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2019 Acura MDX

$44,300 - $60,050
Price Range (MSRP)
Acura MDX

2019 Acura MDX Test Drive Review: A-Spectacular New Look

by Jared Rosenholtz

The MDX may no longer be Acura's best-selling model (that honor goes to the smaller RDX), but it is still one of the most important vehicles Honda's luxury arm has ever produced. How successful has the MDX been for Acura since it was introduced back in 2001? Well, it is currently the best-selling three-row SUV of all-time.

Keeping the MDX fresh should be job #1 for Acura and for 2019, the MDX benefits from some trim changes and a new A-Spec sport appearance package. But is a sporty new trim level enough to keep third-generation MDX competitive? Well, yes and no.

2019 Acura MDX Changes: What’s the difference vs 2018 MDX?

Acura has handed the MDX a bunch of updates to try and keep the offering fresh against the likes of the new three-row Lexus RX. These upgrades include adaptive dampers, a revised nine-speed automatic transmission tune for smoother shifts, and an improved start/stop system standard on all models. The A-Spec package has been added to the non-hybrid line-up on all-wheel-drive derivatives, giving sporty styling in the guise of dark trim, larger alloy wheels, and low profile tires. Inside, the A-Spec gets faux-suede seating inserts, A-Spec gauges, and an A-Spec specific steering wheel. Advance Package-equipped variants receive new 20-inch wheels for 2019. Across the range, new paint hues have been added to the available palette, and the interior trim has a new wood treatment option.

Pros and Cons

  • High levels of driver assistance tech standard on all trims
  • Impressive handling for a three-row SUV
  • Smooth power delivery from V6 engine
  • Spacious cabin with clever storage
  • Low price for a premium model
  • Interior quality feed sub-par for the class
  • Automatic gearbox dulls an impressive engine
  • Below average real-world gas mileage
  • Poor dual-screen infotainment system

MDX Exterior

Endowed with the latest styling language from Acura, all models also boast luxurious exterior features like a power moonroof, Jewel Eye LED headlights, and dual tailpipes, although the A-Spec's pipes are a custom design. LED puddle lights are available on all but the base trim, while the Advance Package gets body-colored lower trim and standard roof rails. The A-Spec is equipped with a range of styling upgrades, including dark trim instead of regular chrome, those A-Spec tailpipes, and exclusive front and rear bumpers. Base models are fitted with 18-inch alloy wheels, Advance Package models get 19-inch items, while all others receive 20-inch alloy wheels in trim-specific finishes.

2019 Acura MDX Front Angle View
2019 Acura MDX Rear Angle View
2019 Acura MDX Side View
See All 2019 Acura MDX Exterior Photos

Dimensions

Based on the three-row Honda Pilot, the MDX shares several key aspects. The 111-inch wheelbase, for example, is shared between both, but the MDX measures 0.3-inches shorter at 196.2 inches overall. But the MDX is narrower and shorter in height, measuring 77.7 inches wide and 67.4 inches tall. Ground clearance is an identical 7.3 inches which is enough to handle most dirt roads, even if low-profile tires may not enjoy the trip. Although the MDX is not really an off-roader, it can handle moderate inclines, breakovers, and declines, with angles of 14.9-, 15.2-, and 17.4-degrees respectively. Curb weight varies per trim and drivetrain, with the lightest model, the base FWD MDX tipping the scales at 4,032 lbs, while the heaviest MDX, the entertainment and Advance Package equipped variant some 300lbs+ heavier at 4,350 lbs.

Exterior Colors

Nine colors comprise the exterior palette for the 2019 MDX, up from last year's offering of eight. Things have been shaken up a little though, as Basque Red, San Marino Red, Black Copper, and Crystal Black have all been dropped from the palette, with new entries on the list for the current model year of Gunmetal metallic, Performance Red pearl, Canyon Bronze metallic, Majestic Black pearl, and on A-Spec models only, Apex Blue pearl.

Our tester was sent in a shade of White Diamond Pearl, which paired elegantly with the sporty black and red interior. But if we were buying an MDX with the A-Spec package, our money would easily go towards the $400 eye-catching shade of Apex Blue Pearl. Performance Red Pearl is also a great looking color for $400. Life is too short to drive a car with a boring color.

  • Majestic Black Pearl
  • Performance Red Pearl
  • Canyon Bronze Metallic
  • Apex Blue Pearl
  • White Diamond Pearl
  • Lunar Silver Metallic
  • Modern Steel Metallic
  • Fathom Blue Pearl
  • Gunmetal Metallic

MDX Performance

In a world where independent parts manufacturers are engineering gearboxes as incredible as the eight-speed autos used by BMW, it seems a tragedy Acura's nine-speed auto in the MDX is so dismal. Despite a retune for 2019 models, it retards the performance of the otherwise wonderful naturally aspirated V6 engine, a 3.5-liter unit plating up 290 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque, sent to either the front wheels or all corners via Acura's SH-AWD (Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive) system. The MDX returns a 0-60 mph sprint of just under seven seconds, regardless of trim, as all make use of the same engine-gearbox combination. It's not particularly terrible, but it's not the best available. Perhaps the MDX's talents lie elsewhere though, as, with all-wheel-drive equipped, the three-row crossover is rated to tow up to 5,000 lbs, while FWD derivatives are rated at 3,500 lbs.

2019 Acura MDX Engine
2019 Acura MDX Engine
2019 Acura MDX Gauge Cluster

Engine and Transmission

Unless you opt for the hybrid, the MDX is only available with one engine choice – a 3.5-liter VTEC V6 producing 290 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque to a nine-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel-drive is available but our tester was equipped with Acura's SH-AWD system. By itself, the engine is an absolute marvel, reminding us Honda is responsible for some of the best V6 mills ever built. It lacks torque but the engine loves to be driven to redline, singing a lovely tune all the while.

The V6 is only let down by the transmission, which awkwardly hunts for gears and takes too long to downshift. This can be mitigated by taking manual control via the paddles or placing the transmission in Sport Mode, where it holds gears far longer than expected for a family SUV. We would be interested to try the more powerful MDX Hybrid model, which uses a seven-speed dual-clutch in place of the nine-speed automatic. But to get the Hybrid, you will have to forgo the Sporty A-Spec package.

  • Engine
    3.5-liter V6 Gas
  • Transmission
    9-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrains
    AWD, FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

Acura has no trouble admitting the A-Spec package is only for appearance and is not meant to be a performance upgrade. Despite this, the MDX is still a very enjoyable SUV to drive. The suspension sits on the firmer side of the SUV spectrum but limits body roll to an enjoyable level. Those who are simply seeking a comfortable ride may want to opt for the Advanced Package, which adds adaptive dampers. We were very impressed with Acura's SH-AWD, which is able to torque vector, sending additional power to the outside wheel through corners. In layman's terms, the AWD system can nudge the MDX around corners more gracefully than most SUVs of this bulk. Acura likes to compare the MDX's AWD to the system found in the NSX supercar and although the comparison is a stretch, it is possible to sense how the two are connected.

Acceleration feels strong from the 3.5-liter V6, though it does beg to be revved out. Even in normal mode, the transmission will often let the engine rev to 3,000 to 4,000 rpm under light throttle, which can feel disconcerting to anyone just hoping for a quiet, uneventful trip to the pickup line at school. For gearheads, the experience is pretty fun and might be just the experience you are looking for after trading in a two-seat sports car for a more practical family runabout.

MDX Gas Mileage

While Honda's engines are generally great fun to drive, they also tend to deliver exceptional gas mileage, and the claims from the EPA tend to back that up. The MDX is most efficient in front-wheel driven guise, with EPA estimates of 20/27/23 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. Fitting SH-AWD drops these figures to 19/26/22 mpg, while a 19.5-gallon tank of gas should return a range of up to 449-miles in mixed scenarios.

In real-world driving, however, our fuel economy fell well below estimates with 16.7 mpg around town and 21 mpg on the highway. We blame the high-revving nature of the engine and transmission combo, which consistently allowed us to reach higher rpms.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    19.5 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 20/27 mpg
* 2019 Acura MDX 3.5L FWD

MDX Interior

Three-row seating for seven in the MDX is fantastic, with ample room for taller adults in the front two rows and acceptable room for the average-sized adult in the third row. Access is easy and practical, but what else would you expect from something sharing the same underpinnings as the Honda Pilot? But the similarities are too many, and the MDX fails to set itself apart with materials that feel far too similar to the Honda. You're not living in squalor, but you're sure as hell not enjoying five-star accommodation in the MDX's cabin, made worse by an infuriating infotainment system and some substandard build quality with creaking trim panels and more hard plastic than should be found at this price point.

2019 Acura MDX Dashboard
2019 Acura MDX Driver Seat
2019 Acura MDX Rear Passenger Seats
See All 2019 Acura MDX Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

The seats in the MDX A-Spec look properly aggressive and offer plenty of support. But our tester had a broken piece in the driver's seatback, which created a popping feeling each time we leaned in or out of the seat. We had our friends and family try out the seat and around half of them were able to feel the issue. After handing the car back, we learned of a recall for incorrect rivets on the driver seat that could explain the issue.

Aside from the busted driver's seat, rear seat legroom is generous and legroom can be expanded via a sliding bench. Hopping in the third row is a breeze thanks to a spring-loaded entry trigger by a single button. Once in the back, the third row offers a healthy 30.9-inches of legroom, which is great for small children and acceptable for adults.

  • Seating capacity
    7-seater

Interior Colors and Materials

Acura offers five interior colors including Ebony (black), Parchment (beige), Espresso (brown), Graystone (grey), and a combination of red and black. Opting for the A-Spec package limits the options to Ebony or Red and we'd opt for the red. The two-tone interior might be too much for some owners but we think it jazzes up the interior nicely.

Most of the materials feel soft and we love the leather/suede combination on the seat. However, parts of the interior do not feel any nicer they do in an equivalent Honda vehicle and we noticed squeaky trim panels on all four doors. The interior certainly doesn't feel up to par with the $56,000 as-test price of our tester.

MDX Trunk and Cargo Space

Like the Pilot, the MDX enjoys an abundance of storage space. Behind the third row of seats, there's a maximum cargo volume of 15.8 cubic feet, which should cater to a week's worth of grocery shopping. But the practicality expands with the third-row seats stowed out the way, unveiling 43.4 cubic feet which in turn swells to a maximum of 90.9 cubic feet with all but the front seats out of play, and with shorter occupants taking residence in the front pair of perches. These figures ensure the MDX sees off most three-row rivals who simply can't measure up, and the second- and third-row seats fold flat with immense ease. There's an additional storage bin beneath the main cargo hold, too, adding extra practicality.

The practicality continues throughout the cabin, with small item storage found in abundance. Large cupholders, cavernous door pockets, and a deep center console bin with flip compartment configurations are versatile and practical, catering to everything from purses and wallets to smartphones, and even tablets.

2019 Acura MDX Maximum Cargo Space
2019 Acura MDX Trunk Space
2019 Acura MDX Trunk Space with Third Row Folded

MDX Infotainment and Features

Features

While Acura has a penchant for undercutting rivals on price, they ensure their vehicles are fairly well-equipped, and the MDX stays true to tradition. Across the range, LED headlights are automatically operated, adaptive suspension is equipped, as are a power liftgate, sunroof, and keyless entry. Power adjustable front seats are heated and boast driver memory functions, while the steering wheel is also power adjustable. Tri-zone climate control keeps occupants at a reasonable temperature, while heated rear seats are available on the Advance trim. Front seat ventilation can also be equipped at A-Spec level. The feature-rich environment extends to driver assistance feature, too, with AcuraWatch features on all models including forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, road departure warning and mitigaton, and adaptive cruise control.

Infotainment

It's pretty easy to tell Acura is in the midst of an infotainment crisis. The company currently has three different infotainment systems (depending on the model) and the unit in the MDX is a head-scratcher. It uses two screens, one of which is controlled by touch, the other uses a rotating knob.

The touchscreen is small and has tiny touch zones for functions like fan speed and temperature control. It also handles radio control. Map and Bluetooth information are handled on the top screen, which wouldn't look out of place on the original 2001 MDX with its aging graphics. Android Auto and Apple Car Play improve the experience but neither is integrated on the lower touchscreen and the Android Auto in our tester refused to activate.

MDX Problems and Reliability

Three recalls have been issued for the 2019 MDX, one for insufficient levels of coating on the brake discs, one for potential separation of the teeth from the timing belt, and the third being for incorrect rivets used in the construction of the powered seats, which may see the seats come loose. The latter recall could potentially explain the popping sound heard from the driver's seat of our test unit when leaning in or out of the seat. Despite the recalls, owner-complaints have been limited for the last three years, which bodes well for the ownership experience. Of course, Acura covers the MDX with fairly extensive warranty coverage, including a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty and a six-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty, while also giving owners four-years or 50,000 miles worth of roadside assistance.

Out tester showed some questionable build quality elements including the broken front seats, squeaky trim on all four doors, and a loose piece of trim in the cargo area where the glue wore off.

MDX Safety

The MDX scores favorably with government safety agencies, picking up best available scores of Good from the IIHS and carrying the 2018 Top Safety Pick title, while the NHTSA gave an overall rating of five stars in its crash tests.

Key Safety Features

Central to the favorable crash test scores is the standard fitment of AcuraWatch on all MDX trims. This suite of driver assistance features includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, road departure warning with mitigation, lane keeping assist, and lane departure warning. On higher trims, front and rear park sensors, blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic monitoring are equipped, as is a surround-view monitor on the Advance Package. On all models, seven airbags are standard fitment, including dual front airbags, front side airbags, three-row side curtain airbags, and a driver knee airbag.

Verdict: Is the 2019 Acura MDX a good SUV?

The Acura MDX A-Spec is an enjoyable SUV to drive but it is let down by a number of crucial shortcomings. It has a wonderful engine but the transmission does a poor job allowing the driver to access it. The technology feels years out-of-date and the cabin materials feel like they should be compared with Toyota more so than Lexus.

It is clear Acura has paid more attention in recent years to the smaller RDX and we think the best-selling MDX is in need of an update to remain on top. Lexus has recently added a three-row RX to the lineup, which could steal a lot of the MDX's thunder. We love the look of the MDX A-Spec but feel there are better options in the three-row crossover segment, including its own corporate sibling, the cheaper Honda Pilot.

What's the Price of the 2019 Acura MDX?

In its cheapest guise, the Standard Acura MDX will set you back $44,300 before the addition of licensing, registration, tax, and destination charges, the latter a standard $995 fee. From there, the Technology Package carries an MSRP of $49,300, while the A-Spec as tested here is priced from $54,800 in the USA. The Advance Package starts at $56,050 in FWD guise, while the Entertainment Package can be equipped with the Technology Package starting at $51,300 or with the Advance Package, carrying a price tag of $58,050. All-wheel-drive can be added to all models except the A-Spec Package, on which it's standard, but adds an extra $2,000 to the asking price.

2019 Acura MDX Models

The MDX range is made up of six trims, despite Acura's insistence on calling them 'Packages'. These are Standard, Technology package, A-Spec Package, Advance Package, and lastly, the Entertainment Package which can be equipped to either the Technology or Advance Packages. All models make use of the same 290 horsepower 3.5-liter V6 and a nine-speed automatic gearbox, with front-wheel-drive standard on all trim but the A-Spec which is all-wheel driven, an option on other trims.

The Standard, despite being the cheapest, is a thoroughly kitted MDX. It incorporates fitment of 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, adaptive dampers, a power liftgate, keyless entry, and a power sunroof, as well as the AcuraWatch safety suite. Power adjustable front seats are heated while tri-zone climate control and an auto-dimming rearview mirror are standard items. A seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system is equipped with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality, as well as eight speakers.

Moving up to the Technology trim adds 20-inch alloy wheels, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, navigation, and a ten-speaker audio system with HD radio as key features.

New for 2019, the A-Spec package is primarily cosmetic, giving blacked out exterior enhancements and model-specific bumpers, while inside, a thicker-rimmed steering wheel, specific upholstery, front seat ventilation, and unique gauges are all included, while ventilated seats are more comfortable.

The Advance packs the most features with front and rear park sensors, a 360-degree camera, heated steering wheel, heated second-row captains chairs, and additional rear USB ports.

Lastly, the Entertainment Package can be paired with either the Technology or Advance models, equipping a second-row bench seat. On the Technology Package, it equips a nine-inch rear screen and 11 speakers, while on the Advance Package, the screen grows to 16.2-inches while the speaker count increases to 12.

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
3.5L
3.5-liter V6 Gas
9-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$44,300
3.5L with Technology Package
3.5-liter V6 Gas
9-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$49,300
3.5L with Technology & Entertainment Package
3.5-liter V6 Gas
9-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$51,300
3.5L with Technology & A-Spec Package
3.5-liter V6 Gas
9-Speed Automatic
All-Wheel Drive
$54,800
3.5L with Advance Package
3.5-liter V6 Gas
9-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$56,050
See All 2019 Acura MDX Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

With almost all functionality bundled into one of the six available trims, despite their package nomenclature, options are limited on the MDX. All-wheel-drive can be added optionally to all models but the A-Spec for $2,000 - it's standard on the A-Spec, while an assortment of accessory wheels are available priced from $2,785 upwards.

What Acura MDX Model Should I Buy?

We feel the A-Spec package adds enough visual excitement to warrant its $3,500 cost over a standard MDX. However, the MDX Hybrid is more powerful and provides improved fuel economy over the gas mode, so it should also be worth consideration. In all truthfulness, the MDX we'd buy is the Honda Pilot, which offers similar packaging, powertrain, practicality, and premium feel all at a lower cost.

Check out other Acura MDX Styles?

2019 Acura MDX Comparisons

2019 Acura MDX
2019 Acura MDX

2019 Acura MDX vs Acura RDX

If you'd rather stay within the Acura brand, the smaller RDX may be of serious consideration, and judging by the sales records, for many buyers its been the more enticing option. Key to the decision might be price, with the RDX priced $7,000 cheaper than the MDX, for the loss of the third row of seating. Those five seats in the RDX feel more premium and more comfortable than the MDX, and the cabin space is put to better use for passengers, and while the MDX may offer more overall cargo volume, the RDX bests its direct rivals by a substantial margin. The RDX pulls further ahead with a more premium interior look and feel, compared to the MDX which feels like a redesigned Honda Pilot. The RDX may make do with less power at 272 horsepower, but its 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and refined ten-speed automatic gearbox are better performers in a lighter body while providing comparable gas mileage. There's really not much going for the MDX in this comparison, and unless you desperately need three rows of seating, you're better off opting for the RDX in just about every aspect.

See Acura RDX Review

2019 Acura MDX vs Honda Pilot

As corporate siblings, there's much shared between the Acura MDX and the Honda Pilot, including three-row seating for up to seven occupants, a potent 3.5-liter V6 engine, and much of the same safety equipment. However, the MDX gets a little more grunt from the engine to the tune of 10 hp more. Where the Honda has more, though, is in the third-row space, which can accommodate adults more comfortably so than the MDX's third row. Both offer comparable cargo volume, too, and similar gas mileage estimates. The biggest difference is in price, with the MDX nearly $14,000 more expensive than the Pilot in base guise. Is it $14,000 better, though? We're inclined to say no, as the Acura's interior quality feels far too close to the Honda's to justify a premium price-tag for what is essentially a premium-badged Pilot itself. Our recommendation, opt for a well-specified Pilot and save yourself a big chunk of change.

See Honda Pilot Review

Acura MDX Popular Comparisons

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2019 Acura MDX Video Reviews