Comparison Test: 2014 Lexus RX350 vs 2014 Acura MDX luxury cars lexus car comparisons acura
Comparison Test: 2014 Lexus RX350 vs 2014 Acura MDX luxury cars lexus car comparisons acura
2014 Acura MDX Elite & 2015 Lexus RX350 F Sport. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Brendan McAleer

This is more than a comparison between two vehicles – this is single combat between two companies. Yes, the MDX is a three-row crossover and the RX merely a five-seater, but both are the champions of their respective brands, and both sell in roughly equal volumes.

While Acura’s smaller RDX has increased in sales of late, the company is still primarily carried by their MDX; more Acura buyers drive MDXs than any other car they sell. For Lexus, which lags behind in overall Canadian sales volume, the importance of the RX is even greater. Nearly half of all the vehicles leaving a Lexus showroom last year were RX crossovers.

The Infiniti QX60 is the third option here, but as it’s not quite at the level of these two volume sellers, we’ll focus on a head to head. Besides which, perhaps anyone looking at the Infiniti might do well to FIND a PATH to their local Nissan dealership, if you know what I mean, and I think that you do.

Sometime in five years or so, an Acura NSX will take on whatever replacement Lexus dreams up for the LFA on a race track, and the Youtube views will be through the roof. The survival of either company, on the other hand, is carried by these two machines. They aren’t the pretty halo cars, they’re the warriors that do the actual heavy lifting. They work for you.

Styling

If ever there was an argument against the corporate grille, here are two of them. It’s Squidward vs. The Predator in a face-pulling sneer-off the likes of which are rarely seen outside a Maori Haka.

All new for 2014, the Acura’s shield grille is smoothed out somewhat, and the overall lines of the vehicle are toned town from the previous model. “More curves and fewer angles” seems to have been the design directive, resulting in a vehicle that is less distinctive than the outgoing car, with perhaps a broader appeal.

Comparison Test: 2014 Lexus RX350 vs 2014 Acura MDX luxury cars lexus car comparisons acura Comparison Test: 2014 Lexus RX350 vs 2014 Acura MDX luxury cars lexus car comparisons acura
2014 Acura MDX Elite & 2015 Lexus RX350 F Sport. Click image to enlarge

A platform shift away from the Odyssey underpinnings of the old car has also resulted in dimensional changes that are not quite what you’d expect. While every other press release seems to contain the phrase “wider track,” and “more aggressive dynamism,” the new MDX is a bit thinner, a bit less tall, and longer overall. The 19-inch alloys look an appropriate size, and aren’t at all showy.

The sole frisson of personality comes with the all-LED headlights, a technology Acura dubs “Jewel Eye.” This does indeed give the big crossover an infusion of insectoid looks, but it is, again, not the sort of thing that is going to alarm anyone.

Comparison Test: 2014 Lexus RX350 vs 2014 Acura MDX luxury cars lexus car comparisons acura
Comparison Test: 2014 Lexus RX350 vs 2014 Acura MDX luxury cars lexus car comparisons acura
2014 Acura MDX Elite & 2015 Lexus RX350 F Sport. Click image to enlarge

The F-Sport version of the RX350 just might. Not since Audi first started trying to make their cars look like basking sharks has there been a grille this aggressive. The proliferation of the spindle grille across the Lexus range has been like the advance of the Cylons, and here the ultra-aggressive shape clashes most with the mission statement. The RX is a cruising machine, and this F-Sport designation is like a beanbag chair wearing a Darth Vader mask.

It’s not as bad as all that though – the mild bump in sizing to 19-inch gunmetal alloys and some changes in the trim result in a vehicle that’s not all that jarring once you’ve absorbed the looks of the grille. Like the MDX, this is a vehicle designed to appeal to as large an audience as possible. While the F-Sport might be trying to project a little more aggressiveness than the rest of the RX range, it’s still part of a stable of machines that are supposed to be associated with words like Reliable and Resale.

Value

The lasting appeal of a Japanese luxury vehicle is, well, that they tend to last. Prestige is all well and good, but just Google “Cayenne coolant pipes” to see how far a premium badge takes you. Not that either the MDX or the RX350 have been entirely flawless, but both have at least the public perception of reliable longevity, which makes for good resale and strong residual values.

Moreover, as compared to the way European brands combine the freedom to option a vehicle however you’d like with their freedom to charge you as much as humanly possible, both Acura and Lexus are masters of streamlined packaging. The MDX comes in four flavours, with unconfusing names like MDX Navi, and the Lexus is similarly simplified into easy packages.

Leaving aside the top-of-the-range hybrid models, the reason so many people buy an RX is readily apparent. Pricing starts off at right around the level something like a Nissan Murano tops out at, and the F-Sport is packaged with most of the features of the top-level car. The firmer suspension setup, aggressive styling and unique interior are also currently offset by a small incentive program Lexus is running on F-Sport models only.

The MDX makes you pay for that third row of seating, but only if you have to have all the bells and whistles. While the test vehicle carried Elite status and thus a lofty, mid-60s price tag, it was also crammed with tech the F-Sport didn’t have. A more fair comparison might be against the MDX Navi which, at $54,690, draws parallel with an F-Sport and contains very similar levels of equipment.

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