Outer beauty, inner fossil.
The current third-gen Acura MDX is still a contender in a very crowded segment, despite its technology lagging behind the field. Competitors like the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE offer more modern infotainment setups and refreshed interiors, contrasting the MDX’s aging cabin.
But even among the dated interior tech, the MDX receives some welcome updates for 2019, including a tweaked nine-speed automatic transmission and available active dampers. Additionally, the A-Spec appearance package is new for 2019 and gives the MDX the edge it needs to stay relevant in the class – at least in the looks department. Here are a few things we love (and a few we don’t) about the 2019 Acura MDX A-Spec.
Acura’s A-Spec appearance pack, first featured on the TLX and then the RDX, is now available on the 2019 MDX. And in no uncertain terms, it looks great. While the MDX is already a handsome SUV – even despite its age – the A-Spec package adds to the beauty. Details such as the 20-inch gunmetal gray wheels, dual exhaust tips, and blacked-out grille are tasteful, but not overdone. In short, the A-Spec is the best looking version of the car to date and gives it a youthful glow that combats its true age.
The ELS Studio system in the MDX is among the best in the industry (don’t just take my word for it). Its 10-speaker setup includes two mounted above the rear passengers in the headliner, and the voice recognition software is competent enough to not be frustrating with its response time (although like almost all voice control systems, it’s always easier to just make inputs yourself). In a car that otherwise struggles in the tech department, the ELS audio is a winner.
The A-Spec package is an appearance package only, so don’t show up looking for a stiffer suspension. That’s just fine, though. The MDX is a luxury SUV with faint, sporty undertones, and it drives exactly as such. Striking the right balance between soft and supple, the MDX’s ride is appropriately relaxing for its segment, but supportive enough to keep the big SUV competent in the corners. It’s less sporty than its looks suggest, but you’ll appreciate that in just about every driving scenario with the car.
The MDX’s attractive outer shell leads you to believe the car is younger than it is, but its age shows inside, namely with the infotainment. Front and center are two display screens stacked on top of one another, one of which is operated with a dash-mounted knob, while the other is a touchscreen. The two are meant to work together, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, information crosses over unnecessarily between the two displays, making things confusing and redundant. Worse off, the graphics look very outdated, especially when compared to infotainment systems like Mercedes-Benz's new MBUX. The RDX’s single-screen touchpad system would do the the MDX some good, as its system is ancient and ready to leave the market.
Although Acura does offer an MDX Sport Hybrid, it’s not available with the A-Spec package. The only engine choice for the MDX A-Spec is the non-hybrid, 290-horsepower 3.5-liter V6. While perfectly adequate for this type of vehicle, the hybrid setup puts out better numbers across the board. The 3.0-liter V6 packs 257 horsepower on its own works with a 47-horsepower electric motor for a total system output of 321 horsepower and 289 lb-ft. Unsurprisingly, the hybrid powertrain has better fuel economy, too: 26 city, 27 highway, and 27 combined. The gas unit returns 19 city, 25 highway, and 21 combined.
A glance at the competition shows that the MDX is down just slightly on cargo capacity with 15 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row, and 38.4 with the last row folded. Take the Volvo XC90 and Buick Enclave, both of which are frequently cross-shopped with the MDX. The Volvo offers 15.8 cubic feet of cargo space with all the seats in place and 41.8 cubes with the rear seats folded. Meanwhile, the Buick is good for 23.6 cubic feet with all seats in place and 58 with the rear seats down. In a segment that focuses on families, every little bit counts.