Review and photos by Simon Hill

Since its introduction in 2007, the second-generation Acura MDX has consistently topped the sales charts for mid-size luxury SUVs. It’s easy to see why, too: even in its seventh year (and with an all-new replacement due out for 2014), the current MDX continues to provide a winning blend of style, luxury, practicality and performance. And while its starting price of $55,135 is indeed solidly in luxury territory, it remains fiercely competitive against rival seven-seaters such as the BMW X5, which starts at $65,895 with third-row seats, the Lexus GX starting at $64,495, and Audi Q7, which starts at $61,395 with third-row seats (all prices include destination fees). Infiniti’s JX35 perhaps offers the greatest price competition starting at $46,895, but it doesn’t offer anything like the MDX’s driving dynamics.

2013 Acura MDX Elite
2013 Acura MDX Elite. Click image to enlarge

The 2013 MDX enters its swan-song year unchanged from 2012, other than some revisions to the available paint colours. But that doesn’t mean it looks dated: it was last refreshed in 2010, and regardless of what you might think about Acura’s somewhat controversial blade-style grille, the MDX’s sleekly angular and somewhat conservative lines have withstood the test of time remarkably well.

Inside, it offers a convincingly luxurious atmosphere. The well-appointed cabin features abundant use of soft-surface materials (including the dash and door uppers), with leather upholstery in all models and perforated Milano leather upholstery in Technology and Elite models. There’s rich-looking woodgrain trim (though purists may note that it’s not real wood), a very nice stitched leather centre console armrest, eight-way power seat adjustments for both front seats (with two-position memory on the driver’s side), heated seats in the first two rows, back-up camera (multiview in the Technology and Elite models), power moonroof, power tailgate and, of course, tri-zone automatic climate control, power windows and locks, and a range of impressive audio systems with standard Bluetooth hands-free telephone connectivity.

My test vehicle’s Elite trim added to the interior ambience with heated/ventilated front seats, and the Technology and Elite trim both include a blind spot monitoring system and upgraded 410-watt ELS premium sound system with USB input, 15-gigabyte hard drive storage, navigation system, rear-seat DVD entertainment system and Bluetooth streaming audio.

2013 Acura MDX Elite2013 Acura MDX Elite2013 Acura MDX Elite2013 Acura MDX Elite
2013 Acura MDX Elite. Click image to enlarge

Notably missing from this list of features is proximity-sensing keyless entry and push-button start, which one imagines will likely make an appearance on the third-generation 2014 MDX. The foot-actuated park brake also seems a little out-of-place in a luxury crossover, although I actually prefer it in some ways to the newfangled electronically activated parking brakes that are now de rigeur in the segment.

In practical matters, I found that first two rows of seating both offered a comfortable, supportive fit for my 5’11” frame, while the third row was, as might be expected, better suited for kids. I did fit back there but it’s tight for headroom and legroom, like riding in the rear of a sporty coupe. With the third-row seats deployed you get a reasonable 425 L of cargo space, which expands to 1,215 L with the third row folded and 2,364 L with the second and third rows both folded. The back two rows are both split-folding (50/50 for the third row and 60/40 for the second), providing a wide variety of cargo and passenger configurations.

2013 Acura MDX Elite
2013 Acura MDX Elite. Click image to enlarge

Under the hood, the MDX has a 3.7L VTEC V6 that generates 300 hp at 6,300 rpm and 270 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm, and is hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel–mounted paddle shifters. The big V6 has a nice low growl and lots of grunt (which allows a healthy 2,268-kg towing capacity), and in normal driving it mostly just purrs along between 2,000-3,000 rpm. It has a lofty 6,600 rpm redline however, and if you floor the accelerator it’ll happily wind all the way up into the upper rev range, pushing the MDX from 0 to 100 km/h in 7.6 seconds. Slip the shifter into sport mode and use the paddle shifters and the drivetrain becomes remarkably lively and sporty, although I found the wheel-mounted paddles a little small and noted that the transmission takes care of the first-to-second shift automatically almost regardless of what you do.

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