To say that the Acura MDX is an “important” vehicle for that brand is a little like saying that The Big Bang Theory is a “popular” TV program that’s “important” to CBS. That is, according to Adweek, BBT has the highest rate for a 30-second ad of any non-sports show on TV, $326,260, or about the base MSRP of seven Acura MDXes (eight, if it is the newly offered front-wheel-drive version of the SUV).
And as for the Acura MDX’s importance to Acura brand, according to Autodata, in 2012, 50,854 vehicles were sold, which made it by far the #1 vehicle in the brand’s lineup. The smaller ute offering, the RDX, came in second, at 29,520.
Through September, Autodata figures show that the MDX is still leading Acura sales, with 34,803, but the RDX, the smaller crossover of the two, is giving the vehicle a run for its position, as it is a close second, at 33,539.
The MDX had its start in 2001, when it became the first seven-passenger luxury crossover. Generation II occurred in 2007, when it offered the SH-AWD system, Acura’s “Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive” system, which really is super handling in slick conditions, including ice.
Because it has been such a stalwart in the lineup, and because it was time for a change, they had their work cut out for them when they needed to create the third generation MDX. On the one hand, they wanted to keep continuity because to do otherwise would be to risk the franchise, in effect. On the other hand, they needed to bring some things to bear on a vehicle that is now in a rather crowded market segment, with offerings from Lexus and Infiniti, BMW and Audi.
They found that they needed to up the quality of the interior materials. The discovered that even though Acura positioning in the luxury market tends to be technology oriented, the interface on the IP to do things (HVAC, audio, etc.) was too complicated (perhaps accessible to a Howard Walowitz, to at least make that BBT reference somewhat relevant—although one could argue that the MDX “Made for Mankind” advertising program takes us right down the wormhole to some alternative universe). Funny thing: knobs and buttons notwithstanding, there was a key-actuated ignition, and the world has largely moved on to pushbutton start. And, although the third row was pretty good vis-à-vis what other third rows are like, it still needed a bit of expansion vis-à-vis the packageability of adult size humans (a.k.a., mankind).
And all told, they addressed those issues with an all-new vehicle, with “all-new signifying” a new body, new chassis, and new V6 engine.
Now as we’ve established, the MDX is essentially a seven-passenger vehicle, which generally means a “family” vehicle. And Acura’s own demographics show that of MDX buyers, 41% are “post family” (i.e., no kids), with the balance either having or intending to have kids. Chances are, most trips to the orthodontist and hockey practice are taken at posted speed limits. Which goes a long way not to explain why the engineering development team for the MDX took it to the Nurburgring for testing and tuning. But they did. And it can.
The aspect that people are going to appreciate more is the absence of something: Noise. This vehicle is vault quiet. They’ve done things like use an active control engine mount system that actually counteracts engine vibrations. There is a microphone secreted in the headliner that is used to measure cabin noise then used as an input for a counteracting frequency that comes out of the subwoofer. They’ve put seals in the pillars and doors and on the floor to reduce noise. They’ve put in a new glass package, with a 4.5-mm acoustic windshield and 4.8-mm front acoustic door glass (this acoustic glass is like a sandwich, with a thin sheet of plastic insulating material between two sheets of glass—and no, you can’t see the plastic, no matter how hard you look). Many OEMs are doing the like when it comes to the windshield and front side glass. For the MDX they’ve taken it right about the vehicle, making every piece of glass thicker—the rear side window, 3.5 to 5.0 mm; the quarter glass, 3.0 to 4.0 mm; tailgate, 3.0 to 4.0 mm.
They’ve even made the MDX, which is imposing in size without being brobdingnagian, more aerodynamic, which helps not only with wind noise, but with fuel economy, too.
That is, the aforementioned new engine, a 3.5-liter V6 produces 290 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque, yet it also provides the means to achieve a combined fuel economy number of 21 mpg, which is certainly nothing to sniff at when you consider that this is a seven-passenger vehicle with all-wheel-drive. (A side note about the engine. According to Acura, “The MDX’s engine architecture is also shared with two racecars that finished in first and second place, respectively, in the LMP2 class at the 12 Hours of Sebring endurance race in the 2013 American Le Mans Series.” Again, I’m guessing that no one is going to take their MDX on a track, but I also guess that it is probably a good thing to know that the vehicle is engineered by folks who are really stoked by developing a product that can deal with the rigors of the racetrack.)
In the category of stuff, there is plenty in the MDX, from the driver’s 10-way power seat to the power tailgate.
There’s a reason why the MDX has done so well for Acura. Because it is a damn good vehicle.
Engine: 3.5-liter, SOHC, V6
Horsepower: 290 @ 6,200 rpm
Torque: 267 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
Materials: Aluminum block and head
Transmission: Six-speed automatic with paddle shift
Wheelbase: 111.0 in.
Length: 193.6 in.
Width: 77.2 in.
Height: 66.7 in.
Cargo volume: 15.8 cu. ft.
Max cargo (2nd & 3rd row folded): 90.9 cu. ft.
EPA: 18/27/21 city/highway/combined mpg