By Matt Degen
KBB Expert Rating: 9.5
With its versatility, reputation for reliability and value for the dollar, it's easy to see why the Acura MDX is a bestseller among 3-row luxury SUVs. Acura's flagship crossover SUV upped its game just a few years ago when it entered its third generation, offering impressive interior space and semi-autonomous driving features. Now, the 2017 MDX is significantly refreshed with new exterior styling, a host of safety and driving aids, and a forthcoming hybrid model. The MDX continues to employ a powerful V6 engine, but we found last year's move to a 9-speed gear-shifter not the smoothest compared to the transmissions in rivals like the Audi Q7, Volvo XC90 or Infiniti QX60. That issue aside, the Acura MDX offers even more to like for 2017.
If you want a 3-row luxury SUV with standout safety features, a long list of amenities, plenty of power and a solid reputation, the 2017 Acura MDX is a smart choice. The new hybrid MDX arriving later should appeal to those seeking all that and higher fuel efficiency, too.
There are many well-equipped 3-row crossover SUVs on the market that can compare to the MDX but cost less than the Acura's roughly $45,000 starting point, including its own cousin the Honda Pilot. Unfortunately, last year's switch to a 9-speed transmission barely helped EPA-rated fuel economy and actually hurt drive quality.
KBB Expert Ratings
A host of updates for the 2017 Acura MDX includes the standard AcuraWatch suite of safety and driver-assist technology, restyled exterior including a new grille, and luxurious 6-passenger seating in top-line MDX Advance trims. The Acura MDX Sport Hybrid is set to join the lineup later in the model year.
For 2017, the Acura MDX retains its strong V6, which provides plenty of power to complement this luxury SUV's agile-yet-comfortable manners. But in our experience, the new 9-speed transmission takes...
... the MDX a step back in refinement, especially when outfitted with the idle stop/start system that cuts engine power at stoplights and in stop-and-go traffic. As with other 9-speed cars we've tested, the Acura MDX can feel lazy or hesitant when selecting gears. Combined with the start/stop system, takeoffs aren't as seamless as when the MDX used a 6-speed. Thankfully the start/stop system can be defeated, and gear-shift patterns can be better optimized by putting the MDX in Sport mode or changed manually via paddles. A brighter aspect is the AcuraWatch system, which includes Acura's excellent semi-autonomous driving features. When engaged, the system can steer, accelerate and slow the vehicle with minimal driver input, a boon for long highway commutes.
This generation MDX's safety and driving aids have always been strong, and for 2017 Acura is upping the ante with AcuraWatch. Standard on every 2017 MDX, it includes automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist and road-departure mitigation, plus adaptive cruise control. These features often run thousands extra in rivals.
PUSH-BUTTON 3RD-ROW ACCESS
All 3rd-row access should be this easy. Just push a button on the 2nd-row seat in a new MDX, and it flips and folds quickly to provide access to the pair of seats in the rear without having to strain, lug or tug. Other SUV manufacturers should take notes.
Much of the MDX's standard 3-row, 7-passenger interior carries over from last year, with the exception of the Advance trim, which features a pair of captain's chairs in the second row and a center console, vs. the usual 3-across bench. This decreases seating capacity to six, but makes for top-class accommodations for the two passengers in the second row. The Advance grade also features new genuine wood trim and Milano leather. Lower trims still sport premium appeal with leather interior, power moonroof and upper and lower console displays. Note the lack of a traditional gear selector and parking brake; they're controlled by buttons.
The 2017 MDX is the first production model to sport Acura's new face, a diamond pentagon grille that replaces the former model's snout. It looks stronger and more cohesive. This 3-row luxury SUV's hood, front fenders and "Jewel Eye" headlights have been refreshed, as has the rear bumper. The sporty, dual exhaust outlets now feature a bright exterior finish. The MDX's sloping window frame gives the rear of this crossover SUV a coupe-like look, but it makes good use of space. Higher trims now roll on 20-inch wheels, while standard models use 18-inchers. A capless fuel filler means no more unscrewing a cap.
The 2017 Acura MDX is surprisingly well-equipped out the gate. A standard model comes with the AcuraWatch suite of safety and semi-autonomous driving features, leather interior, power-operated and heated front seats, tri-zone automatic climate control, power tailgate, power moonroof and the HomeLink garage-door opener. On the audio/entertainment front, the MDX comes with an 8-speaker AM/FM/CD system with multiple USB ports and Bluetooth connectivity. The MDX features Siri Eyes Free compatibility for iPhone users, but not CarPlay or Android Auto. Safety and driving features include rearview camera, lane-keep assist and road-departure mitigation, automatic emergency braking, and traction and stability control systems.
Aside from all-wheel drive, most major options are bundled into packages. The Technology package includes navigation, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, Siri Eyes Free, 20-inch wheels and remote engine start. The Advance package adds the 2nd-row captain's chairs, upgraded leather, ventilated front seats, surround-view camera and front/rear parking sensors. A rear-seat entertainment package brings an entertainment screen, wireless headphones, rear-door sunshades and heated 2nd-row seats. Note that this package comes with a 2nd-row bench, so if you want an Advance model with seating for seven, you'll have to add the Entertainment package as well.
The Acura MDX uses a 3.5 liter V6 making a strong 290 horsepower. The standard setup is front-wheel drive (FWD), with Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) optional on any model. As mentioned, this Acura uses a 9-speed automatic transmission that could use more refinement. Advance models include the idle start/stop system. To improve fuel economy, Variable Cylinder Management shuts down three of the six cylinders during cruising and deceleration. The standard MDX can tow up to 5,000 pounds. The forthcoming Acura MDX Hybrid will use a gasoline-electric motor system similar to Acura's NSX supercar and RLX flagship sedan. It will pair a 3.0-liter V6 with an integrated motor powering the front wheels and a twin-motor unit powering the rear wheels. The hybrid will use a 7-speed transmission.
290 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm
267 lb-ft of torque @ 4,700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/27 mpg (FWD), 20/27 mpg (FWD with auto idle stop), 18/26 mpg (AWD), 19/26 mpg (AWD with auto idle stop)
3.0-liter V6 plus electric motors (Acura MDX Sport Hybrid)
EPA city/highway fuel economy (estimated): 25/26 mpg
The 2017 Acura MDX has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting just under $45,000 when including the destination charge. All-wheel drive is an additional $2,000, and adding packages can lift prices several thousand more. A fully loaded 2017 MDX can approach $60,000. These prices are nearly in line with rivals like the Infiniti QX60 and Volvo XC90, and below competitors like the Audi Q7, BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLS. Pricing for the MDX hybrid will be available closer to its launch. Before buying, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying. The Acura MDX's resale value is expected to be excellent in the years ahead.