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Review: 2019 Acura MDX A-Spec

I love to learn how specific cars were named. Back in the good ol’ days we actually got to have badass names for our rides, like Mustang, Cougar, Thunderbird, Camaro, and, uh, Accord.

Okay, so they weren’t all badass. But at least they were names. Today we’re drowning in letters and numbers. Who could ever be passionate about something called a Q50, an X5, or an FT-4X?

When I walked outside and saw the new Acura MDX at least I had a story. Do you know where Honda/Acura got those initials?

Multi-Dimensional LuXury.

Wait. Shouldn’t that be MDL?

I wish they’d just called it the Acura Firestorm, or the Acura Governator, something we could sink our teeth into. Ah, well, they never asked me.

What they did, however, is dress up this latest version of the MDX. The crossover SUV itself debuted in 2000, and the third generation premiered about five years ago, so it’s getting close to a complete overhaul, no doubt.

While you wait, check out this tricked-out version known as the A-Spec. What does A-Spec add to the MDX’s engine? Nothing. To its suspension and/or handling? Nothing.

But it does dress the vehicle up with style, and lots of it, both inside and out. To quote some of the marketing materials from Acura, it adds “a sophisticated suite of human-centric enhancements.”

So you’ll dig it, but your dog will be non-plussed.

Look, I’m goofing around here. The truth is, the MDX is a damn fine vehicle, one that competes very nicely in the segment.

The Basics

That segment is the luxury crossover/SUV line of vehicles. Most notably, the Lexus RX350 is one that trades punches with the MDX. The RX, however, doesn’t have a third row of seats, and the MDX – which claims to be the first luxury brand to offer it – does.

There are four trim levels available, ranging from the base model (known as the Standard) up to the one I drove for a week, the A-Spec.

All of these come equipped with a 3.5-L V6 that spins a 9-speed automatic transmission. You can choose between front-wheel or all-wheel-drive.

One other option is the Sport Hybrid, which runs on a 3.0-L V6 paired with three electric plants.

For the sake of this review we’ll cover the stylish A-Spec, which promises a “bolder, sportier appearance.”

And it does. From the 20-inch Shark Gray wheels, to the new sculpted front with its Jewel Eye headlights, to the Alcantara-trimmed seats (dig the stitching, man), the A-Spec package does up the style game a few notches.

The Inside

We can start with the aforementioned stitching. At first I was a little taken aback by the red interior, but by the second day I’d grown attached to it.

The seats are comfortable and they offer both heating and ventilation. The second row is pretty comfy, too, a good space for your adult passengers.

The same cannot be said for the third row. I know some families are attracted to the ability to carry 7 passengers, but that way-back is really only practical for kids. There’s a push-button to slide the second row forward, but still.

The cockpit works nicely for the driver, although the funky gear selection process takes some getting used to. I found, however, that I liked it. Some pull switches for Park and Reverse, a little round button for Drive. Okay, it’s different.

I enjoyed the ample storage up front, which I think we can all agree is becoming a must for busy people today. We want a place for our stuff! The center bin is deep and can be configured to hold your various tech toys.

The cargo area in the back is already a decent size, but then you can make it even more impressive by folding flat both the third and the second rows. Hey, there’s even storage under the cargo hold. I like it.

The Drive

The MDX is a luxury crossover/SUV and that translates into the ride, too.

I never felt like I was taming some wild beast, and, believe me, there are some SUVs that give off that feel. But the MDX delivers a strong, capable ride that’s worry-free.

The acceleration is powerful, beating most of its rivals (unless they go turbo on you).

Steering, handling, and braking were all above-average for me. There’s very little noise, so you get a quiet cabin and a bump-free ride.

The Tech

I already covered the shift controls, which you’ll either love or hate.

I was torn on the concept of dual screens, which you’ll find in the MDX. At first I was a bit distracted, trying to figure out which screen handled what. But within a day I was comfortable with it and decided that, personally, it’s a great idea – in theory. You don’t have to continually shift screens.

I’m just not sure that the engineers have settled yet on what goes where. I’m glad they’ve gone this direction, though, and I imagine in a couple of years it’ll get worked out perfectly.

You have access to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and multiple USB ports.

Acura’s infotainment system isn’t the easiest to grasp, but, as with all new cars, you gradually learn your way around.


The Bottom Line

After almost 20 years, the MDX has settled nicely into its niche. It’s still one of the best-selling luxury crossover/SUVs on the market, thanks to not only a stylish exterior but a solid, comfortable ride.

With the A-Spec trim you’ll appreciate a few more glances from admirers. If you opt for that, you’ll also need to add the Tech package. Overall, this will boost the price from the $40s into the mid $50s.
The vehicle can technically take you off-road, but it’s more of a foul-weather champion, I think. Leave the whole climbing-over-rocks weekend to some of the other players.

If you’re shopping for a third-row luxury SUV, make sure you spend some time with the Acura MDX.

The Details

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
3.5-L V6
9-speed automatic transmission
Fuel economy: 19/25/21 combined
MSRP (for the A-Spec trim): $56,195

Reviewed by Dom Testa
Vehicle provided by manufacturer


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