2016 Acura MDX Review – Advancing the Art of the Luxury Crossover

By Steve & Tamami Laser

Honda was the first Japanese brand in America to take the bold leap into luxury territory when it introduced the Acura brand in 1986. Yet it wasn’t until the 2001 model year that Acura introduced its first crossover, the MDX. Why did it take 15 years? Well, there wasn’t a suitable platform in the Honda-Acura garage.

IMG_2668 (1)Acura entered the SUV market way back in 1996 with the SLX, a rebadged Isuzu Trooper. Meanwhile the automaker was busy engineering its own version of Honda’s new Global Light Truck platform that also spawned a larger American-sized Honda Odyssey minivan, Honda’s version of the MDX dubbed Pilot, and the unit-body Ridgeline pickup.

The effort has paid big dividends with Acura proclaiming that the MDX is “America’s best-selling three-row luxury SUV.” The third generation, updated for 2016, was introduced for the 2014 model year. Acura says the latest MDX was developed under the image of an “Executive Family Jet” (not related to the HondaJet that actually flies).

Join us for a ride in the 2016 Acura MDX SH-AWD with the new Advance Package in our test-drive video from the CarNichiWa.com.

For the latest generation models, Acura (and Honda with its new-for-2016 Pilot) jettisoned the Global Light Truck underpinnings in favor of its own new design. In addition to sharper styling the MDX went on a diet to make it feel lighter on its feet. With high-strength steel, aluminum and magnesium totaling 64-percent of its body structure (at a curb weight of 4,297 pounds) the MDX is 275 pounds lighter than the previous model.

Take a closer look at Acura’s family friendly seven-passenger 2016 MDX crossover in our walkaround video.

Compared to the previous generation, the wheelbase is stretched nearly three inches, it’s about two inches lower and surprisingly more than an inch narrower. We say surprisingly because it feels very spacious inside. Acura’s goal was to make it more “garageable.”

IMG_2789The sporty styling looks great from any angle. We were surprised to learn that the MDX exterior was crafted less than a dozen miles from our home turf at the Acura Design Studio in Torrance, Calif. The MDX features LED taillights, license-plate and side view mirror-mounted puddle lights, while LED fog lights are optional.

At the side, MDX is dressed with a tall beltline, windswept roofline, upper and lower character lines, dynamic fender arches, and chrome window surrounds. The Advance and Entertainment Packages also have functional chrome roof rails, while all models include a rear spoiler.

IMG_2780The bold five-point grille features a chrome surround and a satin sash with black grille bars. There’s no mistaking this design for anything but an Acura. The MDX is the second new Acura to feature the automaker’s signature Jewel Eye™ LED headlights, with five LED elements per side, providing a sophisticated look in the day and night.

All five LEDs illuminate as Daytime Running Lights. The three outer also function as the low-beams, while the inside two serve as high-beams. An auto on-off function is included, and the low-beams are also keyed to the remote key-fob operation.

IMG_2751On the inside, Acura designers applied high quality, soft touch materials throughout the cabin. We liked the look of the LED backlit gauges with progressive illumination that have the appearance of a high-end chronograph. LED lamps are also used for cabin accent lighting on the center console and front foot wells, which also feature progressive illumination and are programmable through the Multi-Information Display.

Soft and comfortable Premium Milano leather is used on the first and second-row seating surfaces. Satin chrome-plated trim and wood-grain accents also highlight the upscale look of the cabin. The leather-wrapped steering wheel gains new, smoother “Euro-style” stitching. During long stretches behind the wheel, we appreciated the supportive seats and well-designed controls.

IMG_2730The MDX with Advance and Entertainment Package features heated/ventilated front seats and heated rear seats that are electronically linked to the climate control system. The synced system allows the cabin to more quickly reach the user-set temperature.

Acura has made it easier to get in and out of the back seats of the new generation models with a 4.5-inch wider foot entry point and 1.8-inch lower step-in height. The second-row seats have five-position reclining seatbacks, and an extended slide feature provides 5.9 inches of total fore-aft seat travel.

IMG_2732With the middle-row seats in their rearward-most position, first- and second-row tandem seating distance has been lengthened by 1.1 inches, a convenient setting for traveling with four occupants, whether kids or grownups (or adults who act like kids). A one-touch walk-in feature allows one-button operation of the second-row seats – from the rear seat, outboard middle row seats, or from outside the vehicle – for easier third-row entry and exit.

IMG_2737Dual large brushed aluminum plates protect the carpeted cargo-area floor during loading and unloading. With both second- and third-row seats folded, the cargo floor is near fully flat with only a small, 4.5-degree pitch, versus the previous MDX cargo floor, which had three varying angles of pitch.

Even with the third-row seat in the upright position, Acura says the storage area is designed to improve the MDX’s ability to hold bulky items, including a golf bag, stroller, two suitcases or a 56-quart cooler. We crammed it full of stuff and had plenty of room to spare.

IMG_2743For 2016, the MDX’s 3.5-liter, 24-valve i-VTEC direct-injected V6 engine is now mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission featuring Sequential SportShift. Acura says the new transmission is 66 lbs. lighter than the 6-speed it replaces, with more closely spaced gear ratios and 25 percent faster gearshifts that enhance acceleration performance. During our week-long test-drive, we felt that this powertrain combo delivered a great combo of performance, smoothness and refinement.

The next generation of Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD™) utilizes a new, lighter weight (by 19 lbs.) twin-clutch rear differential. SH-AWD progressively distributes torque not only between the front and rear axles, but also between the left and right rear wheels. Using torque vectoring to create a yaw moment that helps turn the vehicle, SH-AWD enables more responsive, neutral and predictable handling characteristics and all-weather control.

IMG_2778The console-mounted shift lever is replaced with a fully electronic, shift-by-wire gear selector. Park, Neutral and Drive are selected with the push of a button. Reverse is selected by pulling back on a switch. Steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters let the driver manually select gears. It took us a couple of hours to reprogram our own memory and then we could push the right buttons without looking.

Luxury upgrades include a frameless rearview mirror, Siri™ Eyes Free voice recognition, an easy-entry/exit driver’s seat that moves rearward when the driver’s door is opened, and TPMS fill assist that sounds an alert when the driver inflates a tire to the correct pressure. Additional upgrades, depending on trim, include a Multi-View Angle Rear Camera with Dynamic Guidelines (standard), a bi-directional remote engine starter, idle stop and head-up warning.

IMG_2753An On-Demand Multi-Use Display is positioned within easy reach of the driver and front passenger, controlling the audio system and other features. Acura says the touchscreen eliminates over 30 physical buttons, and contributes to the uncluttered look of the interior. Dynamic menus display controls for each functional mode, reduce screen clutter, and help make operation simple.

Our tester was equipped with the factory-integrated Rear Entertainment System (RES) featuring a 16.2-inch wide display, the largest ever offered in an Acura. The system can simultaneously show two different sources of programming side-by-side, such as a video game and a movie.

IMG_2756The Multi-Information Display (MID) positioned between the tach and speedo gives the driver access to a range of useful information. Controls on the steering wheel cycle through multiple screens of information from sources including Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and more.

IMG_2771Our MDX with Advance and Entertainment Packages featured the excellent Acura/ELS® Studio 12-Speaker Audio System with new ceiling-mounted speakers and a 546-watt amplifier, along with a single-disc CD player and AM/FM/SiriusXM radio plus HD Radio and 16-gigabytes of Hard Disk Drive (HDD) media storage.

IMG_2775The Acura/ELS Studio system takes advantage of MDX’s touchscreen with haptic feedback. The touchscreen controls a wide range of features and, with its contextual menus, displays relevant items while helping to minimizing clutter. The system includes customizable shortcuts for Places, Phone, Climate and Audio functional categories.

IMG_2765The MDX Technology Package and above grades feature the latest generation Acura Navigation System with Voice Recognition (Acura says it’s available in all 50 states, plus Puerto Rico, Canada and Mexico). The navigation system has an 8-inch high-resolution WVGA backlit color display.

AcuraWatch is available as a separate package on 2016 models and is standard with the Advance Package on our tester. High-tech features, including Lane Keeping Assist, Lane Departure Warning and Forward Collision Warning, come with the Technology Package. All MDX models have an easy to use Multi-View Rear Camera with Dynamic Guidelines.

IMG_2710The AcuraWatch™ suite of features (depending upon trim) includes Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Low-Speed Follow (LSF), Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Forward Collision Warning (FCW) (standard on Tech Package), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM), Blind Spot Information (BSI) (Technology and Advance), and Rear Cross Traffic Monitor.

New for the 2016, Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) uses a Monocular Camera (mounted on the upper portion of the windshield) to identify solid or dashed painted lane lines, “Botts’ Dots” and “Cat-Eye” markers. RDM uses both steering force, via EPS, and braking force, via VSA, to help the MDX stay in a detected lane.

Our fully loaded, top-line MDX SH-AWD Advance with Entertainment Package checked in with a base price of $57,080 and a bottom line of $58,000 with destination. MDX prices start at $42,865 for the base front-drive model.

IMG_2659Acura has certainly come a long way with the MDX. Our seven-day test drive proved that it’s an easy to live with, luxurious, comfortable and well-equipped crossover loaded with high-tech features while offering competitive pricing in its segment.

So if you’re in the market for a three-row luxury crossover, be sure to put the new Acura MDX on your shopping list.

MDX press fleet vehicle provided by Acura Division of Honda North America, Inc. (Prices and vehicle information apply to models sold in the U.S. at the time of publication. All information including prices, features and specifications is subject to change without notice by the automaker.)

Story, photos and videos © 2015 CarNichiWa.com