Review: 2014 Acura MDX

2014 acura mdx technology front side

It is a common believe among Hooniverse readers that, despite my best efforts to say otherwise, cross-over SUVs are the work of the devil and that when you guys need a vehicle capable of hauling people or things, you get either a station wagon or a minivan. Evidently the case is the same for large fuel-efficient sedans; those too are the killer of enthusiasts and they certainly do not belong on an enthusiast car site such as this. Unfortunately you’re all wrong, because as long as it is car-related, it belongs on Hooniverse, and as long as it’s car-related we won’t need no stinkin’ Manifesto to tell ourselves that we should be something that we are not.

I, who consider myself an enthusiast, have owned over a dozen vehicles in my life, everything from a Honda CR-X to a BMW M5, interlaced with some Jeeps in between. Shockingly, I consider my current vehicle, a 2005 Acura MDX, to be the best car I have ever owned. In its 135,000 miles in has never failed me, despite frequently being abused and often poorly maintained. It has been in two serious accidents now, one with airbag deployment, and each time it made it home under its own power.

After recent negotiations with my accountant/boss/wife, it was determined that we have the budget and a want/need for a new family vehicle. We are a two-kid, one-car, city family; truly an oddity in the United States. For this reason I must choose such vehicle wisely; it must be safe, reliable, roomy, comfortable, and be relatively inexpensive to buy, own, and maintain. Oh, and it must meet the wife-factor, which has a completely unknown set of expectations. It was under these criteria that allowed my MDX to have been so good to me. Its upcoming replacement, whatever it may be, has some big shoes to fill. 

It therefore shouldn’t be a surprise that I was very interested in the new 2014 Acura MDX. Now I finally had a chance to drive one and evaluate it from the end-user’s perspective, and, well, I  truly don’t know how I feel about it. 

2014 acura mdx technology side

The biggest change Honda made to this vehicle was de-trucking it. My old MDX feels like a large vehicle; you sit high, you see a lot, it’s got a short-ish wheelbase, and short front and rear overhangs. The 2014 MDX is lower and longer; you sit lower and you really don’t know where the front- or rear-end ends. That is just a perception, as actual length/width/height dimensions vary by no more than 5/1/-1 inches, yet it feels so different to get in and out of, almost wagon-like. The good news is that unlike many other new cars on the market, the MDX has big/tall windows and good visibility. 

The original MDX and Honda Pilot have been interior packaging champs of their time, with roomy seats, plenty of cargo volume, nifty cubbies and consoles, large tailgate opening and seats that folded flat. The new MDX, with its sloping roof and shorter tailgate opening, loses some of that and here numbers don’t lie: 2005 MDX passenger volume was 161cu.ft. and the 2014 is 132cu.ft. 

There are numerous interior improvements however, for instance there is now more legroom in the back, mostly due to the longer wheelbase. Accessing the third row seat is much easier due to a redesigned middle bench that now slides with a push of a button, and longer rear doors that open wider. This is very helpful when strapping toddlers into their seats. The center console is much bigger, as are the door pockets, both of which get constantly filled up with junk in my own car. Otherwise, everything is nice and new and pretty, but it is not necessarily different or better.

2014 acura mdx technology dash

The dash layout received the most significant change, now sporting two infotainment screens on the Technology Package equipped vehicle seen here. The idea is that the top screen is the status display screen for audio, nav, phone, or system settings. The lower touch-screen is where all the adjustments and inputs are made. In theory this should work great, but in reality it takes significant amount of time to master, and I had to pull out the owner’s manual on two occasions. Once all your radio presets and phone connections are set, however, the primary functions are easy to use.

The biggest improvement for 2014 comes from the chassis, however, as there is a lower center of gravity. Combine the same curb weight as the first generation vehicle (275lbs less than second gen) and more power, and you have a vehicle that’s surprisingly enjoyable to drive when pushed. The super magical Super Handling AWD system has an Audi Quattro-esque feel about it, which is a good thing. The 290hp and 267 torques produced from the 3.5-liter direct-injected V6 does not sound like a lot, but it feels more than it is, and it’s enough for a good time in the upper RPM range. This is a lively powertrain for a CUV and there are no bullcrap ECO buttons. 

Fuel economy comes in at EPA-rated 18mpg city and 27mpg highway, thanks in part to cylinder deactivation, an extra gear (6-speeds, now), and improved aerodynamics. I averaged about 21mph in mixed city/gridlock/highway driving, which is not a lot, but more than the always low 16mpg I have been getting for years with my old MDX. This rating, and real life usage, is about average for this size CUV.

2014 acura mdx technology interior details

Feature and technology wise, the 2014 MDX does not bring anything new to the market, nor does it shatter the competition with power, economy, or space. In 2002 Hyundai was making cheap econoboxes but today the Santa Fe is a real competitor, and I am not sure which I’d rather own. That said, the MDX drives better than most cars in its class, it has a great sounding audio system, the doors close super softly, and there is not a single rattle. The vehicle seems to be screwed together in that magical Honda way convincing you that in ten years it will perform as good as new, which can’t be said about the Hyundai.

In 2002, the Acura MDX was the first premium three-row cross-over utility vehicle on the market and it enjoyed a huge sales success while other manufacturers played catch-up. The new MDX left me with mixed feelings; it is definitely improved but it is not necessarily better than the old one. The model has undergone an evolution, but not a revolution, which the rest of the industry did, and is now simply an average player in a very competitive game.

My family car shopping goes on and I have nothing but time on my hands as my old MDX continues to provide reliable service. I have no idea what I’ll end up with next, but it will likely be an enthusiast unfriendly and boring cross-over SUV, if for no other reason than because the one I have has been so great. Yes, I would love to be writing about my adventures in cross-shopping a Nissan GT-R versus a Porsche 911, but I have two cute little people in my life that won’t let me do that. While there are no plans to publish it, I have just drafted the Hooniverse Awesomeness Manifesto  and Jeff is currently editing it – it shouldn’t take too long because it only consists of two words. 

2014 acura mdx technology front side rear

Disclaimer: Acura provided the vehicle for the purpose of this review.

[Images: copyright 2014 Hooniverse/Kamil Kaluski]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here