2012 Acura MDX Review and Prices

Last Updated: Mar 21, 2011

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2012 Acura MDX Buying Advice

The 2012 Acura MDX is the best premium crossover SUV for you if you understand that behind than comical grille lays terrific quality, a beautiful interior, and outstanding road manners.

The 2012 Acura MDX will be little changed from the 2011 model and should close the book on the second-generation version of this upscale seven-passenger crossover. Expect the 2012 MDX to continue as a wonderfully engineered wagon, one enough ahead of its time when it was introduced for model-year 2007 that it still feels entirely contemporary today. The all-new 2013 Acura MDX would be lucky to reflect such forward thinking, though it is likely to have more interior room and better fuel economy than the 2012 MDX. And Lord willing, it’ll have a shapelier schnoz.

Should you wait for the 2012 Acura MDX or buy a 2011 Acura MDX? Buy a 2011 MDX. It includes all the important upgrades Acura gave the MDX for model-year 2010 and its styling and features will be fresher for longer than those of the lame-duck 2012 model. The 2012 MDX isn’t likely to be altered in any meaningful way, though it will probably cost more than the 2011 thanks to traditional year-over-year price increases.

2012 Acura MDX Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 Acura MDX will be a visual repeat of the 2011 MDX, though it could offer a new color choice or two and perhaps a special-trim edition to commemorate the final year of this second-generation design. The basics of size and shape will reflect those that came on line with the 2007 redesign. The unfortunate chromed-beak grille will represent changes made as part of the model-year 2010 freshening. That grille is intended to bestow an Acura-family resemblance, but it doesn’t look any more graceful here than it does on the brand’s cars or on the MDX’s kid sister, the compact RDX crossover.

Dimensionally, the 2012 MDX will continue to occupy as much room on the road as prime competitors like the 2012 BMW X5 and 2012 Infiniti FX. Its 108.3-inch wheelbase, however, is among the shortest in the competitive set, where 114 inches is more the average. Wheelbase is the distance between the front and rear axles and predictive of a vehicle’s passenger space, particularly rear legroom. Brilliant packaging actually provides the MDX’s second-row passengers with outstanding space, but Acura also felt compelled to shoehorn in a third-row seat. That’s never a good idea in a crossover of this wheelbase and the MDX’s rearmost riders will again need to be grade-schoolers to have breathing room. On the upside, busy families can continue to strap in a couple more kids to solve a carpool crisis.

Don’t expect the 2012 MDX’s cabin to retreat on style or quality craftsmanship, both of which are among the very best in class. The dashboard will again boast shapes that delight the eye, though a plethora of control buttons will likely continue to baffle the brain. The 2012 MDX’s front seats will remain roomy, supportive sport buckets. Its second row will again be shaped to carry two adults in similarly contoured comfort, though the center position will stay a bit of a penalty perch. High-grade materials will abound, from standard leather upholstery to richly padded door panels to tasteful metallic-finished instrument-panel trim. A power liftgate will remain standard and both rear seating rows will continue to split and fold, creating 42.9 cubic feet of cargo volume aft of the second row and 83.5 behind the first row. Both figures should continue among best in class and the load floor will remain usefully flat. With all seats in place, however, the channel between the third row and the liftgate will prove less practical than its 15-cubic-foot specification implies.

Mechanical: Acura is Honda’s premium brand and the 2012 MDX will continue to reflect the parent company’s aptitude for design engineering. Honda uses engines no larger than required to do the job, and so, while the 2012 MDX’s rivals will offer both six- and eight-cylinder power, this Acura will continue exclusively with a 3.7-liter V-6. Output should remain 300 horsepower and 276 pound-feet of torque – competitive with adversaries’ sixes, but well below their V-8s. Nonetheless, the 2012 MDX should continue to feel like an overachiever on the road thanks to the smooth V-6’s smart valvetrain technology (VTEC in Honda-speak) and the alert nature of its six-speed automatic transmission. Supplanting a less-efficient five-speed automatic, the six-speed was the most important facet of the 2010 MDX’s freshening. It includes steering-wheel paddles for manual-type gear control and can automatically hold the proper ratio to maximize thrust through corners.

Assorted premium midsize crossovers offer both rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive (AWD) but the 2012 MDX will continue with AWD standard. Very few of these crossovers are intended as serious off-roaders and indeed, the ’12 MDX will continue to employ its AWD system as a snowy-road traction enhancer. But this-generation MDX was also a pioneer in calibrating AWD to enhance dry-road handling, a practice now common in the class. Acura calls its system Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD). It performs as advertised, funneling engine power not only fore and aft but between the rear wheels, using torque to “pull” the MDX through turns with minimal noseplow and sporty control commonly associated with rear-wheel drive.

The 2012 MDX will continue with a 5,000-pound towing capacity, which is good for a V-6 crossover of this type. It’ll also include trailer-sway-control technology that compensates for instability caused by crosswinds and the like. Expect 18-inch alloy wheels to remain standard, with 19s included in the extra-cost Advance Package. That package also includes a suspension that dials in comfort- or sport-grade firmness according to road conditions or driver choice. The Advance Package also adds adaptive cruise control to automatically maintain a set distance from traffic ahead, plus collision-mitigating braking, which sounds a warning and begins to slow the vehicle if sensors detect the driver isn’t reacting to an impending collision.

Features: With its inception in 1986 as the first premium offshoot of an import brand – Toyota followed with Lexus, Nissan with Infiniti – Acura has stood for a comprehensive standard equipment list that includes lots of features for which many rivals charge extra. The 2012 MDX will continue in step with a standard power moonroof, xenon headlamps, leather upholstery, and a 10-way power driver’s seat and eight-way power front passenger seat (both heated). Also included will be an automatic dimming rearview mirror with integrated rearview backup camera, power tilt/telescope steering column, heated outside mirrors, and tri-zone automatic climate control.

Bluetooth hands-free mobile-phone connectivity will again be part of the base price, as will a 253-watt audio system with eight-speakers (including an 8-inch subwoofer), XM radio, and an auxiliary input jack. Acura could boost the 2012 MDX’s credentials by making a USB iPod interface standard, but that feature most likely will remain part of the extra-cost Technology Package. This package will again include Acura’s excellent navigation system with voice activation and a crisp 8-inch dashboard display screen. It also will slot in a 410-watt, 10-speaker audio setup that includes a USB port, enhance the cabin with Milano premium leather, and imbue the automatic climate control system with GPS-linked sensors that adjust interior temperature to compensate for solar rays.

Returning to the aforementioned Advance Package, it’ll accompany its suspension, cruise, braking, and wheel upgrades with blind-spot warning and a three-spoke sport steering wheel with color-coordinated paddle shifters. It’ll also enhance the front seats with cooling control and special foam covered by special Milano leather that’s perforated and stitched with French seams. MDXs equipped with the Technology or Advance packages will again be eligible for the Entertainment Package, which includes a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with a 9-inch ceiling screen and wireless headphones; it also heats the rear seat.

2012 Acura MDX Prices back to top

Prices for the 2012 Acura MDX were not announced in time for this review but should be roughly on par with 2011 Acura MDX prices. That suggests a 2012 MDX base-price range of $44,000-$55,000. (Estimated base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandated destination fee; Acura’s destination fee for the 2011 MDX was $860.)

That estimated base-price range would sustain the 2012 MDX as very competitively priced, again undercutting similarly equipped six-cylinder versions of such rivals as the 2012 BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz ML, and even the base Porsche Cayenne. The 2012 MDX should continue to pace the six-cylinder Infiniti FX for pricing but continue to be slightly more expensive than potential alternatives such as the Volvo XC60 and 2012 Lexus RX350.  

Expect the base-level 2012 MDX to start around $44,000. Adding the Technology Package should kick the price to around $47,600. Estimated base price for a 2012 MDX with the Technology and Entertainment packages is $49,600.

Estimated price for a 2012 MDX equipped with the Advanced Package is $53,700. Figure $55,600 or so for a 2012 MDX with the Advanced and Entertainment packages.

2012 Acura MDX Fuel Economy back to top

EPA mileage estimates for the 2012 Acura MDX were not released in time for this review but 2012 MDX fuel-economy ratings should be consistent with 2011 MDX ratings.

That means 2012 MDX fuel-economy ratings of 16/21 mpg city/highway. Those numbers would keep the MDX just slightly below ratings for newer competitors such as the BMX X5, but right in line with comparable versions of the Mercedes ML, Infiniti FX, even the Volvo XC60. Note that like most of its rivals, Acura will likely continue to require pricier premium-octane fuel for the 2012 MDX.

2012 Acura MDX Release Date back to top

The 2012 Acura MDX should go on sale by September 2011.

What's next for the 2012 Acura MDX back to top

We’ll admit it’s a little deep in this review to issue a caveat, but there’s a chance Acura will introduce the redesigned third-generation MDX not for model-year 2013 but for model-year 2012. Industry sources are divided, but we’re going with a model-2013 redesign based on Acura’s current model-into pace. The first-generation MDX ran from model-years 2001-2006, but most carmakers, Honda included, have stretched vehicle life spans to keep development costs in check.

In any event, expect the third-generation MDX to gain share its structural DNA with some of the parent company’s other large front-wheel-drive-based models, including the Honda Odyssey minivan and Honda Pilot SUV. The Odyssey was redesigned as a 2011 model. Pilot was all-new for model-year 2009 and is on pace for a model-2015 redesign.

As a side note, Acura essentially put a so-called four-door-coupe body over the MDX’s mechanical components, and spiffed-up the cabin but retained the chrome-fang grille, and introduced the result it into the heart of the recession as the 2010 Acura ZDX. The five-passenger fashion statement’s been a critical and showroom dud. It’s priced higher than the MDX but has less cargo space, dramatically tighter rear-seat accommodations, and styling that seems to have it a sour note. 

It’s a good bet the next-generation MDX – whenever it appears – will remain a seven seater but with a longer wheelbase that should increase third-row legroom to accommodate adolescents if not full-grown adults. Look for an evolution of today’s styling, with hints of the ZDX in more sculpted body sides but without a sloping “crossover coupe” rear roofline. The MDX will retain a squared-off rear roofline to benefit cargo volume and third-row headroom.

Expect AWD to remain standard, likely with the next step in SH-AWD technology for even better handling and grip. Don’t look for a V-8; Acura will stick with a V-6. To improve fuel economy, however, it could employ one that displaces less than 3.7 liters but uses turbocharging to produce more than today’s 300 horsepower, with substantial increases in torque. The trend is to automatic transmissions with seven and eight speeds, and the future MDX could get one too, though perhaps as part of a midcycle freshening around 2015. Even more advanced infotainment is a certainty, with Acura likely to join the drift toward smartphone interaction with various vehicle functions and systems monitors.

2012 Acura MDX Competition back to top

BMW X5: A seven-passenger crossover introduced as a 2007 model but updated since to include four engines: gas and diesel sixes and a pair of twin-turbo V-8s. Closest to the MDX in price is the xDrive35i model. It has a turbo 3.0-liter inline-six with 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and standard AWD tuned to enhance on-road handling. Fuel economy ratings should remain 16/23 mpg. Prices for the 2012 xDrive 35i line should start around $47,700 and climb to around $56,000 for versions matching an MDX with the Advanced and Entertainment packages. If there’s a more rewarding all-around three-row premium midsize crossover than the MDX, it’s this X5, which delivers the solid quality and driver-focused manner for which BMW is deservedly famous. Look for a model-year 2014 redesign.

Infiniti FX: Audaciously styled and quick of reflex, this five-seater is the pierced-and-tattooed heavy-metal drummer of the group. Introduced for model-year 2009, the second-generation FX has the least cargo room of the crossovers addressed here, and by far the harshest-riding suspension. But in performance, it aims to be a cut-rate Porsche Cayenne and nearly succeeds. The 390-horsepower V-8 2012 FX50 model should be priced from around $58,000, while the V-6 FX35 models look to start around $43,000 with rear-wheel drive (16/23 mpg) and around $44,500 with AWD (16/21). They’ll likely continue with 303 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque and a seven-speed automatic. A midcycle freshening could be in the cards for model-year 2012 but it won’t change the FX’s character.

Mercedes-Benz M-Class: Due  a full redesign for model-year 2012, expect the ML to remain a five-passenger wagon but a leader in powertrain variety with a gas-electric hybrid and a diesel six-cylinder to go along with six- and eight-cylinder gas engines. Look for an evolution of the 2006-2011 generation’s styling that’ll keep it relevant but dignified. An intriguing MDX alterative would be the diesel, a six-cylinder with some 400 pound-feet of torque and fuel economy in the 19/26-mpg range -- but also a base price around $54,000. The hybrid should again net some 335 horsepower and 381 pound-feet of torque from its V-6/electric motor system and rate 20/24 mpg, but it’ll cost around $58,000. The most direct MDX foil would be a gas V-6 ML. It should have horsepower and fuel economy similar to the Acura’s but use a seven- or maybe an eight-speed automatic. The gas-V-6 2012 ML should offer a more refined driving experience than the MDX, but at a price: figure $54,000 or so to start with AWD.

2012 Acura MDX Next Steps