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2016 Acura MDX review: 2016 Acura MDX: More gears, less handling and seven-passenger capacity

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The Good The 2016 Acura MDX offers reasonable access to its third row seats and delivers a comfortable, quiet ride. Efficient lLED headlights come standard and an adaptive cruise control system takes the stress out of long road trips. Super Handling All-wheel-dirive employs active torque vectoring to improve handling.

The Bad The infotainment interface is a confusing hodgepodge of duplicate controls using differing control schemes. Kick-down on the transmission lags at speed and the idle-stop feature feels rough when the engine fires up.

The Bottom Line The 2016 Acura MDX fits a useful niche, offering a choice between seven passenger or ample cargo capacity good for those who only occasionally need either. Its high-tech highlights are a bit quirky, though, and may be too much to satisfy some drivers.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

6.6 Overall
  • Performance 7
  • Features 7
  • Design 7
  • Media 5

Review Sections

Cornering ability isn't something I expect from a seven-passenger SUV, but the MDX surprised me by holding itself flat in the turns and using its torque vectoring all-wheel-drive to dance around the apexes. That, however, was the 2010 Acura MDX , the second generation of Acura's largest SUV that complemented its Super Handling All-wheel drive with a magnetic adaptive suspension. The 2016 Acura MDX retains the all-wheel-drive system, but went to a fixed suspension in its third-generation revamp.

Although that was something of a step backward, Acura makes up for it with LED headlights, adaptive cruise control and, new for the 2016 model year, a nine-speed automatic transmission.

The MDX shows off smooth bodywork, befitting its premium aspirations. Up front, corporate styling means a shield-shaped grille with a single, badge-embedded bar establishing a common identity among all new models in the Acura line-up, from the small ILX to the big MDX. And more than just technically forward and efficient, the standard LED headlights, Jewel Eye in Acura parlance, further establish that brand identity.

That look is so strong, I wanted to smile and wave at every other Acura driver on the road, maybe even start a cult.

2016 Acura MDX
The MDX measures the same size as many five-passenger SUVs, but actually holds seven. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

And though the MDX comes with third-row seating, the visual impression is more five-passenger SUV. In fact, the MDX is only half an inch longer than the BMW X5 . I found access to the third row seating reasonable, with plenty of space to step through between the second row and C-pillar. However, don't expect to pack your spouse and five kids into the MDX for a two-week road trip, as that third row takes up most of the cargo area, leaving a bare 14.8 cubic feet open.

Pricing for the MDX starts at $43,785 with destination, but that is for a front-wheel-drive model. Bump it up to $45,785 to get Acura's excellent Super Handling All-wheel-drive system. The example I drove came loaded with the Advance package, bringing in driver assistance features, the Tech package, adding navigation and other infotainment features, and the Entertainment package, bringing in a wide-screen rear seat entertainment system. Total price for this one comes to an even $58,000.

Honda, Acura's parent company, doesn't currently make the brand available in the UK or Australia.

Two displays too many

One area of current Acura design I don't like is the infotainment interface, on full display in the MDX. This interface makes use of a touchscreen, a jog dial and an LCD. With this system, I could control the stereo on both the touchscreen and the upper LCD simultaneously, but the two displays showed audio information in entirely different layouts. Talk about cognitive dissonance.

2016 Acura MDX
In the MDX, you can enter street and city names with onscreen keyboard and rotary dial, two distinctly different formats. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

The lower touchscreen offers some convenient features, such as six presets for locations, phone numbers and audio. And it can show a keyboard to aid in address entry, but this whole system would be better if Acura eliminated the dial and associated switchgear, using the touchscreen for all infotainment control. In fact, the most recent Honda Accord shows something like this, so I would expect that new system will roll out to Acura eventually.

Beyond the clunky interface, I like the MDX's navigation system, which shows clear, easy-to-read maps. As with most nav systems now, it actively avoided bad traffic based on data brought in through its satellite radio connection, and I was impressed to see extensive live traffic information, covering many surface streets in downtown areas. Entering street or city names could be a bit tedious, as the MDX employs a predictive system which very slowly fills in letter after letter based on previous input.

The MDX's stereo includes all the audio sources I could want, from Bluetooth streaming to a USB port to Pandora to an onboard hard drive. Very conveniently, I could browse my iPhone's music library using the car's interface over a Bluetooth connection. However, that capability did not work for an Android phone I tested. Because this MDX came with the Entertainment package, I could also use its DVD player for audio. That package adds two ceiling-mounted speakers to the ELS premium audio system, bringing the total up to 12. I liked the immersive quality of the system when listening to music, and appreciated its strong clarity.

The widescreen rear-seat entertainment system includes an HDMI input and dual-screen capability to please discerning young passengers. However, a set of tablets for the kids might be a better investment when aiming for peaceful road trips.

2016 Acura MDX
Rear seat entertainment systems seem a bit obsolete, but this is an impressive one. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Automatic driving

Making for more comfortable road trips, the MDX's Advance package brought in adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assistance and a collision warning system. Together, adaptive cruise control and lane keeping handle braking and a bit of steering. After setting my speed, following distance and activating lane keeping, the MDX automatically braked for slower traffic ahead, matching speeds at whichever distance I set, while the steering wheel reacted to a camera tracking the lane lines.

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