More Dash, Enough Flash | 2016 Acura MDX

January 2016 View more

The 2016 Acura MDX looks an awful lot like the handsome and sleek 2015 model, but underneath the seven-seater’s understated skin are a number of significant improvements. The end result is a faster, safer, and entirely comfortable crossover.

The biggest news for the MDX is the new nine-speed automatic transmission that replaces last year’s six-speed. In addition to having 50 percent more gears, which gives the MDX a slight boost in fuel economy, it reportedly shifts 25 percent more quickly than before for improved acceleration.

Car and Driver magazine reports that the MDX will now hit 60 miles per hour in just less than six seconds, making this large people mover quite a performer. Credit also goes to the MDX’s carryover engine. Compared to the turbocharged four-cylinder engines that are gaining popularity across the automotive landscape, the MDX’s 290-horsepower V6 relies on old-fashioned displacement, 3.5 liters of it, to bring things to a boil. The MDX moves.

The flip side to having more displacement and power is so-so fuel economy. The transmission might have improved the MDX’s numbers a bit, but overall fuel consumption is still not extraordinary. Depending on whether you go with front- or all-wheel-drive, the EPA estimates that you’ll see about 18 to 20 miles per gallon in the city and 26 to 27 on the highway.

To go along with all its new gears, the MDX has a new gear selector, too. Rather than a traditional shift lever or a new-fangled rotary dial, Acura has created a push-button interface. There are separate buttons for drive and neutral, and an indented switch to pull for reverse. Do not expect to execute these shifts quickly, at least at first; finding the right button requires a glance down each time.

Once in drive, however, the MDX shows why it’s a perennial best-seller. Well-tuned steering and a well-cushioned suspension join the aforementioned acceleration to round out an impressive performance package. And whether cruising along at highway speeds or hurrying along a curvy back road, the MDX feels responsive and composed.

The quiet cabin is a case study in comfort. The front seats offer support and elbow room; the second row has plenty of legroom for adult passengers and optional heated seats for cold winter mornings. Redundant buttons on the side and back of the second row of seats automatically fold and slide that row forward, easing access to the third row.

The two screens on the MDX’s console display all kinds of information, but the great reduction in tactile buttons means that selecting once-simple controls, like turning on the heated front seats, now requires multiple distracting jabs at the haptic touch screen.

Balancing out that distraction are an impressive range of safety features, from the soon-to-be-common blind spot detectors to the how-did-we-live-without this—like a cross-traffic alert that signals if another vehicle is coming at you when you’re backing out of a driveway or parking spot. The MDX apparently crashes quite well, too, according to its five-star government crash test ratings.

The built-in-America 2016 Acura MDX starts at $42,865 with front-wheel drive or $44,865 with all-wheel drive. Those prices are just a few dollars more than they were two years ago, which means that competition is fierce in this popular segment of the market. Acura bundles its options into packages, creating a menu of 16 variations on the MDX theme. Prices step up to a top tier model, the MDX SH-AWD with Advance, Entertainment and AcuraWatch Plus Packages, starting at $57,080.

Photo courtesy of ©American Honda Motor Co., Inc