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.

Test Drive: 2013 Acura MDX Elite car test drives luxury cars acura
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.

Test Drive: 2013 Acura MDX Elite car test drives luxury cars acura Test Drive: 2013 Acura MDX Elite car test drives luxury cars acura Test Drive: 2013 Acura MDX Elite car test drives luxury cars acura Test Drive: 2013 Acura MDX Elite car test drives luxury cars acura
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.

Test Drive: 2013 Acura MDX Elite car test drives luxury cars acura
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.




About SimonHill

Simon Hill rebuilt his first engine, an air-cooled Volkswagen, at 14. He started writing professionally about cars in 2009 and is also the editor of Boat Journal magazine. He lives in Vancouver, BC.