2020 Acura MDX AWD A-Spec Review - Sporty, Slightly Silly
2020 Acura MDX AWD A-Spec Fast Facts
Crossovers don’t have to be totally boring.
Consider the 2020 Acura MDX A-Spec. It could just be another yawn-inducing luxo-box on wheels, but Acura has at least tried to imbue it with some sort of spirit.
Well, as much spirit as is possible with a 4,200-pound crossover.
Two-hundred-ninety horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque from the 3.5-liter V6 sure as shoot doesn’t hurt, although the torque number does seem a bit low at first glance — and you need to rev to nearly 5 grand to get it in full. Acceleration, then, isn’t weak, but the weight and need to rev are noticeable.
A nine-speed automatic transmission funnels that power to the all-wheel-drive system.
Most of the “sport” comes from the electronically-assisted power steering. It’s well-weighted and, unlike many such systems, it offers decent road feel and feedback. The ride is also on the sporty (read: stiff) side.
Of course, some efforts to make a crossover seem sporty are just damn silly. Does the start button need to be red? Will the A-Spec seats stand up to years of abuse from passengers, child and adult alike?
[Get new and used Acura MDX pricing here!]
For the buyers who don’t care about how the MDX A-Spec drives – which will likely be the majority, since we’re talking about a crossover here – there are other flaws. Honda/Acura navigation and infotainment systems remain outdated, and the two-screen system with its large controller comes with a bit of a learning curve.
The one good thing about the two-screen system, however, is that it allows for better integration of Apple CarPlay. It rests on one screen, while the other is used to show other factory displays.
Outside, the MDX is all angles and sharp edges, and the blacked-out wheels looked appropriately bad-ass when paired with my tester’s black paint.
It’s a look that says “hey, if I’m going to be forced to drive a crossover, at least I can look cool.” Whether that’s the appropriate response to crossover ownership or a pathetic cry for help, I leave up to you. I’ll merely note that luxury sports sedans do exist.
Luxury isn’t a problem here. Comfortable seats and mostly price-appropriate trim are nice, although some cheap plastic makes its presence known. Acura falls into the same trap as many brands, thinking that a minimal amount of buttons is luxurious, but this minimalism means one has to use the large control knob, the one with the tough learning curve, a bit too much.
Furthermore, this Acura has the weird push-button shift system that infects a lot of Honda/Acura products. The good news is you get used to it quickly, but I still don’t understand why automakers feel the urge to needlessly complicate shifters for automatic transmissions. It doesn’t appear to save space, and you lose a nice handrest – not that we’d ever take a hand off the wheel. Ahem.
The options list is about par for the course in this class – and ticking the A-Spec box requires you to also purchase the Technology Package. There are no options, save for the paint job. That’s because Acura, like Honda, simplifies its builds. You pick your trim and you get those features – no more, no less. Packages are folded into the base price, and some require you to select other packages as a prerequisite. So, select A-Spec, get Tech. Want features that are included in other packages? Fine, but you can’t get the associated features without buying those packages whole.
Standard features include: Satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, heated front seats, tri-zone climate control, power tailgate, power moonroof, LED headlamps, and keyless entry and starting.
The Tech Package adds nav, uplevel audio, blind-spot monitoring, remote start, rear cross-traffic alert, LED puddle lamp, and rain-sensing wipers, among other items.
A-Spec models add special pedals, the Alcantara sport seats, 20-inch wheels, cooled seats, and LED fog lamps. AcuraWatch – this brand’s silly name for a suite of driver-aids, consists of adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, road-departure mitigation, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, and a lane-keeping assist system.
It all adds up to a three-row crossover that handles relatively well for the class, but also flirts with silliness in pursuit of sporting intent.
Yeah, it’s well-suited to the enthusiast who’s forced by circumstance to opt for three-row seating. And it’s luxurious enough to hold its own against the others in the class, despite the outdated infotainment.
With some interior updates, the MDX could be ready to fight the Lexus RX for class dominance. For now, it’s for the car geek with three-row needs and a hefty bank account.
[Images © 2020 Tim Healey/TTAC]
Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.
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