Pioneer Wagon: The 2016 Acura MDX

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Acura MDX
The 2016 Acura MDX.
There was a time, fifteen years ago, when there was no such thing as a luxury crossover SUV with three rows of seating.  One vehicle changed that and created a market all by itself.  It was the 2001 Acura MDX.

Rear 3/4 view of 2016 Acura MDX
2016 Acura MDX.
Far from resting on its laurels, the MDX has continually advanced the category it created. It is arguably the best, most consistent and yet most constantly improving vehicle in the Acura lineup.  And the new 2016 is no exception.

MDXs can be had for reasonable money, by full-size luxury SUV standards...beginning at $42,865 for the front-wheel drive base MDX.  But there are 16 distinct levels of MDX, based on trim and equipment packages and whether they are front-wheel or all-wheel drive.  Our tester was the top of the line, the AWD with Advance and Entertainment packages.  And the base price for that is $57,080. The good news is that it's a one-price deal.  Just add $920 for destination and handling and the bottom line is a nice, round $58,000.

No, that's not cheap.  But put it up against other seven-seat luxury SUVs and you'll find it's not out of line.  Then factor in the fuel economy offerd by the MDX's 290 horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engine mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission (EPA estimate: 19 city/26 highway) and the lengthy list of standard equipment in the AWD with Advance and Entertainment (click here) and the MDX rapidly emerges as having strong value for the money.

Interior view of 2016 Acura MDX
2016 Acura MDX interior.
Where the MDX clinches it is on the road.  It's a large vehicle, but the 3.5-liter moves it with remarkable speed, still delivering that strong for the segment gas mileage.  The nine-speed automatic delivers virtually seamless shifts. The adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow is simply one of the best such units we've ever sampled (we used it for most of a 260-mile round trip to Burlingame (south of San Francisco) on a recent Sunday and found it to be flawless. The seating is comfortable and supportive. The seat coolers work well (important on a July weekend that saw 104 in Sacramento and 90 on the San Francisco Peninsula), and the 12-speaker ELS audio system was nothing short of phenomenal.

In the past year and a half, Navigator has been in the passenger seat of well over 100 vehicles.  She is, as often noted here, the best traveling companion in the world, but she is not given to effusive praise for any vehicle, and is biased toward practicality and low price.  The MDX won her over almost immediately. We were both sorry to see it go when our week's evaluation was over. It's simply that good...and that's why it joins the list of TireKicker's Best Cars on the right side of this page.