Review: 2017 Acura MDX Advance

I was loading up this MDX for a family ski weekend trip when I received a text message from a friend. The message consisted of just two pictures; a loaded Toyota Highlander and an identical Acura MDX into which I was just trying to squeeze more stuff than anyone should be brining for a weekend.
“I’m on the fence… what to do, what to do? Volvo tranny will die within a few days and I have analysis paralysis on what to buy” my high school friend asked.
“Get a Pilot. The MDX is too small. I’m literally loaded up to the roof for a ski weekend” was my quick response to which I attached the below picture.  
Yes, the Acura MDX is a smaller small three-row SUV than most but after a weekend and 500 miles I learned that the size is really its only downside. And it is not necessarily a downside, either.

The best selling Acura, the MDX, is now in its third generation and it received an update for 2017. It is mostly noticeable in the new beak-less grill that is also fitted with a rather large badge. Less noticeable are the new fenders, hood and headlights, wheels designs, and capless fuel filler. Subtle changes carry over inside with automatic brake hold (handy in city traffic), automatic high beams, several USB charging ports, remote engine start, and power folding side mirrors. There is a hybrid model coming later this year, too.
Importantly, for 2017 all MDXs get AcuraWatch technologies. This is the brands suite of active safety features such as Collision Mitigation Braking System, Lane Keeping Assist System, Adaptive Cruise Control, with Low-Speed Follow, and Road Departure Mitigation. Yes, enthusiasts find these boring and annoying, especially the lane departure stuff, but I prefer to have it on my family car. These features can literally prevent an accident.
There are some things that have not changed on the refreshed MDX, such as the dual screen infotainment system. I think it almost has too many features and options in it and it’s rather slow, especially when inputting a destination in the navigation system. It has some cool applications, such as Pandora that streams music off ones Smartphone, but even that did not connect properly one out of five times. It will take a little time to truly master it but once all the settings are set it should be smooth sailing. But audio quality wise, the system kicks ass!

Also unchanged is the powertrain and that is not a bad thing. The 3.5-liter V6 makes 290 horsepower and 267 torques and delivers it very linearly, unlike smaller turbocharged engines. This power goes through a nine-speed automatic transmission and to either the front wheels, or all wheels, such as on the vehicle pictured. The shifts are very smooth. They were smoother than I remember compared to other Honda vehicles, especially during sudden throttle applications. Also smoother than I remember it to be is the automatic engine start/stop. It’s so unobtrusive that I actually didn’t mind when it was enabled. There are three driving modes: Comfort, Normal, Sport, which control throttle inputs, shifting, and power distribution to the rear wheels. The transmission has its own selectable sport mode but it sometimes stays in low gear for too long.
That healthy engine and the comparatively lower weight of the MDX relative to other three-row CUVs combined with a stout chassis and it translates directly into great driving characteristics. While no one would hoon it on a race track, on the road it is a very good driving and handling SUV. I’d even go as far to say it’s in the top of its class. Despite having non-adjustable shocks, it is also delivers one of the smoothest rides when the road gets bumpy, unlike the Volvo XC90 which got upset by Manhattan’s avenues. Its size being what it is, more wagon-y than others, it is easy to drive and to park. Gas mileage is about average for this class, at 19mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.

Infotainment system and cargo space aside, there is nothing to dislike about the MDX interior. It is comfortable, has all the typical luxury features, and the visibility is good. There are plenty of cubbies, compartments, and holders for personal items. There are six USB ports, two 12v outlets, and one 110v household outlet on models with the rear seat entertainment system. All materials are nice to touch and of high quality. Acura seems to have worked hard to make the MDX very quiet and they have succeeded.
First and second row seats are very comfortable. This being a fully loaded vehicle we had heated seats in the first two rows. The fronts were ventilated as well. The two third-row seats are best saved for smaller people or in-laws. Models with the Advance Package get two captain chairs and a console in lieu of the three-passenger middle-row bench, which is supposed to be more luxurious if not less useful. There is a decent amount of cargo space with the third-row seats up and there is an under-floor compartment for smaller things.

So why is the cargo area on the MDX smaller than others? With the third generation the MDX became lower and longer. While this likely improved gas mileage and handling by improving aerodynamics and reducing weight, the cargo area suffered. But it is not every day that we load up our cars to the roof, so it is somewhat of a fair compromise. My suggestion to my friend, who really liked the MDX, was rooftop cargo box, such as the Thule that I have on my own car. The MDX comes with roof rails but cross-bars are optional.
Of note should be the area behind the third row (bottom left picture above). It is pretty spacious and keeps things out of sight. The really interesting part is it lid, however. It swivels 180 degrees around and remains in any position it is placed in. It can totally flipped over flat on the floor in front of the bin, which is actually the folded seat-back of the third row. That closed off area then becomes open and adds more space to the overall cargo area. Clever. 

Noteworthy are the headlights of the MDX. The Jewel Eye LED headlights, as Acura calls them, are more than just jewelry designed to make the car stand out more. They are fantastic. You have a beam that is very bright but not blinding to others. The light intensity is even all around without the sudden cut-off that I’ve experienced on some other vehicles. Even the automatic high-beam system turned the high-beams on and off exactly where I would have done it myself.
The 2017 Acura MDX starts at $44,050. The all wheel drive vehicle pictured here was equipped with the $4,410 Technology Package and $6,040 Advance Package. The only thing not included in this almost-fully-loaded vehicle was the $2,000 Entertainment Package. With $975 destination the total manufacturer’s suggested retail price came to $57,475. While that’s a lot of money, it is slightly less than an Audi Q7, Infiniti QX60, or the Volvo XC90 once you equip those vehicles with the same options.
In the end, after some long negotiations, my friend did end up with a new MDX. It’s a safe, comfortable, and easy to drive family car. I’ve owned the first generation MDX and it treated me very well for long time. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone, with the disclaimer of cargo space, of course.

[Disclaimer: I asked American Honda Motor Co. if they had a comfortable SUV that would be great for a weekend family ski trip and they loaned me this MDX.]
Images copyright Kamil Kaluski/Hooniverse 2017.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here

11 responses to “Review: 2017 Acura MDX Advance”

  1. Fred Talmadge Avatar
    Fred Talmadge

    Well if size is all that matters, get a Suburban or a van.

    1. Kamil K Avatar

      Right. It’s easier to find a good large SUV than a smaller one.

  2. Professor Bananahot Avatar
    Professor Bananahot

    Does it require premium fuel?

    1. Kamil K Avatar

      Yes, 91.

    2. Danny Berez Avatar
      Danny Berez

      No… Acura changed it for 2017… regular is now permitted. Currently own a 2017 and even double checked that with the dealership already.

      1. Kamil K Avatar

        Their press material says 91.

        1. Danny Berez Avatar
          Danny Berez

          91 not required, check with your local dealership…quoted:
          Some models require premium fuel and for others, it’s recommended. Consult your dealer for details.

  3. Hillman_Hunter Avatar

    Road trips with my sister who had* one of these inevitably turned acrimonious because she got tired of me screaming at the horrible infotainment scam in the dashboard. All I want is some more fan speed, not a lesson in dangerously obscure menu design.
    Give us some damn knobs and buttons, FFS Acura.
    *chopped it in for a Mercedes with a wonderful system

  4. Amoore Avatar

    I found the car that he needs.
    He may not want it, but sometimes function comes before form.

    1. Kamil K Avatar

      I don’t want it. 😛

  5. salguod Avatar

    Is the cargo floor shown removable? If so, pulling it when packing for a trip will make the space more usable. I do that in our Prius and it makes a big difference in packing.