2019 Acura MDX AWD A-SPEC Review

A-SPEC-ial trim makes the 3-row crossover even better


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Great driving dynamics for a mid-size crossover, slick styling with the right amount of aggression, ample room inside, faster than it needs to be.
Negatives: Still confusing twin screens, infotainment controls unnecessarily large, transmission is slow to shift.
Bottom Line: The MDX A-SPEC adds visual punch to an already handsome premium crossover, and the driving dynamics are excellent. Who says you have to compromise when you have haul a big family? The MDX A-SPEC might not have more power than the stock MDX, but the more aggressive look backs up the performance well. It's also roomy and comfortable. Our only wish is for a better infotainment system.
The Acura MDX has established itself as the best-selling premium three-row crossover on the market. Now, the brand has added an A-SPEC trim level to the model, but it doesn't add power or performance to the mix, instead opting for visual tweaks inside and out that make it look sportier than its brethren. The naturally-aspirated V6 engine remains, and it's got more than enough grunt to satisfy driving enthusiasts. We helmed the A-SPEC trim level for a week. Read our full review below.
 

Driving Experience

8.8

 

The MDX A-SPEC might not be the fastest trim (that label goes to the MDX Sport Hybrid), but it's plenty quick and capable. If you want a three-row crossover that won't put you to sleep, look no further.

Ride Quality: The suspension is the same as in the regular MDX, but that's not bad at all. In fact, it toes the line properly between firm and comfy. It never felt deterred by pavement irregularities, even when driven hard.

Acceleration: Though there's some delay, the power is undeniable. 0-60 comes in at a little over six seconds, which is quite fast. The bigger exhaust pipes add an aggressive throatiness, too.

Braking: The brake pedal is progressive, and stopping distances are short. There's no nose-dive to speak of, either.

Steering: Steering is sharp and actually has some feeback. The turn-in is surprisingly quick, and there's good on centeredness at highway speeds.

Handling: The handling in MDX is one of the best in its class with great body control and good balance. It can manage being pushed without feeling like its out of sorts. Super-Handling AWD (SH-AWD) works very well by monitoring traction constantly to provide more control and also to enhance performance with torque vectoring capability that puts power to the outside rear wheel when cornering. It's a great system thae makes the MDX stand out.

Technology

7.4

 

For some strange reason, Acura still insists on giving its vehicles a two-screen infotainment setup, which seems like one screen too many. The tech inside the MDX A-SPEC isn't bad, but it could use some simplification.

Infotainment System: The two stacked screens look odd, and the graphics aren't particularly good. It also seems strange that the climate controls are located between the bottom screen and the infotainment controls. We found the whole system a bit frustrating to use.

Controls: We don't like the big infotainment control knob in the center stack. It operates the top screen rather than the bottom one, which is touch control only. We also hate the pushbutton transmission, which you have to look at to operate. Give us a traditional shifter or even a rotary shifter.

Styling

8.9

 

The MDX is a handsome crossover now that Acura figured out what a good-looking grille is. The A-SPEC package adds wider wheels with dark chrome, lower profile tires, a special front fascia, and dark chrome exterior trim. The changes add visual aggressiveness that's not overdone and looks quite good regardless of the paint color.

Front: The unique fascia provides a darkened chrome grille and the removal of chrome pieces that surround the foglights in the regular MDX. The look is clean but mean, and we give it a thumbs up.

Rear: Dark chrome trim, bigger round pipes, and a diffuser give an already attractive tail section more attitude. The wraparound taillights and the roof spoiler round out a well-balanced back end.

Profile: The dark chrome wheels match the black window trim nicely, and we love the fact that there's pretty much no chrome. The D-pillar is signature MDX and sets it apart from more pedestrian crossovers.

Cabin: The inside is a bit busy, but the A-SPEC's red gauges, thick-rimmed steering wheel, sport pedals, and the Alcantara door panel inserts look great. Perforated and contrast-stitch seats match the sportiness of the exterior.

Comfort

8.8

 

The MDX is a great vehicle for families. The Alcantara seats feel as good as they look, and the space is plentiful, though third-row passengers need to be shorter than full-sized adults.

Front Seats: The right balance of cushioning and bolstering make them comfy and supportive in all the right places. They're not as good as the ones in the Lexus RX or the Volvo XC90, but they're a tad bit wider, making them better for larger folks.

Rear Seats: Legroom for six-footers is good in the 2nd row, but the 3rd row is noticeably smaller.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): You can hear the burble of the V6 with the bigger pipes, but otherwise the cabin is quiet and exhibited no errant noises.

Visibility: Big windows and a good seating position for the driver make it easy to position the MDX. The D-pillars are thick for the sake of styling, but the surround view camera is a great standard feature.

Climate: The tri-zone automatic climate control worked well, as did the heated seats, which we briefly tested.

Safety

9

 

Families would be right to consider the MDX as their next vehicle thanks to very good crash test scores and a solid set of standard safety tech that's now endemic to the Honda/Acura line of vehicles.

IIHS Rating: It misses the highest score due to "acceptable" headlights but still nabs the Top Safety Pick label with "good" across the board in crash tests.

NHTSA Rating: The Feds give the MDX five stars in crash tests, the highest rating available.

Standard Tech: AcuraWatch comes standard and contains a slew of great tech that includes Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Mitigation Braking, Road Departure Mitigation, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, and a Lane Keeping Assist System.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

9

 

Though it's no Ford Expedition in terms of storage and cargo, it is capacious for its size. There's plenty of room in the first and second row for small item storage, and the cargo section is huge.

Storage Space: The center console has a big sliding door compartment, a roomy armest, and great door pockets.

Cargo Room: With the seats in place, the rear storage amounts to a handy 15.8 cubic feet, and with them folded flat, there's a monstrous 90.9 cubes. That's 20 cubic feet more than the already big Audi Q7.

Fuel Economy

7.4

 

It's hard not to drive the A-SPEC with a heavy foot. It likes to be pushed, and our gas mileage reflected that. We drove it Dynamic (sport) mode to extract the most out of the vehicle, so our numbers didn't necessarily reflect real world usage by more conservative driving habits.

Observed: 17.1 mpg

Distance Driven: 204 miles.

Audio

8.7

 

The A-SPEC trim level thankfully comes with the 10-speaker ELS premium audio system at no extra charge. It's powerful, clear, and sounds great. We enjoyed listening to it, though it's about a level below Audi's Bang & Olufsen and Lexus's Mark Levinson systems. Those, however, will cost extra from those manufacturers.



Final Thoughts

The MDX A-SPEC is an excellent three-row premium crossover that undercuts a similary outfitted V6-powered Audi Q7 by a few thousand and drives just as well. There's room, style, and comfort in spades, though the infotainment system will take some getting used to. Those who want reliability with aggressiveness, driving fun, and practicality should seriously consider it.
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