Road test: 2014 Acura MDX Elite | Driving

30 Jun 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Road test: 2014 Acura MDX Elite | Driving
Acura MDX

Road test: 2014 Acura MDX Elite

The 2014 Acura MDX Elite is a roomy SUV with many luxurious touches. We just wish there was a diesel option.

Mid-sized sport-ute is roomy, comfortable and luxurious. But where’s the diesel option?

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As with more than a few of my fellow automotive scribes, I have been on the bandwagon about the need for more diesel engines in mid-sized and larger sport-utes, their torque-rich nature and greater fuel efficiency outweighing their increased cost.

So, by rights, I should be just a little dismissive of the new, longer, lower Acura MDX, Honda sticking to a one-engine philosophy — with that engine being a mid-displacement, normally aspirated, gasoline-fuelled V6. Yet, this third-generation, seven-seat SUV is just a little seductive, gliding along effortlessly and quietly, the power at play smoothly delivered. This product direction Honda has supposedly embarked upon, the idea of creating vehicles that “respond to the will of the driver,” might be more than smoke being blown up someone’s posterior. (The company’s marketing geniuses have actually coined the rather sexist phrase “synergy between man and machine.”)

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Oh, the U.S.-built MDX is not some sort of über-ute such as Jeep’s Grand Cherokee SRT or Mercedes’ ML 63 AMG; it’s more of a well-balanced blend of luxury, performance and efficiency.

Let’s start with the new engine under the hood, a 290-horsepower direct-injected i-VTEC V6. In comparison with the 3.7L V6 it replaces, the new 3.5L V6 in the MDX drops 10 hp and three pound-feet of torque. However, thanks to new weight-saving measures, the Acura has dropped 139 kilograms (now 1,970 kg) in the topline Elite trim, which means the decrease in power becomes moot.

In addition, Honda’s techies have tuned the engine to offer an 8% increase in torque at engine speeds below 2,750 rpm for greater overall responsiveness. Due to improved operating efficiency, Honda claims the V6’s horsepower output per litre is up 2%, with torque output per litre up 4.4%. The upshot is that there is always enough power to get going, no matter the circumstance.

2014 Acura MDX

Kevin Mio, Postmedia News

The other side of the coin is substantially improved highway and city fuel economy — about 20% — in comparison to last year’s model. While the weight loss helped, the real kudos should be directed to the engine’s standard variable cylinder management system, which switches imperceptibly between three- and six-cylinder modes, depending on engine load. That said, I did a lot of in-town driving during my week with the tester, averaging 13.8 litres per 100 kilometres — which is still quite acceptable for a bordering-on-full-sized, gas-powered SUV.

The engine is bolted to a six-speed automatic with Sequential Sport Shift (and the obligatory paddle shifters), which is paired with Honda’s highly regarded Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD).

The Acura MDX is a contender in AJAC#8217;s 2014 Canadian Car of the Year awards for SUV/CUV (over $60,000). Check out the other finalists here

However, the MDX’s true pleasure is its handling and, specifically, its ride comportment. The SUV gets a redesigned MacPherson strut front suspension and new multilink rear setup, along with electric power steering. The Integrated Dynamics System complements these, allowing the driver to select from three driving modes (Comfort, Normal or Sport). The differences in feel between the three are subtle, but there is a definite distinction.

In Normal mode, the steering effort is balanced between light and sporting. Selecting Comfort reduces steering effort for greater maneuverability, especially at low speeds and when squeezing into tight spaces. Sport provides a decidedly firmer steering feel with higher effort.

It also adjusts throttle response and SH-AWD torque proportioning, and even Active Noise Control for a quieter engine note in the cabin.

Speaking of cabins, the topline ($65,990) Elite’s is techno-geek heaven — and with far fewer buttons than in last year’s model. Here’s what you’ll find: remote engine start, multi-information touchscreen with menus and sub-menus, 12-speaker audio system with ceiling-mounted speakers, 546-watt amplifier and 5.1-channel surround sound, DVD rear entertainment system and a range of safety-related systems and features, including Lane Keeping Assist, adaptive cruise control with Low-Speed Follow and Surround View Camera.

Plus, the interior itself — more high-tech than luxurious — is awash in high-quality materials and complementary trim bits. It’s quiet, too, thanks to the acoustic glass windshield and front windows, thicker rear door glass, triple side-sill door seals and Active Noise Control technology.

2014 Acura MDX

Handout, Acura

Acura MDX

As for roominess, I can attest that six-footers have plenty of headroom and legroom up front and in the second row. The middle seats also feature reclining seatbacks and the new Extended Slide feature that offers up to 150 millimetres of fore-and-aft travel. Additionally, a new “kid-friendly” One-Touch Walk-In feature improves access to the back row, with a lower step-in. (I tried to climb in — at 6-foot-2, the spirit was willing but my back was weak.)

I have to admit to being more impressed with the new MDX than I would have thought. While roomy and comfortable, it doesn’t feel oversized. In fact, it’s one of the nicest driving bigger SUVs I’ve tested in a long time. It’s not bad looking. And, in Elite trim, it has enough technology and luxury to satisfy all but the most diehard hedonist.

Do I wish Honda would offer a diesel engine option? Yes. Will the bulk of consumers shopping the full-sized SUV scene care? Probably not.

Type of vehicle Four-wheel-drive, mid-sized SUV

Engine 3.5L SOHC V6

Power 290 hp @ 6,200 rpm; 267 lb-ft of torque 4,500 @ rpm

Transmission Six-speed manumatic

Brakes Four-wheel disc with ABS

Tires P245/55R19 (optional)

Price (base/as tested) $49,990/$65,990

Standard features Tri-zone front and rear automatic climate control, power tilt and telescopic steering column, pushbutton start, keyless access, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, multi-angle rear-view mirror, power tailgate, power windows, keyless access system, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, multi-information display, HandsFreeLink Bluetooth phone interface, 432-watt audio system with eight speakers, steering wheel-mounted audio, phone, MID and cruise control functions

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