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2014 Acura MDX: First Drive


2014 Acura MDX - First Drive, May 2013

We suspect we're not the only ones who think that the very premise behind some high-performance luxury utility vehicles borders on perverse.

Who are they kidding? Unless you're seeking revenge, you're not load you clients (or your mother-in-law) into the back seat and head out on a nine-tenths thrill ride—and driving like that with kids in the back seat? Don't dare. And are busy parents really going to take time away from carpool duty to go carve canyon roads in a luxury ute? Wouldn't they just have a Miata or an M3 for that?

All that silliness is perhaps part of the reason Acura did something very smart when it was redesigning the all-new 2014 MDX luxury crossover: Rather than listening to driving enthusiasts or focusing on how it build the brand's image, Acura went back and listened to current MDX owners.

What did they say? They like the size; they liked its performance; and they appreciated the utility and towing ability. But they wanted to see an improved interior, simplified controls, lighter steering, a quieter interior, smoother ride, and a little more room for the third row.

The brand took all of that feedback very seriously, and with the 2014 Acura MDX that begins arriving at dealerships in July, it's complied with pretty much all of it.

And at least at first, it seems like an about-face of sorts in Acura MDX history, as the last-generation MDX took a big step in the performance direction. That version was a pretty sharp-driving, responsive crossover—one of the best driving in its class, really—yet driving enthusiasts would have probably told Acura to tune the MDX even firmer, or that the steering could load up heavier.

Lean, athletic, yet not punishing

While Acura has shaken some of that edginess in the new 2014 MDX, we found the new model to be delightfully lean and athletic, and just as much at ease on undulating, oddly banked back roads as on smooth, fast highways.

But our first impression was that the MDX is quiet inside—very quiet—thanks to a host of noise-hushing and vibration-reducing measures. Active noise cancellation, active engine mounts, acoustic glass for the windshield and front windows, thicker glass elsewhere, added underfloor insulation, tighter seals, and subframe bushings are all among the many measures that help keep things quiet inside. And oh, do they.

Ride quality, too, is phenomenally good. New amplitude-reactive dampers reduce the damping force for high-frequency inputs—jittery pavement surfaces, for example—while hydraulic sub-frame mount bushings help seal out more road vibration.

Acura claims that the new approach improves ride comfort with no trade-off to handling, but in a back-to-back drive of a new 2014 MDX with the outgoing model, the new model didn't turn in quite as crisply. You do lose a little edge with all that vibration and harshness here, but to us and to the typical buyer, it's going to be worth it without a doubt.

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