If a 2019 Acura MDX were to follow a 2018 version around a corner it’s unlikely you’d notice the difference, that is unless the second model was updated to new A-Spec trim.
Acura has made some minor external changes to other trims, such as new wheel designs, but swapping out 95 percent of the chrome and bright metal with glossy black on the new A-Spec branded sport model, and then fitting a near equally darkened set of 20-inch 10-spoke Shark Grey alloy wheels on lower profile 265/45 rubber, makes this new addition stand out in a very positive way.
The MDX has long been the sportiest Japanese luxury utility, but new A-Spec trim now puts styling on par with performance. Specifically, the new MDX A-Spec gets gloss-black and dark-chrome detailing for the grille, headlamps, window surrounds, and rear tailgate spoiler, a more aggressively formed front fascia design, painted front and rear lower skid garnishes, body-coloured exterior door handles, body-colour lower side sills, and larger-diameter exhaust finishers, and those aforementioned wheels.
Climbing over exclusive A-Spec door step garnishes to get inside, Acura has positioned a special set of A-Spec gauges above metal sport pedals, while adding a thicker-rimmed A-Spec-badged steering wheel, unique carbon-look console trim, and sport seats upholstered in “rich red” or black leather with black suede-like Alcantara inserts plus high-contrast stitching.
This being more of a sport styling exercise than any true performance upgrade, the larger wheel and tire package aside, it won’t be causing owners of the 567 horsepower X5M and 577 horsepower Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 (or 362-hp GLS 450/449-hp GLS 550) to contemplate their next SUV in Japanese. Acura does make a more potent MDX Sport Hybrid that can give some of the lesser Germans a run for their money thanks to 377 horsepower and 341 lb-ft of torque, but so far the sportier A-Spec trim will only be applied to the conventionally powered MDX, which continues forward into 2019 with a much more modest 290 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque.
As with all MDX models in Canada, the new A-Spec comes standard with Acura’s torque vectoring Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD), and utilizes a nine-speed automatic with steering wheel paddles and multiple driving modes dubbed Integrated Dynamics System (IDS), which include the same Comfort, Normal and Sport settings found in all other MDX trims.
I’ll comment on how all of this kit meets the A-Spec model’s sporting pretensions in my upcoming road test review, not to mention my views on styling and interior design, fit, finish, materials quality, comfort, utility, and how this trim specifically measures up to some key competitors, so for the time being I’ll just cover what you can expect with respect to features.
For the most part the $60,490 A-Spec is built upon the MDX’ second-rung $57,890 Tech trim, yet despite only costing $2,600 more and featuring the previously noted styling upgrades, it incorporates a few features shared with the $66,990 Elite version that aren’t available with the two trims below, including LED fog lamps, auto-dimming power-folding side mirrors, perimeter/approach puddle lights, keyless access buttons on the rear doors, and ventilated/cooled front seats.
As for features pulled up from Tech trim, the list includes navigation with voice recognition, a sun position detection system for the climate control, a 10-speaker ELS Studio surround audio upgrade, hard disk drive (HDD) media storage, AcuraLink subscription services, front and rear parking sensors, and Blind Spot Information (BSI) with rear cross traffic monitoring.
If you’re wondering about all the other advanced driver assist systems that would complement those above, take heart that all Canadian-spec MDX trims come standard with AcuraWatch, which includes Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Lane Keeping Assist (LKAS), plus Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with low-speed follow and Road Departure Mitigation (RDM).
Additional standard features pulled up from the MDX’ $54,390 base model to A-Spec trim include unique Jewel Eye LED headlamps with auto high beams and washers, LED taillights, acoustic glass, a heated windshield, remote engine start, proximity-sensing keyless access, ambient front footwell, door handle and cabin lighting, pushbutton ignition, two-position memory for the driver’s seat, steering column, side mirrors and climate control, an electromechanical parking brake, a powered moonroof, a HomeLink universal garage door opener, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated power-adjustable side mirrors with driver recognition, reverse gear tilt-down and integrated turn indicators, a colour TFT meter display, a power tilt and telescopic steering column, a heated multi-function leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters, rain-sensing wipers, multi-angle rearview camera with active guidelines, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth phone and streaming audio, Siri Eyes Free, SMS text message and email reading capability, satellite radio, four USB charging ports, tri-zone front and rear synchronized automatic climate control with humidity control and air-filtration, Active Noise Control (ANC), Active Sound Control (ASC), heated 12-way power-adjustable front seats with four-way powered lumbar support, seven-seat capacity, a powered tailgate, hill start assist, tire pressure monitoring with location and pressure indicators, all the usual active and passive safety features including a driver’s knee airbag, trailer stability assist, a 1,588-kilo towing capacity (or 2,268 kg with the towing package), and more.
Incidentally, all trims, packages, and options are detailed out at CarCostCanada, where you can also find important rebate info as well as dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.
All MDX trims get the same 3.5-litre SOHC V6 with direct-injection, i-VTEC, and Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) that shuts one bank of cylinders down during light loads to save on fuel, which together with a standard engine idle stop-start system and the previously noted nine-speed automatic helps the MDX achieve a claimed 12.2 L/100km in the city, 9.0 on the highway and 10.8 combined in its regular trims, or 12.2 city, 9.5 highway and 11.0 combined in A-Spec guise, the difference coming down to the grippier tires, while it should also be noted that the more powerful two-motor hybrid version mentioned earlier is good for an even more agreeable 9.1, 9.0 and 9.0 respectively.
Once again, this thriftier yet more potent powertrain can’t be had with the A-Spec’s sportier styling and upgraded wheel and tire package, while that model’s active damper system is also unavailable below Elite trim that also makes them standard. As it is, the A-Spec makes do with the standard amplitude reactive dampers, which along with standard Agile Handling Assist and the SUV’s front strut and rear multi-link suspension design, has long provided strong performance through the corners.
Once again you’ll need to come back to find out how the MDX A-Spec’s lower profile rubber performs, and to see if the rest of this well-seasoned model’s features are still up to snuff amid a very competitive three-row mid-size crossover SUV segment. Until then, enjoy the photo gallery above…