Test Drive: 2020 Acura MDX A-Spec
2020 Acura MDX A-Spec AWD
Class: Premium Midsize Crossover SUV
Miles driven: 426
Fuel used: 22.0 gallons
|CG Report Card|
|Room and Comfort||A-|
|Power and Performance||B+|
|Fit and Finish||A-|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.|
|Engine Specs||290-hp 3.5-liter|
Real-world fuel economy: 19.3 mpg
Driving mix: 60% city, 40% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 19/26/22 (city, highway, combined)
Fuel type: Premium gas recommended
Base price: $55,000 (not including $1025 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: Premium exterior color ($400)
Price as tested: $56,425
The great: Crisp, composed handling for a large vehicle; sporty, upscale cabin trim
The good: Good level of standard features; competitive pricing for the class
The not so good: Not quite as much cargo room as some class rivals; some complicated infotainment controls
More MDX price and availability information
Good things tend to linger around Acura’s premium-midsize crossover SUV. The MDX has been on the market since 2001, and it has been a consistent strong seller for the brand. According to industry-watcher Automotive News, it was Acura’s second-best-selling product line in 2019 with 52,019 buyers. The vehicle’s current platform dates back to 2014, with a significant freshening in ’17; in that entire time, it has been a Consumer Guide “Best Buy” pick because of its sporty driving character, elevated level of cabin refinement, fine selection of technology features, and sound fuel economy for its class.
The MDX as it’s currently configured is pretty consistent, too. Changes are incremental. Indeed, nothing of note has been done to the 2020 version in the wake of a mild refresh for ’19 that included the introduction of an A-Spec trim level. We missed the A-Spec in its debut season—our 2019 MDX tester was a Sport Hybrid—but CG is catching up on it with this review.
Typical for Acura, the MDX A-Spec essentially comes complete, with no additional equipment packages to consider, though there are quite a few dealer-installed accessories on offer. Unlike some MDXs that have a choice of driveline, the A-Spec rolls on nothing but the brand’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD). The only cost-raiser on the tested vehicle was its Majestic Black Pearl paint, one of three available premium colors that come for an additional $400. (Three other colors are considered no-cost “standard” hues.) With delivery, CG’s sample truck listed for $56,425.
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To reach the A-Spec level, Acura starts with the same 3.5-liter V6 engine, 9-speed automatic transmission, and fully independent suspension used in all gas-engine MDXs. Other across-the-board equipment includes a power tailgate, moonroof, “jewel-eye” LED headlights, LED taillights, heated power-adjustable external mirrors, keyless entry, push-button starting, 8-inch infotainment-system touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, satellite radio, Bluetooth phone connectivity, HomeLink universal remote, tri-zone automatic climate control, and heated 12-way-power front seats with driver’s-seat memory. Then, too, there is the bundle of AcuraWatch safety assists: lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, forward-collision warning, collision-mitigating braking, road-departure mitigation, and adaptive cruise control.
Acura next throws in the Technology Package—also available on certain other models—to add premium 10-speaker audio, voice-command navigation, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic monitors, and more. Finally, there is the A-Spec group. Its sporting exterior styling touches include exclusive front and rear bumpers and dual-exhaust outlets, black grille and rear spoiler, and LED fog lights. Wheels are 20-inch Shark Gray five-spoke alloys, wrapped in 265/45R20 all-season rubber. Interior features are Alcantara-trimmed upholstery with contrast stitching and piping in the front two rows, ventilated front sport seats, bright-metal pedal trim, black headliner, and red instrument-panel illumination.
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While the rest of the automotive world busies itself with expanding into any crevice of the crossover market space that appears to be uncovered, Acura is getting by somehow with just the compact 2-row RDX and the 3-row MDX with room for up to seven passengers. There’s good front-row comfort, and the A-Spec sport seats are designed to keep occupants in place during brisk driving. The second row has just enough room to keep folks of average builds happy—with some opportunity to wedge in a middle passenger. (Some MDX models have individual captain’s chairs that limit capacity to six people.) Unfortunately, the third row is cramped.
The A-Spec interior imparts a nice ambiance, with lots of soft-touch material and metallic trim to brighten the surroundings. In the test vehicle, the leather portions of the front and middle seats were in a red that put some spice in the recipe. Passengers’ personal-item storage needs are addressed by a good-size glove box, and a console with some covered space and some open space for lots of flexibility. Exposed cup holders are set in the console, too. Second-row denizens are served by pouches on the backs of the front seats and cup holders in the flip-up center armrest. In addition, there are pockets in all four doors, and sidewall cup holders for the use of those seated in the third row. The interior is quiet, and offers drivers good sightlines.
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It can be a little complicated to use the central control dial for the infotainment system—the menu selector is on the dash below the display screen—so more touchy-feely types (this reviewer included) will be glad to know that the screen also responds to direct touch. Climate-system operation is a mix of on-screen taps and physical buttons for things like defrosters and temperature selection (via repetitive toggle switches). A button-activated transmission selector on the console reminds the driver that this is a Honda product. Following a little period of acclimation, it will begin to seem natural to use. Steering-wheel shifter paddles are included for more-determined drivers.
Limited cargo space remains when the third-row seats are up. Retract them, though, and the area gets pretty big. Middle-row seats are split 60/40, and they fold quite flat to reveal the maximum available load space. Bumper height strikes us as kind of high, which makes for higher than usual liftover. There is an abundant bin under the load floor for secure storage, and an open cubby to the left to hold incidentals.
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Without any overt performance tuning—this is no BMW M- or Mercedes-Benz AMG-type vehicle—the MDX still manages to have a surprisingly sporty on-road character. It drives and handles exceptionally well, with a nicely composed ride, even with the A-Spec’s 20s for rolling stock. The 290-horsepower V6 has nice power smoothly parsed through the 9-speed autobox. The EPA says this combination should generate 19 mpg in the city, 25 on the highway, and 21 combined. When this driver put 152 miles on the test truck in a 50/50 mix of city- and highway-type driving, he averaged 20.6 mpg.
The MDX A-Spec adds a little flair to a vehicle line that’s been pretty comfortable going without much of it, yet it doesn’t really alter its basic nature. You could call that consistency.
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Acura MDX A-Spec
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