2020 Acura MDX

2020 Acura MDX Review: Luxury SUV Can't Hide All Its Flaws

by Gabe Beita Kiser

The Acura MDX continues to be one of the brand's best-selling models. The three-row luxury SUV offers plenty of features and a strong engine, yet is one of the more affordable options in its segment. Available either in front-wheel-drive configuration or with Acura's super handling all-wheel-drive setup, the familiar 3.5-liter V6 engine with 290 horsepower offers spirited performance and good refinement. Inside, the MDX's spacious cabin makes a positive first impression, but it isn't quite as posh as the best of the competition. More of an issue is a dated and complex dual-screen infotainment system that is now well behind the best offerings. The transmission also makes it hard to extract the best out of the engine. Perhaps the MDX's biggest issue is the cheaper Honda Pilot - sharing much with the MDX, the Acura may have the more premium badge, but the difference between the two isn't all that great. But the MDX's sales figures don't lie: it remains one of America's favorite SUVs.

2020 Acura MDX Changes: What’s the difference vs 2019 MDX?

Last year, the MDX range receive a host of updates including a retuned automatic transmission, new colors, and the addition of the A-Spec package. Perhaps because of these recent updates, Acura has elected to go into 2020 with no further updates to the MDX.

Pros and Cons

  • Refined and potent V6 engine
  • Lots of driver safety aids fitted as standard
  • Good use of space in the feature-rich cabin
  • Reasonable price for a luxury SUV
  • Available SH-AWD system enhances handling
  • Infotainment system is the cabin's biggest weakness
  • Below-average quality of interior materials
  • Automatic transmission is a weak point
  • Button-activated shifter isn't the easiest to use

MDX Exterior

Like other modern Acuras, the MDX gets the brand's Jewel Eye LED headlights and diamond-pentagon grille. It's a handsome and inoffensive mid-size SUV, although it seems primed for the A-Spec package as there's nothing especially remarkable about its lines. Further standard features include a power moonroof, auto high-beams, and a power-operated tailgate. The Technology package also adds 20-inch alloy wheels, LED puddle lights, and power-folding side mirrors, while the A-Spec gets gloss black trim and exclusive front/rear bumpers.

2020 Acura MDX Front Angle View Acura
2020 Acura MDX Front View Acura
2020 Acura MDX Front Angle View 1 Acura
See All 2020 Acura MDX Exterior Photos

Dimensions

As it is based on the three-row Honda Pilot, the MDX shares the same 111-inch wheelbase. Other key measurements are also nearly identical - the MDX is 196.2 inches long, 77.7 inches wide, and 67.4 inches in height. Ground clearance is 7.3 inches, regardless of the version you choose. Curb weight varies between 4,032 pounds for the standard FWD model and 4,350 for the AWD model equipped with the Advance and Entertainment packages.

Exterior Colors

Nine total colors are available for the MDX range, but some require a package upgrade. On the standard model, you have immediate access to the following five shades: Platinum Pearl White, Lunar Silver Metallic, Modern Steel Metallic, Majestic Black Pearl ($400), and Performance Red Pearl ($400). Colors requiring a package upgrade are Apex Blue Pearl, Canyon Bronze Metallic, Fathom Blue Pearl, or Gunmetal Metallic. We'd go for one of the more flamboyant shades such as Performance Red Pearl or the Apex Blue Pearl which do a good job of endowing the basic MDX shape with a bit more flair.

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

MDX Performance

The MDX's engine is the highlight of its powertrain - the 3.5-liter V6 does without a turbo but still has good peak outputs of 290 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque. Whether in the standard front-wheel-drive guise or fitted with Acura's optional SH-AWD (Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive), the MDX will hit 60 mph in under seven seconds. With a better transmission, we think it'd be even more rapid, though, as the nine-speed auto isn't the fastest-shifting unit around. Reworked last year, the transmission now resists overly eager upshifts but it remains a step behind the best. The MDX's towing capacity is 3,500 pounds for FWD models and an impressive 5,000 lbs if equipped with AWD.

2020 Acura MDX Rear Angle View Acura
2020 Acura MDX Wheel Acura
2020 Acura MDX Engine Acura

Engine and Transmission

Acura hasn't messed too much with a formula that works and has stuck with its trusted 3.5-liter naturally-aspirated V6 for the MDX range. The i-VTEC engine makes a nice sound when pushed and delivers 290 hp and 267 lb-ft. Whichever model you choose, you'll get the same nine-speed automatic transmission with sequential SportShift paddle shifters. Off the mark, the MDX feels energetic and throttle response is good - it can't quite match some turbocharged competitors, but if the MDX V6 is the only car you'll be driving, you'll rarely feel shortchanged. On the highway, cruising at the legal limit is no problem either. The transmission is better than before with smooth gear changes being the order of the day, but it's not quite as adept in its workings as industry-leading automatics from the likes of BMW.

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

Handling and Driving Impressions

Acura's SH-AWD system isn't just fanciful marketing speak (even if "super handling" is a bit of a stretch for a midsize SUV) because the MDX genuinely handles well, with torque vectoring able to send extra power to the outside wheel when cornering. In its sportier driving modes, the steering has a welcome added weightiness to it - combined with the crossover's ability to resist body roll and the V6's responsiveness, the MDX is more enjoyable to drive than most others in this segment.

Ride comfort is generally absorbent and the MDX feels suitably buttoned-down. Not all bumps are kept at bay, however, as the slightly firm MDX has traded some smoothness in favor of its admirable handling qualities. It's far from uncomfortable, of course, and excellent sound-deadening helps to make this quite a serene cruiser. Around town and in normal driving mode, the steering is also light enough to make parking an effortless affair. Although it's no NSX, overall the MDX's dynamics strike a good balance between handling, ride quality, and refinement.

MDX Gas Mileage

The MDX's V6 isn't just a good performer - it also returns pleasing EPA economy estimates. The front-wheel-drive model is best, returning figures of 20/27/23 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. A 19.5-gallon gas tank is fitted, so a combined cruising range of about 448 miles is possible. The AWD variant is a bit thirstier, with figures of 19/26/22 mpg, and if paired with the sporty A-Spec package, consumption worsens to 19/25/21 mpg.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    19.5 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 20/27 mpg
* 2020 Acura MDX 3.5L FWD 7-Passenger

MDX Interior

With so much in common with the Honda Pilot, the MDX shares a similarly spacious interior with three-row seating - even adults of average size will be able to sit reasonably comfortably in the third row. There's also lots of available equipment on board, from a premium ten-speaker sound system to ventilated seats and lovely Milano leather upholstery. Unfortunately, it's not all good news. The MDX is still burdened with Acura's dual-screen infotainment system that one never quite acclimatizes to, while build quality isn't up to the expectations set by the badge on the nose. There are a few cabin squeaks and harder plastics that would seriously upset the average Audi driver. These are some of the flaws that Acura needs to remedy if it wants the MDX to compete for class-best honors.

2020 Acura MDX Dashboard Acura
2020 Acura MDX Steering Wheel Controls Acura
2020 Acura MDX Driver Seat Acura
See All 2020 Acura MDX Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

A full seven-seater, the MDX's third row isn't just for show. There's actually plenty of space back there for children and adequate legroom and headroom for average-sized adults. The first two rows are even more comfortable, with generous space in all directions and comfortable seats. The second row can also slide to increase legroom (in their forward-most position, third-row passengers have over 30 inches of legroom), while an adjustable seatback angle improves comfort. The Advance package replaces the second-row bench with more comfortable captain's chairs, although this reduces the overall seating capacity to six. A tilt-and-telescoping steering column and a driver's seat with plenty of adjustment ensure that finding a comfortable position behind the wheel isn't a chore. Ingress and egress are easy enough for all passengers, and a one-touch feature quickly moves the second-row seat out of the way to improve access to the third row.

  • Seating capacity
    7-seater

Interior Colors and Materials

The base model gets sports seats with premium leather upholstery as standard, so even if you don't opt for one of the optional packages, you won't feel too disappointed. Go for the Technology package and attractive contrast stitching is added to the seats along with natural wood trim. Another step up is the Advance which brings with it Milano premium leather with contrast stitching and piping. The sporty A-Spec has seats trimmed in a combination of leather and Alcantara, an Ebony (black) headliner, stainless steel sport pedals, and metal interior trim. While the seats themselves look good on all models, the general standard of plastics and assembly is disappointing considering the MDX's positioning as a luxury crossover.

The interior color palette ranges from conservative Ebony to a more expressive Red, although the available colors change depending on the chosen package. For instance, the red hue is restricted to the A-Spec. Other available shades include Parchment, Espresso and Graystone.

MDX Trunk and Cargo Space

Like the similarly sized Honda Pilot, there's plenty of cargo capacity in the MDX. Even with the third row of seats up, there's a useful 15.8 cubic feet of space available, more than enough to accommodate the weekly shop. By folding down the 50/50-split-folding third row of seats, a generous 43.4 cubes of space is freed up. The second row, meanwhile, is a 60/40-split-folding design - with these seats folded, you'll get a vast 90.9 cubes of space behind the front seats. Not only are these excellent figures, but folding down the second and third rows is an effortless exercise.

There's also good news for small-item storage space. A multi-function center console with a sliding tray is well-designed and suitably spacious. This is in addition to multiple cupholders and large door pockets.

2020 Acura MDX Maximum Cargo Space Acura
2020 Acura MDX Trunk Space Acura
2020 Acura MDX Trunk Floor Storage Acura

MDX Infotainment and Features

Features

The MDX is better-equipped than most, with even the base model getting standard features like a 12-way power driver's seat with easy entry, an eight-way power front passenger seat, heated front seats, tri-zone automatic climate control, a keyless access system, an electronic tilt-telescoping steering column, and a power moonroof. The safety specification is also extensive, with adaptive cruise control, a rearview camera, road departure mitigation, and lane keeping assist among the standard inclusions. The Technology package adds LED puddle lights, front/rear parking sensors, remote engine start, GPS-linked climate control, and power-folding side mirrors. As part of the Advance package, expect amenities like heated rear outboard seats, auto-dimming side mirrors, a head-up warning, and a heated steering wheel. The Entertainment package adds wireless headphones and an extensive entertainment system, while A-Spec gets you ventilated front seats and bespoke trim.

Infotainment

In-vehicle infotainment systems have advanced to a point where a poor setup could be a dealbreaker when purchasing a new car. Considering how often these systems are used - and the safety implications of a fiddly design - buyers should rightfully be picky. Bearing this in mind, it's disappointing that Acura hasn't been able to find a better solution to its dual-screen infotainment system - the lower touchscreen handles functions like fan speed and the radio, and the upper screen is controlled via a physical knob for features like navigation. In practice, it's just not intuitive to operate as, all too often, a few seconds are needed to figure out which screen does what.

To its credit, the system features everything you'd expect: Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth streaming audio and HandsFreeLink, Pandora compatibility, a USB audio interface, SiriusXM satellite radio, SMS/MMS/email compatibility, and Siri Eyes Free are all included. The standard premium audio system features eight speakers, but the Technology package upgrades this to a ten-speaker Acura/ELS audio system. This package also encompasses navigation with 3D view, real-time traffic information, Song By Voice, and traffic rerouting.

If you want to treat the kids, you'll need the Entertainment package. It includes another audio system upgrade to 11 speakers (or 12 when coupled with the Advance package), along with wireless headphones and a rear DVD entertainment system. When combined with the Technology package, you get a nine-inch full VGA screen and if combined with the Advance pack, a 16.2-inch ultra-wide full VGA screen with HDMI compatibility.

MDX Problems and Reliability

The 2020 Acura MDX has a J.D. Power rating of 76 out of 100, indicating a reasonable but not outstanding customer experience. As it's early in the model's life, it's no surprise that the NHTSA hasn't had to issue any recalls, but the 2019 model was subject to three of them: one for timing belt teeth which may separate and cause an engine stall, the potential failure of the tailgate lid light, and an issue with the coating on the rear brake caliper pistons that could result in a loss of braking power.

Acura's limited vehicle warranty extends to four years or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first. Every MDX also gets a six-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty, outer body rust-through for five years with unlimited miles, and four-year/50,000 mile roadside assistance in the event of a breakdown.

MDX Safety

The MDX scored well with local crash-testing agencies. The NHTSA gave it a full five-star rating for overall safety, while 2019 ratings from the IIHS saw the MDX achieve the highest available Good rating in all major crash parameters. The headlights, however, were rated only as Acceptable. The IIHS also awarded the 2018 MDX its revered Top Safety Pick award.

Key Safety Features

Acura hasn't skimped on safety gear - the MDX gets nearly everything included from the base model up. That means a full suite of airbags (including side curtain airbags with a rollover sensor), LED daytime running lights, vehicle stability assist with traction control, trailer stability assist, and tire pressure monitoring. You also get many driver aids out of the box, including adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, a multi-view rear camera with dynamic guidelines, collision mitigation braking, road departure mitigation, lane keeping assist, forward collision warning and lane departure warning. The Technology package also adds front/rear parking sensors, a blind-spot information system, and a rear cross-traffic monitor. Finally, Advance specification adds a surround-view camera system.

Verdict: Is the 2020 Acura MDX a good SUV?

There are a few clear reasons that the Acura MDX remains a strong seller for the brand. With its solid V6 engine and surprisingly entertaining dynamics (especially when equipped with AWD), this is a three-row SUV that's far from a bore behind the wheel. It's also well-priced and offers loads of convenience and safety features. It's also brilliantly versatile, with good space for seven passengers and a roomy cargo area, even with all seven seats in place. If only some more attention was paid to its build quality and the implementation of technology (the dual-screen infotainment system can't be replaced soon enough), this would be a class-leading SUV. At the top-end of the range, these flaws are hard to overlook as the MDX's price begins to overlap with the superb Mercedes-Benz GLE and BMW X5, both of which offer greater refinement and peerless quality, easily outclass the Acura. At a base level, the MDX has to contend closer to home with the cheaper and equally competent Honda Pilot. That leaves Acura's midsize SUV in a bit of a predicament - it's a good SUV surrounded by competitors with a more consistent spread of abilities.

What's the Price of the 2020 Acura MDX?

The MDX range starts with the standard MDX at an MSRP of $44,400, excluding a destination fee of $995 as well as tax, licensing, and registration. Next is the MDX with the Technology Package at $49,400 followed by the MDX with the Technology and Entertainment Packages at $53,400. Next is the sporty A-Spec at $54,900, and at the higher end of the range is the Advance Package at $56,150, the Advance and Entertainment Package tops the range at $60,150.

Acura's SH-AWD (Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive system) is standard on models equipped with the Entertainment or A-Spec packages but is available for an additional $2,000 on other versions which are FWD by default.

2020 Acura MDX Models

While most manufacturers' trim lines are standalone, Acura's strategy has been to create several packages that build on top of each other. There are essentially six packages - or trims - to choose from: the standard MDX, the Technology package, the Technology and Entertainment package, the Advance package, the Advance and Entertainment package, and the A-Spec package. To access the Advance package, you first need to tick the box for the Technology package. All models are fitted with the same 3.5-liter, 290-horsepower V6 engine, and a nine-speed automatic transmission. FWD is the default drivetrain on all, although models equipped with the Entertainment or A-Spec packages have AWD.

The standard MDX gets 18-inch wheels, a power moonroof, a power-operated tailgate, tri-zone climate control, leather upholstery with power-adjustment and heating for both front seats, push-button ignition, and a keyless access system. Infotainment comprises a dual-screen setup with a touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity, and an eight-speaker audio system. On the safety front, the base model gets a full suite of airbags, a multi-angle rearview camera, adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, road departure mitigation, and more. The Technology package adds 20-inch alloy wheels, LED puddle lights, power-folding side mirrors, front/rear parking sensors, an upgraded ten-speaker sound system, navigation with 3D view, blind-spot monitoring and remote engine start.

The Advance package includes the Technology package by default and also adds an active damper system, heated/ventilated front seats, second-row captain's chairs, a surround-view camera system, a head-up warning, and LED fog lights. The Entertainment package requires the Technology or Advance packages first - it gives rear-seat passengers a lot more to play with thanks to a DVD rear entertainment system and wireless headphones. The sound system gets additional speakers and a VGA screen is added (nine-inches if coupled with the Technology pack and 16.2-inches if coupled with the Advance).

Finally, there's the A-Spec package which is mostly cosmetic. It includes the Technology package by default, but also adds standard all-wheel-drive, 20-inch Shark Gray alloy wheels, unique A-Spec bumpers, darkened headlights and taillights, and A-Spec exterior badging. Inside, the seats are upholstered in a combination of Milano leather and Alcantara, plus the gauge cluster gets red/silver illumination.

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
3.5L
3.5-liter V6 Gas
9-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$44,500
3.5L with Technology Package
3.5-liter V6 Gas
9-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$49,500
3.5L with Technology & Entertainment Package
3.5-liter V6 Gas
9-Speed Automatic
All-Wheel Drive
$53,500
3.5L with A-Spec Package
3.5-liter V6 Gas
9-Speed Automatic
All-Wheel Drive
$55,000
3.5L with Advance Package
3.5-liter V6 Gas
9-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$56,250
See All 2020 Acura MDX Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

As Acura's packages (effectively trims) provide extensive customization, there are relatively few major additional options outside of them. All-wheel-drive is available for $2,000 on all models which aren't equipped with the A-Spec or Entertainment packages - these versions aren't available with FWD. Further extras include backup parking sensors for $528 (on models not already equipped with them), LED fog lights at $650, and a remote engine start system at $399.

What Acura MDX Model Should I Buy?

You'll want to shop carefully when purchasing your MDX. Although the A-Spec package initially seems appealing at $3,500 when building your ideal MDX, it requires you to add both the Technology package ($5,000) and SH-AWD ($2,000), a total price jump of over $10,000 over the standard model. That said, you do get plenty of kit. However, our choice would be the MDX SH-AWD with the Technology package at $51,400. Not only do you get the dynamic benefits of the AWD system, but many additional creature comforts, too.

Check out other Acura MDX Styles

2020 Acura MDX Comparisons

Acura RDX Acura
Honda Pilot Honda

2020 Acura MDX vs Acura RDX

Starting at almost $7,000 less than the MDX, the RDX is likely to be an appealing alternative to anyone considering an entry-level MDX. You do lose the benefit of seven seats, however, as the RDX only offers seating for five. There's also a drop in overall cargo capacity, although the RDX's 29.5 cubic feet behind the rear seats is still generous. Disregarding the lack of a third row, it's the RDX that has a superior cabin. It feels more upscale than the MDX and the touchpad infotainment system, while not perfect, is much better than what's in the MDX. Both SUVs are available with Acura's Super-Handling AWD system, but the MDX's naturally-aspirated V6 engine is a bit stronger than the RDX's turbo-four. Even considering that, we'd pick the RDX between these two. The MDX's additional seating capacity and cargo space are its only real advantages.

See Acura RDX Review

2020 Acura MDX vs Honda Pilot

With a starting price that's well over $10,000 cheaper than the base MDX, the Honda Pilot offers the same seating capacity, similar V6 power, comparable fuel efficiency, and many of the same safety features. One would think that going for the MDX would get you a significant bump up in quality, but the well-built Pilot hardly feels like a step down, particularly if you go for one of the higher trims. For instance, the $42,620 Honda Pilot Touring still costs less than the cheapest MDX, yet offers a premium ten-speaker sound system, a Blu-ray rear entertainment system, and navigation, all of which you won't get on the base MDX. The Pilot is quite simply the better buy here, and if you choose the MDX instead, you'll be paying for little more than the badge.

See Honda Pilot Review

Acura MDX Popular Comparisons

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