The 2016 Acura MDX is the best-handling, best-riding mid to large size crossover. But is it perfect?
As you enter the 2016 Acura MDX and buckle up you feel the love. The MDX gives your belt a little tug and then lets you go. As if to say “hello” Italian style. It may sound weird, but the active belts in this new Acura feel fantastic. The MDX also pulls your belt snug if you turn sharply or drive over a sudden rough patch of road. “I gotcha” seems to be the subliminal message. The belt thing is just one more small piece of evidence that automakers in the premium segment are trying very hard – maybe too hard – to differential themselves.
After you have driven the 2016 Acura MDX a bit the ride is what you love most. A few years back I spoke with an early adopter of an Acura sedan with the company’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive, which Acura unfortunately shortens to “SH-AWD.” Some might read that Shaw D, or shoddy. This early adopter told me that he could sense the SH-AWD helping his sedan turn. Torque vectoring AWD is now pretty common, but then it wasn’t. Driving this new Acura MDX, which was updated in 2014, it obvious the MDX is now the best handling mid to large size crossover. Nothing else I have driven, apart from a Range Rover, can even compete. Is it the SH-AWD, or is it just well done? Hard to say. One thing not in doubt is that my tester’s 18-inch wheels with normal sized tires completely disproves any theory that to have a vehicle handle great it needs ridiculous 22-inch rollers with super-low profile rubber.
Whether you are driving around town, or taking an off-ramp faster you should just for the thrill of it, the MDX is there for you. Rough roads are handled with ease. The ride isn’t super soft, but the vehicle seems to smooth over the worst of the bumps and you don’t feel the small ones at all. Turn into a corner and you can sense that something is different here. The MDX is so easy to place where you want it that you are at first surprised. It’s that good. As you increase speed and perform more aggressive moves, the MDX seems to be your partner in crime. On the highway, you can drive without any corrections. The MDX is oddly perfect in its line. This is all with the vehicle in “Normal-Mode.”
The MDX has three drive settings. Comfort didn’t work for me. The very slight change in suspension was welcome, but the throttle goes limp. Normal was good, but first gear seemed to be so short that the vehicle would shift twice in five feet of movement. Sport was my favorite setting in all circumstances.
The drivetrain is typical Acura. A smooth, very linear, but not shockingly strong V6 engine and a transmission with way too many gears. Nine in this case. My opinion has come full circle on transmissions. Having just tested a new Nissan Murano with a CVT I have to say it makes sense. It beats the fuel economy gains of a geared trans, and all the negative stuff is now purged. The MDX feels like it is shifting five times before one gets to the first stoplight.
Space inside is more than big. The second row of three seats is very spacious, and there is a third row for rug rats if you are heading out with the extended family. Seats are very comfortable with ventilated and cooled leather. However, the heated steering wheel was missing. At $56K Acura needs to correct that.
Acura has done such a fantastic job on all things related to ride and handling, we almost hate to bring up some of out minor quibbles, but here we go. First up is the key fob. It seems to weigh as much as a grenade and even has a strap that makes it looks like one. Next is the infotainment system. Although it is very simple to use when you are staring at it, it requires too many touches. For example, to put the heated seats on full power it at first took me two menus and four touches to turn them on. I later learned to do it in just two menus and two touches, but you have to aim carefully and look at the screen. Why does one have to learn how turn on heated seats in the first place? And why can’t the MDX driver just do it by touch like in a 1974 Audi Fox? And why don’t they stay where the driver set them? Come on Acura.
Concerning safety, the MDX is an IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus. The Acura forward collision prevention system recently saved my bacon, and I strongly recommend such systems to anyone. My combined fuel economy was 25 MPG on premium fuel, much better than the 22 MPG EPA combined estimate . Acura is not far off the leader board in this regard but many cars now can do what the Acura does with regular fuel
My friend Bob is a high-end car nut who enjoys performance cars. He owns a small fleet of vehicles, and his recent daily drivers have been, in order, a customized Mustang GT, Audi S4, and now he is in a 2016 MDX and happy as a clam. I thought he had lost his mind when he told me he was moving to the MDX, but after having driven one for eight days, I completely get it. The 2016 MDX is that good.
2016 Acura MDX AWD ADV
- Tech Package – Nav, Multi-view,
- Real-Time Communications
- Premium Audio
- Advanced Package – Forward Collision Mitigation, Ventilated Leather
Price as tested: $56,000 Including Destination Charge
- Fantastic Ride and Handling
- Love-hug Seatbelts
- Large, Heavy Key Fob
- User-Unfriendly Infotainment System