Over the weekend a friend bought a very sleek looking black on black 2019 Acura MDX with the Tech Package. He and his wife were looking for a vehicle that is large enough to haul around their growing family and still have room for the in-laws on road trips. He and his wife went down the checklist before making their purchase. Is it spacious? Check. Does it have good power? Check. Is it well-built with quality materials? Check. Does it handle well? Check. Is it reliable? Check. All the boxes were checked. Oh, wait forgot one. Is it a luxury brand? In that typical yet upscale Hondaesque feel… Check. Just subtle enough to let you know that you are in Honda’s premium brand. Justification for the price tag, I assume.
Prior to purchasing the vehicle, I ran down the list of all the SUVs that I could find with his checklist in mind and he shot all of them down because the manufacturer was not a luxury brand. Typical brand snobbery as he is used to driving BMWs and Infiniti’s. It is always easier to make recommendations without regard to “Brand name” from the outside but at the end of the day, it is the buyers choice. And they landed on the MDX.
The SUV is surprisingly nice and does have a more premium feel over Honda. The first thing that I noticed is that the seats are comfy, softer than past Hondas and Acura’s that I have owned or driven. For 2019 they decided to use natural wood inserts throughout the cabin rather than the painted plastic pieces of days past. The cabin is very welcoming and surprisingly subdued in contrast to let’s say a Benz clad with various aluminum materials and buttons everywhere. Acura has done a great job blending in the day to day instruments by finishing them in black. This provides a monochrome look to not be too distracting for the driver. Speaking of drivers, I had the opportunity to take it for a test spin. To be honest, I was not expecting much from a full-size SUV now that I am into smaller performance-oriented cars. I’ve owned a 2003 Ford Expedition, 2005 Acura TL and 2013 Honda Crosstour V6 and we currently have a 2018 Acura TLX A-Spec, so using these as a benchmark help to give me perspective.
Acura found a way to make a vehicle of this size feel small to some degree. There is great visibility and the interior space is airy, but it drives like a crossover. It’s no slouch on the road, I mean it scoots and turns when you direct it to do so. Riding on 20-inch wheels and with a 290hp and 267tq V-6 pushing a light-ish 4054lbs (FWD) body, the MDX actually gets off the starting line with a sense of urgency.
The Tech Package includes your standard safety features: Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and cross traffic sensors, but the tech is turned up a notch by including Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Low-Speed Follow and Brake Assist (Collision Mitigation Braking System) that will stop you in your tracks. You can set a distance between you and the vehicle you are behind along with a max speed and feel the vehicle slow down and speed up. If traffic slows to a stop the MDX will nestle down for you and resume following the car ahead once everyone starts moving again. Basically, with the Lane Keep Assist keeping you centered, the Adaptive Cruise Control taking care or the vehicles speed and the Brake Assist protecting you from a rear end collision – the car can almost drive itself. Of course, you will want to keep your hands and feet ready to take over at a moment’s notice, but nice to see the advancements in technology.
I admit, I am impressed. It has a similar feel to my TLX, not as stylish as the A Spec Package, but very nice overall and great value. I was concerned that the “Sport” mode and paddles wouldn’t really do anything but they wake up this unassuming family hauler. Once the Dynamic Mode button is pushed and “Sport” is highlighted on the dashboard, there is a noticeable growl from the V6. Accelerate and you will see that the revs hang to redline and the paddles shift the transmission rather quickly. Just like in the TLX when decelerating in “Sport” you can feel the transmission downshift like a manual car. A feature that I quite like, but then again, my daily driver is a manual hot hatch. Again, I am impressed. And although I prefer the styling of the its A Spec variant, the MDX with Tech Package is a respectable choice overall.
During my time with the MDX my friend brought up an old commercial by Lexus and I was wondering where he was going with this conversation, but then it clicked. Remember the Lexus commercial where they show a marble rolling down the exterior lines of the body gaps on the vehicle. This was done to show the precise fitment and quality of final assembly for the premium brand. Well, he noticed a few things about the MDX after spending a few days with his new vehicle and pointed them out to me. The body gaps of the exterior are not perfectly even. If you run you finger along the gaps, you will notice that one side may have a slightly larger spacing than the other. This was very noticeable on the hood. The gas door does not sit completely flush when closed, it has a little play. And the slightest of interior item fitment issues can be seen from different angles, but those are nothing worth mentioning to a dealer. American assembly issues? That is one of the big complaints about Ford vehicles. With those few imperfections, would you still consider this a Luxury Japanese brand or does Acura get bumped down from its moniker as Hondas premium brand? Not sure, but I will give it a thumbs-up for changing my perception of SUVs being heavy and sluggish and devoid of life.
In the end, although I personally prefer the styling of the A-Spec variant, you cannot go wrong with the Technology Package trim level. Good choice and enjoy your new purchase.
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