New Acura MDX boosts fuel economy, is larger, lighter, has fewer buttons

  • 29-Mar-2013 09:57 EDT
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MDX retains signature Acura grille and cues, but achieves 17% improvement in aero with "tailored" exterior design.

Defining luxury at a time when fuel economy is becoming more important meant that engineers for the 2014 Acura MDX, the flagship crossover, had to push a new set of buttons. But in fact, thanks to a redesigned center stack, there also are lots fewer buttons to push. The new model was just introduced at the 2013 New York Auto Show.

The 3.7-L V6, which produced 300 hp (224 kW) and 270 lb·ft (366 N·m), is replaced by the slightly less powerful but far more fuel-efficient 3.5-L V6, a new powerplant with the Honda Earth Dreams approach. It features direct fuel injection and enhanced cylinder deactivation, and it is rated at 290 hp (216 kW) and 267 lb·ft (362 N·m). A six-speed automatic completes the front powertrain package. The 2014 MDX 3.5-L V6 is considerably more powerful than the port-injected 3.5 L in the 2013 Acura RDX, which is rated at just 273 hp (204 kW) and 251 lb·ft (340 N·m).

EPA window sticker fuel economy improvement for the 2014 MDX is significant, up from 16/21/18 mpg to 18/27/21 for the all-wheel-drive model. MDX's AWD system continues to include the Super Handling system, which modulates front-to-rear torque split, and actual (not by brake) torque distribution side-to-side on the rear axle, according to driving conditions.

A further fuel economy boost is available if buyers choose a newly available front-wheel-drive model, which is rated at 20/28/23 mpg.

The new MDX is a larger vehicle than the 2013 edition. It's built on a 111-in (2818-mm) wheelbase, which is 2.7 in (69 mm) longer, and the vehicle itself is 193.6 in (4916 mm) overall, a 2.0-in (51-mm) increase. However, there should be no loss in real performance, as the new model scales in at 4275 lb (1939 kg), some 275 lb (125 kg) less than the previous MDX.

That is largely thanks to generous use of lightweight metals—55% in high-strength steels, aluminum, and magnesium on a new edition of the large platform. The body incorporates the next-generation of Honda's ACE (Advanced Compatibility Engineering) design, for which top ratings from U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) are anticipated, including a Good rating in the new IIHS front small offset barrier test.

The interior has upper 8.0-in and lower 7.0-in center stack screens plus a select/control push-and-turn knob, a redesign that reduces the previous 41-button design to just eight "hard" buttons: navigation, phone, audio, info, menu, back, brightness/settings, plus the knob. The lower screen, which is a touch type, provides HVAC, internet radio, and auxiliary icons; the upper covers navi, the AcuraLink connectivity system and phone.

The rear suspension continues to be multilink, but it was redesigned to reduce size. All shock absorbers are amplitude-reactive designs, a type that had previously been incorporated on other recently introduced Acura models. These shock absorbers contain both an internal spring for anti-roll and a second piston-valve that slides along the piston rod and provides additional damping when road inputs exceed the range of the primary piston, typically about 10 mm (0.4 in).

The suspension is combined with a driver-selectable Integrated Dynamic System (IDS), which permits adjustment of the electric power steering effort and response of the throttle and Super Handling AWD, plus the active noise cancellation system. The driver can choose from normal, comfort, and sport settings.

The new platform, its suspension improvements, and the sport setting of the IDS produce a more agile vehicle, Acura said. It claims an eight-second reduction in MDX lap times on the famed Nurburgring circuit in Germany, a de rigueur location for demonstrating a vehicle's handling prowess.

However, this still is a luxury crossover with three seat rows, and the interior size increase enabled Acura to make significant improvements in the critical areas of seat comfort and third-row entry and egress. Pressing a lighted one-touch button causes the second row seats to fold and slide forward to produce a 3.0-in (76-mm) wider entry to the third row, the floor for which was redesigned to lower the step-in height by 2.0 in (51 mm). The second row seat backs not only have a four-position recline, but the seats themselves slide fore-aft up to 6.0 in (152 mm) to provide adequate legroom for the third-row-seat occupants.

The driver gets a 10-way power seat, the front passenger an eight-way, and both seats are heated.

In addition to the engine noise cancellation, the interior is further quieted by greater use of sound-absorbing materials, not just floor and dashboard mastics, but also acoustic glass and expanding body joint sealers. The body openings have improved seals to reduce air intrusion, both reducing wind noise and improving interior comfort.

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