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Review: 2014 Acura MDX

Kamil Kaluski March 25, 2014 Acura Reviews, Featured, Reviews 27 Comments

2014 acura mdx technology front side

It is a common believe among Redusernab readers that, despite my best efforts to say otherwise, cross-over SUVs are the work of the devil and that when you guys need a vehicle capable of hauling people or things, you get either a station wagon or a minivan. Evidently the case is the same for large fuel-efficient sedans; those too are the killer of enthusiasts and they certainly do not belong on an enthusiast car site such as this. Unfortunately you’re all wrong, because as long as it is car-related, it belongs on Redusernab, and as long as it’s car-related we won’t need no stinkin’ Manifesto to tell ourselves that we should be something that we are not.

I, who consider myself an enthusiast, have owned over a dozen vehicles in my life, everything from a Honda CR-X to a BMW M5, interlaced with some Jeeps in between. Shockingly, I consider my current vehicle, a 2005 Acura MDX, to be the best car I have ever owned. In its 135,000 miles in has never failed me, despite frequently being abused and often poorly maintained. It has been in two serious accidents now, one with airbag deployment, and each time it made it home under its own power.

After recent negotiations with my accountant/boss/wife, it was determined that we have the budget and a want/need for a new family vehicle. We are a two-kid, one-car, city family; truly an oddity in the United States. For this reason I must choose such vehicle wisely; it must be safe, reliable, roomy, comfortable, and be relatively inexpensive to buy, own, and maintain. Oh, and it must meet the wife-factor, which has a completely unknown set of expectations. It was under these criteria that allowed my MDX to have been so good to me. Its upcoming replacement, whatever it may be, has some big shoes to fill. 

It therefore shouldn’t be a surprise that I was very interested in the new 2014 Acura MDX. Now I finally had a chance to drive one and evaluate it from the end-user’s perspective, and, well, I  truly don’t know how I feel about it. 

2014 acura mdx technology side

The biggest change Honda made to this vehicle was de-trucking it. My old MDX feels like a large vehicle; you sit high, you see a lot, it’s got a short-ish wheelbase, and short front and rear overhangs. The 2014 MDX is lower and longer; you sit lower and you really don’t know where the front- or rear-end ends. That is just a perception, as actual length/width/height dimensions vary by no more than 5/1/-1 inches, yet it feels so different to get in and out of, almost wagon-like. The good news is that unlike many other new cars on the market, the MDX has big/tall windows and good visibility. 

The original MDX and Honda Pilot have been interior packaging champs of their time, with roomy seats, plenty of cargo volume, nifty cubbies and consoles, large tailgate opening and seats that folded flat. The new MDX, with its sloping roof and shorter tailgate opening, loses some of that and here numbers don’t lie: 2005 MDX passenger volume was 161cu.ft. and the 2014 is 132cu.ft. 

There are numerous interior improvements however, for instance there is now more legroom in the back, mostly due to the longer wheelbase. Accessing the third row seat is much easier due to a redesigned middle bench that now slides with a push of a button, and longer rear doors that open wider. This is very helpful when strapping toddlers into their seats. The center console is much bigger, as are the door pockets, both of which get constantly filled up with junk in my own car. Otherwise, everything is nice and new and pretty, but it is not necessarily different or better.

2014 acura mdx technology dash

The dash layout received the most significant change, now sporting two infotainment screens on the Technology Package equipped vehicle seen here. The idea is that the top screen is the status display screen for audio, nav, phone, or system settings. The lower touch-screen is where all the adjustments and inputs are made. In theory this should work great, but in reality it takes significant amount of time to master, and I had to pull out the owner’s manual on two occasions. Once all your radio presets and phone connections are set, however, the primary functions are easy to use.

The biggest improvement for 2014 comes from the chassis, however, as there is a lower center of gravity. Combine the same curb weight as the first generation vehicle (275lbs less than second gen) and more power, and you have a vehicle that’s surprisingly enjoyable to drive when pushed. The super magical Super Handling AWD system has an Audi Quattro-esque feel about it, which is a good thing. The 290hp and 267 torques produced from the 3.5-liter direct-injected V6 does not sound like a lot, but it feels more than it is, and it’s enough for a good time in the upper RPM range. This is a lively powertrain for a CUV and there are no bullcrap ECO buttons. 

Fuel economy comes in at EPA-rated 18mpg city and 27mpg highway, thanks in part to cylinder deactivation, an extra gear (6-speeds, now), and improved aerodynamics. I averaged about 21mph in mixed city/gridlock/highway driving, which is not a lot, but more than the always low 16mpg I have been getting for years with my old MDX. This rating, and real life usage, is about average for this size CUV.

2014 acura mdx technology interior details

Feature and technology wise, the 2014 MDX does not bring anything new to the market, nor does it shatter the competition with power, economy, or space. In 2002 Hyundai was making cheap econoboxes but today the Santa Fe is a real competitor, and I am not sure which I’d rather own. That said, the MDX drives better than most cars in its class, it has a great sounding audio system, the doors close super softly, and there is not a single rattle. The vehicle seems to be screwed together in that magical Honda way convincing you that in ten years it will perform as good as new, which can’t be said about the Hyundai.

In 2002, the Acura MDX was the first premium three-row cross-over utility vehicle on the market and it enjoyed a huge sales success while other manufacturers played catch-up. The new MDX left me with mixed feelings; it is definitely improved but it is not necessarily better than the old one. The model has undergone an evolution, but not a revolution, which the rest of the industry did, and is now simply an average player in a very competitive game.

My family car shopping goes on and I have nothing but time on my hands as my old MDX continues to provide reliable service. I have no idea what I’ll end up with next, but it will likely be an enthusiast unfriendly and boring cross-over SUV, if for no other reason than because the one I have has been so great. Yes, I would love to be writing about my adventures in cross-shopping a Nissan GT-R versus a Porsche 911, but I have two cute little people in my life that won’t let me do that. While there are no plans to publish it, I have just drafted the Redusernab   and Jeff is currently editing it – it shouldn’t take too long because it only consists of two words. 

2014 acura mdx technology front side rear

Disclaimer: Acura provided the vehicle for the purpose of this review.

[Images: copyright 2014 Redusernab/Kamil Kaluski]

  • ramLlama

    <img src="; width=300px>

    Why have two bulbs when you can have 10? The motivation behind having a gazillion (expensive!) projection lamps boggles my mind. I think it was first started with the Escalade of a few years ago, and I am saddened to see that the trend has not yet died out…

    We the car itself, it seems perfectly competent family hauler (emphasis on family rather than people. I am sure many amenities cater to the struggles of carting hyperactive children around). in that Acura/Honda way. And certainly, I prefer it's looks to the Santa Fe (I do not like Hyundai's current design language. I think Kia's is much nicer).

    Speaking about the MDX, the first (and really only) one I was ever in was my friend's, way back in what, 2003 or so? It had a drop down monitor for the rear passengers with wireless headphones. Such tech is de riguer for the past several years, but at the time, it blew my mind.

    • FЯeeMan

      I've seen that on a number of new cars (started with the infinity Q45, back in '89). Are they using LEDs behind those lenses, so they need one projector for each LED?

    • It's jewelery, impress the Joneses kind of things.

      Regarding things such as the screens in the original MDX – that's the point I was trying to make. The new MDX is not like the old MDX was in its time, it's wont revolutionize the market like it did back in 2002, but it is a nice family vehicle.

      • ramLlama

        Yeah, I know it's just a fashion statement, especially considering that Acura is a luxury brand after all, but I still don't like it. And sometimes, it feels like an insect's compound eyes, and mars the design of the front. This one doesn't affect the design too badly though.

        This MDX won't revolutionize the market, but it seems like a decent update. And not being leader of the pack may not be a bad thing. It isn't that the MDX is no longer the best, but that all competitors are good nowadays. And that luxury of choice between multiple really good models is a good thing.

  • FЯeeMan

    And, that is exactly why there aren't any brand-new, 30-year-old, 6MT, supercharged V8 turbo wagons being offered for sale on the new-car lots of America. Despite all our ranting & raving here, when it comes down to buying something for the family to use on a daily basis, most people gravitate toward something like this. It's comfy, reliable, and gets the job done with a minimum of fuss. The other thing it does is not occupy garage time that can be better spent teaching the young 'uns how to wrench by creating that brand-new, 30-year-old, 6MT, supercharged v8 turbo wagon just exactly how we want it with no silly option groups that declare you have to have heated leather seats in order to get a decent quality driving light out front.

    • BlackIce_GTS

      A selection of 30-year-old wagons, 6spds and superturbo V8s are left to your imaginations. Or fabrication skills!:
      ;
      ;
      ;
      ;
      I couldn't find a Magna that was both 30 years old and nice looking, so here's a newer one.
      ;
      quote from the source: "like NONE of this cars were buyed by normal people"
      ;
      It's not in perfect condition, but demonstrates that there is someone who cares about K cars.
      ;
      Learned to drive in a car very much like this one.
      <img src="http://redusernab.info/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/wombat-scaredshiftless.jpg"&gt;

  • schigleymischke

    I cross-shopped a used MDX against my V70 when I was looking. Besides the price, the thing that put me off the MDX the most was the space shuttle level of buttons on the center stack. I didn't want to call out to the copilot or the radio operator every time I wanted to adjust the AC. I'm glad they've addressed that design choice.

    So, the new MDX is more wagon-like than truck-like? It seems if we wagon lovers just wait, the evolution of the SUV and CUV will bring them back to wagons in few more generations. WUV?

    • HSA❄

      Aren't the newest SUVs practically wagons already by now? Most compact to mid-size SUVs and CUVs are offered with FWD as default. The sales guy looked rather surprised when I indicated I might prefer the 4WD version over FWD for a new Honda CRV. For Opel Mokka, the 4WD is almost a curiosity that is basically offered to justify the looks. It's limited to some configurations only, and mutually exclusive with automatic transmission.
      The reason for sticking to this number of driving wheels is that 4WD is the last truck-like, or even mildly off-road related, thing in modern SUVs, CUVs or whatever they are.
      Or maybe we have to look 10 years back in time, when the Subaru Forester looked like this:
      <img src=";
      Personally, I'd prefer a tall wagon over any SUV. The only problem is that they don't exist.

      • schigleymischke

        TWUV

      • IR Bigglesworth

        Oh god the Mokka/Chevrolet Trax… That thing is what keeps the "canal boat" diesel thing going. Seriously, you want to yell at the engine to shut the f*ck up. Maybe it's some kind of eco feature; dissuading you from using the tiny amount of power available. Other than that I suppose it's a nice enough car if you want something cute and trendy*.

        *If someone tries to tell you something is "trendy", as in en vogue, then it isn't.

        No tall wagons? The "lift it a bit and add extra platic cladding and possibly 4wd" type of wagon doesn't appeal to you then, I assume..?

        • HSA❄

          I haven't ever even sat in a Mokka, so I don't know how it feels or sounds like. Very likely it's like you described.
          No, there are no tall wagons. The raised suspension and some cheap bits of plastic don't help the visibility issue or maked the interior any less cramped.

  • Ben

    The current CUVs are pretty much just raised wagons. For someone who doesn't care about cornering I think they're a better proposition. I drive a 2014 Focus ST and my girlfriend drives a 2014 Escape SE, I'm going to compare them as if the ST was a wagon (since it's available as such in Europe). For a DD I think the Escape is a better car for several reasons: 1. Better visibility, 2. better ride, 3. easy to get into, the seats are level with my ass I don't have to sit into or upto it, 4. better ground clearance (think snowstorms, camping, mountain biking, fairgrounds), 5. can tow 3,500lbs from the factory. In addition the Escape pulls of identical gas mileage to the ST and accelerates every bit as hard if your not drag racing. Of course the ST will carve an on-ramp much better, but that's about the only thing it does better.

    • Maymar

      To be fair regarding the ride, you're comparing a harder edged performance model to something more mainstream. Personally, I find crossovers a little too wobbly, the extra height exaggerates body motions.

      • Ben

        I also had a 2012 Focus SE hatchback that I traded for the ST, it's ride was equally as bad. (Although it did get great gas mileage). I don't find the escape to be very wobbly at all. At normal everyday speeds it corners very well. I would take the Escape over a non-ST Focus Wagon any day of the week.

        • Maymar

          The Escape actually isn't bad, although you still have to be more smooth with your actions. I dunno, I had a rental Focus last year, and its ride didn't stand out negatively in any way. I do resent though, that we don't get the choice of a Focus wagon or the Escape though.

    • IR Bigglesworh

      If you want excessive ground clearance, go get a Volvo 740. This is Redusernab, after all.

      • Ben

        I'll stick with my ST, although I'd love a V60. I was just pointing out that for an average buyer the CUV might be a better option than a wagon.

        • IR Bigglesworh

          Not arguing with you, certainly for many people it is the best option. But on some primeval level I just dislike the fact that the CUV exists. It's sort of half-assed.. It's not really a truck, but not really a wagon either; okay at everything but not spectacular at anything.

          • Ben

            I feel you on that.

  • Maymar

    I'm not necessarily opposed to crossover reviews and such on Redusernab, as I get the impulse to drive all the things. Not a fan of the insistence that because the public want these more than minivans, they're better though. I mean, it's not really a stylistic thing – not that minivans are good looking, but crossovers tend to be misshapen blobs just as often. So what is it, people are just embarrassed of the implication that they might be parents? What does that say?

    • Ben

      Well, minivans went the way of the wagon. I suspect that in twenty year maybe wagons will be in and no one will want to drive a CUV.

      • craymor

        one can only hope:)

      • Vairship

        At which time Redusernab readers will be advocating CUVs and minivans 😉

    • Devin

      The ever changing popular family hauling apparatus is driven by people who do not want to be seen as becoming their parents.

      I suspect crossovers will be replaced by some other flavor of big practical box as the kids who grew up in the back of 'em have kids of their own. I actually wonder if it'll cycle back to wagons – I know a couple early 20s friends of mine were cooing over a 240 the other day, who knows?

    • I don't know about anyone else, I never said CUVs were "better than minivans" 🙂

  • Minivans are the better choice in nearly every quantifiable way. More room, less fuel, less pricey, etc. But, they don't pass the style test for most people. CUVs like this are a decent compromise and better than a big BOF SUV like a Tahoe.

    Still, most days I had my Outlook I found myself missing my old Odyssey, unless I had the trailer hooked up. The Outlook was a very capable vehicle, but in most daily situations the Odyssey was more so.

  • joeaverage21

    We have a ’14 Tech AWD with ~60K on it now. Its been a super car that I expect we’ll drive to 200K miles or more. We’ve always had great success with Honda – cars, motorcycles, generators or lawn mowers.

    Still rattle free. Still troublefree. Comfortable for all day drives to the big city for vacation or to the beach.

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