2015 Acura MDX

Rating

70/100

Background

The Acura brand offers a sensible take on luxury. While costly European nameplates may do a better job of awing the neighbors, this Japanese marque excels at delivering premium quality and features at a relatively reasonable price. Plush yet pragmatic, the 2015 Acura MDX embodies the manufacturer’s value-oriented philosophy.
With the MDX, buyers get a crossover that’s livable, luxurious and a whole lot of fun. It’s always an accommodating companion, thanks to features like a sliding second row of seats that glides forward at the touch of a button to facilitate third-row access. The list of standard amenities is steeped in luxury and includes high-end items that buyers have to pay extra for on competitor models. For example, base models are equipped with LED headlights, heated leather seats and a multi-angle rearview camera. Topping it all off is the MDX’s thoroughly entertaining disposition. Acceleration is brisk, the engine note is pleasing and the crossover feels tight and sporty when tackling turns.
Though undeniably compelling, the MDX isn’t the only desirable three-row luxury crossover out this year. Infiniti’s QX60 and Lincoln’s MKT are extraordinary alternatives, though neither delivers a driving experience as engaging as the Acura’s. The BMW X5 is a better pick for shoppers who place utmost priority on performance, but it’s notably costlier than the MDX. Also worth a look if you need more cargo or third-row-seat room than the MDX provides is the larger Buick Enclave.
But what we like about this Acura is how it distinguishes itself from the pack by pulling off a neat balancing act: It manages to be both lively and level-headed. Packed with features and a treat to drive, the 2015 Acura MDX is an easy choice for shoppers seeking a three-row crossover that straddles luxury and value.

Drive

The 2015 Acura MDX is one of the more enjoyable luxury crossovers to drive. The V6 engine is strong and fuel-efficient. It also makes a nice-sounding snarl when you plant your right foot and the revs approach redline. Having just six forward gears might seem a little behind the times for a sporting luxury crossover, but the transmission is smooth and downshifts quickly whether you’re pressing the gas or using the shift paddles.
On the highway and around town, the MDX does drive a little more firmly than some competing crossovers, but we don’t think owners will find it objectionable. Overall levels of wind and road noise are very low. The true highlight, however, is how the MDX behaves when driven around turns. It turns in smartly, feels secure and imparts a sporty feel that’s often absent on vehicles this size. The MDX’s all-wheel-drive system provides an extra helping of athleticism as well as traction.

Exterior

The 2015 Acura MDX is a midsize luxury SUV that seats seven. It is offered in one well-appointed trim level with progressive add-on packages.
Standard features include 18-inch wheels, automatic LED headlights, heated mirrors, a power liftgate, a sunroof, rear privacy glass, keyless ignition and entry, heated eight-way power front seats (with driver power lumbar), driver memory settings, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, leather upholstery, tri-zone automatic climate control and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Electronic features include twin console displays (7-inch touchscreen and 8-inch information), a multi-angle rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and sound connectivity, an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, an iPod/USB interface, Pandora and Aha compatibility and satellite radio.
The Technology package adds a navigation system, voice controls (navigation and audio), AcuraLink and a 10-speaker Acura/ELS surround-sound sound system with HD radio. Also included with this package are 19-inch alloy wheels; rain-sensing wipers; LED puddle lights; rear-door keyless entry; GPS-linked and solar-sensing climate control; and a trio of safety features: lane-departure, blind-spot and forward-collision warning.
The Technology and Entertainment package adds a 110-volt power outlet, heated rear seats, rear-door window sunshades and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with a 9-inch screen and an additional speaker.
The Advance and Entertainment package builds on the above features with roof rails; front and rear parking sensors; remote engine start; auto-dimming sideview mirrors; upgraded leather upholstery; ventilated front seats; a frontal collision mitigation system; lane-keeping assist; adaptive cruise control; an eight-way power front passenger seat (with power lumbar); and an upgraded rear-seat entertainment system with a 16.2-inch screen, two additional speakers and an HDMI input.

Interior

The MDX’s interior is driver-focused, with a pleasantly thick, leather-wrapped steering wheel and easy-to-read gauges. Materials quality is high, and the center stack boasts a simple, clean layout anchored by two display screens. Overall, the cabin is a pleasant and luxurious place in which to spend time.
Using the navigation system is simple and intuitive, as Acura allows you to look up destinations by using the central control dial, a 7-inch touchscreen interface (mounted below the 8-inch nav screen) or an enhanced voice recognition system. Unfortunately, neither screen boasts the super-crisp graphics we’ve come to expect of this class, and some of the more basic functions (such as turning on the seat heaters) require multiple pushes of virtual touchscreen buttons, which can be distracting. A relative lack of radio presets is another disappointment.
Second-row seats slide fore and aft, with an adjustment range of 5.9 inches, for added flexibility. Rear legroom is reasonably generous. The front seats are comfortable, though compared with other models in this segment, they offer only basic adjustments. The third row is best suited for kids, but adults should be OK back there on short trips.
With 15.8 cubic feet of space behind its third row, the MDX trails its bigger competition in cargo room when all three rows are in use. However, when you fold the second and third rows, cargo capacity becomes quite generous, with 90.9 cubic feet of room available for luggage and belongings.

Safety

Standard safety equipment for the 2015 Acura MDX includes antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag, active front head restraints and traction and stability control. At our test facility, the MDX required 125 feet to stop from 60 mph. This performance is not as good as others in its class. A rearview camera is also standard, and AWD models come with a stabilizing feature for trailer towing.
Optional safety features include lane-departure and blind-spot warning systems. A forward-collision warning system is also available, and it works by warning the driver of a possible collision with auditory and visual alerts. The MDX is also offered with collision-mitigation braking, which automatically applies the brakes to prevent or mitigate an impending collision. A lane-keeping assist system is available as well, and it provides automatic steering assistance to keep the MDX in its lane.
In government crash tests, the MDX earned a top five-star overall rating (out of a possible five), with five stars each for total frontal impact safety and total side-impact safety. The MDX also aced its Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests. It earned a top score of "Good" for its performance in the moderate-overlap and small-overlap frontal offset impact tests. It also received a "Good" rating in the side-impact, roof-strength and whiplash protection (head restraints and seats) tests. The MDX’s optional frontal collision mitigation system earned a second-best "Advanced" rating.

Specs

The 2015 Acura MDX is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. A 6-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard, and all-wheel drive is available as an option. In SUVS testing, an MDX SH-AWD accelerated from zero to 60 miles per hour in 6.5 seconds, which is a slightly quicker-than-average time for this class of vehicle.
EPA-estimated fuel economy with front-wheel drive is 23 miles per gallon combined (20 city/28 highway), while the AWD version rates 21 miles per gallon combined (18/27). Properly equipped, the MDX can haul up to 5,000 pounds.

Value

Capable handling; good fuel economy; quick acceleration; quiet ride; excellent crash test safety scores; long list of standard and available features.

Verdict

The 2015 Acura MDX is a top pick for a three-row luxury crossover, offering abundant refinement, luxury and comfort at a relatively reasonable price.

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