Test Drive: 2017 Acura MDX

I’m going to start this review with the sentence that was intended to conclude it, that being: If you can wrap your head around a bloated, obviated touchscreen, the 2017 Acura MDX is an outstanding SUV.

In the pursuit of objectivity, I have to say that the pair of screens (touchscreen and non-touchscreen) onboard the MDX baffled and annoyed me. Far too many controls and settings are buried in the layers of programming to be top-of-mind when driving.

Items such as heated-seat controls, fan speed, infotainment settings, and more, require too much memory recall and finger precision to manipulate intuitively. Over time, an owner may adapt but it doesn’t need to be so; look to GM’s latest technology onboard the 2017 Acadia as an example of hi-tech that doesn’t require a degree in software engineering to attack.

With my tech rant behind us, let’s have a closer look at the MDX and what it holds beneath its aggressive body lines.

From the moment the driver’s door is opened, one detects a sense of substance and luxury. Climb aboard and it becomes apparent that there’s nothing second-rate about the materials in use in the cabin or its build quality. The interior of my Elite-level tester was trimmed with swatches of real open-grain olive wood; definitely some of the finest timber I’ve seen in any vehicle, prestige or not.

The airy cabin of the MDX features third-row seating. If seven butt holder aren’t a must-have, buyers of the Elite trim-level can opt to replace the second-row bench seat with a pair of captains’ chairs separated by a convenient centre console with storage and cup-holders. Such would be my choice barring a family-planning failure.

Access to third class is made remarkably simple with the push of a button triggering the second-row seat to snap forward out of the way. That said, adults will still curse their way into the last row while kids are more apt to enjoy the adventure.

The seat offering the greatest reward is the one with a steering wheel. With a driving position as close to perfect as the laws of physics permit, it’s what happens when the Start button is pushed that excites the senses.

Power is derived from a 3.5L direct injection SOHC i-VTEC V6 engine equipped with Variable Cylinder Management (VCM). Rated at 290 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque, the Acura mill is fastened to a superb nine-speed automatic transmission delivering the goods to all four wheels via Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system (SH-AWD).

With the ability to send 70% of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels, whereupon SH-AWD further distributes the twist to the rear wheel with the most grip, the MDX is a champ in the snow, which I confirmed during this week’s oddly nasty Vancouver snowfall. (Yes, I know that the rest of Canada mocks our winter cowardice.)

Traction on ice and in snow was never an issue, thanks in part to riding upon a set of Michelin winter tires. While the MDX soared through winter’s worst, it was the vehicle’s outstanding operational refinement that impressed me most.

The engine and transmission work in harmony to deliver well-coordinated lively performance. With nine cogs to select from, the transmission is able to enhance the opposing forces of performance and fuel-economy by discreetly engaging the cog best suited to the immediate demand.

My week of city driving – in some of Vancouver’s most hideous conditions – netted me an average fuel consumption rating of 12.4L of premium juice for every 100 km travelled. Not bad for a luxurious rig of this magnitude but certainly not praiseworthy.

Nicely complementing the operational refinement of the MDX is its compliant suspension setup, which gently absorbs the road’s worst while still proving capable of delivering taut, rock-steady handling such that the MDX feels smaller and nimbler than its bulk would suggest. No doubt Acura’s SH-AWD technology contributes to the cornering gusto.

Acura deserves a tip-of-the-hat for making their comprehensive AcuraWatch combination of safety systems and driving aids standard fare across the MDX lineup, which begins at $53,690.

My chart-topping Elite version rang in at $65,790. While anything north of sixty-five large puts it into German SUV territory, I have to give the nod to Acura for supplying more content – and possibly more comfort and performance – than an entry-level example from Germany’s big three.

Outside of Acura’s penchant for screen-mania, I enjoyed driving this week’s tester immensely and consider it to be a bit of a bargain in the luxury SUV market. Heck, it even had a roof-mounted entertainment system complete with wireless headphones to keep the kids narcotized as the hours slip silently by.

2017 Acura MDX

Trim level: Elite
Price as tested (before taxes): $65,790
Freight: $2,201.50
Configuration: front engine, all-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 3.5L 6-cylinder / 9-speed automatic
Power/torque: 290 hp / 267 lb-ft
Fuel-economy ratings (L/100km): city 12.2, highway 9.0
Observed fuel-economy (L/100km): 12.4
Warranty (basic): 5 years / 100,000 km
Competitors: Audi Q7, GMC Acadia, Infiniti QX60, Lexus GX, Lincoln MKT, Volvo XC90

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