This post originally appeared in The Spokesman-Review
I don’t know about you, but I’d love to drop a few pounds and gain three new gears.
I’m pretty sure I’d be nimbler and feel more energetic. I’d be quicker and more efficient. I’d be just as comfortable and no less luxurious.
And so it is with the 2016 Acura MDX, long the shining star in the firmament of Honda’s premium brand. It’s Acura’s best-selling vehicle and the country’s best-selling three-row, seven-passenger crossover.
This year, the MDX sheds weight, inherits Acura’s latest generation of safety and driver-assist technologies and receives an assortment of new features, both standard and optional. It’s quicker by a substantial amount, more responsive and, when equipped with Acura’s superb Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD), more agile and more stable.
Cabin updates are less extensive, but include an electronic push-button shift device that frees up space beneath the center console, a new easy-entry/exit driver’s seat and a new frameless rearview mirror. Also new is Siri Eyes Free voice controls for compatible Apple devices.
Acura’s dual-screen infotainment/navigation interface remains one of the easiest systems of its type to understand and use.
Leading this year’s changes is a nine-speed automatic transmission that replaces the previous six-speed — and is lighter by 66 pounds. It’s gear ratios are more closely spaced and Acura says shifts are 25 percent quicker. Zero-to-60 acceleration drops by a half-second, to a sports car-like 5.9 seconds, and fuel efficiency sees small gains.
The weight reduction also improves front-to-rear weight distribution for improved handling. All told, the MDX is one of the most fun and best-driving cars in the midsize crossover segment.
Automatic stop/start is now available on some trims, helping to boost efficiency.
Acura also updates SH-AWD with a new twin-clutch rear differential that’s lighter (by 19 pounds) and more responsive than its predecessor. Enhanced torque-vectoring delivers power more quickly to the appropriate wheels, boosting the MDX’s legendary sure-footedness.
I tested the system on my super-secret hilly, twisty and unpaved test track, where it proved nearly invincible. The instant one wheel loses traction, power is routed away from it and to a wheel that will counter the skid. No car can overcome the laws of physics, but SH-AWD gives it a good shot.
As before, the MDX is powered by a 290-horsepower V-6 that makes 267 pound-feet of torque. Properly equipped, it’s tow-rated to 5,000 pounds.
All trims can now be equipped with the AcuraWatch suite of safety and driver-assist technologies. Depending on trim, AcuraWatch includes Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow; Collision Mitigation Braking; Forward Collision Warning; Lane Departure Warning; Lane Keeping Assist; Road Departure Mitigation; Blind Spot Information; Multi-View Rear Camera with Dynamic Guidelines; and Rear Cross Traffic Monitor.
AcuraWatch fuses camera and radar technology to sense the roadway and objects within it, including other vehicles and pedestrians. It infuses the MDX with nearly matchless levels of safety — and its systems serve as precursor technologies to the self-driving car.
The MDX showcases Acura’s drive to wrap comfort, safety and performance in a web of top-shelf engineering. Consider the new lightness in its step an enviable bonus.
2016 Acura MDX Advanced w Entertainment
Vehicle base price: $42,685
Trim level base price: $57,080
As tested: $58,000
Options: The MDX Advanced trim, with Entertainment, is fully equipped; our tester included no options.
Tow rating: 5,000 lbs
EPA rating: 22 combined/19 city/26 highway
Premium unleaded fuel required