Very good... but not Great
December 31, 2018
The current 2018 MDX is a very good and popular crossover. And in typical Acura form... they've managed to produce a vehicle that has versatility and value. One that has three rows for expanded carpooling, but is a bit smaller than many competitors; one that has a bevy of tech and safety features; and one that is incredibly smooth.
For me, a single guy about to turn 30, I made the switch from the TLX sedan to this over 4,000-pound beast for a few reasons (none of which include needing room for 7 haha). But in making that switch, I knew things were going to feel different in terms of driving dynamics. And overall though, I can say it's been fairly seamless and that the MDX was a very familiar feel... highly typical when sticking with the same brand. And while on occasion it feels a tad big (like when parallel parking or weaving through the tight side-streets of a southern New England milltown), overall, I can easily say it drives smaller than it is... which is definitely a plus. Having a wider, more athletic stance its sister Honda Pilot helps it feel very planted in corners and not very top-heavy. The front seats are some of the most comfortable I've ever sat in (and as a car enthusiast, I've been in a lot of different cars). The Tech Package upgrades the sound system, which is absolutely fantastic and highly recommended for audiophiles like myself. Additionally, the Tech Package gives you Navigation, a slew of safety features, and remote start. And I can honestly say, even though it's only been in one snow storm so far, this car may as well be a plow. It's excellent! You actually work hard to get it out of shape, which tells me the traction control, SH-AWD, etc. are all doing their job.
Unfortunately though, it's still lacking in some areas, the biggest being the power and drivetrain. I'm sorry Honda, but the ZF-9-speed transmission is garbage! After all the issues that Chrysler has had with it in their vehicles, I see Honda's implementation of it in their vehicles, in a luxury line no less, as an abysmal failure. It's wonky from a dead stop: if you baby it, you go no where... but if you give it any gas, it surges you forward like a rocket (but not in a good way). Believe me, I love a car that can get-up-and-go... but if ever I find a car I like has a ZF 9-Speed Automatic in it again, I'll cross it off my list and keep on looking... I don't care how much I like it. The V6 has a good, throaty sound (as throaty as you can get from a luxury crossover) and it provides decent but underwhelming power, something I attribute to the transmission too. Unlike the potent direct-injection 4-Cylinder I had in the TLX with the 8-Speed Dual-Clutch Transmission (a match made in heaven, IMO), the big single-overhead-cam V6 just doesn't deliver with the low-end torque, particularly at highway speeds. Yes, it's the "corporate V6", but it's aging... quickly! If I need to pass someone, I find I have to downshift at least two gears just to get going again. A larger turbo would probably be awesome in an MDX (like the 300+ HP 2.3L EcoBoost found in the Ford Mustang). Mate something like that with a better transmission (maybe the 7-speed dual-clutch found in the Sport Hybrid model?) and I think the results would be fantastic!
Another part of the car I'm not thrilled with are the brakes. They are strong and quite smooth, but man, they creek incessantly. Every time I'm stopped, when I release the pedal to accelerate, I hear a creek from the brake caliber releasing. For a $50K luxury crossover this is unacceptable, and sadly, it's something Acura has had issues with in their SH-AWD vehicles going back to the 2012 TL! There is also (at least in my 2018) a squeal when hopping on and off the brakes, mostly when reversing (i.e.: when backing into a spot, etc.). I've had two dealers look at the problem... one couldn't figure it out so I received the "it's normal for the car" answer, and the other dealer thought they figured it out but I've heard it since. Not as often, but I've heard it.
My concluding thoughts? For the money, the MDX is a really good buy and it IS a really good car. Would I lease another though? Well, it highly depends on what the alleged 2020 redesign brings to the table, because there is room for improvement. One can only hope the redesigned MDX gains more athleticism and power that mimics its smaller sibling, the RDX, while maintaining the smoothness and comfort MDX buyers love.