The Acura MDX full-size crossover has aged quite well, following its freshening for the 2017 model year. Likely due for a redesign before long, the MDX carries on into 2019 with a few notable changes, again available with either a gasoline V-6 engine or a hybrid powertrain.
For the first time, the MDX can be equipped with an A-Spec sport appearance package. Enhancement of its 9-speed automatic transmission promises more fluid acceleration. New 20-inch alloy wheels are included in the Advance Package.
Officially, the MDX comes in a single form, with option groups serving as trim levels. In addition to the basic Standard model, the lineup includes Technology, Advance, Entertainment, and A-Spec versions. Acura also offers a Sport Hybrid.
Except for the Sport Hybrid, each MDX contains a 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 190 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque, working with a 9-speed automatic transmission. Front-drive is standard, but all-wheel drive is available -standard for the A-Spec.
In the Sport Hybrid, a battery/gasoline powertrain is adapted from Acura’s NSX supercar, tuned for efficiency instead of performance. A 3.0-liter V-6, rated at 257 horsepower, mates with electric motors that drive the front and rear wheels separately. Combined output totals 321 horsepower, sent to a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Acura says the “Sport” prefix is deliberate, claiming that model promises a sportier experience, as well as greater fuel economy and improved traction. The Sport Hybrid’s mechanical torque-vectoring system can move 100 percent of power to left or right wheels, and up to 70 percent to rear wheels when needed.
Crash-test scores impress. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the MDX a five-star rating overall and for both frontal and side impacts. Only the rollover score (a calculated figure) is four-star.
In crash-testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the MDX earned “Good” ratings for all except the small-overlap test on the passenger side, which was not rated. Frontal crash prevention was deemed “Superior.” The 2018 MDX was named a Top Safety Pick.
Acura makes a considerable amount of advanced safety technology standard, including forward collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warnings, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control. The Technology package adds blind-spot monitors.
Prices do not include $995 destination charge.
The base 2019 MDX ($44,300 with front-wheel drive, $46,300 with all-wheel drive), the entry-level model, comes with three-row seating, leather-trimmed upholstery, heated power front seats, a moonroof, keyless start, 18-inch wheels, LED headlights, three-zone climate control, eight-speaker audio, and 18-inch wheels. The dual-screen infotainment system offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
The MDX w/Technology Package ($49,300 with FWD, $51,300 with AWD) adds 20-inch wheels, navigation, HD radio, blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert, and remote start.
The MDX w/Technology/Entertainment Packages ($51,300 with FWD, $53,300 with AWD) adds a rear entertainment system with 16.2-inch drop-down widescreen, and 12-speaker audio.
The MDX w/Advance Package ($56,050 with FWD, $58,050 with AWD) includes all Technology package features plus a surround-view camera system, heated and cooled front seats, second-row captain’s chairs, and 20-inch wheels.
The MDX w/Advance/Entertainment Packages ($58,050 with FWD, $60,050 with AWD) includes contents of Advanced and Entertainment groups.
The SH-AWD MDX w/Technology/A-Spec Package ($54,800) has standard Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive and includes gray 20-inch wheels, a distinct front fascia, perforated leather seating with Alcantara inserts, paddle shifters, and sport pedals.
The SH-AWD Sport Hybrid w/Technology Package ($52,800) substitutes a battery/gasoline powertrain for the regular gas engine and includes such features as lumbar adjustment, high-contrast stitching, and a power passenger seat.
The SH-AWD Sport Hybrid w/Advance Package ($59,550) has the battery/gasoline powertrain with content of Advance package.
Designers gave the handsome MDX an appealing assortment of curves and lines, aiming to minimize the SUV’s sizable proportions. Sharp lines and a prominent diamond-patterned grille blend nicely with LED headlights, creating a relatively sporty overall appearance.
The new A-Spec package adds a batch of racing-inspired exterior appearance details and interior touches, but has no impact on performance. Included are special gray 20-inch wheels and dark chrome body trim.
Clean and functional, the MDX cabin comes across as simple rather than complex, shunning popular interior themes and offbeat color schemes. Woodgrain components are available, to spruce up the look.
Up to seven adults can fit with space to spare. Even in the base model, the seats are well-padded and comfortable. Side bolstering is sufficient for the mild-mannered ride that an MDX delivers. The Advance Package substitutes sportier seats with firmer bolstering.
Second-row seats are a pleasant surprise, providing more leg room than front riders get. The Advance Package replaces the standard 60/40-split bench with captain’s chairs. Easily accessed, the third row is spacious enough for medium-sized adults.
Fit and finish excel, augmented by leather and generous sound-deadening. On the dual-screen infotainment screens, both displays have distinct functions and avoid redundancies.
Cargo space behind the third row totals 15 cubic feet, growing to 38.4 cubic feet with those seatbacks folded. Maximum volume, with all seatbacks down, reaches 68.4 cubic feet. With the third row in place, there’s 15 cubic feet of cargo space. Small-item storage abounds.
Passengers can anticipate a comfortable, serene ride ΓÇô appropriate for a luxury SUV. Even with 20-inch wheels, ride comfort doesn’t suffer. The Sport Hybrid is smoother yet, but most buyers opt for the conventional powertrain.
Handling bests some rivals, too. The suspension effectively calms all but the roughest pavement. Expect some lean in turns, but that’s typical of large SUVs.
Acura’s V-6 engine and 9-speed automatic work together to deliver strong, smooth acceleration, without much fuss. The V-6 is tuned to pull particularly hard at low speeds, making the MDX especially satisfying on short treks. Not everyone might appreciate the push button shifter, though.
Though solid overall, the automatic transmission can hunt for gears at times. A Sport mode can let the driver select gears, but that feature seems out of place in such a large vehicle.
Fuel economy falls around mid-pack for the large-SUV class. Front-drive models are EPA-rated at 20/27 mpg City/Highway, or 23 mpg Combined. All-wheel-drive versions lose 1 mpg in each category. Acura’s new A-Spec option takes those figures slightly lower yet: to 19/25 mpg City/Highway, or 21 mpg Combined. Sport Hybrid models are thriftier, EPA-rated at 26/27/27 mpg.
Packed with up-to-date technology, including welcome active-safety features, the 2019 Acura MDX scores well among family-sized crossover SUVs. A conservative choice overall, it’s attractive, comfortable, and well-equipped. It’s hardly the cheapest SUV of the lot, but the 2019 MDX delivers good value.
Driving impressions by Aaron Cole, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.