NEWS

2019 Acura MDX: 8 Things We Like (and 4 Not So Much)

03-acura-mdx-a-spec-2019-exterior--front--white.jpg 2019 Acura MDX A-Spec | Cars.com photo by Brian Wong

The 2019 Acura MDX is a luxury SUV that delivers three rows of seating and a driving experience that emphasizes comfort without losing the plot when you want to have a little fun behind the wheel. That’s due in part to the reality that the MDX faces stiff competition against rivals such as the Buick Enclave, Lexus RX, Lincoln Nautilus and Infiniti QX60, among others. Acura simply can’t afford to let the MDX sit still in such a hotly contested field of worthy alternatives.

Related: 2019 Acura MDX Review: Transmission Tweaks Put It in Our Good Graces

For the 2019 model year, Acura has introduced another subtle round of improvements to the MDX. A new package, called the A-Spec, now sits in the middle of the range and carries a starting price of $55,795, including destination.

This is the model recently tested by Cars.com reviewer Brian Wong as he put the MDX A-Spec through its paces. He found it to be a “stylish family hauler,” and that the Acura’s 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 delivers “plenty of power.”

However, despite being one of the areas marked for improvement this model year, quirks resurfaced regarding the behavior of the MDX’s nine-speed automatic transmission. And while front- and second-row occupants enjoy comfy seats and plenty of space, the third-row seating proved inhospitable to average-size adults.

Be sure to read Wong’s entire review of the 2019 Acura MDX by following the link above, then visit our model page for more specs and pricing information. To get a quick impression of our time behind the wheel, keep reading to see where the MDX shined — and a few places where this luxury SUV stumbled.

Things We Like

1. Stylish Without Going Overboard

01-acura-mdx-a-spec-2019-angle--exterior--front--white.jpg 2019 Acura MDX A-Spec | Cars.com photo by Brian Wong

With a base Acura MDX starting at $45,295, you’re not going to spend that substantial amount of money simply because of this luxury SUV’s good looks. But they certainly help it make a strong statement without the need for overly aggressive design details or a gargantuan front grille (we’re looking at you, Lexus RX). The MDX A-Spec adds a set of 20-inch Shark Grey alloy wheels, two large exhaust outlets at the back, gloss-black exterior trim and a subtle rear spoiler. It adds up to one very attractive yet still family-friendly SUV.

06-acura-mdx-a-spec-2019-badge--exterior--grille--white.jpg 2019 Acura MDX A-Spec | Cars.com photo by Brian Wong

2. Cargo Space Never in Short Supply

The Acura MDX offers seating for six or seven passengers depending on whether you chose a bench seat or second-row captain’s chairs. That’s great but, as we know all too well, having a third row can eat into overall cargo space. SUV owners often must decide between hauling more people or more cargo, since the space behind the rear-most seatback can be miniscule. That’s not the case with the Acura MDX, which still offers a usable 15.8 cubic feet of cargo room when the third-row seats are occupied.

3. A Smooth and Powerful V-6

A potent 3.5-liter V-6 engine motivates the MDX, no matter if you choose standard front-wheel drive or select the optional ($2,000) Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system that’s available on all trims minus the A-Spec, which comes standard with SH-AWD. This engine delivers a stout 290 hp and 267 pounds-feet of torque. While it’s not the most powerful SUV in its class, the MDX engine is refined and relatively fuel efficient. The A-Spec model we tested returns an EPA-estimated 19/25/21 mpg city/highway/combined average for fuel economy.

4. Tons of Safety Features

Acura is smart to make safety a primary feature of the MDX. Standard safety gear is abundant and includes items such as automatic emergency braking, forward collision alert, lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control. Optional safety features include blind spot monitors and a 360-degree camera system.

5. Meet the A-Spec

09-acura-mdx-a-spec-2019-exterior--wheel--white.jpg 2019 Acura MDX A-Spec | Cars.com photo by Brian Wong

With its subtle cosmetic touches, including handsome alloy wheels and gloss-black trim on the exterior, the A-Spec enhances the sharp lines of the MDX. We also like that this model comes standard with all-wheel drive. Our tester was equipped with red leather seating that straddled a fine line between flashiness and comfort, but if you’re not feeling as bold, plainer black leather seating is also available. A thicker steering wheel with paddle shifters is also there to remind you that this is a luxury SUV with a sporty streak.

6. Transmission Tweaks Have Helped

When we last tested the MDX for the 2017 model year, the SUV’s nine-speed automatic transmission proved to be a frustrating driving partner. In his review, Wong noted the previous transmission was “laggy” and sapped the MDX’s power and response. During his most recent time with the updated MDX, Wong noted the gearbox “now prioritizes 2nd-gear starts for smoother launches, and it has revised mapping up top for more responsiveness.” He found the changes are for the better, though with some room for improvement (see below for more details).

19-acura-mdx-a-spec-2019-gearshift--interior.jpg 2019 Acura MDX A-Spec | Cars.com photo by Brian Wong

7. A Luxury SUV That Will Save You Money

Granted, a starting price of roughly $45,000 is a significant amount of money. But the Acura MDX does hold a significant price advantage over many rivals, especially German luxury SUVs like the BMW X5, Audi Q7 and Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class.

8. Lots of Standard Features

The entry-level MDX isn’t devoid of features, either. Standard equipment includes tri-zone climate control, heated front seats, five USB ports, a power liftgate and an infotainment system that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

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Things We Don’t

1. Confusing Multimedia System

22-acura-mdx-a-spec-2019-center-stack-display--interior.jpg 2019 Acura MDX A-Spec | Cars.com photo by Brian Wong

Unfortunately, as Wong discovered during his test drive, the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality helps redeem an otherwise confusing split-screen infotainment system. The upper screen is controlled by a knob on the center console, while the screen below it is controlled via your fingertips. Commonly used commands, such as fan speed and heated seat controls, are accessed using menus in this bottom screen. That’s distracting when you’re driving.

2. Luxury SUV With Some Mainstream Cabin Materials

As a whole, the interior of the MDX is a pleasant and comfortable place to spend your time. But compared to some direct rivals, the cabin doesn’t have the same richness and level of quality. That confusing infotainment system aside, the level of materials falls short of what some shoppers might expect in this price range.

3. Transmission Still Has Room for Improvement

18-acura-mdx-a-spec-2019-instrument-panel--interior.jpg 2019 Acura MDX A-Spec | Cars.com photo by Brian Wong

Despite the improvements made to the nine-speed automatic transmission, Wong thought further refinement was still needed. He noted in his review how he “still wanted the transmission to react more quickly to accelerator pedal motion.” Choosing to spend most of his time driving the MDX in Sport mode helped matters, since the transmission holds onto gears longer and keeps the rev-loving engine in its power band. Still, Wong commented that doing this would have a negative impact on everyday fuel economy.

4. Third Row for Kids Only

36-acura-mdx-a-spec-2019-interior--third-row.jpg 2019 Acura MDX A-Spec | Cars.com photo by Brian Wong

There is no getting around the fact that the third-row seats in the MDX are brutal if you’re an adult forced to sit back there. At 5 feet, 11 inches tall, Wong said his head hit the ceiling when he tried them out for himself. The third row is also finished in plain-black upholstery that looks and feels out of place in a luxury SUV.

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