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Friday, February 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Autos

Acura’s three-row MDX luxury crossover challenges the laws of physics

Acura’s three-row MDX luxury crossover seems to land in our driveway at opportune times.

One year, it carted us safely over a snow-choked Snoqualmie Pass. Once, we carefully made our way up a Sunset Hill so slick the roadside was littered with cars in ditches. 

This year, the MDX showed up in time for the post-Christmas storm that prompted the State Patrol to ask drivers to stay put.

Too late; by the time we heard the warning, we were on our to dinner with friends.

Quiet, comfy and surefooted

It’s not wise to grow so confident in a car that you feel invincible. But I don’t know another rig I’d rather drive in bad weather than the MDX. Its torque-vectoring Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive system is that good.

Of course, there’s more to the MDX ($44,300) than an intensely capable AWD system. Its cabin may be less elegant than others in the luxury segment (witness the nubby, rock-hard steering wheel), but it’s quiet and comfortable. Seat comfort, materials quality and fit-and-finish are first-rate. The third-row bench seat is roomier than most.

Acura’s twin-screen infotainment interface remains a sticking point for some buyers— it feels too complicated and its graphics are dated — but most important functions are easily accessed. A knob-based control system minimizes driver distraction.

Thoughtful and clever accommodations

Few companies out-think Acura when it comes to carving out casual cabin storage. Bins — large and small, covered and not — accommodate everything from phones to clutches. Rubberized surfaces prevent items from clattering around.

Other clever touches include a one-touch push-button system for folding and sliding the rear seat for access to the third row. Another button on top of the second-row seatback lets third-row passengers free themselves. 

Standard MDX features include leather upholstery, tri-zone automatic climate control, LED headlights, a power liftgate, a sunroof and keyless entry and ignition. 

Tech highlights include support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, four USB ports and an eight-speaker sound system.

Acura’s AcuraWatch safety suite, also standard, includes adaptive cruise control; forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking; and lane- and road-departure warning and mitigation.

Sporty new A-Spec package 

The MDX is available in a single trim, with a handful of options packages. We tested the new-for-2019, AWD-only A-Spec ($54,800), an appearance kit.

It gets an aggressively styled front fascia, body-color lower sills, larger exhaust finishers and gloss-black and dark chrome trim.

Inside, its sport seats are trimmed in red or black leather with grippy black Alcantara inserts. There’s also high-contrast stitching, unique A-Spec gauges, sport pedals, gloss-black trim and a thick-rimmed steering wheel with paddle shifters.

The A-Spec’s 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels are an inch wider than the stock wheels and are wrapped in low-profile all-season tires. The setup didn’t seem to degrade either ride quality or foul-weather handling. 

A 290-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 powers all MDXs. It’s paired with a nine-speed automatic that is tweaked this year for smoother low-speed responses. 

The combo can power the MDX from 0-60 in 6.5 seconds.

Poised and compliant ride

Steering feel is nicely weighted but vague and non-communicative. The MDX responds quickly to driver input and handles curves with poise. Its ride is firm and buttoned-down, but compliant. 

Available adaptive suspension dampers respond in real-time to changing road-surface conditions.
 
The MDX is built on a front-wheel drive platform, with the torque-vectoring Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive system available as a well-worth-it $2,000 option.

“Reading” a stream of information — vehicle speed, steering-wheel and throttle angles and more — fed to it by sensors, SH-AWD anticipates traction loss and acts proactively to counter it. It can deliver up to 70 percent of available engine torque to the rear wheels and send as much as 100 percent of that to either wheel. 

By causing the outside rear wheel to rotate faster than the inside wheel, SH-AWD bolsters handling. In snow and other slippery conditions, it acts to check skids.

The car hasn’t been built that can overcome the laws of physics. But the MDX with SH-AWD comes closer than you might imagine.

Questions or comments? Contact Don at don@dadair.com.

2019 Acura MDX AWD A-Spec
Vehicle base price: $44,300
Trim level base price: $54,800
As tested: $56,195 (includes destination and handling)
Options: Apex Blue Pearl paint upcharge
Tow capacity: 3500 pounds 
EPA rating: 21 combined/19 city /25 highway
Premium gasoline specified



Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.