It’s hard to believe, but the Acura MDX has been around for almost two decades. In fact 2019 marks it’s 18th birthday, so the MDX is old enough to vote, at least in the U.S. I don’t know as much about Japanese voting regulations as I’d like to. But who does?
I’ve just spent a week driving a 2019 MDX A-Spec with the Tech Package and Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD). But before we get into that, let’s take a moment to remind ourselves how the MDX we know today made its way to Acura showrooms.
The moniker stands for “Multi-Dimensional luxury”, so you can criticize alphanumeric names all you want, but at least this one means something. Sort of. Originally built off of Honda’s Global Midsize platform (think Accord, TL, Odyssey, and obviously Pilot.) this was Honda and Acura’s first shot at a larger luxury SUV. I recall seeing my first MDX and being pretty impressed, it was edgier looking than most of the competition and had a cool interior.
Fast forward to 2008 and the second generation was unveiled. An overall looker, it suffered from the same malady that every other Acura of this era did – the beak. Acura stuck with this avian front end grill design, even debuting what I consider to be a worse iteration in 2010. On the MDX it even survived well into the third generation which came out in the 2014 model year. Mercifully in 2017 the MDX received a mid-cycle facelift and Acura added the diamond pentagon front grille which debuted on the Acura Precision Concept.
Starting at $44,300 the 2019 MDX technically comes in one trim level, the MDX. You take your MDX, you pick a color, in this case the achingly beautiful Apex Blue Pearl ($400) and, if you are using the Acura configurator, you are immediately required to add the Technology Package ($5,000) and the A-Spec® Package ($3,500). So that paint color added $8,900 to the price of your MDX. You had better like blue!
And you should, it’s an amazing color. More on that below.
So while some automakers (most?) ask you to start with a trim level and then add packages and options, Acura simplifies things with just packages and options.
Your only other options are to select your engine and drivetrain. You can choose between the standard 3.5L V-6 Engine or the 3.0L V-6 with 3-Motor Hybrid System ($3,500). Our tester had the former.
For the drivetrain you can get standard Front-Wheel-Drive, Super Handling All-Wheel Drive™ ($2,000), or something called Sport Hybrid Super Handling All-Wheel Drive™ ($0, but required the Hybrid engine natch).
Here are the package options:
- Technology Package ($5,000) – A robust upgrade featuring a host of interior, exterior, convenience, and safety features.
- Entertainment Package ($2,000) (Requires Technology or Advance Package. Not available with Sport Hybrid.) – Multimedia stuff for rear passengers.
- A-Spec® Package ($3,500 (Requires Technology Package) – All-new for the 2019 this includes larger wheels, gloss black accents and unique Alcantara®-Trimmed Red or Ebony interior.
- Advance Package ($6,750) (Requires Technology Package) – Builds on the Tech package with upgrades in comfort, technology and convenience.
From there you choose from 32 random options that most people don’t bother with like moldings, running boards, roof racks, etc. If you’re willing to spend the money, Acura will outfit your MDX for the apocalypse. Or at least a camping excursion.
In the end, our 2019 MDX A-Spec SH-AWD with Tech Package tester rang in at $56,195 including $995 for destination and handling.
While the MDX may be five years into its third generation, the 2017 facelift served it well. The new trapezoidal grill is excellent and there aren’t many angles that the MDX doesn’t look good, particularly in new-for-2019 A-Spec mode.
And that color…excuse me I’m having a moment just looking at it.
Apex Blue is one of the truly excellent colors on the market today and I felt like my press loaner got a lot of attention. It wasn’t always positive, for some reason other SUV drivers took it as a checkered flag and seemed to want to race. I guess that’s the downside of having a very overt in-your-face color.
But the aging MDX feels rejuvenated with the A-Spec package and it’s a must for anyone considering the midsize Acura. Although it ain’t bad on the smaller RDX either. Park it next to any other MDX, or even most midsize SUVs and you’re bound to experience some SUV-envy directed at you.
I love pretty much everything about the interior, even though it feels a little bit more dated than the newly updated RDX that we tested recently. That’s likely due to the fact that the 2019 RDX is the first year of it’s brand new third generation, while the third generation MDX has been around since 2014, albeit with some updates. Still, it’s a great looking interior. It’s pretty functional too.
I absolutely love love love the radio dial on the steering wheel! It’s the closest to an actual radio knob (which it also has!) I’ve come across mounted onto a steering wheel. Just roll it up when a good song comes on, Coolio would be proud. It also smartly functions as a preset/track changer; you just rock it left and right to change forward or back. Again, easily my favorite steering wheel button on a non-performance/track car.
Overall the ApplePlay integration was solid, better than some that I’ve come across recently. That’s mostly due to the fact that it’s on a separate screen. The same dual screen system that has been on the MDX for a while now means that the top can function as one interface and the bottom another. That is great because you rarely get trapped in Appleworld and have issues accessing SiriusXM or some other function that’s not on your phone. The RDX did the same thing with one large wide screen that had multiple interface elements built in. Both work, the RDX just looks more updated, because it is.
Criticisms of the interior are minor, the center console lid is also an armrest, and it’s adjustable. Unfortunately, even though there are a few grooves to keep it stationary, it kept sliding back-and-forth on me as I adjusted my seating position on a long drive.
The faux carbon-fiber pattern isn’t for everyone, but I dug it.
Acura has always portrayed their vehicles as being a bit sportier than the competition. While that hasn’t always been the case, they’ve done a good job of differentiating themselves from the crowd. So what is the A-Spec MDX like to drive?
I really liked the throttle response. Particularly when you select Sport mode, it just does what I wanted to do, versus unnecessary revs I’ve experienced in recent test vehicles. Even with the automatic transmission, it felt quick for a 3-row SUV. Handling on-road is very competent without a lot of body roll through tight turns.
Even better, I love that sport mode stays engaged after I turn the vehicle off and come back to it later. Thanks for remembering Acura! This is one of the few modern vehicles that I have driven where it actually remembered my last selection and kept it active.
I got to spend some time exploring the MDX’s off road abilities. Not quite to the level of the Trail Trek Tour that I participated in last year, but the farm roads that I had access to were a lot of fun. The MDX, particularly in A-Spec guise, is more suited for on-road fun vs. off but it still did quite well. Turn off the traction control and the SH-AWD still helps hustle the not-small MDX along the loose surface.
One interesting note to finish this section, the MDX’s bright lights are like daylight. On back roads I got flashed repeatedly, even when I had them the low beams selected! Not a bad thing necessarily, just be ready for it.
It feels cool. That’s a tough thing to quantify, I get that. Plus, any “cool” rating that I give the MDX A-Spec is going to be totally subjective and potentially indicted based on my own level of cool (which is also subjective). But still, it felt cool. Park it, walk away, and it passes the “look back test” with aplomb. And that’s what you want, you need to look over your shoulder and be confident in your purchase. And not just that it should be reliable and well-built, but that it stirs some emotion. Some sort of feeling that connects human and machine.
The MDX, at least in A-Spec guise, does just that, and that’s rare in the midsize SUV world. Finding something that can haul your family and your stuff, is relatively fun to drive, and actually looks cool is pretty special. So go check out the MDX A-Spec, it’s pretty great.
Plus Gran Turismi 3 was dubbed “A-Spec” and that’ll always be cool.