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2019 acura MDX

"Don't mess with success" - that's the mantra to which Acura adhered while redesigning its best-selling model, the mid-sized, seven-passenger MDX luxury crossover. At first glance, nothing about the latest model will offend or surprise current MDX owners, but the familiar exterior hides a number of useful new tech features, a more versatile cabin and a significantly more efficient powertrain.

Recent changes
For the latest model year, Acura gave the MDX new paint colors and added a sportier hybrid powertrain to the list of options.

Overview
Precious little has changed in terms of the MDX's basic shape, but revised details, such as smaller fender flares and fluid character lines, make for a fresh and attractive appearance. LED jewel array headlamps lend a futuristic air to the front end.

Well-styled sheetmetal can turn heads, but it's the interior that consumers have to spend extended periods of time with on a daily basis. Recognizing this, Acura put a great deal of effort into making the cabin a comfortable and user-friendly space. The dashboard has been completely re-imagined and now boasts a unique two-tier LCD screen setup that looks cutting-edge and reduces the number of buttons from 41 in the old MDX to just nine. The eight-inch upper unit displays navigation information, while below that is a seven-inch touchscreen that provides access to climate control, entertainment, and navigation functions.

Further increasing the MDX's technology quotient is the available AcuraLink connectivity system, which includes real-time traffic and weather updates and a concierge serve that can make restaurant reservations. Also part of the setup are cloud-based apps such as Aha radio, which can play streaming internet radio stations and podcasts as well as read aloud content from Facebook, Twitter, audiobooks and news reports.

When the time comes to pack the MDX full of passengers, the crossover is ready for action thanks to several practical new features. The second-row seats now recline for extra comfort and also offer six inches of fore/aft adjustment to create the ideal balance between second- and third- row legroom. A one-touch power folding function for the second-row makes it easy to clear a path to the rearmost seats, which are more spacious than before due to a more compact rear suspension design and a longer wheelbase. Still, they're best left to children, or smaller adults for around-town trips.

The reworked center console is now large enough to fit a laptop, purse or a pair of iPads, and passengers will also appreciate the upgraded leather upholstery, soft-touch plastics and upscale silver-plated accents that distinguish the cabin.

Lower weight, better fuel economy
The base MDX comes with a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive and a nine-speed automatic transmission come standard, while all-wheel drive is offered at an extra cost. Fuel economy checks in at 20 mpg in the city, 27 mpg on the highway, and 23 mpg in a combined cycle with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive lowers those figures to 19, 26, and 22, respectively.

Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) technology shuts down half the cylinders during light-load cruising situations in order to save gas. An active noise cancellation system ensures that the VCM doesn't send any uncouth noises to the cabin.

Aside from making the MDX a sure-footed traveling companion in inclement weather, the optional AWD system - dubbed "Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive" by Acura - gives the big 'ute surprisingly agile dynamics with a torque-vectoring system that sends extra power to the outside rear wheel in turns. FWD models get a less-sophisticated brake-based torque vectoring setup.

Buyers concerned with fuel economy will likely look at the range-topping hybrid variant. It's built around a 3.0-liter V6 that delivers 257 horsepower and 218 pound-feet of torque. Acura added three electric motors linked to a lithium-ion battery pack to obtain 321 horsepower and 289 pound-feet of torque. The six-cylinder shifts through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Acura says that the MDX's suspension was honed on Germany's famed Nurburgring circuit, and the lessons learned on treacherous turns of the "Green Hell" were also put into tuning the Integrated Dynamics System (IDS). IDS lets the driver tailor steering effort, accelerator response and AWD settings by choosing from three different pre-set modes.

Standard and optional features
The MDX comes standard with leather upholstery, heated and power-adjustable front seats, an eight-speaker, 432-watt AM/FM/CD stereo system with USB and AUX inputs, a seven-inch touchscreen, an eight-inch display screen, a rear-view camera, a sunroof, full LED headlights, heated, power-adjustable exterior mirrors, a proximity key, push button start, a power operated tailgate, tri-zone automatic climate control, active noise cancellation, Bluetooth connectivity, full power accessories, automatic high beams, an electric parking brake, cruise control and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Several optional equipment packages are available. Notably, the technology package includes a 10-speaker, 501-watt ELS audio system, a navigation system, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, rain sensing windshield wipers, a color TFT display screen and 19-inch wheels. To those features, the technology and entertainment Package adds an upgraded ELS sound system with 11 speakers and 529-watts of sonic output, heated seats and window shades for the second row and a nine-inch DVD entertainment screen.

Occupant safety
All MDX models come standard with dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to a driver's knee airbag and traction and stability control systems.

Acura includes an array of standard driving aids including a collision mitigation braking system, forward collision warning, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, and road departure mitigation with lane departure warning.

Key competitors
Before rushing out to pick up a new MDX, buyers should also take a peek at comparable rides such as the BMW X5, the Mercedes-Benz GLE, and the Lexus RX. Notably, of those competitors only the X5 offers a third-row seat; if passenger space is a priority, the larger Mercedes-Benz GLS is also worth a look.