When taking a long solo drive across the flat but construction-laden state of Indiana, my vehicle of choice is always going to be an SUV.
It’s large enough to fit my luggage and comfortable enough to weather the rough surfaces left behind by heavy equipment and uneven concrete.
Of course, I also want something that will accelerate quickly and do well in passing maneuvers. Oh, and if I’m creating a true wish list, adaptive cruise control and decent fuel economy would be lovely as well.
So, when the 2019 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid showed up in my driveway, I figured it would be the perfect choice for a trip down south to Indiana for a visit my sister.
For the most part, it was.
The driver’s seat was supportive and comfortable, and the heated steering wheel was a welcome touch for my constantly cold fingers. The 321-horsepower hybrid output was exactly what I wanted for quick accelerations, and the overall ride and handling was smooth and nimble.
Plus, I thought the new Desert Olive Ash wood accents on the interior were utterly beautiful.
The biggest selling point in my book, however, is all the up-level standard safety equipment. A lot of lux-level automakers haven’t caught onto the fact that a buyer shouldn’t have to compromise on safety.
But Acura gets it. Big time. And the standard AcuraWatch system includes collision mitigation braking, forward collision warning, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, road departure mitigation and lane departure warning.
Other automakers who shan’t be named make these features available -- but only on top-tier trims and at a $2k to $3K premium on top of that.
While I didn’t have third-row passengers during the test week, I did crawl back there to check it out and discovered there’s a decent amount of leg and headroom for a child or small adult. The second row also slides easily to allow access.
Overall, the MDX Sport Hybrid is a nice vehicle.
But there are a few niggling points.
First and foremost, I am not a fan of the dual screen on the center stack. It’s clunky, confusing and (IMHO) ugly.
Frankly, I’ve never liked the two-screen implementation in Acura vehicles, but I’ve seen other automakers implement this successfully, which makes me like the Acura interface on the MDX even less.
Another, smaller point of contention is the adaptive cruise control system. For untrafficked highway jaunts, it worked perfectly and smoothly, slowing down appropriately when it encountered another vehicle.
But in stop-and-go traffic, I found the system to be a bit herky-jerky slamming on the brakes at the last minute and then accelerating too quickly when I hit resume, only to slam on the brakes again.
Rather than being stress relieving, which is the intent of such a system, I found it to be stress inducing and mostly left it off in traffic.
Lastly, I didn’t quite get the fuel economy I had hoped for. EPA estimates that you should get 26 mpg in the city and 27 mpg in combined and highway driving. My average was 25.1 mpg with 90 percent of my 600+ mile driving being on untrafficked highway.
The test vehicle was an “Advanced” trim, which means it added the Tech and Advanced Packages for an as-tested price of $60,545. These packages include items such as blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, navigation, the surround-view camera system, heated second-row seats, heated steering wheel and ventilated front seats.
The Bottom Line
I really like Acura as a brand. They make a generally attractive vehicle with nice available amenities and standard safety technology.
And the niggling complaints I had with the MDX test vehicle aren’t necessarily deal breakers if you accept that EPA fuel economy numbers are unrealistic and technology currently does not replace the need for a human driver.
The MDX Sport Hybrid would make a nice family cruiser for carpooling, road trips and the daily commute – as long as the two-screen system isn’t your pet peeve.