A famous ad for the old Packard car company said, “Ask the man who owns one.”
When it comes to the 2015 Acura MDX I guess that man would be me. Or more accurately, I guess it would be my wife. After a pretty extensive search last year, she settled on the MDX as her top pick. To be honest, the MDX was not my first choice. I was pushing for the Jeep Grand Cherokee. But since she drives it 95% of the time, it was her decision.
Technically, we own a 2014 MDX. The car was redesigned for that model year and it is essentially the same for 2015. I’m not sure my wife actually read my review of the 2014 MDX. Like most car buyers, she started with a blank slate when it came time to purchase.
The MDX wasn’t on my original list of choices for one main reason. It takes premium fuel. I could never see the logic of paying more for one gallon of gas. But as I often preach to people, it’s important to do the math. Premium fuel usually cost about 8-10% more than regular. When I compared the mileage with other cars using regular gas we were considering, the MDX was about 10% more. The result was a wash. Interestingly, our mileage has been even better than expected. My wife has a long freeway commute and was averaging about 23 MPG in her 2005 Toyota Highlander with a V6 engine. With the MDX she now averages 27 MPG. That’s a 17% improvement. Officially, the MDX gets 20 MPG in the city and 28 MPG on the highway, so she’s definitely on the upper end. Opt for the all-wheel drive version and that drops to 18/27. The bottom line is that even with the premium fuel, the math works.
The impressive part about that mileage is that it comes from a V6 engine that delivers 290 horsepower. Our V6 Highlander had the bigger V6 engine for 2005 and pumped out 230 horsepower. I always felt it was a little under powered. Not so the MDX. 290 horses is right in the sweet spot for SUVs (275 to 300 is ideal). We recently towed a trailer with our BMW Isetta to California for an event, and the MDX did wonderfully. Incidentally, I bought the factory trailer hitch separately after shopping around for a great price, and installed it myself. It was a very easy way to save money on the purchase.
We opted for the front wheel drive model, but you can choose the all-wheel drive. While some cars offer more gears, the six-speed automatic transmission on the MDX is just fine. I recently had to hop between a Cadillac Escalade I was road testing and the MDX, and I found I preferred the way the Acura drove.
One of the reasons my wife zeroed in on the MDX is because it has a third row of seats. Even though we don’t use it very often, the extra seating definitely comes in handy. The third row isn’t big enough for adults to feel comfortable on a long trip, but it’s fine for kids or short trips. Overall, the interior is just what you’d expect for a luxury car in this range. Nice leather and comfortable seats that have plenty of adjustments and memory selections for two drivers. One minor disappointment is that while we have heated seats up front, the only way to get ventilated seats was to bump up to the Advanced and Entertainment Package. It was a lot of money for stuff we didn’t want just to keep our backsides cool so we didn’t bite.
We did get the Technology package that includes the navigation system along with premium audio, blind spot warning and rain sensing wipers (my wife is still amazed at the magical wipers). I recently read a review that praised the MDX navigation system as intuitive. Apparently, I have the wrong kind of intuition. After six months I find it clunky and a pain to use. More and more cars are coming out with systems that simply let you say the address. The MDX version goes through a game of 20 questions. It has a list of short cuts that were apparently developed by some engineer who doesn’t actually drive. To be honest with you, it’s my only real complaint with the car, but since the technology and navigation are a big selling point, it’s important to mention.
One pleasant surprise has been the looks. The MDX was slightly restyled in 2014. I felt the previous version had a heavy look. The Acura stylists were able to retain the overall design, but just lighten it up a little bit. It has a rounded styling that gives the car a distinctive look. The signature Acura grille is just less imposing than it used to be, and that’s a good thing. I like the Jewell Eye LED headlights. It gives the car a distinctive work, and appear to work very well on the road.
I guess I should talk specifically about the 2015 model. I test drove it for a week and found it to be exactly like our 2014 model. The only difference was that it had all-wheel drive and all the options that we skipped, including a great DVD entertainment system for the back seat. Once again, I wish the adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist were available on the cheaper tech package. I think there should be a distinction between safety options and luxury options. Sticker price for my test car was $57,675.
Final verdict? The Acura MDX is great car that the “man who owns one” would buy again. That is assuming they can fix the navigation package.