The new Acura MDX, the Acura guy was saying, is “like an executive-class family jet.” Maybe, but with a lot less legroom. There was a lot of incongruous talk at the New York auto show MDX unveiling. This car does not “take luxury prestige to a new level,” nor is it the “quietest and most prestigious Acura yet.” In essence, it’s a Japanese Buick Enclave, with some lovely rear lines and lots of marketing speak.
Start with the MDX's three driving modes: Sport, Normal, and Comfort. Nothing highlights the oddity of the MDX more than Acura claim that it tuned that "Sport" suspension on the Nürburgring track in Germany, where the 290 hp, 3.5-liter V-6 flung itself around six seconds faster than the previous model — doubling the number of times anyone has ever taken an MDX onto a race track at speed. The new engine and a "Biggest Loser"-like weight loss regimen lead to a middling 21 mpg combined mileage rating for the all-wheel-drive version; a new front-wheel-drive version gets 23 mpg.
But this is a family SUV, not a sports car, so it should really be evaluated on those terms. It has three rows of seats. A second-row springs forward efficiently using a button that the collected car hacks received like it was the greatest thing since fission. Unfortunately, it reveals just about the most cramped third-row in the SUV universe, with less space than the back five rows on a United commuter flight. That row is really meant to fold down. If it doesn’t, then the MDX has about as much trunk space as a Smart car. For a premium big car, it feels pretty tight.
As a side note, why do companies continue to claim that their cars are going to be bought by Generation Y consumers? Those people, unless they are very rich or fanatical gearheads, do not buy cars. Even the Kia Soul, the ultimate Millennial car, has an average buyer age of 48, so the kids certainly aren’t going to be buying an MDX. And as a side-side note to Acura, maybe you shouldn’t refer to your rear-seat entertainment system, with available video-game plug-ins, as “the great pacifier.” The nickname might stick to the car as a whole.