The 2011 Acura MDX has a bit more edge and athleticism to its look than most traditional family cars. It stands out among the sea of competitors and has curb appeal.
While practical as a family car — it's a midsize SUV with a third row — it doesn't scream, "I'm driving carpool!" If you hadn't seen me loading my kids in and out of it, you might have mistaken me for just another cool, sporty single chick with a penchant for sporty luxury that cruises around certain Colorado towns.
The MDX got me a lot of male attention in my neighborhood. None of these men told me I looked good, but they certainly told me I had a car that looked good. This response intrigued me since I'd had what I thought was a lovely 2011 Infiniti QX56 recently that received no neighbor notice whatsoever.
I happily shared with my neighbors that the seven-seater doesn't just look good, it also drives like a dream. Especially if your dream is to have a car that not only fits your family but that also handles the road like an athletic sedan. The MDX's V-6 offers smooth acceleration and braking. It has plenty of zip and is lots of fun. Additions like the steering-wheel-mounted shift panels, Sport and Comfort modes and Acura's Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive enhance the MDX driving experience.
No test drive is perfect, and there were a couple of small issues I had with the MDX. Most notably, the center stack resembled an airplane's cockpit; it might as well have been since it wasn't intuitive. Although operational instructions appeared on the navigation screen, the system was quite sensitive and seemed to take a few pushes of any button to get things to work. I had to pull over and refer to the owner's manual several times while one or two of my children screamed in the back because they were hungry/thirsty/tired/insert-whatever-you-like-here. The only other issue worth sharing is space in the third row is tight, even for kids. This isn't necessarily something unique to the MDX as many midsize SUVs with a third row offer only cramped space, but it is something to consider if like me, you have three small children.
The base MDX has a starting MSRP of $42,580. My test car, which was the top-of-the-line 3.7L Advance Package, had the optional rear entertainment system and cost $54,965.
As all the male attention to the MDX attests, it's hot, especially for a family car. I felt sexier getting in and out of the MDX than I normally do in my minivan. Last year, the MDX got some styling tweaks, including a refreshed face that resembles the Acura sedans and a couple of slick tailpipes and taillights in the rear.
The doors and liftgate were all manageable, and the step-in height was tantamount to that of a minivan. This meant my children (with the exception of the baby) were able to climb in and out on their own, but it was like spelunking for them since the MDX's interior is smaller than their usual minivan.
The power liftgate can be opened with a button on the key fob and another in the car. In the cargo area, there's a hidden storage compartment in floor, which was an ideal size for a picnic blanket. The cargo area is comparable to others in its class, but the 50/50-split third row allowed me to fold a seat down to haul around a jogging stroller and some groceries while my son sat in his third-row child-safety seat.
The key fob deserves praise since it can roll down the MDX's windows and open the sunroof from afar. You also can store your preferred seat position, side and rearview mirror settings, radio presets and climate predilections in it, so when you start the car, everything is exactly as you like it.
The 2011 MDX is powered by a 3.7-liter V-6 engine that delivers 300 horsepower. The all-wheel-drive MDX gets an EPA-estimated 16/21 mpg city/highway. Even with a considerable amount of city driving, I still managed to average around 20 mpg, which isn't horrible. As you would expect from a luxury brand, premium fuel is the drink of choice for this car.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Great
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Groove-On
The MDX is as athletic and attractive on the inside as it is on the outside. The surfaces and lighting are lovely in a sporty sort of way. On the whole, the 2011 MDX gets my vote.
The seats are comfortable, and the standard third row offers convenience and seating flexibility. The second-row outboard seats emulate the front seats with side bolsters to keep everyone comfortably in place, which was nice when there were adult passengers back there and I was demonstrating the MDX's agility. My test car also had standard heated and available ventilated front seats. The automatic trizone climate control is a perk, and it has the ability to automatically adjust the temperature on one side of the car if it's hotter than the other due to the position of the sun.
The second row easily fit two of my kids' child-safety seats without forcing the front passenger to compromise on legroom.
The MDX has plenty of cupholders and bottleholders, and storage space is decent. There are some nifty storage surprises, too, like a third-row cubby that held snacks perfectly and a bin with a sliding cover that was tucked into the front passenger's area just below the front row's cupholders.
While I liked many things about the MDX, I must register my complaints. There is much to extol about the technological virtues of the MDX, but it's a double-edged sword since the cockpit-like control panel was befuddling most of the time. I appreciate that it takes time to learn how to use these things, but the MDX's control panel and setup could have been more user-friendly. It seemed like the car was so technologically advanced that it wanted to control you rather than you control it.
With all of this technology, I found it curious there was no audible alert coupled with the backup camera and parking sensors. The camera projected a clear image with three different view options (normal, wide-angle and bird's-eye), but it wouldn't say a peep if you were on top of something. It's a personal preference, but I like noise with my backup camera and parking sensors.
Finally, the cramped space in the third row was manageable, but challenging. It was cramped enough that my 4-year-old couldn't dangle his legs from his forward-facing convertible. He either propped them on the second-row head restraint in front of him or tossed them to the side of his car seat. Near the end of my test week, he stopped complaining, but for a family of three with small kids in large child-safety seats, it wouldn't be practical for the long-term. Adults also should avoid the third row; I felt cramped when I gave it a try.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair/Ample
The MDX has received the top score of Good in frontal-offset, side-impact and rear crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In the past, those scores would earn the SUV Top Safety Pick status. For 2011, IIHS added a roof-strength test to its criteria. The MDX hasn't yet undergone the test.
The MDX has two sets of lower Latch anchors in the second row's outboard seats and were easy to use. However, I'd really like it if more carmakers would throw another set of anchors in the third row. While the space in the third row is tight, the second row had enough room to handle my youngest child's rear-facing infant-safety seat. I wasn't able to fit three car seats in the second row, which lead to my son being smushed in the third row.
The MDX has the following standard safety features: all-disc antilock brakes, an electronic stability system, Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive, traction control and six airbags, including side curtains for all three rows.
A blind spot warning system and active cruise control with a collision mitigation braking system are both optional safety features.
Get more safety information about the 2011 Acura MDX here.
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