As a matter of personal preference, I have been a fan of the Acura MDX since the first one hit the road in 2000. This mid-size, three-row crossover captured my attention not for its exterior stylings that were understated and at-best competitive-neutral at the time. Inside the cabin is where it won over the vast majority of its buyers.
As Honda’s premium badge, Acura has managed to make its vehicles worth the additional price of admission by delivering an elevated version of the already-reliable-and-popular Japanese brand. For three generations of the MDX, the end result manages to win consumers over who are looking for a three-row option in a premium crossover.
I recently tested the MDX featuring the all-new A-Spec treatment. This is essentially an up-sell for the MDX SH-AWD with the Technology Package. The great thing about the A-Spec is the opposite of what has always drawn me to the MDX – this one has a distinct exterior attitude that says bold and agile. Even if it really is just ‘a look,’ I liked it.
With a base price of $44,300, the Acura MDX is an affordable option for the family that wants extra room and demands excellent reliability. For the $3,500 A-Spec price tag, you get all that eye candy I mentioned. Look for distinct 20-inch Shark Gray aluminum alloy wheels that are half an inch wider, a unique fascia with gloss-black trim and dark chrome treatments for the grille and headlights.
Additional gloss-black trim and body-colored lower sills add more youthful exuberance, while large exhaust pipes and a black tailgate spoiler finish the deed in back. On the outside, the dark accents work on delivering a far more aggressive attitude for the overall family-made MDX.
The differences in the A-Spec variant are equally distinctive inside the cabin. The MDX provides the ability to transport up to seven passengers. Take your pick of red or black leather with black Alcantara inserts, contrast stitching, Alcantara door inserts, gloss-black trim, a thicker-rimmed A-Spec-badged steering wheel with paddle shifters, sport pedals, and an exclusive A-Spec doorsill plate further define the new sporty attitude.
The A-Spec MDX adds some red hues to the instrumentation and stays focused on the expected fit and finish throughout the cabin. Look for a refined, carefully assembled cabin full of premium materials and comfortable seating.
MDX offers 15.0 cu.-ft. behind the third-row seat; flip that down to create 38.4 cu.-ft. of storage, featuring a deep space and sub-floor storage bin underneath. Fold all the seats to get 68.4 cu.-ft., and if you filled the foot wells in the second-row seating area and moved the front seats all the way forward, Acura claims more than 90 cu.-ft. of space (I didn’t try that one).
For me, the biggest news is the addition of an all-new 9-speed automatic transmission. Gone are the occasionally clunky shifts and lurches rom previous models, which means this is one smooth sailing MDX.
The 3.5-liter V6, delivering 290 horsepower, is an outstanding powerplant capable delivering big amounts of smooth, supple power across the entire range. Look for EPA-estimated 19-mpg city/25-mpg highway, with 21 mpg in combined driving, which is better than average in this class.
A bit of inside knowledge I’d pass along to any potential buyers to step up and add the Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system. I’ve driver the front-wheel-drive versions and they are just fine, but add a little weather or less-than-manicured roads and you will see Chicagoland roads demand this upgrade.
While the A-Spec Package isn’t something I’d recommend for every family, the underlying MDX is still a great crossover.
This auto review was researched and written by SteinPro Content Services and provided to the Sun-Times for publication