First Drive Review: 2010 Acura MDX
With Acura’s upcoming 2010 ZDX crossover-coupe-whatever setting the tone for the brand in terms of refinement and technology, its once techno-trendsetting MDX sibling is looking a bit long in the tooth. Indeed, the second-gen MDX—which placed first of eight in our last shootout of $50,000 SUVs—has sat relatively unchanged since its 2007 debut, and this fact, combined with a number of newly engineered goodies also used in the ZDX, makes this year the perfect time for an update.
Six Gears and a Better Ride
Also new are retuned active dampers that come as part of the Advance package, which takes the place of last year’s Sport package. Despite the MDX’s handling prowess and all-wheel-drive grip, we’ve criticized its ride for being a bit harsh and unyielding, particularly in the sportiest suspension setting. And although it remains firm, our brief jaunt north of Detroit revealed the new version to be far more compliant in both sport and comfort settings while maintaining good body control.
The 300-hp, 3.7-liter V-6 has been retuned for more flexible power delivery, and Acura has fitted larger four-wheel disc brakes. Nineteen-inch wheels are now a factory option; 18-inchers remain standard, although they’re now lighter than before and have a new design. All of this serves to bolster the MDX’s already surprising agility, but we were taken aback by the ultra-light steering—at all speeds—that felt much more artificial and over-boosted than we remember.
More Gizmos and Driver Assistance
An optional multiview reverse camera with normal, wide-angle, and top-down views is new, and it displays through the eight-inch infotainment screen. The latter view will undoubtedly aid in accurately lining up a trailer with its straight-down look at the rear bumper, but prepare to jump to the Technology package to get it: Settling for the base model means you get a single-view reverse camera with a display integrated into the rearview mirror.
The Technology package also gets a new hard-drive-based navigation and entertainment system fortified with voice recognition, real-time traffic updates with rerouting, and weather updates that overlay Doppler-style radar images on the navigation map. An upgraded 10-speaker, 410-watt audio system that combines USB-port connectivity, Bluetooth streaming audio, and a Ford Sync–style function that allows voice control of your music library is included in the Tech pack. The newly available Entertainment package offers heated second-row seats and a nine-inch motorized screen for rear-seat occupants.
Will Looking the Part Make a Difference?
The interior has been upgraded with a thicker steering wheel, new wood trim, and LED lighting. Acura says it also made the plethora of center-stack buttons easier to understand, but frankly, we didn’t notice—the dash looked as busy and complicated as ever. Fortunately, the leather is sumptuous, the seats are very comfortable, and the navigation system is still one of the best available.
Arriving at dealers late in the year, Acura says pricing will increase by about three percent over 2009 levels, which means well-equipped base models should start below $44,000. Loaded versions with all the driver aids, interior gadgets, and rear-seat entertainment likely will near the $55,000 threshold. We’re anxious to see if the MDX’s measurables have improved with the new transmission and suspension, and it seems Acura has taken one of our favorite luxury SUVs and made it incrementally better.
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST):
FUEL ECONOMY (MFR’S EST):