Only five years ago, the answer to the question “What 3-row SUV?” would have been, without hesitation: Acura MDX. For months shy of a full 20 years, the Acura MDX has paved and led the way for all other larger midsize 3-row SUVs, be they from luxury brands or otherwise.
The third generation of the venerable Acura MDX arrived for the 2014 model year and got the usual once-over for 2017. Now, in the automotive world, dating “back” to 2014 means that a vehicle is getting on in age – this is the harsh reality. But where the current Acura MDX differs is that is has excellent bones and a really good heart. There are signs of crows’ feet and a wrinkle or two here and there. Let’s touch on these signs of aging first.
Technological and physical signs of ageing
Two things come up immediately after spending no more than 15 minutes at the wheel of the 2020 Acura MDX. The first is interior display technologies. There’s the fact that the tiny instrument panel does not display speed digitally, then there’s the backup camera’s resolution which is from another decade and finally, some of the graphics and animations are of the same era as the camera. The upside is that navigating through the menus is done via the old rotary wheel and not the dismal True Touchpad Interface (TTI) as offered in the RDX. I already know what I’ll be complaining about the new 4th generation MDX arrives…
The other irritant is the MDX’s chassis, or rather how it is tuned. The older platform on which the big Acura is built is older. This, as always, means the dampers are called upon to compensate for the foundation’s shortcomings. The dampers thus provide less compliance to ensure a certain level of handling at the expense of complete ride control. Over most roads, the MDX displayed an impressive level of refinement however at the slightest surface imperfection, both the driver and passengers will feel.
On the latter point, I would suggest that Acura fit all MDX trims with the Elite/Sport Hybrid’s adaptive dampers and odds are, this annoyance will all but disappear. Now, about trims, the 2020 Acura MDX ”base” starts at $54,890 while the Elite hits $65,490 (the Sport Hybrid is an extra $4,500.) Typically, I’d be handed keys to one of these upper-trim units but my tester happened to be a $57,890 Tech, the second echelon in the ladder.
V6 and SH-AWD are still very much in the game
The 2020 Acura MDX Tech is the wise value-packed version of this SUV and it helped make the MDX’s case. All of these SUVs, save for the hybrid, use Honda’s excellent 3.5-litre V6 which is one of the vehicle’s greatest assets. In fact, its entire drivetrain is a big win. With 290-horsepower and 267 lb.-ft. of torque on tap from 4,700 rpm, forward momentum is quickly achieved.
The included 9-speed automatic transmission is a darling in most occasions. It does have one horrible flaw: No matter the drive mode, it takes its sweet time to respond to throttle input. Be it starting off from a traffic sign or in a 3-point turn situation, the extreme delay calls for a cuss word or two and more emphasis on the throttle. And then there’s the push-button controls for the thing which I’ll never like.
What I do love is Acura’s SH-AWD is a continued triumph in performance, efficiency. Well, on the final point, my bad… I also watching the tiny display that depicts which wheels is getting more torque.
Good passenger quarters
I’m also a fan of the 2020 Acura MDX’s cabin. I realize that I might not have praised Acura’s efforts here enough in the past. One reason for that may be that they are always quite macabre, dark. Otherwise, layout and fit and finish is generally good or better. In a strange twist, I now approve of this twin-screen setup with the exceptions mentioned earlier.
The seats, another Acura staple, are supportive and comfortable, in both the front and second rows. The third row remains a decent back-up plan. When not in use, the boot reveals 1,087 litres of useable volume with plenty of bins and storage – same goes throughout the cabin.
Stay away from the pricier trims
The 2020 Acura MDX Tech includes the signature Jewel headlights, blind spot monitoring, 20-inch wheels, navigation and extra attention in keeping the cabin quiet over the base vehicle. Basic standard features include a power hatch, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, remote starter, many active safety elements and much more.
At just shy of $58,000, this MDX is well prepared for your needs. But, the new Audi Q7, Cadillac XT6, Buick Enclave, Lincoln Aviator and Infiniti QX60. The MDX is closer in pricing to the Buick and Infiniti but moving up the trim ladder closes it in on the Q7 and Aviator – both superior products in many ways. Either way, monthly lease payments are unlikely to be that far off when comparing a base Q7 to an Elite MDX. All this to say that staying in the lower MDX echelons is wisest.