When you’re up against brands like Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW and even Porsche in one of the most competitive segments in the automotive industry, it’s a challenge to remain relevant. Thus is the challenge the luxury mid-size SUV Acura MDX was up against for the 2019 model year. Honda’s luxury branded midsize SUV has stiff competition. But for 2019, the Acura MDX maintains a competitive balance and remains relevant.

EXTERIOR

Although the MDX is in the middle of a life cycle, Acura introduced an exciting trim package for the MDX that breathes some life into this otherwise-conservative luxury SUV. The A-Spec package is new for the 2019 and turns the MDX into an-all new SUV. This is the first offering of the youthful, sport-driven A-spec package on any Acura SUV. With this package comes a unique exterior that includes 20-inch wheels and low-profile tires. This gives the MDX A-Spec a more aggressive posture.

Additionally, the grille has a distinctive look with a glossy-black fascia and special LED headlights that look like little jewels. That same glossy black accent flows on the profile on the side and framing the windows. It’s a subtle, but noticeable difference from the other trims of the MDX.

On the back, the same A-spec look continues on the tail gate and the dual exhaust tips. A quick glance at this MDX gives the impression that it’s redesigned. And I think that’s the intent with this package. Additionally, there’s some bold exterior paint colors that are only available for the A-spec MDX. My tester was a vibrant blue pearl coat.

PERFORMANCE

The Ohio-manufactured MDX has always been a solid-performing SUV. It lacked personality in its performance, but that doesn’t mean it’s poky. Quite the contrary as the 3.5-liter V6 makes for nearly 300 horsepower (290 to be exact). The nine-speed automatic transmission is amazing. It’s one of my favorite transmissions found in an SUV of this size. It is a great compliment to the overall solid performance of this SUV. The Super Handling All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) is added for the A-spec. This boosts the overall performance of the MDX. While it can’t be considered sporty, as it’s just too conservative, it also handles so well in all road conditions. The steering is responsive and the MDX is quite nimble and athletic. Change the driving dynamics with a turn of a knob and you can really make this SUV perform how you want. There’s Comfort, Normal and Sport. I actually preferred the MDX in Comfort mode, as I found it to be so quiet, smooth and controlled in this mode, while the Sport mode tended to over shift at times.

INTERIOR

The interior brought a wow factor that I hadn’t experienced with an Acura SUV in quite some time. My tester had a bold red interior. The suede-like red seats had nice complimentary stitching on them. It felt luxurious and special. This is what I would expect from a luxury brand. With the A-spec, Acura shakes off any criticism that the MDX is just an overpriced Honda. There are so many high-quality touchpoints and lavish features. The brushed metal accents were styled perfectly and complimented the other red accents found inside.

The seven-passenger MDX has ample room in the second row. As is the case with far too many midsize SUVs, the third row is a little cramped and best suited for children. There’s 15 cubic feet of cargo room behind the third-row seat. That area expands 38.4 cubic feet with the third row folded flat. Overall there’s 68.4 cubic feet of cargo room with all seats folded.

Honda’s infotainment is well organized and flows perfectly in the center stack. However, this system is Android-based and as an Apple snob, I found it a little cumbersome. Although it does integrate with Apple CarPlay. So once I employed CarPlay, I overcame some of the issues with the system. However, Acura put in a touchpad interface, similar to ones found in Lexus (that are highly criticized). I’m not sure why so many luxury brands feel the need to overengineer their infotainment systems with these type of interfaces. They’re not intuitive and they distract the driver. Simple is better!

PRICE

The MDX with the A-spec package has a starting price of $54,800, making it nearly $10,000 more than the base trim MDX. So the excitement and refreshed appeal of the A-spec comes at a price. The other trims of the MDX have little to no changes for this model year.

FUEL ECONOMY

The EPA rating for the AWD MDX A-spec is 19 mpg/city and 25 mpg/highway. In a week’s worth of normal driving, I averaged 22 mpg. That higher-than-average (21 mpg) total could be due to driving in comfort mode over sport mode. But honestly, that’s how the SUV felt best suited to me.

Sure the Acura MDX is still a conservative SUV. And it may not have the sex appeal of others in the segment, but the A-spec package brings exciting looks to this midsize SUV and has one of the best-looking interiors in the segment, and the best-looking interior ever offered for the MDX.

SPECS

2019 Acura MDX A-spec

Price/As tested price………………….. $54,800/$54,800

Mileage……………………………………19 mpg/city;25  mpg/hwy

Engine……………………………………… 3.5-liter V6

Horsepower…………………………… 290 hp/267 lbs./ft.

Transmission…………………………… 9-speed automatic

Drive Wheels………………………. All-wheel drive

Final Assembly Point………………….. East Liberty, Ohio

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Jimmy Dinsmore

For several years Jimmy Dinsmore has reviewed new vehicles, offering up a unique look and an interesting voice in his weekly column. Jimmy looks at vehicles from the consumer’s point of view. Light on the technical jargon, and lacking the cynicism that pervades many other auto reviews, Driver’s Side treats each vehicle fairly, offering a light-hearted take. Email him at - jimmydinsmore@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @driversside.

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