Less is More | 2014 Acura MDX

June 2014 View more

Photos courtesy of ©2014 Acura

Photos courtesy of ©2014 Acura

Among auto industry planners, three-row SUV’s are often considered minivan replacements. These are the vehicles that folks buy when they need lots of seats and, sometimes, all-wheel drive, but they really do not want to drive a breadbox.

The redesigned 2014 Acura MDX—the sleek but not much different-looking third generation of the popular suburban runabout—certainly serves that role well. A new front-wheel drive model, for example, offers a lower-priced entry for buyers who care more about filling three rows than driving four wheels.

The MDX might also be considered a terrific sedan replacement, given its surprisingly nice driving dynamics, sharp handling, and sure-stopping.

2014 Acura MDXWhile this new MDX looks quite similar to the model it replaces, the loss of the dual exhausts is perhaps the biggest tell that there is a lot going on behind the scenes. Riding on a new platform that no longer shares DNA with the Honda Odyssey minivan, the MDX is now lighter, and less weight means better performance in a variety of different ways.

For starters, because the MDX is carting around less weight, Acura was able to drop in a smaller engine. And while that 3.5-liter V6 produces slightly less power than the V6 in the old model, it moves the new MDX a bit more quickly and posts much better fuel economy figures.

Whereas the old all-wheel drive MDX produced an estimated 16 miles per gallon in the city or 21 mpg on the highway, you can expect to get 18 city/27 highway in the new one, or 20/28 in the front-wheel-drive version. Yes, that’s only a few miles per gallon more in the city, but on the open road, 27 or 28 mpg is a big jump.

Another way that Acura turns less into more in the new MDX is by delivering a quieter ride. The old model was fine. The new model, designed with extra sound dampening materials, edges closer to luxury territory in terms of the decibel level.

NMAG0614_Fortheroad3One version of the MDX’s optional Entertainment package adds equipment that seems vaguely old school these days—think ceiling-mounted screen and wireless headphones—but Acura has doubled down there, too. The giant fold-down screen is wide enough to display two movies simultaneously. The control panel abutting the screen lets rear-seaters control the stereo and just about every other aspect of the in-flight entertainment, assuming the front seat occupants acquiesce. A panel down at the foot level offers power, HDMI, and other inputs, ensuring that no matter how long your trip, your passengers will not lack diversions.

The downside to the folding screen is that the MDX does not have much rear headroom to spare. The third row also offers little legroom, as is the case with virtually all third rows. As a consolation prize, those who are sent to the way back can flip and fold the second row with the push of a nice round button. One button is located on the side of the second-row seat when they’re ready for ingress, and the other is on the back of the second row when they’re ready to egress. The buttons light up when the door opens, making them simple to find.