Reviews

2017 Acura MDX Driving Impressions


The direct-injection V6 uses Honda’s i-VTEC variable valvetrain with two-stage Variable Cylinder Management that stops the fuel to three cylinders when the car is cruising. This engine was developed from Acura’s successful endurance racing engine, a 60-degree aluminum V6, single overhead cam with 24 valves. It makes 290 horsepower at 6200 rpm and 267 pound-feet of torque at 4500 rpm. It’s a smooth, refined engine, with acceleration whenever you need it, and it stays smooth to redline 6700 rpm.

However the nine-speed automatic transmission that was new for 2016 doesn’t provide the seamless shifts of the previous transmission. Most of the time it’s smooth enough, but it sometimes gets confused by all those gears, and hesitates; it’s like there are just too many choices for the computer program. One nice feature is that it automatically shifts into Park when you turn off the engine.

There’s a selector on the center console that switches the shift mapping between Drive and Sport. In Drive mode, the transmission does all the shifting automatically. Pressing the D/S switch changes it to Sport mode. Using the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel when in Sport mode generates quick throttle-blip downshifts or upshifts. The Sport mode works like a true manual mode because the transmission will actually let you hold onto gears all the way to redline, or all the way down to where you’re starting to lug the engine.

The Sport setting quickens steering response, while the Comfort setting brings a lighter steering feel. The steering doesn’t send a lot of feedback to the driver, but the MDX feels capable and coordinated when driven near the limit. Actually, its handling is admirable for a vehicle this size; it’s as close to nimble and responsive as you can get in a seven-seat vehicle. It’s a very easy car to drive.

Special shock absorbers smooth the ride over rough pavement, so there’s no price to pay for the good handling.

But it’s really all about the Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive system, we think. It not only provides excellent all-weather traction, it makes a difference on dry roads. It’s almost amazing that it’s been in Acura vehicles for more than a decade, still one of the few mechanical torque vectoring systems on the market.

The system can vary front-wheel torque distribution from 90 percent down to 30 percent (that’s 70 percent to the rear), or up to 100 percent to either the left or right wheels. That greatly improves stability when driving in winter, especially when patches of snow and ice are mixed with patches of wet pavement, or when the left wheels are on ice and the right wheels are on dry pavement.

**Based on current year EPA mileage ratings. Use for comparison purposes only. Your actual mileage will vary, depending on how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, battery pack age/condition (hybrid models only) and other factors.

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