I've always had a crush on the Acura MDX, so getting a week to spend in it was kind of exciting. Of course, no fantasy turns out perfectly, and the reality of the MDX was somewhat less than perfect - as reality often is.
While there were no major struggles, there were enough minor hiccups to push the MDX from "love" to "like." There were also a few bugs in the voice control system, which made it less than helpful. However, in the end, I was still sad to see this Acura SUV go.
My favorite part of the MDX is definitely the drive. I love all the power of the 3.7-liter V-6 engine, and the amazing handling of its full-time all-wheel drive. An adjustable suspension system lets you choose how you want to experience the road.
Fill-ups are a chore because the MDX requires premium gas and gets an EPA-estimated 15/20 mpg city/highway. My suburban driving involves running up and down a mountain all day; I got 12.2 mpg in combined driving during my week in the MDX, which was a major bummer.
The MDX has a distinctive look: It's not your average, boxy-looking SUV. It's very angular, which makes the MDX look rather aggressive. In fact, if I met the MDX in a dark alley at night, I wouldn't mess with it.
The angled front grille manages to look a bit menacing, too. I'm not sure if it's the way the lights are set at the edges of the SUV or the large five-point grille, but the MDX doesn't have a friendly face. There's some subtle sculpting on the hood that accentuates the width of the car. The bumper seems a bit out of place with its gray plastic.
The MDX is prettiest from the side, where there are less angular, more elegant lines. The door handles are chrome, and they bring a bit of sparkle that would otherwise be lacking. In the rear, the MDX remains sporty-looking with shaped LED taillights and dual chrome-tipped exhaust.
Getting in and out of the MDX was perfectly easy for me with its keyless entry, doors that open wide and a steering wheel that moves out of the way. My kids had a harder time getting in and out, though. They struggled to open the doors, which required a sharp tug. More than once, I had to help my kindergartener open his door. Because the MDX is an SUV, getting in is an upward movement. For little legs, that can be tough, and the MDX helps out with a flat step-in area, but running boards would have been better. Getting into the third row can be especially difficult since the second-row seats fold but don't slide out of the way.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Excellent
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times
On the inside of the MDX, things are quiet and calm, with little noise from the outside world intruding into the cabin. The interior has a clean, almost cold look with lots of metallic surfaces. It leans a bit toward the masculine side of things.
My test car was equipped with the Sport trim; it comes with leather sport seats that are on the firm side and slightly too short for my legs. I found myself wishing for another inch of leg support on a longer trip. My kids and I enjoyed the heated seats in the first and second rows. Well, the kid who no longer sits in a booster seat enjoyed it. My little guy was mostly just bitter about that.
The leather-wrapped steering wheel tilts and telescopes with the touch of a button, and has controls for the audio system, Bluetooth and cruise control. The gauges are clear and easy to read.
I especially liked the large navigation screen that also displays audio information. A large knob controller governs the systems, and it's really easy to use. The navigation system can also be controlled with voice commands, but I gave up on it because it wasn't intuitive. I needed a script for it, and I just don't have time to go flipping through the manual every time I want to fiddle with the air conditioning. The Bluetooth link also seemed a bit finicky. I had a hard time getting it to pick up automatically and had to select it manually from my iPhone.
There isn't a ton of storage up front, but the two covered cupholders and center console bin offered enough storage. I wasn't a big fan of the console bin and its butterfly-style opening; I guess the idea is the passenger won't have to move his arm if I want to get something out of the bin, but I found the design annoying. One really nifty touch is the secret compartment hidden on the passenger side of the lower center console. A sliding door reveals a cubby that's perfect for stashing an umbrella, first-aid kit or anything you won't need to reach while you're driving.
In the backseat, everyone had plenty of room and someplace to store their stuff. Two cupholders pop out of the center armrest, and each door has a good-sized bin that can hold a water bottle in a pinch. There are also seatback pockets. Three-zone climate control keeps everyone comfy, with rear controls on the back of the center console.
The seat belt receptors sit up nice and high and don't flop around when little hands reach for them. The Latch connectors are somewhat less fabulous because they're well-buried in the seat crease. I could find them by feel, but they weren't visible. With the second-row armrest up, there's enough room for three kids, even with a booster seat or two in play. The center seat belt comes down from the ceiling, which I don't love, but it locks out of sight when not in use.
The third row holds two more passengers and is even comfortable for adults. I stuck my husband back there on an hour-long trip and he had no complaints. (Obviously, he's nicer than I am.) There are cupholders on each side as well as a covered bin for more storage.
With the third row in place, however, there isn't much storage space left in the cargo area. The third-row seats fold easily and completely flat, and a remote latch means you won't have to climb into the cargo area to drop the seats.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
As with all 2009 Acuras, the MDX has a fabulous safety rating. Just like the rest of Acura's lineup, it earned a 2009 Top Safety Pick nod from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. This means the SUV received the highest score, Good, in frontal-offset, side-impact and rear crash tests, and it has standard electronic stability control.
The MDX also has active head restraints for the front seats, knee bolsters for the front passengers, dual-stage front and side-impact airbags, and side curtain airbags for all three rows of seats. Even pedestrians are safer, with a hood that's designed to deform should the unthinkable happen.
Of course, no one wants to get into an accident in the first place, so the MDX has plenty of safety features to keep you on the road, including four-wheel antilock brakes and traction control that makes sure all four wheels are doing what they are supposed to, even under slick conditions. There's even a system to help maintain stability when towing a trailer.
On the side mirrors, turn-signal indicators tell oncoming traffic where you're headed. Those mirrors are on the small side, but a backup camera helps with the visibility while in Reverse. The Sport trim also adds auto-leveling xenon headlights.
In Diapers: There's plenty of room and the MDX's smooth ride make things easy with baby.
In School: While the doors can be hard for little hands to open, the seat belts are a breeze for kids to buckle.
Teens: There's tons of room and media options in the MDX, which means that teens can keep themselves entertained.