Honda and Acura aren't big on stylistic showmanship. Often their all-new models look only subtly different from their predecessors, but, from an engineering content standpoint, are truly all new from bumper to bumper. Such is the case with the recently unveiled Acura RLX, which is immediately recognizable as the successor to the largely overlooked RL. And at first glance, the 2014 MDX could be mistaken for a refresh of the current model. But make no mistake, the new MDX is truly all new, and the improvements are substantial and extensive.

At first glance, the new MDX looks like a larger version of the recently redesigned RDX, adding additional upscale touches such as Acura's Jewel Eye LED headlights first seen on the RLX, with an overall style notably smoother and shapelier than its somewhat chunky predecessor, but still immediately recognizable as an MDX.

The previous-generation MDX was competent and popular, but hardly groundbreaking or class-leading in many respects. Although its 3.7-liter V-6 was plenty powerful at 300 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque, owners paid at the pump, with a rather poor 16/21 EPA rating. The 2014 MDX, employing a version of the new Earth Dreams direct-injected 3.5-liter V-6 from the RLX, makes a small sacrifice in power on-paper, with 290 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque, but rewards the driver with a substantially improved 18/27 mpg rating on the all-wheel-drive model and an even better on the new-for-2014 front-drive model, which returns a thrifty 20/28 mpg. All models are equipped with a six-speed automatic, with paddle shifters, to keep the drive to soccer practice entertaining.

Those 10 horses are not likely to be missed, with a noteworthy 275-lb weight loss keeping the power/weight equation favorable. But the MDX's performance improvements are more than just 0-60 romps. Acura claims suspension tuning at the Nuerburgring has resulted in a huge 8-second improvement in lap times compared with its predecessor. Adding to driving experience is Acura's new Integrated Dynamic System, offering Sport, Normal and Comfort modes. The IDS system changes steering effort, throttle response, all-wheel-drive settings on models so equipped, and even active sound.

Lap times around the 'Ring may be useful and boast-worthy from an engineering benchmark standpoint, but for the MDX's target buyer, comfort, and practicality are a far more important purchase factor, and here, too, the new MDX shows some significant improvements over its forebear. A 111-inch wheelbase, 2.75 inches longer than last year's model, makes the third row more accessible and habitable, and the new One-Touch Walk-In feature improves ingress even further. The new feature automatically folds and slides the second-row seats to the forward-most position for easy third-row access, which is further aided by a 2-inch-lower step-in height and 3-inch-wider entryway, made possible by the longer wheelbase and One-Touch feature.

For second-row occupants, the seats offer 6 inches of fore-aft adjustment, and four recline positions. Second-row passengers can also enjoy entertainment options via an available 9-inch for massive 16.2-inch full VGA display with HDMI compatibility for game console connectivity.

But the best seats in the house are in front, which face an all-new instrument panel with two stacked displays, and sees a return of a touchscreen interface to the MDX in the form of a 7-inch touchscreen, in addition to an 8-inch top display. The return of the touchscreen drastically reduced the number of "hard" buttons in the center stack from 41 to just nine. The display offers access to the second-generation AcuraLink system with embedded cellular system and real-time traffic information.

The front seats themselves offer heating and climate control, the driver's seat offers 10-way power adjustment, with the front passenger seat offering 8-way adjustment. Acura claims the redesigned center console storage space can accommodate a purse, a laptop case, or a pair of iPads.

Safety has always been a big selling point of the MDX, and the 2014 MDX offers an abundance of driver safety aids, including a multi-angle rearview camera, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot information and collision mitigation braking, as well as forward collision and lane-departure warning. Acura is confidently predicting a 5-star score from NHTSA, and a Top Safety Pick+ from the IIHS, incorporating the new small-offset frontal collision test.

Unlike other upscale brands that offer literally thousands of buildable combinations, Acura offers four basic trim configurations, base, Technology Package, Technology and Entertainment, and Advance Package with Entertainment. The 2014 MDX will go on sale this Summer, with prices announced closer to the vehicle's on-sale date.


2014 Acura MDX
BASE PRICE (est) $44,000-$56,000
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD/AWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 3.5L, 290-hp/267-lb-ft, 24-valve SOHC direct-injected V-6
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (est) 4200-4500 lb
WHEELBASE 111 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 193.6 x 77.2 x 67.6 in
0-60 MPH (est) 7.0 sec
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON FWD: 20/28 mpg, AWD: 18/27 mpg
ON SALE IN U.S. Summer 2013