2020 Acura MDX AWD A-Spec Review - Sporty, Slightly Silly

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
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Fast Facts

2020 Acura MDX AWD A-Spec Fast Facts

3.5-liter V6 (290 hp @ 6,200 rpm, 267 lb-ft 4,700 rpm)
Nine-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive
19 city / 25 highway / 21 (EPA Estimated Rating, MPG)
12.2 city, 9.5 highway, 11.0 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price
$54,900 (U.S) / $60,990 (Canada)
As Tested
$56,295 (U.S.) / $63,665 (Canada)
Prices include $995 destination charge in the United States and $2,175 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.
2020 acura mdx awd a spec review sporty slightly silly

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 Honda/Acura navigation and infotainment systems remain outdated, and the two-screen system with its large controller comes with a bit of a learning curve.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
Tim Healey

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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2 of 69 comments
  • Conundrum Conundrum on Apr 27, 2020

    A Honda Passport, a shortened Pilot, weighs 4265 lbs, the same as the porcine Ford Fusion Sport. So if this MDX thing only tips the scales at 4200 lbs, well I'll be a rubber ducky. Must have the carbon fiber and aluminum package. The V6 has zero trouble hauling these things around, and the nine speed is now almost normal. It'll trounce the 2.0 litre turbos with their grunty low end torque when the chips are down, because it doesn't sit around waiting for spool, then gets into a meaty powerband. For those enamoured with the 2.0l Honda turbo for example, I'd like to leave the following link from Jack Baruth's time at Road and Track: https://www.roadandtrack.com/new-cars/car-technology/a13857383/dyno-testing-the-honda-accords-new-turbo-motor-against-the-old-v6/

  • Wodehouse Wodehouse on Apr 28, 2020

    Other than its larger 3rd-row and the defacto black over black on top of black tinted black covering black go-fast look, is there a solid, on the road reason to choose this heavy handed design over a Mazda CX-9 Signature? Even the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica does this whole funereal black appearance thing much more "sportier" on the outside" and classier inside.

  • Ernesto Perez There's a line in the movie Armageddon where Bruce Willis says " is this the best idea NASA came up with?". Don't quote me. I'm asking is this the best idea NY came up with? What's next? Charging pedestrians to walk in certain parts of the city? Every year the price for everything gets more expensive and most of the services we pay for gets worse. Obviously more money is not the solution. What we need are better ideas, strategies and inventions. You want to charge drivers in the city - then put tolls on the free bridges like the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. There's always a better way or product. It's just the idiots on top think they know best.
  • Carsofchaos The bike lanes aren't even close to carrying "more than the car lanes replaced". You clearly don't drive in Midtown Manhattan on a daily like I do.
  • Carsofchaos The problem with congestion, dear friends, is not the cars per se. I drive into the city daily and the problem is this:Your average street in the area used to be 4 lanes. Now it is a bus lane, a bike lane (now you're down to two lanes), then you have delivery trucks double parking, along with the Uber and Lyft drivers also double parking. So your 4 lane avenue is now a 1.5 lane avenue. Do you now see the problem? Congestion pricing will fix none of these things....what it WILL do is fund persion plans.
  • FreedMike Many F150s I encounter are autonomously driven...and by that I mean they're driving themselves because the dips**ts at the wheel are paying attention to everything else but the road.
  • Tassos A "small car", TIM????????????This is the GLE. Have you even ever SEEN the huge thing at a dealer's??? NOT even the GLC,and Merc has TWO classes even SMALLER than the C (The A and the B, you guessed it? You must be a GENIUS!).THe E is a "MIDSIZED" crossover, NOT A SMALL ONE BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION, oh CLUELESS one.I AM SICK AND TIRED OF THE NONSENSE you post here every god damned day.And I BET you will never even CORRECT your NONSENSE, much less APOLOGIZE for your cluelessness and unprofessionalism.