Hawkeye Drives – 2016 Acura MDX Review
By Ken “Hawkeye” Glassman
The 2016 Acura MDX is a luxury crossover with seating options for up to seven people, and can be had in front wheel drive, or all-wheel-drive, like the test car.
The MDX is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 that puts out a hefty 290 horsepower, and 267 ft. lb. of torque. Power gets to the pavement via a 9-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. That 9-speed is designed to increase gas mileage, which comes in at 19 City and 26 highway (which includes the engine start/stop features). Our real world numbers were close to the stated figures.
Many transmissions over 6-speeds adversely affect the drivability because they upshift to higher gears so quickly, that when you need a punch of power, there’s a lag time before the engine kicks down a gear or two. But not with the MDX. There is enough power and torque to make quick accelerations easy. This is the same transmission found in the TLX V-6 model, and will appear in the new Honda Pilot. Zero to 60 is claimed to be 6.4 seconds, which for a vehicle of this size and 4264 lb. weight, is very good. Shifts are butter smooth when in the regular Drive mode. Using the paddle shifters is also rewarded with very quick shifts. Engine shut off is noticeable, but not annoying, except when in stop and go situations, and I turned off that feature.
That 9-speed comes with a new push button gear selection set-up. It’s gimmicky, but it works. And if you push the Drive button a second time, it switches into Sport mode. That tightens up the steering response and effort, and raises the revs higher before each shift. It’s noticeable, but on the straight flat roads of south Florida it really isn’t necessary.
Ride quality on the highway or surface streets is smooth and luxurious, very sedan-like. Taking off-ramps at speed will produce some body lean as expected, but it doesn’t feel tippy. Since anyone buying this kind of vehicle isn’t going to be racing around cones on a skidpad, the handling is just fine.
The interior quality and materials are first rate, befitting a car in the price range. Lots of soft materials where they belong, and the wood trim dash and door accents, and some satin chrome accents added to the luxury look. The soft perforated leather heated and cooled seats are both wide, gently bolstered, and comfortable. I was looking forward to the cooled seats for the hot Florida weather, but was mightily disappointed, as they proved totally ineffective, even while I was wearing shorts.
The cabin is very roomy with excellent head room throughout. This car was equipped with a large entertainment screen that folds out of the headliner for the rear passengers to enjoy movies, and a handy dock in the roof for the remote control. Unfortunately, that meant no Panoramic sunroof, just a small one over the front seats.
Rear seat passengers will get limo-like leg room, and the second row heated seats are comfortable and they recline, which is great for long trips. And for the first time in a long while, I’m able to say that 3 adults can sit comfortably in the second row. To aid access to the third row seat, the seats have a clever latch release that tilts the seatback forward, and the whole seat slides forward on a track so the opening to the third row is very good. Still only children will feel comfortable back there. A simple tug on a lever, from the rear cargo opening, and the third row drops down providing a flat floor.
The cabin is also very quiet and there is little wind noise, even though a vehicle this large is not exactly aerodynamic.
With all rows of seats up, the cargo space is 15 cubic feet, and there is some hidden under floor storage too. Fold down the second row, and you get a generous 38.4 cubic feet. When you fold down the second row seats, the Sunday trips to Home Depot will allow you to stuff a lot of garden supplies and other cargo in the 68.4 cubic feet of capacity.
In terms of amenities, there are a lot of great standard features, like the 8-speaker sound system, and USB audio interface, Bluetooth, multi-view rear camera, heated front seats, and power tailgate, 10-way power front memory seat, and Homelink.
The test car was equipped with a Tech Package which the window sticker didn’t price separately. That includes voice recognition Navigation, Acura-Link Communication System with traffic and street conditions, 12-speaker audio system, Tri-zone automatic climate control, Blind Spot monitor, Active Lane Assist with departure warning, Cross traffic monitor, forward collision warning, and rain sensing wipers.
One gripe we had with the Blind Spot monitor is that the warning light is placed inside the cabin at the base of the A-pillar, rather than on the mirror itself, where you are naturally looking to see if the lane is clear. That placement makes no sense.
The Advanced Package, also not priced separately on the sticker, adds Collision Mitigation Brake System, the Perforated Sport Seats, with cooling, power passenger front seat, Remote engine start, Adaptive Cruise Control, Parking sensors, roof rails, rear door sunshades and other incidentals.
Last is the rear cabin Entertainment Package, which adds the 16” DVD Screen, headphones, and a 12-volt outlet. All in, with freight, the test car had a bottom line of $58,000 – to the penny.
The MDX is a wonderful vehicle in terms of the power, the way it drives, the roominess, and the fit and finish. And now we get to the “However” part. The infotainment controls and electronics leave a lot to be desired. It seems like the higher priced the vehicle is, the manufacturer increases the difficulty factor to use the controls.
The voice recognition system made it impossible to speak a destination into the Nav system. And using their round center stack knob to manually input the address was equally cumbersome. You can control some of the HVAC functions with button on the stack, but to change the location of the air flow, or fan speed you have to go to the touch screen, and hit a very small target to operate. Finding some of the radio functions on the touch screen was a chore, and getting into some of the system settings on the info screen between the speedometer and tach, was also a chore. And once you find what you want, it’s hard getting around the sub menu screens and getting back out again.
I wanted to get directions to the Fort Lauderdale Airport, (while I was in Fort Lauderdale) but speaking the airport name once I found the “Travel” menu proved fruitless. Finally I had to ask “Find closest Airport, and I got a list of airports to choose from, and Fort Lauderdale was not the first option to choose. Once on the highway’s center 3 lanes, the Nav system thought I was about 100 feet to the right on the frontage road lanes. So it began giving directions based on the road signs for those lanes, causing me to miss turns and exits. It took me over ½ hour to find my way to the airport on my own.
I hate to have a perfectly fine vehicle in all respects of the way it drives, handles, and performs, and then have to report a negative experience based on things that have nothing to do with the driving experience. Most buyers, who don’t drive many other cars or brands, probably wouldn’t notice those things because they don’t have any other experiences to compare to. Ultimately, they may be satisfied with the features and learn how to operate them, or give up trying to use the features. But this would be a deal breaker for me if I were shopping for myself. It would be best if the manufacturers worked harder on simplicity, and ease of use of all the electronics they stuff into cars these days. The features are distracting enough to use without adding layers of complexity in order to use them.