By on April 27, 2020

2020 Acura MDX A-Spec

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.

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.

2020 Acura MDX A-Spec

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 Honda/Acura navigation and infotainment systems remain outdated, and the two-screen system with its large controller comes with a bit of a learning curve.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

2020 Acura MDX A-Spec

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]

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68 Comments on “2020 Acura MDX AWD A-Spec Review – Sporty, Slightly Silly...”


  • avatar
    R Henry

    I would be curious to know how many TTAC readers prefer a lower-torque but revy engine like this one, compared to a more “‘Murican” performing one with grunt down low, but runs out of steam above 5k?

    I ask, because in my experience, Honda has delivered a great many revy engines in USA. I am fairly certain Honda marketing troops are fairly well aware of American preferences…..so could it be most buyers prefer revy?

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Why can’t we have both?

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I like a high-reving engine but 267lb-ft is on the low end of the dream pool just in general.
      IMO, something like the specs of the Coyote V8 ([email protected], [email protected]) is ideal.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      That two hundred ninety horsepower is still short of GM 3.6l with 310 hp.

      • 0 avatar
        SC5door

        Funny how GM needs to employ direct injection to get that number.

        Pentastar V-6 is 305 with port injection.

        Enjoy your carbon buildup!

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          The 305hp is for the North-South mounted Pentastar. Mounted sideways it makes around 283hp.

          The longitudinal 3.6L makes up to 335hp.

          Personally I’d take the GM engine and live with the possibility of walnut blasting, YMMV.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          Carbon Buildup isn’t really an issue on properly engineered DI motors.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            there will always be at least a little due to the oil which seeps down to lubricate the valve guides. but it shouldn’t be more than a bit of fuzzy buildup on the valve neck. nothing like the horror shows of early VWAG GDI engines with woefully inadequate oil separation in their PCV systems.

      • 0 avatar
        johnds

        Poor Norm, always getting banned on every website like Car and Driver, etc. Always pedaling some sort of GM product whether its a 3 cylinder Buick or a V6 Buick. Since Buick quit making decent cars years ago he’s trying hard to sell their new garbage.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I like torque and I like the curve as flat as possible. If the freight train feeling doesn’t start by 2000 rpm it makes me sad.

      That’s why I’m driving a turbo.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      I think most would like revvy engines in the ILX and TLX, but would prefer their 4200 pound MDX to have some low end grunt.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      Revs with a manual, torque with an automatic.

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      Revs with 6+ cylinders where I actually enjoy the sound of the engine.

      If I must drive an engine with fewer than 6 cylinders, you might as well give me the turbo/flat torque curve.

    • 0 avatar

      The MDX makes power if you spin it…there’s a lot of metal to move via AWD

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      I prefer a normally aspirated engine.

      I wouldn’t strictly mind more torque down low, if came by way of a 7 liter V12.

      But I’d rather have to downshift, than put up with the dullifying indignities of modern turbos.

    • 0 avatar
      newenthusiast

      I don’t want a high revving engine in anything outside of a sports car I plan on using on a track (I have no experience with towing or with motorcycles, so its possible that high rev engines make sense there?)

      It makes zero sense for automatic transmission vehicles that are overwhelmingly used as commuters, family movers and occasional camping and sports gears haulers, especially in CUVs and SUVs. I agree with PrincipalDan…..max torque available as low RPM range as possible with a flat curve. In a vehicle this size, I want available power to pass at highway speeds without revving the engine from 1700rpm to 4000 at 70mph.

      What I also want is the ability to punch it from 30mph as I enter the on ramp to match the speeds of highway traffic to merge safely. Low end torque is what is needed. If I need to get above 4000rpm in a vehicle this size on a regular basis during a typical day of use, then I’m not interested. At all.

      I like the MDX,but an A-Spec version seems to be looking for a VERY small customer base who somehow want a vehicle this size to drive like a sports car.

      While I agree that a a PRNDL column or console shifter would be better here and on all A/T vehicles, no specifics were given on why the infotainment is considered ‘outdated’ by the reviewer. I’m not a fan of two screens, but at least they are not giant monstrosities like in a Tesla or what I see in trucks. Perhaps consider giving supporting info when statements like that are made?

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I’ve always liked the MDX/RDX crossovers and felt they were under rated, but I had no idea they were pushing $60K, yikes! Perhaps that’s why I rarely see them

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      You rarely see them because you live at the end of 10 mi driveway. In the development I live, we have 20 of them, slightly less than 35 Highlanders.

      And you probably know little about them. I don’t know, how anyone who has seen this in 2-3 years old form, would be able to like it. It has bad build quality. Materials that wear out in 2 years. Really cheap materials for the $$$. With v6 get extra $1000 for timing belt. But they are safe.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        Or he rarely sees them because Acura doesn’t sell many of them…a recurring theme with their products of late.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        “You rarely see them because you live at the end of 10 mi driveway”

        I do?… runs, Looks out the window, runs back… Nope, I live on a cul-de-sac of about 40 houses and not a single one has a MDX/RDX

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          Putin knows better where you live. He has his satellites watching you.

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          Looks like you have a big comprehension issue, even though I told you, I’ve never lived in Russian Federation and quick look at “slavuta” will send all references to Ukraine. But its Ok. I have nothing against mr. Putin. He rules Russian Federation (not Russia). “Russia” is more general term, in fact, Ukrainian scholars argue that Ukraine is Russia. And Russia is something else. In fact, Kiev is called “mother of Russian cities”. Enough of that. Look out of the window. Our economy will fall way quicker than Russia. The current oil market is .. US market. We’re the biggest oil producer and we will suffer the most because our oil is most expensive to dig. Our companies here, will fail, not in Russia. Their oil companies are 50% nationalized. But it is the credits US frackers took, will kill them. And jobs.sorry

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel J

      We were considering a CX-5 Grand Touring Reserve but after a test drive we realized the seats were a tad too small.

      We considered an RDX but to get similar content its almost 50K and we didn’t care for the interior as much.

      Maybe if Honda would but the 2.0T in the CRV.

      • 0 avatar
        piratethecat

        Was kind of in the same boat. Loved the looks and feature set of the CX-5, but the front seats were narrow and backseat/cargo area were a little small. Would’ve worked fine but tough to swallow just on a practical basis versus something like the CR-V. Was never considering a CR-V but just on objective merits I understand why they are so popular.

        I wound up in a new Passport which shares the same engine and transmission as the MDX. It sounds good to rev out and fuel economy isn’t too bad considering the space. There’s a value argument to be made for the Pilot over the Passport, but I don’t need three rows and if I did, I would just get a van.

        As far the MDX goes-they are thick on the ground here around Charlotte. I prefer the exterior looks to the Pilot, but functionality wise the interior of the Pilot seems more usable to me based on my experience with the Passport and the pictures and reviews I’ve read about the MDX. Will be interesting to see how the redesigned MDX/Pilot stack up against the new Highlander and Telluride. They are a little long in the tooth compared to these competitors right now.

  • avatar
    Garrett

    Yikes. Can’t imagine paying that much money for something so underwhelming.

    That’s a lot of money to pay for something that is so anonymous in every sense.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    My God, 56.3k?!? That’s a ton of money. Perhaps not in this class but man, that’s pushing up on two GTIs. I’m really glad I hate these things!

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      We need to turn it around! Introduce the masses to this kind of luxury and they’ll never go back, I can practically promise you.

      http://automotivemileposts.com/mark41976designerseries.html

      Just introduce it slow, you don’t want to overwhelm them. That’s an awful lot of bling and comfort to take in all at once. But roll it out right and they’ll be eating it up in no time.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      It weights almost as much as two GTIs, as well.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I saw one of these on my way home from lunch today. It actually has quite the road presence; I like it. The simple round exhaust tips on the A-Spec models are a big improvement, IMO.

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      They’re basically the modern equivalent of the 1970s personal luxury barge. So yes, by design they have presence, both in size and styling ques.

      I’ve often advocated for making these more luxury versus sport – pillow interiors, designer paint packages, wire wheels, what not. I wonder if marketers have looked into that?

      • 0 avatar
        R Henry

        “pillow interiors, designer paint packages, wire wheels, what not. I wonder if marketers have looked into that?”

        The Broughm era died with Liberace.

        • 0 avatar
          Superdessucke

          Things die. And things also get resurrected. I’d love to see one of these beasts done up in full brougham! Why not? You mock the idea but no one ever thought expensive trucks that cannot go offroad would sell either…

          • 0 avatar
            Superdessucke

            I’m not saying go full Bill Blass or Lipstick and Creme Decor Groups just yet. But reintroduce a little bling and see the take rate.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            Oh I am saying that…Bill Blass and Versace all the things is frankly no less dumb than GTI and A S-Spec all the things and at least I get some distinction with the designer editions…the seats and what not were over the top. What is A-Spec? Some red buttons and blacked out trim? Cool, so I get to pay more to look like my 16 year old “Murdered Out” my 60,000 dollar SUV. Stupid.

          • 0 avatar
            el scotto

            @ Super Imagine a blinged out Durango. Loaded, with all of the Dutch car company’s best electronics. Heated/cooled/massaging/full reclining seats in the back. A built in cooler for the Moet or a 6-pack of Bud Cheladz’s. Full time AWD and the baddest hellcat engine MOPAR makes.The resurrection? Imperial by Chrysler.

          • 0 avatar
            Superdessucke

            Art, if I could give you a thumbs up, I would! The possibilities are endless. How about a d’Elegance Escalade with big wire wheels a padded roof, and some kind of tailgate treatment to pay homage to the bustle back Seville? Or your choice of Bill Blass, Cartier, Givenchy, or Pucci designer Aviator?

            Or, yes el scotto, even the Imperial or, better, the Chrysler Cordoba nameplate on a Durango. In addition to those items, can we also add some rich Corinthian Leather, coach lights, and a medallion hood ornament? Splendid!

            I’d laugh less at those than I do when I see an Explorer ST. The concepts just don’t fit together. It’s kind of like the Camaro Berlinetta, Firebird Esprit, and Mustang Ghia were back in the day, just the opposite.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            My daily is a Fiesta ST. Driving it makes me shake my head all the more at the current ST vehicles. You’d think we could get a track oriented Mustang with some extra power and a good suspension blessed by the ST folks, but nope.

            The Continental/Mark designer series cars were my favorite of that genre. They really did, at least in the case of the Fox Continentals make them into a different sort of car.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            “My daily is a Fiesta ST. Driving it makes me shake my head all the more at the current ST vehicles. You’d think we could get a track oriented Mustang with some extra power and a good suspension blessed by the ST folks, but nope.”

            Bullitt? The “ST” folks (Performance) did all of the handling upgrades for it. Or Ecoboost with the performance and handling packs.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            I haven’t driven the bullitt. I have driven the performance pack/handling pack should me an SVO one. I liked it, just think I could come out miles ahead with a dolarwise with a Cobb tune on one. Like I said, haven’t driven the bullitt though.

  • avatar
    Fred

    I like the two screens, am I the only one? One for the map the other for music. It is a bit slow to respond, but not worse than my admittedly older phone and the lousy cell service we have out here.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Why? Your three-row crossover isn’t sporty, blackout trim or no. I’m a huge fan of the MDX (and nearly bought one) but mine would be a Sport Hybrid Advance with more electric motors, with rear captain’s chairs, and without the silly appearance package.

  • avatar
    ajla

    IMO, the “A-Spec” stuff is pretty goofy across the entire Acura line. At least give me *something* beyond just an appearance package.

    I guess the seats have more bolstering…

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Reminds me of someone asking in the Buick forums whether Buick would ever build “another GS”.

    I responded: “That is the same as asking if Buick will build another sedan for consumption in the US. My crystal ball says no. I don’t really want an Envision GS or an Encore GX/GS or an elephantine Enclave GS.”

    It’s like VW saying they might GTI all the things or with Acura trying to A-spec all the things. It makes my head hurt.

  • avatar
    fr88

    I’ll go with “pathetic cry for help.” Nothing like the worn cliche of the blackout treatment on a 2020 vehicle to send a car’s looks down market and dated real fast.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I test drove one of these in 2017, at that time it was quite popular and I saw quite a few in the school drop off lane. Now , after being out for some time ubiquity in these parts makes it invisible. Same for Equinoxes, Edges, Explorers . It should be call EDX. Time for a re design.

  • avatar
    sckid213

    Acura lacks styling sophistication. With all the bolt-ons and black tint on this thing, it looks no more upmarket than a Durango or a Traverse.

    Same goes for all vehicles in the Acura line. None of the little subtleties that make styling look upmarket. Just ham-fisted styling worthy of a mainstream marque…like Honda.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    4200 lbs isn’t awful for a luxury pretending 3-row crossover. That’s the ballpark for the mid-size luxury sedans with AWD.

    That said, I have no idea why anyone would want to try and make a car this size sporty.

    I’m also surprised enough people like black wheels that it’s somewhat common from the factory, and not just from Acura.

    Enthusiasts can’t have stick shift sedans that don’t suck to drive but there is a market for a murdered out mommy mobile?

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    wait, doesn’t this have Garmin navigation like the Odyssey?

    There’s nothing wrong with Garmin; I’d say it’s one of the highest quality sat-nav systems you can buy. That Honda decided to trash their own junk system and use Garmin instead is a GOOD thing.

    Unless Acura said no thanks, our customers like junk systems…

  • avatar
    IBx1

    An ancient 2-ton automatic mommymobile with “bad-ass” dark finish wheels and it has the gall to call itself sporty?

    • 0 avatar

      Sporty Utility Vehicle. What is wrong with that?

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        Mr. Inside… I just wanted to fix up your statement you left for us above. Kiev, my friend, never was a capital of Russia. It was a center of Kievan Rus and simply taxed all weaker city-states. Russia started in Moscow and Kiev then became part of it later. And the reason for power shift is complex inheritance rules. Yuri Long-arms tired to wait for ability to rule Kiev lawfully (once, he chased its count out of there), so he built Moscow. BTW, not the first city he built. Later, he entered Kiev again legitimately. But Kiev never took him well. I believe Russia was first a country when Ivan IV the terrible declared himself Grand Count of Moscow and Czar of all Russias.

  • avatar

    This is very funny. My 2008 MDX outside is pretty much the same. Ok, I have a more reliable 6 speed, and there isn’t any stop-start or cylinder deactivation going on, which are probably good things.

    Same power, same basic chassis. I’m sure the satnav is better.

    A type ? Ha. The MDX is a Pilot who can dance. The SH AWD is actually something.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    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/

  • avatar
    Wodehouse

    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.

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