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2018 Acura MDX Driving Impressions


The direct-injection V6 with Honda’s i-VTEC variable valvetrain is single overhead cam with four valves per cylinder rated 290 horsepower at 6200 rpm and 267 pound-feet of torque at 4500 rpm. It’s a smooth, refined engine, with acceleration whenever you need it, and it stays smooth to redline 6700 rpm.

The nine-speed automatic transmission is smooth most of the time, but sometimes it seems to get confused by so many choices, and hesitates. That’s in Drive mode, when the transmission does all the shifting automatically. But there’s a selector on the center console that switches the shift mapping between Drive and Sport. In Sport mode, and using the paddles to shift, you get quick upshifts or throttle-blip downshifts. The Sport mode works like a true manual mode because the transmission will actually let you hold onto gears all the way to redline, or all the way down to where you’re starting to lug the engine.

However the push-button shifter on the console is brilliant; it frees up space on the console, and is easy to use with its distinct buttons. One nice feature is that the transmission automatically shifts into Park when you turn off the engine.

The MDX also uses what Acura calls IDS, for Integrated Dynamics System, with Comfort, Normal, Sport and Sport Plus modes. The Sport mode quickens steering response, while the Comfort setting brings a lighter steering feel. The steering doesn’t send a lot of feedback to the driver, but the MDX feels capable and coordinated when driven near the limit. Actually, its handling is admirable for a vehicle this size; it’s as close to nimble and responsive as you can get in a seven-seat vehicle. It’s a very easy car to drive.

Special shock absorbers smooth the ride over rough pavement, even with the 20-inch wheels on the Technology and Advance packages. There’s just a bit of body lean in the corners.

The Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive system not only provides excellent all-weather traction, it makes a difference on dry roads. The system can vary front-wheel torque distribution from 90 percent down to 30 percent (that’s 70 percent to the rear), or up to 100 percent to either the left or right wheels. That greatly improves stability when driving in winter, especially when patches of snow and ice are mixed with patches of wet pavement, or when the left wheels are on ice and the right wheels are on dry pavement.

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