This Acura MDX is Perfect for Your Next Road Trip
Executive Wheels: Driving Acura’s new 3-row mid-sized SUV/crossover
2019 ACURA MDX AWD A-SPEC
I recently visited Michigan the Fourth of July and was very fortunate get an MDX AWD A-SPEC mid-sized SUV for my 10-day visit. We put the MDX through all the paces except winter driving conditions as we drove it from Detroit to (nearly) the tip of the Mitten (the lower peninsula of Michigan) at Petoskey, with side trips to Traverse City, Harbor Springs, Cross Village and the Tunnel of Trees (M 119) and Bliss before returning to Detroit.
And what wonderful paces they were. The MDX was simply magnificent to drive on sometimes crowded highways, almost always crowded small-city streets and tourist-clogged but beautiful Michigan scenic highways – including the M 119 and the M 22, making the loop around the Leelanau Peninsula along Grand Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan.
I mention these locales and routes because they are beautiful roadways where people go just to drive. And, when you’re going for a long, scenic drive you want the best driving vehicle you can get your hands on, and for this I was lucky.
First, it was just the right size for a four-person drive, with plenty of room up front and in the second-row seats, everyone was comfortable. Second, as the driver, the MDX I had was powered by a very smooth 3.5-liter VTEC V6 engine, putting out some 290 horsepower (though it felt like more), coupled with a seamless 9-speed automatic transmission, I had plenty of power for quick passing on two-lane roads. And, the handling and control were impeccable. This is a road trip vehicle, par excellence. For the record, the MDX also comes in a 321 hp, 3.0-liter hybrid powerplant, that I imagine is wonderful as well. The MDX I drove is rated at 19 mpg city/25 mpg highway/21 mpg combined, which is pretty good for a gasoline-powered vehicle of this type.
There is also a third row of seating in this vehicle – in fact, Acura touts this vehicle as the best-selling luxury, 3-row mid-sized SUV/crossover on the market (true; it’s main competitor, and best seller in the class, is the Lexus RX, which only has two rows of seating). We didn’t use the third row for seating, but rather kept it folded down flat for our luggage and gear (plenty of room). But I did open it just to see, and it was what I expected: an adequate option for running around town with kids, but I wouldn’t want to sit there for a long drive. As an added benefit, the second row also folds flat, so you can make this vehicle a huge gear hauler.
Aside from the magnificent power and handling – and just flat-out-fun driving – the most amazing feature on this MDX was the interior upholstery. Absolutely beautiful, two-tone (dark red/black) leather seats, done in a mix of leather and brushed suede. I have noticed lately that the luxury car makers have upped the ante on interior and seating design. I have found many luxury vehicles with stunning interiors, and this one ranks right up there among the best I’ve seen.
It goes without saying that this MDX is loaded with all of the modern safety and entertainment technology; just about every car on the market, luxury or not, has this stuff and it has become expected. This includes: blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, road departure mitigation, lane keeping and warnings, cameras, forward collision warning. In the entertainment section (there were no TV screens in the back in this one), this MDX has a marvelous ELS Studio premium audio system, with AM/FM/Satellite radio, all the necessary apps, and of course the hookups for a smartphone. This test vehicle also featured the Acura Navigation System with voice recognition, which is the one high-tech feature that I predict will soon disappear due to the prevalence of smartphones.
But it wasn’t all peaches and cream. As part of the Honda family, this Acura MDX features a push-button gear shift system that I don’t like. I like a gear shift lever. The push-button system, aside from being annoying, to me, is also a bit clunky and slow to make the changes called for. And, like most luxury vehicles, the operation of systems – radio and climate control, in the main – were too fancy. The climate control was, for instance, all in the screen, rather than with knobs, and as such this digital setup was too distracting for changes during driving. I also found that changing radio stations, or searching them, on all bands was also distracting and cumbersome.
This particular model included what Acura calls the A-SPEC package which, like the F-Sport trim on the Lexus, is more or less a cosmetic styling package that delivers “sport seats” and contract stitching in the leather on the seats, door panels and dash, sporty pedals, an upgrade to 20-inch wheels and ventilated seats (a plus in humidity). A-Spec is nice, but it just isn’t enough to bill on the price sticker as a marquee trim.
Overall, I liked the MDX very much, and I have a few friends who own one and they rave about them over months of driving. That sentiment can’t be discounted. And all of the stuff I mentioned, plus some nice other things – a sunroof, power liftgate, airline-like reading/map lights in the second row, and more – are all included in the base price of $54,800. In fact, the only up-charge was $400 for the very nice APEX Blue Pearl exterior paint job. Add in $995 for destination and handling, and the bottom line here is $56,195.
In the mid-sized luxury SUV/crossover all-wheel-drive marketplace, that price, and this 2019 Acura MDX is highly competitive. Having driven many of the direct competitors, it’s easy to understand why you see so many MDXs on the road – the MDX is nice enough and has enough cache to take its fair share of sales and more. It’s a very nice vehicle.
I highly recommend it for a road trip, particularly one that involves scenic roads.
RATING: THREE AND THREE-QUARTER WHEELS (OUT OF FOUR)