First Drive: 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid AWD

First Drive: 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid AWD

The Whole Package for On-Road & Off

You might think of Acura NSX supercar as the top-of-the-line car for Honda’s luxury division. I’d like to propose an alternative—the 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid. As wonderful of a performance machine as the NSX might be, I doubt it could match the off-road ability of the AWD MDX, so in the automotive decathlon that is everyday life, we think an all-round performer like the MDX is going to take the gold.

2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid

A new badge in town

This popular midsize SUV is Acura’s best-selling model, accounting for more than a third of the division’s sales. It’s easy to see why, but the addition of a hybrid model adds a new dimension of fuel efficiency to this highly functional car.

The MDX is well-established in the luxury crossover segment, trailing in sales only the Lexus RX, which has had a hybrid variant for over a decade. If this is catchup, it’s about time. The MDX doesn’t match the Lexus’ fuel economy numbers, but it does offer a third row of seating.

The Sport Part

We only had a brief drive in the 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid as part of the Western Automotive Journalists’ Media Day program, but came away impressed with the vehicles’ comfort and capabilities. The 24-valve single-overhead-cam 3.0-liter port-injected V-6 puts our 257 horsepower (hp) at 6400 rpm, a typically high-revving Honda engine. With its duel rear electric motors, the whole system is rated at 321 hp. It adds 218 pounds-feet of torque, something that showed up powerfully on the ascent up the Laureles Grade in Monterey.

The descent showed off the fuel-saving capabilities of the MDX as the engine shut off several times as we coasted downhill. My fuel economy wasn’t up to the EPA’s numbers of 26 mpg city/27 highway/27 combined, but I was close. The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission was flawless in finding the proper gear on the drive.

2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid

The Sport Hybrid has better fuel economy without sacrificing power

I didn’t get a chance to put Honda’s SH-AWD system to the test, but past experience tells me this sophisticated package is more than capable to making sure any wheel with traction gets the power it needs. The four-wheel independent suspension with MacPherson strut front/multi-link rear (with beefier stabilizer bars at both ends from the Technology Package) does a great job keeping the MDX tracking true.

The non-hybrid MDX has a quite different powertrain package with a 290-hp 3.5L direct injection V-6 mated to a nine-speed transmission. In a two-wheel-drive configuration that system can deliver 20 mpg city/27 highway/23 combined, not far off the hybrid numbers. Its AWD numbers usually only feature a one mpg penalty.

An Easy Step-Up

Maybe because it is such a small improvement in fuel economy, Acura has made the premium pretty small. The bump up to the Sport Hybrid is only $1,500 more than the comparably equipped standard MDX. The catch is that the Sport Hybrid is only available in AWD and includes the $4,400 Technology Package, an option on the standard MDX. That pushes the premium between a base front-wheel drive MDX and the Sport Hybrid to $7,510, although noting that is an apples-to-oranges comparison.

2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid,front seats

The MDX is not afraid to remind you what luxury is all about

About that Technology Package. It sounds pricey, but the content it delivers is significant. Integrated into the eight-inch color display is the Acura Navigation System with voice recognition, AcuraLink Communications System with real-time traffic information, Acura ELS Studio Premium audio system, HD radio, GPS-linked tri-zone auto climate control with an air filtration system, remote engine start, blind spot information, rain-sensing wipers, LED puddle lights and rear cross-traffic monitoring.

The model I drove also featured another package (Advance) that added a surround-view camera system, sports seats with perforated leather trim, second row captain’s chairs, ventilated front seats, wood-trimmed interior, heated steering wheel, front passenger 10-day power seat, heated second-row seats, LED fog lights, parking sensors, rear door sunshades and roof rails.

A final package of standard AcuraWatch features were the MDX’s adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, rear departure mitigation, forward collision warning, lane departure warning and lane-keeping assist. This is a package of safety technology that is well on its way to becoming as common as multiple airbags on modern cars.

The SUV Part of this Story

The MDX has earned its spot in the automotive market by being three things:

  1. A Honda, with a solid reputation for engineering and reliability,
  2. A luxury Honda, with features and comforts expected in that realm, and
  3. Again, a Honda, with a reputation for practical innovation.

As mentioned, we didn’t really test the off-road abilities of the 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid, but we’ve had plenty of experience with Honda’s AWD technology. This bodes well for the MDX, particularly because of the expected “off-road” use of MDX owners. In the real world, the car’s AWD capabilities are likely to be challenged by rain, snow, ice and maybe a few unpaved forest roads.

2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid

What an SUV is all about–space

More to the point of an SUV is the carrying capacity of the MDX. The configuration we had was six passengers in three rows of two—the front and middle captain’s chairs and the narrow back row. A seven-passenger set up is also available where the middle seat will accommodate three passengers.

Behind the seats is the real crossover story—14.9 cubic feet behind the third row, 38.4 cu. ft with the last row folded down and a whopping 68.4 cu. ft. with both rows of rear seats folded. Folding and flipping the seats is easy work, leaving you with an interior you can customize to whatever task is at hand.

The Safety and Warranty Features

We’ve already referenced the variety of optional technology that can enhance driving safety. The basic MDX comes with seven airbags, a Multi-View Rear Camera, four-wheel anti-lock braking system, electronic brake distribution, brake assist, vehicle stability assist with traction control and motion adaptive steering, trailer stability assist, land-keeping assist, collision mitigation braking system, road departure mitigation, tire pressure monitoring system, hill start assist and adaptive cruise control. As you can see, the list of standard features is pretty lengthy, a testament to the luxury status of the vehicle and Honda’s work in this area.

2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid

No shifter–just buttons

The MDX has received a five-star overall vehicle score from federal government testing with similar frontal and side crash tests and a four-star rating in rollover.

The 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid comes with the following warranties:

  • Whole vehicle – Four years/50,000 miles
  • Powertrain – Six years/70,000 miles
  • Outer Body Rust-through – Five years/Unlimited miles
  • Acura Genuine Accessories – Four years/50,000 miles
  • Acura Total Luxury Care w/Roadside Assistance – Four years/50,000 miles

The Bottom Line

So what does this all come down to at check out? As mentioned earlier, the front-wheel drive MDX starts at a quite reasonable (considering the market competition and standard features) of $44,050; the base AWD model begins at $46,050. The hybrid’s base price is $51,960. Our 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid optioned out at $58,000. All MDXs also have a $975 destination and handling charge.

2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid

The look of luxury

The 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid is a formidable vehicle, rightfully occupying a spot on top of the brand’s portfolio. It has power, reasonable fuel economy for the size and heft of the SUV, and a variety of standard and optional technology that slot it squarely in the sweet spot of the market. Without resting on the laurels of the Honda brand, it can hold its own against a variety of American (and the MDX is built in Alabama with 70 percent American/Canadian content), Japanese or European competitors. We’d like to see Honda squeeze a few more mpg out of this beast, and we’re confident the engineers are already working on that. While you wait, you can confidently buy the hybrid model (as opposed to the standard one) and make back your extra expense in a couple years from fuel savings.

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Road Test: 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid

Road Test: 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid

Not Your Typical Hybrid

2016 Acura RLX Hybrid, engine

The sporty heart of the Acura RLX hybrid

The 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid sedan isn’t your typical hybrid. For one thing, it puts out 377 horsepower and 341 lb.-ft. of torque, while scoring an EPA 30 mpg Combined score. It’s all-wheel drive. And it’s loaded with luxury, safety, and entertainment features, too.

Hybrids combine a gasoline engine with an electric motor to increase fuel efficiency. The RLX has not one but three motors. Two are in back, replacing the drive shaft and rear differential; each is 27 kW. Then, there’s a third, 35 kW motor up front. A 260-volt lithium-ion battery powers them and accumulates energy generated by regenerative braking.

Big and Loaded

The RLX is Acura’s largest sedan, its flagship. It’s imposing on the road, and wears today’s styling while remaining somewhat anonymous and subtle at the same time. The Jewel Eye LED headlamps are a slim row of ice cubes—an Acura exclusive.

The RLX is a full-size car inside per the EPA’s measuring tape, and it feels like it, too. The padded, undulating interior design flows from door to dash to door, enveloping you in fine Milano leather and handsome wood trim.

Dual Screens

2016 Acura RLX Hybrid,interior

The Acura dash is loaded with tech

You can view your audio, climate, and hybrid settings on a high-mounted eight-inch screen. There’s a second seven-inch touch screen below it to make selections. Essential information such as speed is projected onto the windshield in a head-up display. There are the traditional gauges too.

Like most hybrids, the RLX shows you a diagram of where the energy is coming from and where it’s going, so you can monitor your driving efficiency. With two screens, you can be watching that while you make selections from the wide range of audio choices.

My Crystal Black Pearl tester was a top-level car with The Tech and the Advance Packages, so it was packed with various features and upgrades. It even had a 14-speaker Krell audio system. Krell is supposed to be one of the world’s finest—but I’ve never heard of it or seen it in a vehicle before.

Unlike many Japanese-brand sedans, which are built in the United States, this car is a product of Japan. That probably doesn’t make any difference today.

The Hybrid Difference

Part of the goal of a hybrid is to achieve better fuel economy and environmental performance than a regular car. Let’s check the numbers. The 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid earns EPA fuel

2016 Acura RLX Hybrid

Sporty on the road , but thrifty too

economy numbers of 28 City, 32 Highway, and 30 Combined. I averaged less—24.5 miles per gallon—and I’m not sure why. The green scores (also from the EPA) are a matching 7 for Smog and Greenhouse Gas.

The non-hybrid RLX is EPA rated at 20 City, 31 Highway, and 24 Combined and has a 6 for Smog and a 5 for Greenhouse Gas. So only the Sport Hybrid earns the coveted EPA Certified SmartWay designation. The Sport Hybrid saves you $350 a year in fuel costs, while emitting 297 grams of CO2 per mile versus 378 for the regular car. So—it makes a big difference.

For efficiency and quietness, the RLX Sport Hybrid uses Idle Stop (Honda’s name for its start-stop system) technology, which turns off the engine when you’re stopped. It also features a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Having more gears means a better match for different driving conditions, and dual-clutch means it switches instantly to a preselected gear. You control the transmission not with a lever, but with a slim row of differentiated buttons, freeing up room on the center console.

A Connected Car

2016 Acura RLX Hybrid,logo

The Acura flagship

The 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid gets Acura’s next-generation AcuraLink cloud-based connected car system. It gives you all the media, security and convenience features you could ask for, from Aha streaming to AcuraLink real-time traffic reports.

You’d expect a flagship car to be loaded to the gunwales with safety features, and it is. You get collision avoidance and some assisted driving capability. For example, there’s the lane departure warning system to inform you and the Lane Keeping Assist System to gently nudge you back across the line if you’re momentarily distracted. You also get blind spot Information, adaptive cruise control, and forward collision warning. It all works together, so if you’re distracted by the entertainment features, the car will help keep you on the road.

A Luxury Car Price

2016 Acura RLX Hybrid, Jewel Eye headlights

Jewel Eyes looking out for you

The RLX Sport Hybrid with the Advance Package will set you back $66,870, including the $920 delivery fee. The Sport Hybrid with only the Tech package looks about the same, but lacks the Krell

audio, remote engine start, heated steering wheel and rear seats, auto-dimming side mirrors, power rear sunshade, and other Advance package goodies. It retails for $60,870. The standard RLX, minus the hybrid features, starts at $55,370.

The RLX is Acura’s fighter in the mid-luxury sales battle. Facing European, Japanese, Korean, and American competitors, it’s trying to carve out a niche for itself. It just may be the most efficient—for its size.

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Road Test: 2016 Acura ILX

Road Test: 2016 Acura ILX

Less-is-more for the entry-level Acura sedan

2016 Acura ILX

It’s new and old at once

Giving a nod backward towards its roots, Acura, Honda’s luxury division, again offers a less-is-more entry luxury compact car. A step below the TSX, the 2016 Acura ILX reminds me of the 1986-2001 Integra, but appointed with more luxury.

Following the Integra before it, the ILX borrows its platform from the Honda Civic. However, don’t spurn the ILX as just a gussied up Civic with an Acura nameplate; there are notable engineering upgrades and interior enhancements.

Clean Fleet Report usually selects cars for review with an EPA rated highway fuel economy of 40-miles per gallon. The 2016 ILX falls four-mpg short, but, with a light right foot, I found the number 40 is achievable. That’s noteworthy for an entry-level luxury automobile.

What’s New For 2016–Pricing

 Even though 2016 brought a mid-cycle makeover, not an all-new car, the ILX is significantly improved compared to the outgoing model, making it sportier looking and a better car to drive.

Exterior design changes were made front and rear while inside, upgraded materials were a necessity for the car to be considered in the luxury class. There are several new safety features available, but the biggest news is an improved standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine connected to a new eight-speed dual clutch automatic transmission.

Missing from the 2016 Acura ILX lineup is the 2.0-liter engine, a manual transmission and the ILX Hybrid, which was dropped last year.

For 2016, the Acura ILX is offered in just one trim that buyers can upgrade with option packages. The base model is priced at $27,900, plus $940 destination charges; with the AcuraWatch Plus package it’s $29,200; with the Premium Package is $29,900: and with the Technology Plus package the ILX has a sticker price of $32,900.

A $1,990 “A-Spec” package can be added to the top two trim levels. It offers 18-inch wheels and bundles fog lights, sill extensions and a spoiler on the exterior, as well as suede-trimmed seats and sport pedals inside.

Styling, Cabin and Features

2016 Acura,ILX,luxury,mpg

A stylish entry-level luxury model

Previously, styling didn’t ignite a strong desire to rush to the nearest Acura dealer. For 2016, the Acura ILX is neither over-styled nor overly luxurious. However, unlike the Integra, the ILX is only offered in a four-door sedan body style. Sorry, no sexy two-door coupe.

Exterior changes include new multi-projector jeweled LED headlights that match the look and style of Acura’s flagship RLX sedan. The entire front fascia and grille have been redesigned, giving a sharper appearance. Newly designed taillights are now LED.

Distinctive hood creases, articulated side character lines and prominent rear wheel arches project a sculpted appearance that subtly says luxury and offers an attractive street look.

In typical Acura fashion, the ILX cabin coddles its passengers, meaning it’s comfortable and well-equipped. The curved dash design gives the interior a well-crafted appearance of understated luxury. White-on-black analog gauges are well-lighted and easily readable.

The 2016 Acura ILX has a comfortable, easily tailored driving position, clear sightlines all around and well-placed intuitive controls. Leg and knee room are more than adequate, as is front headroom, though six-footers in the back seat will find their heads brushing the roof. This is a compact car so no grown-up will be comfortable for very long in the rear seat middle position.

Acura has picked up the trend of visible stitching, giving the impression of a tailored and custom look. While the cabin’s materials have been upgraded, they are a half-step behind competitors Audi, Lexus and Mercedes.

Trunk space of 12.3 cubic feet is on par with the class—enough room for a weekend trip or a run to the supermarket. The rear seat folds down for carrying longer items, but it is not split, essentially

2016 Acura,ILX,luxury,mpg

Enough storage for local or short trips

making the car a two seater when folded down.

Following Acura’s tradition, the base ILX is quite well equipped and the automaker understands the technology equation. The base model starts out with standard Bluetooth, SMS messaging and a Pandora interface. Upgrade to Premium, and you get HD Radio, Aha Internet radio and an HDMI port so you can use your cell phone for tethered navigation. Choose Tech Plus, and you get AcuraLink and Siri Eyes Free.

Luxury vehicles are noted for their available safety features. The AcuraWatch Plus Package includes adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, road departure mitigation, forward collision warning, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist.

New Powertrain

2016,Acura,ILX,mpg,fuel economy

One size fits all–quite well

The most significant changes for 2016 are a new four-cylinder engine and new transmission.

Replacing the two engines previously available is a 2.4-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine. It’s the sole powerplant and is the same engine in the new base Acura TLX.

It uses direct-injection technology, which allows for a higher compression ratio that benefits both power and efficiency. Plus, the individual injectors more precisely meter fuel, further improving efficiency.

Producing 201 horsepower at 6800 rpm and 180 pounds-feet of torque at 3600 rpm, the 2016 Acura ILX does not want for power. Scooting from stop to 60 mph takes a satisfactory 6.9 seconds.

Managing the power is an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with manual shift capabilities. Thanks to a torque converter—not usually found in dual-clutch transmissions—it avoids the cumbersome low-speed operation of German dual clutches.

Steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and rev-matched downshifts provide a lively driving experience for those who are interested.

Driving Impressions

The Honda Civic has earned a reputation of being among the very best in class when it comes to ride and handling. That gave engineers a leg up when tweaking chassis components to maintain

2016 Acrua, ILX,luxury,mpg

Stitched up nicely now

Acura’s tradition of overall driving fun and a refined feel in ride and handling.

Acura recalibrated the electric-assist power steering for crisper steering response and increased body tensional rigidity for added control during cornering. The result is refined ride comfort while delivering agile and responsive handling. The steering is nicely weighted and executes sharp cornering in an effortless manner.

Front and rear brake rotors are larger for 2016. This provides brakes that bite harder with a firmer pedal that is easy to modulate.

The new powertrain gives it the character of a sedan in the near-luxury segment. Put pressure on the accelerator and increased speed is prompt, absolving itself well enough for the ILX to become

a solid highway performer.

When a road becomes curvy, selecting the transmission’s Sport mode will keep the revs higher and shifts become quicker. Downshift with the paddle shifter and the gear will hold to redline.

2016,Acura,ILX,mpg,styling,luxury

New styling touches

Ride comfort mimics the Civic. Around town things are smooth and well damped while on the highway, the ride firms up a bit, but is controlled and pleasant, not harsh. Bumps and rough surfaces have a negligible impact.

There is one thing that sets the 2016 Acura ILX apart from the Civic and places it firmly in the luxury class—the quiet ride. This comes by way of enhanced glass, added sound insulation and active noise control, which uses the audio system to cancel out some of the unwanted noise that accompanies driving.

When it comes to fuel economy, there’s no penalty no matter how you choose to drive the ILX. Our travels during a week with the top-end Technology Plus A-Spec version racked up 312 miles. Freeway driving accounted for 168 miles; the balance was mixed in-town, some two-lane highway miles and 43 miles on a very nice back road test loop.

Results? On a 102-mile stretch of freeway driving we averaged 40.1 mpg. Our overall fuel economy came in at 32.3 mpg, besting the EPA’s rating by 3 mpg.

In the Marketplace

2017 Acura ILX

The zippy ILX makes a short drive into luxury

There is attractiveness to the 2016 Acura ILX that might appeal to buyers who want luxury amenities and are intrigued by fuel savings.

Acura considers Audi’s A3, the Lexus CT and the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class as the target competition.

The 2016 ILX starts at just under $28,000, a couple thousand below the starting price of these competitors. Even our fully loaded ILX with the A-Spec package and all the available tech features topped out at $35,810, which is well below a comparably equipped Audi A3 or Mercedes CLA 250 that can easily top $50,000.

Yes, the Acura ILX is front-wheel drive only, so buyers looking for a back road-sizzling luxury sport sedan will have to look elsewhere. But for buyers who want a premium car without a premium price, the ILX is in line with the rest of its premium-brand rivals with a nice bonus—really good fuel economy.

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Road Test: 2016 Acura MDX All-Wheel Drive

Road Test: 2016 Acura MDX All-Wheel Drive

A Home Run in the Seven-Passenger Hauler Derby

2016,Acrua MDX,AWD,traction,handling

In its natural habitat

To understand what the 2016 Acura MDX is all about, it helps to know a couple of things. First, the MDX nomenclature stands for “Multi-Dimensional Cross Trainer” — an athlete that excels on many playing fields.

Second, the design and engineering goal for the first MDX in 2000 was “beat winter.” That was our reason for wanting to take the MDX for a drive. A fairly long drive; 800 round trip miles, from Olympia, Washington, to Bend, Oregon—in the winter.

Buyers have flocked to the seven-passenger Acura MDX crossover sport utility vehicle for years due to its reasonable price, reputation for reliability and strong resale value. The contemporary styled 2016 Acura MDX is not only the brand’s top-selling model, it’s the best-selling three-row luxury SUV in history.

At Clean Fleet Report we can’t review the MDX without commenting on the issue of fuel economy. Now that the elephant in the room—$4.00-plus a gallon gasoline—is gone for a while, a vehicle’s miles-per gallon isn’t the concern it once was to many buyers. While the MDX isn’t eligible for our AWD 30 MPG Club, a three-seat, seven-passenger sport utility that notches 27-mpg highway is pretty good (only a one mpg shade behind the eight-passenger Toyota Highlander Hybrid). Front-wheel drive is standard, all-wheel drive is optional.

For 2016, Acura upped the appeal of the MDX with several updates, including a standard nine-speed automatic transmission and a widely available package that provides cutting-edge safety technologies called AcuraWatch Plus. Add the MDX’s superb driving dynamics to the mix and Acura has another home run.

Beat The Snow

2016 Acura,MDX AWD,mpg,handling

Bring on the winter–we’re prepared

The 2016 Acura MDX’s winter-beating tactics began with an all-new chassis and unibody platform for the 2014 model year. Wide front and rear tracks, a short wheelbase, four-wheel independent suspension and a low roll center deliver excellent dynamics on wet, icy or snowy pavement.

As good as these chassis parts are in concert, it’s Acura’s slick-working all-wheel drive system, Super Handling All-Wheel Drive or SH-AWD, that verifies the engineering design. This enhanced version combines torque vectoring, stability and traction control.

The system can split torque front-to-rear, as well as side-to-side across the rear wheels. It’s a snow champ, gripping and delivering confident forward motion before any wheel slips, something some AWD systems require to trigger their performance.

Don’t dismiss this as marketing hype; it works, even on roads where ice is topped by a couple inches of snow.

Should you wake up some winter morning and find the MDX entrapped in two feet of the white stuff, as I did on my first morning in Bend, no problem. Shift the transmission into either of the two low gears or reverse, and drive slowly away.

Other “defeat winter” features include grime-busting windshield washers, heated seats and outside mirrors, a separate rear cabin heater and extra seals on door bottoms to keep mud and slush from building up so it doesn’t rub off onto long coats, pant legs or dresses.

What about the other seasons? Performance and handling have always been Acura traits and the MDX provides a superb balance of both.

What Makes The MDX Go

2016,Acura,MDX,AWD,styling,capabilities

Ready to take on all seasons

Underhood, performance is derived from a 3.5-liter single overhead cam V6 engine. Direct fuel injection and variable valve timing combine to produce 290 horsepower and 267 pounds-feet of torque, more than adequate to move the MDX’s 4,169 pounds.

Power is distributed to the wheels through a new nine-speed automatic transmission. Following a recent trend, the MDX forgoes the traditional center console mounted shift lever in favor of a push-button drive selector and steering wheel paddles for manual gear selection.

A button aft of the drive selector labeled IDS (for Intelligent Dynamics System) allows the driver to select from Sport, Normal or Comfort settings. Each selection affects throttle response and steering heft, while the transmission also includes a sport mode for quicker shifts.

The MDX uses several engineering ploys to improve fuel economy, such as variable cylinder management, which shuts down three of the six cylinders during cruising and deceleration. An additional fuel saver is stop-start, shutting down the engine when stopped for a red light.

On The Road

We wanted the MDX for our trip to Bend not just for the security of AWD, but needed space to stow luggage for three along with our grandson Adam’s mountain bike. Biking is something our

2016,Acura,MDX,storage,mpg

The real reason we chose the MDX

youngest grandson dearly loves, and it was a major reason for our five-day trip.

Our MDX’s exterior color of Forest Mist Metallic was spot on as our day began under a pearl-gray sky and a heavy mist. With a little snow forecast for the Oregon Cascades, we chose to travel Interstate 5 south to Salem and then head east rather than taking the highway over Mt. Hood.

The weather changed back and forth from gray and mist to dark clouds and occasional eruptions of heavy rain until just north of Portland, where the sun began making occasional appearances. A bright sunny sky held until we started the climb over Santiam Pass, and then—oh no!—snow, and more than just a little.

One of the first things I noticed is acceleration is prompt, and the MDX can romp from zero to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds when necessary. But this relatively quick time isn’t just engine power. The sophisticated SH-AWD system distributes torque to all four wheels when accelerating from a stop, giving immediate traction. A secondary benefit is virtually no torque steer.

In daily life, the 2016 MDX is rock-solid and as comfortable as flannel pj’s. The seven-seater managed our most rugged urban terrain with a dismissive sneer. Even the worst road hazards failed to produce kickback through the nicely weighted steering system, and the suspension took the worst out of every bump, pothole and railroad crossing.

Then the engine makes its presence known with a charming roar from under the hood as 290 horses kick their heels.

Visibility is excellent in all directions, and seat comfort is long-ride comfortable as we arrived in Bend with no aching backs or cramped muscles. With a driver’s 10-way power seat and a tilt-telescoping steering wheel, I can’t imagine that any driver would find it difficult to adjust to a comfortable driving position.

2016 Acura,MDX AWD,best-seller

It’s made a name for itself

Equipped with the Tech, Advance and Entertainment packages, our MDX had more high-tech gadgets and doodads that I have space to write about. I will comment that lane-keeping and sudden-stop features can be quite helpful, even to experienced drivers.

Can’t say the same for the adaptive cruise control. It’s indifferent about keeping the set speed, wants to slam on the brakes too quickly, and then is leisurely to speed up again.

On the Interstate and two lane highways the ride is uneventful. By that I mean, it’s quiet, smooth and the MDX responds instantly to driver inputs.

The V-6 engine may not have the strong low-rpm torque of some turbocharged competitors, but showcased its ability with a nearly effortless climb up the mountain to the pass. The nine-speed transmission applied that power smoothly without stumbling around looking for gears, unlike others of its ilk.

On the two-lane mountain road, the chassis didn’t feel as taut as, say, a BMW X5, but our MDX held itself flat in turns and used its torque vectoring all-wheel-drive to ace the apexes. I never wrestled with the vehicle; the speed-sensitive steering was accurate, responsive and always certain on center.

As we got closer to the pass and the snow and ice began to make the road dicey, the SH-AWD system never faltered. For 60-some miles we crept at 5 to 25 mph using Sport mode and paddle shifters; tense, for sure, but safe.

Meanwhile, grandson Adam relaxed in the second row watching movies on the 16.2-inch entertainment screen, pretty much oblivious to the weather.

Unfortunately, after searching for about three hours on our second day in Bend, we couldn’t find a suitable trail to bike on—two-to-three feet of snow covered everything. Adam returned home a little saddened.

However, there was a bright side. Bright if good fuel economy revs your engine a bit. EPA rated our MDX at 22 mpg combined. During our week with the luxo crossover, we averaged 24.9 mpg over 870 miles, dang good for a seven-seater.

Exterior Styling

Acura, along with parent Honda, has a reputation for playing it safe when it comes to styling their vehicles, and the 2016 Acura MDX follows the corporate dictate. The exterior styling is

2016,Acura,MDX,AWD,interior, technology,seating

Luxury & technology up front

contemporary. This large vehicle is quite handsome with smooth bodywork befitting its premium aspirations.

Up front, corporate styling means Acura’s shield-shaped grille with a single bar that establishes familial identity across the line up. Jewel-eye LED headlights distinguish it as an Acura.

In profile the MDX looks more like a sport-wagon than a utilitarian SUV with its tapered roofline, chiseled front end, and smooth rear. It may not stand out at the athletic club or school-loading zone, but luxury doesn’t always call attention to itself.

Interior Design

2016,Acura MDX,AWD,mpg,interior

No penalty boxes inside

The 2016 Acura MDX offers third-row seating and extra cargo capacity in a midsize package, the equivalent of building a five-bedroom rancher on the footprint of a three-bedroom bungalow. It’s a nice piece of packaging designed for the needs of families, who often need extra seats so the kids can bring their friends along, but are equally inclined to load the cargo space with Costco buys, bikes and building supplies—rarely using the third row at all.

Our MDX cabin was smartly detailed and meticulously well-constructed with plenty of soft-touch materials, satin chrome accents and Milano leather. Interior storage is excellent, with big cupholders and door bins, plus a deep center bin that can easily hold a small purse or tablet.

The front-end theme is echoed by the dash, with a V-shaped center stack and sloping, tiered design that complements the rest of the cabin. Second-row seats slide fore and aft for added flexibility, providing generous legroom in their rearmost position. It also slides forward for third-row access at the press of a button.

Cargo space is plentiful with up to 68.4 cubic feet of cargo space when the second and third rows are folded. When the third row is up, there’s up to 15 cubic feet of space and 38.4 cubic feet with the second row in place.

High-tech options are available, from lane-departure warning to rearview and side view cameras to adaptive cruise control.

All the safety goodies are present and accounted for, and the MDX earned top ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), as well as five-star scores from the federal government (NHTSA) in overall, frontal and side impacts.

Bottom Line: 2016 Acura MDX

2016 Acura,MDX AWD,headlights

Luxury lights=luxury price

Our 2016 Acura MDX tester will set you back a few beans; equipped with all-wheel drive and the option packages, it had a sticker price of an even $58,000, including a $920 destination charge.

But a frugal buyer can pass on the basket full of the goodies without feeling deprived. With the new automotive economies of scale, technology and creature comforts that a few years ago were available only on vehicles costing $75,000 or more are now available on even a base MDX that starts at $43,955.

What Acura has accomplished with the MDX is a great blend of sedan and sport utility. It dominates the luxury seven-seat crossover SUV market for one simple reason: it does everything well. Whether you want a luxurious family hauler, an agile and fun-driving machine, or just seek the quiet and comfort of a luxury brand, the Acura MDX has it.

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle, which does not address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology, during which we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements. Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class or are among the top mpg vehicles on the market. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

2013 Acura ILX: Comparison Drive

2013 Acura ILX: Comparison Drive

Acura,ILX,Premium,performance,fuel economy

Acura ILX Premium

Dilemma: Green Driving or Wahoo! Driving?

At Clean Fleet Report we’re about hybrid cars, plug-in cars, pure electric cars and alternative fuel vehicles —mostly. We are also driving enthusiasts, and when the opportunity presents itself, we never say no to test driving a car that dishes out lots of Wahoos!

That’s what we did with Acura’s new 2013 ILX compact sedan. After a week with the ILX Hybrid, we swapped it for the ILX Premium—think of it as a more refined and luxurious Honda Civic Si that costs just $300 more than the Hybrid.

The ILX Premium is only available with a close-ratio six-speed manual transmission. The tight action and high rpm characteristics of the 201 horsepower 2.5-liter engine work superlatively with this gearbox.

Underway, the Premium cruises at highway speed with minimal effort. Put your foot down on the drive-by-wire throttle, and 60 arrives in a quick 6.7 seconds from stop. Throttle response is crisp and immediate. This four cylinder builds power with the strength and smoothness of a six.

The overall balance is close to rear-wheel drive cars. It’s quite nimble, with just a touch of front push on turn-in. Press it hard and the tail drifts out in a smooth, predictable manner. You can drive this car with both steering wheel and throttle.

Dancing with the LXI on curvy two lane backcountry roads elicited a Wahoo! at every turn. But the reality is, most of the time— like everyone else—we drove the car in everyday traffic on a variety of road surfaces. The suspension said no sweat to patchy roads. It swallowed the worst of them with no bouncing or tipping or jolting. The suspension’s combination of firm for the curves and comfortable on the street is exceptional.

Hybrid vs HyFun!

After collecting our Wahoos!, we became serious about fuel economy. Just what kind of gas mileage could be wrung out of this little pocket rocket?

We clocked 251 miles on the trip odometer, 57 of which we weren’t thinking about fuel economy. The balance of the miles were dedicated to sensible driving: no jack rabbit stops, lifting off the go pedal long before coming to a

Acura,ILX,Premium, interior,6-speed

Acura ILX Premium Inteior

stop and a lot of short shifting—1st to 3rd, 3rd to 6th. We always kept pace with the flow of traffic, including some short stints on the freeways.

When we topped up with gas, divided the miles driven by the number gallons the results were 29.4 mpg. Certainly not close to the 41 mpg the Hybrid delivered the week before, but it was a significant 5 mpg increase over the EPA’s estimated 25 mpg.

If you view driving as mostly going from point A to Point B in the most fuel-efficient manner, than there is no dilemma, the ILX Hybrid fits your needs. But if you prefer taking the long way on roads less traveled that elicit Wahoos! when driving from point A to point B, then perhaps the choice becomes more difficult.

Green driving or Wahoo! driving? A dilemma that can only be solved by test driving both.

Note: A lot of Wahoos! and 29.4 mpg seems like a logical choice to me.

Other related articles:

2013 Acura ILX Hybrid Test Drive

Top 10 Hybrids That Will Really Save You Money

Top 10 Best-Selling High-MPG Cars