2020 Acura MDX Tech-Plus
Acura is not the new kid in the block when it comes to sport utility vehicles. MDX has been a strong contender and the current generation is on the market for several years. Does this mean it is getting old? We will find out in our test if the 2020 Acura MDX can still keep up in a very competitive market. Not only Japanese and European brands have great options, but now there are Korean brands make it even more challenging. Let’s see how it holds up and see if it is still a good choice in 2020.
Exterior and Interior
The third and current generation was introduced in 2013 and heavily facelifted in 2017. Although it shows its age a little bit, it still looks modern yet elegant. MDX has a traditional Acura design, updated front LED headlights, front bumper, big Acura grille. The dark gray colour would not be my first choice, but still not bad and it still shows the overall body lines of the vehicle
Things are not very different on the rear end design of the MDX. In fact, it does not look like a 7-seater SUV, as it has a slope in the rear that makes it look sportier. It has lots of chrome all around the vehicle, as well as a tailgate and rear bumper. Unfortunately, there is a new fake exhaust trend that almost every manufacturer puts some plastic trims and makes it look like an exhaust, and unfortunately, Acura joined that hype train. Other than that, we have no complaints about how the MDX looks from the outside.
As mentioned, we had no complaints until we get inside the MDX. From the outside, it still looks modern, but it shows its age in the interior. Granted, there are lots of soft-touch plastics all around the cabin, and Acura did a good job when it comes to noise reduction, but it still keeps design elements from the 2010 era. It has two infotainment screens, which can rarely be useful but most of the time, it is confusing.
Despite its age, fortunately, it comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but it’s not a touchscreen. So you need to use the knob to go through the menu, which can sometimes be annoying. Other than that, all important features have physical buttons, and there are lots of features on the steering wheel that is quite useful for daily driving.
This is where you feel that you are in a large SUV. I am talking about the car entertainment system which is located at the top center. Each passenger can have their own sound output and they can watch different two things at the same time. It’s true that it is not the largest screen, and some people may prefer two screens located on the front seat headrest, but it is available with the MDX.
As this is a 3-row SUV, we need to talk about the 3rd row as well as cargo space. When you have more than 5 passengers, 3rd-row seats are very convenient which comes standard with the MDX. However, 3rd-row seats are historically known as uncomfortable ones especially for long-distance trips, which is not an exception with the MDX. However, Acura didn’t cheap out with the materials on the 3rd-row seat, as they use the same leather with the other rows.
Acura MDX has a cargo space of 15 cubic feet or 424 litres when the 3rd row is up. When you fold the 3rd row down, the cargo capacity goes up to 45 cubic feet or 1274 litres. If you need the maximum cargo capacity, you need to fold second-row seats down and it gives you 90 cubic feet of cargo space, which is equal to 2550 litres. One disadvantage of the MDX is, vertical distance is not as high as smaller Honda SUVs like CR-V, so that means you have significantly less vertical cargo space due to the 3rd-row seats.
Engine and Drivetrain
2020 Acura MDX comes with only one engine and transmission option, which is a 3.5L V6 naturally aspirated engine that produces 290 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque. This engine dates all the way back to the 1990s from the Acura NSX era, but it is heavily updated. Today, it has all up-to-date technologies such as direct injection, auto start-stop and so on. Our consumption test results were not the greatest, but not too bad. We get an average of 13.0L / 100 km, and considering its size and weight, it is pretty reasonable for this segment.
As you see in the picture, Acura was kind enough to cover all the engine bay with extra plastic trims to make it look cleaner, also probably for better aerodynamics and fuel efficiency. The disadvantage is, being a V6 placed horizontally, it would be very hard to work on this engine if you are a DIY person, as you need to take off everything out and would be very hard to work on cylinders facing backwards. Maybe it would be better to leave it to the professionals.
The V6 engine is matched with 9-speed torque converted automatic transmission and it is a very smooth one. There were some complaints with the 9-speed transmission in the past, that’s why Honda decided to switch 10-speed transmission made in-house with the Odyssey. Acura MDX didn’t get the updated 10 speed, but to be honest, we didn’t feel any abrupt shifting when the transmission is warm. When it was cold, it is not super smooth, but it gets back to normal as long as it goes up to operational temperature.
Of course, MDX comes with Acura’s well known Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system. Honda is marketing this SH-AWD system very aggressively and there is a reason behind that. Unlike some competitors, it has an active rear differential that sends power to each wheel depending on steering angle, throttle position and speed. The result is, you get better driving dynamics and better traction. However, this is not a real locking differential, it is not a heavy-duty off-road machine. Also, no matter how active the rear differential is, it is a front biased AWD system, means you will always get understeering first.
Driving Impressions and Features
At the end of the day, it is a 3-row SUV. You should not expect any kind of sportiness or excitement. Acura MDX prioritizes road comfort and smoothness over anything else, so no surprises here. The naturally aspirated V6 engine is super smooth and hard to hear and feel that it is working. However, MDX is a heavy 3-row SUV and being naturally aspirated, you have significantly less torque in the midrange, compared to turbocharged rivals. Unless you rev the engine to high rpms, you may feel that it is underpowered due to the naturally aspirated character of an engine. At higher rpms, it feels alive and you feel that it is using all 290 horsepower efficiently.
When you rev the V6 engine, it is quite peppy and sounds great. It is one of the best sounding V6 available as of 2020. Transmission is also a great match with the engine, upshifts and downshifts are not super fast, but fast enough for a big SUV. The suspension tune is on the softer side, as expected from a big SUV. Acura MDX can offer quite a comfortable ride, and it helps drivers having a more comfortable driving experience with softer steering and braking feel.
Pricing and Conclusion
Acura MDX will be refreshed next year, but if you are looking for a comfortable 3-row luxury SUV, the current generation is still a great option if you can live with two infotainment screens. As a family hauler or daily driver, it is checking all the boxes as it can do many things well. MDX and V6 platform has been very reliable, it is very comfortable, noise levels are great, not-too-bad fuel economy and last but not least, it still looks modern and up-to-date.
Once upon a time, naturally aspirated V6 was a must-have for big SUVs, now it’s a unicorn. Due to stricter emissions, this may be the last generation MDX with a V6 engine. Acura decided to switch to an inline 4 turbocharged engine with the RDX, which is likely to happen to the new MDX. So if you are a fan of a naturally aspirated V6 engine, this may be one of the last opportunities in this segment, as it is getting harder to find it.
2020 MDX starts at $50,890 but that’s the base trim. Tech-plus package, which is our tester, is priced at $57,000 CAD, and the top trim (Hybrid) is $66,490. Price-wise, it starts at a very competitive level, but depending on which trim you choose, the price tag may go up really quickly. It is still much cheaper than German competitors, but Korean rivals such as Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade are also very competitively priced. 2020 Acura MDX is a great sweet spot with an excellent track of reliability makes it an ideal option for long term buyers.
For more details, please visit www.acura.ca
Article and Photos by Dan Gunay