprisingly similar to what was released six years ago.
Vehicles typically get redesigned every four or five years, and in between, they'll often get facelifts and upgrades and all sorts of changes. The MDX, though, simply hasn't changed a whole heck of a lot since the most recent generation first came to showrooms. It still offers a single engine - a 3.7-litre V6 - and three trim levels, and every trim includes all-wheel drive and three rows of seating.
Clearly, those things really aren't worth complaining about. The engine may produce slightly less torque than it did in 2007, but power numbers are still better than many competitors in 2013. The all-wheel drive system (Acura's "Super Handling All-Wheel Drive," or SH-AWD) is excellent, even if it's not quite a household name like Quattro or 4MATIC.
And I've always been a fan of simplicity when it comes to trim levels. My test vehicle is the top-of-the-line MDX with the Elite Package, which adds everything from adaptive cruise control and power folding side mirrors, to roof rails and ventilated front seats.
Although it can seem like power numbers are constantly being boosted from one year to the next in every vehicle under the sun, that's really not the case if you look at this segment of three-row luxury SUVs. MDX holds its own against most competitors, probably because Acura has long avoided using 8-cylinder engines. With automakers' current obsession with downsizing engines, the V8s used in other models are being dropped faster than Lance Armstrong from his list of sponsors, effectively putting Acura ahead of the curve.
Speaking of which, the MDX, while far from the most athletic vehicle on the road, does hold up well for a seven-seater when it comes time to have a little fun and the kids don't need to be chauffeured anymore. In fact, this vehicle arguably has the best performance prowess of anything in its segment.
Opting for the Elite Package adds an active damping system that constantly adjusts the suspension to different situations on the road. It's also possible to switch to a "Sport" mode for improved handling characteristics, but besides a more pronounced road feel, I don't notice a huge difference in how the MDX acts regardless if Sport mode is on or off. Body roll is noticeable, as expected in a vehicle this size, but I still have some fun with the vehicle after a dumping of snow, and it never feels like the MDX is ready to go out of control.
Like any Honda product, it's fun moving the shifter to manual mode and letting the tachometer needle climb high, but you don't need to wait to reach the redline before experiencing strong acceleration. Plus, I'm quickly becoming very smitten with the exhaust note Acura vehicles play, and the MDX is no exception.
Interestingly, it's the utility aspect of the MDX that causes it to come back down to earth when compared to other vehicles in the segment. It's about as long as or longer than competitors, but it has one of the shortest wheelbases, which is probably a big reason for the third row seats having the least amount of legroom in the segment.
You can only get in to the third row from one side of the vehicle, and it's not easy squeezing past that second row seat. I found it easier getting into an Infiniti JX with a child seat installed in the second row than I did getting into an empty MDX.
Move up to the first two rows, and comfort is vastly improved. The second row can seat up to three people, and with a barely-there floor hump, the middle row occupant at least has some foot room to work with.
The cockpit is typical of all Honda vehicles - decent space for odds and ends, but far too many buttons on the centre stack (and elsewhere, really). Otherwise, I have no real complaints - it puts function over form, but I'm okay with that.
Although everyone from consumers to the car companies themselves are constantly looking far into the future when it comes to product, it's worth pointing out the current MDX does a lot of things right in 2013.
2013 Acura MDX
Trim level: Elite Package
Price as tested (before taxes): $63,390
Options on test vehicle: Elite Package ($10,200) inc.: active damper system, adaptive cruise control, auto-levelling headlamps, body-coloured power folding side mirrors with integrated turn indicators, collision mitigation braking system, 19" aluminum-alloy wheels, 19" tires, roof rails, heated and ventilated front seats
Configuration: front engine/ all-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 3.7L 6-cylinder / 6-spd automatic with sequential shift
Power/torque: 300 hp/ 270 lb.-ft.
Fuel (capacity): premium (80L)
Fuel economy ratings: 13.2 L/100km city; 9.6 L/100km hwy
Observed fuel economy: 13.4 L/100km over 1,075 km
Warranties: 4 years/80,000 km (basic); 5 years/100,000 km (powertrain)
Competitors: Audi Q7; Infiniti JX35; Lexus GX 460; Land Rover LR4; Volvo XC90
Strengths: all-wheel drive; engine; transmission
Weaknesses: third row seating; button-heavy cockpit; fuel economy