When Acura's redesigned seven-seat MDX arrives at dealerships in early July, it will start at $43,185, including an $895 destination charge. That's nearly $1,000 below the 2013 MDX, but the 2014 model comes without all-wheel drive, which has been standard since the original MDX arrived in late 2000. Acura expects a significant portion of shoppers to opt for the front-drive MDX, which gets an impressive EPA-rated 20/28/23 mpg city/highway/combined. That beats the front-drive Lexus RX 350 and Infiniti JX35 (both 21 mpg city/highway combined) as well as the Buick Enclave (19 mpg).
The starting price eclipses the 2013 Enclave ($39,340) and JX35 ($42,245), as well as the two-row RX 350 ($40,555), but it undercuts a couple players with standard all-wheel drive: the Audi Q7 ($47,695) and BMW X5 ($48,425). That will likely change for the just-introduced 2014 X5, which will have rear- or all-wheel drive, but BMW has yet to reveal pricing or standard features.
Relative to that set — where three of the vehicles charge extra for leather and heated seats, and four charge extra for a moonroof — the Acura comes well-equipped. Eighteen-inch alloy wheels, a moonroof, full-LED headlights, a backup camera, one-touch power windows, keyless access with push-button start, fully adjustable second-row seats and a power tailgate are standard. So are leather seats, three-zone automatic climate control and heated front seats with eight-way power adjustment and power driver's lumbar support. The standard stereo incorporates CD/USB/iPod/satellite and HD radio compatibility with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming; it also has dual color displays with integrated Pandora and Aha radio apps, which streams off a compatible smartphone.Acura expects the majority of MDX buyers to step up to the Technology Package ($47,460) which adds an ELS stereo; a navigation system; 19-inch wheels; rain-sensing wipers and blind spot, forward collision and lane departure warning systems. Atop the Tech Package, a Technology and Entertainment Package ($49,460) adds more speakers and watts to the ELS audio, heated second-row seats with outboard window shades and a 9-inch DVD entertainment system. Finally, a top-of-the-line Advance with Entertainment Package ($55,400) includes all the Tech and Entertainment features plus even more stereo wattage and speakers. It also swaps the 9-inch DVD entertainment system for a 16.2-inch screen that can split between two separate media sources. Finally, it gets a more advanced collision warning system that can automatically brake, if necessary, plus lane departure mitigation (not just warning) systems, upgraded leather, ventilated front seats, remote engine start, front and rear parking sensors, auto-dimming side mirrors, power lumbar for the front passenger seat and roof rails.
Missing from the list, curiously, is a panoramic moonroof — something several competitors offer. But Acura notes that a lot of new features are now standard on the 2014 MDX, which the last model didn't even offer: sliding second-row seats, keyless access or express-power windows for the second row, to name a few. The last MDX did have an optional adaptive suspension, which Acura ditched for a fixed setup, and it also had a six-CD changer. (If you still use CDs, we have an old BlackBerry to sell you. It does email!)
All-wheel drive adds another $2,000 to any trim and drops combined EPA mileage to 21 mpg. That still beats the last MDX by a significant 3 mpg, not to mention a slate of competitors. Acura recommends premium fuel but says the MDX will run fine (albeit with less power) on regular unleaded. Some competitors require premium, but others — like the RX and Enclave — make full power on the cheap stuff.