Looking for a great deal on a very good premium sedan? I can think of a number of reasons to consider the Acura ILX, but the opportunity for a heavily discounted final purchase price is definitely on…

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech Road Test

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
The ILX A-Spec still looks good, even if this photo seems a bit out of place in the heat of summer.

Looking for a great deal on a very good premium sedan? I can think of a number of reasons to consider the Acura ILX, but the opportunity for a heavily discounted final purchase price is definitely on top of the list.

The ILX’ MSRP ranges from a base of $30,805, plus freight and fees, to $36,205 for the top-line A-Spec Tech shown here, which is a seriously competitive starting point. This said, the ability to obtain a significant discount has never been better. In fact, Acura Canada is offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives with no questions asked, while CarCostCanada members are saving an average of $7,500! With discounts like that, Civic buyers should even be taking a look at the good old ILX.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
The ILX’ sharp styling was part of a 2019 update.

To be clear, the ILX isn’t just a Civic with a body kit, as some like to refer to it. Way back in the early days of Acura, the ILX’ predecessor only provided a few mild styling modifications, a leather-trimmed interior, some other cabin enhancements, a slightly stiffer suspension, and Civic Si engine-tuning in its top trim in order to earn its Acura badge. Nevertheless, the long forgotten 1.6EL (1997–2000), which was based on the Japanese domestic market (JDM) Honda Domani and optionally used the same 127-horsepower engine as the Si here in Canada, plus the 1.7EL (2001–2005), which still made 127 horses despite getting a 100-cc bump in displacement, sold quite well, paving the way for the much-improved CSX (2006-2011), a model that was only sold in Canada, and actually inspired the JDM Civic’s styling (not the other way around, like so many critics have wrongly stated).

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
Acura’s new “Diamond Pentagon” grille now graces all of its models.

The ILX entered the import scene in 2012 as a 2013 model, and believe it or not is still based on the ninth-generation Civic that first appeared in 2011 (2022 will see an all-new 11th-gen Civic, to put that into perspective). That’s an antiquated platform architecture, to be sure, but this oldie was a goodie. It looked like it was designed from the ground up to be an Acura too, as did the interior, while performance from its optional 201-hp Si-derived powerplant was strong, albeit this engine’s sole six-speed manual transmission kept it from being as popular as the 150-hp 1.5-litre variant. A Civic-sourced hybrid drivetrain was also offered.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
Acura’s “Jewel Eye” LED headlamps are unique in the industry.

Acura provided a stiffer steering shaft for sharper turn-in, plus special “Amplitude Reactive” dampers to further improve handling as well as ride quality, and voila, its new compact competitor found serious traction on the sales charts, achieving a height of 3,192 Canadian deliveries in 2013, which put it fourth behind Buick’s now defunct Verano (with 5,573 units sold that year), Mini’s Cooper (3,946), and Mercedes’ discontinued B-Class (3,207).

Mercedes dominates this segment these days, its second-generation CLA-Class now joined by a new A-Class Sedan and Hatch for a total of 3,440-unit sales in 2020, while the ILX slipped from fourth to fifth in popularity due to just 774 deliveries last year. Being that the entire premium C-segment (and B-segment) includes a mere six models, that’s nothing to write home about, but then again managing to still sell anything after being around so long is a feat in itself.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
These black-painted 18-inch alloys are part of the A-Spec upgrade.

To be fair, Acura has made some big changes to the ILX throughout its nine-year tenure, the most significant in 2016 when an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic with steering wheel-mounted paddles was mated to the potent 2.4-litre four-cylinder, which became the standard engine that year. It received a 10 lb-ft bump in max torque as well, the new mill putting out 180 lb-ft in total, while Acura also gave this upgraded ILX its distinctive “Jewel Eye” LED headlamps and a slightly revised “shield” grille for 2016, along with standard LED taillights. Sportier A-Spec trim was added too, the test car shown here finished off top-tier A-Spec Tech trim.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
Acura updated the LED taillights for its 2019 update, and they still look sharp.

This one wears the much more visually dramatic “Diamond Pentagon” grille, however, which was added for the 2019 model. That car also received more aggressive headlights along with more sharply angled tail lamps, plus updates to most every other exterior panel, while the cabin incorporated new seats, with optional red leather upholstery in the microsuede-enhanced A-Spec. Finally, the infotainment system responded to inputs 30 percent faster than its predecessor, and Acura’s suite of advanced AcuraWatch safety features became standard. The car on these pages hasn’t changed since, which is probably why sales have steadily dropped, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of your attention.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
The fit, finish and materials quality of the ILX’ interior is on par with others in this class.

Today’s 2.4-litre four still makes 201 horsepower, which while not as strong as some in this class, remains naturally aspirated and therefore a joy to rev well past its 7,000 rpm redline. It sounds fabulous when doing so too, while the fully-automated eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox delivers quick, smooth shifts that are ideally matched to the powerplant, its front-wheel drive layout the only negative in an otherwise wholly positive experience. Even then, the 225/40R18 Continentals hooked up well, with very little pull on the steering wheel at full throttle, even when taking off from a corner, with the overall driving feel coming across like a particularly well-finished Civic Si Sedan.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
The look might come across a bit dated, but it’s a mostly premium interior with features that function well.

Yes, I know the 10th-generation Civic Si Sedan’s interior is much more modern than this ILX, especially when it comes to the primary gauge cluster and steering wheel controls. The former is made up of analogue dials bookending a simple two-colour multi-information display (MID), with the otherwise grey screen highlighted by some nice bright greens when using adaptive cruise control, but Acura’s dual-stack of infotainment displays was pretty high-tech when introduced, and still works well. The lower touchscreen is especially easy to operate, and while the graphics are a bit dated and display quality not quite up to today’s high-definition standards, I’m not going to rag on this system or any of Acura’s infotainment foibles right now, other than to say their unnecessary complexity isn’t as appealing to me as Honda’s excellent touchscreen systems. To that tend, the ILX offers a bit of both worlds, resulting in a system I certainly like better than some of the brand’s more recent concoctions.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
The gauge cluster is almost retro, thanks to a small, mostly monochromatic MID at centre.

Just the same, purchasing a car as well-seasoned as the ILX means you’ll need to forgo some of the industry’s latest features and design elements. I didn’t mind the aforementioned MID, as all info was crisply and clearly displayed, plus a fair bit of info was available, from audio stations, to phone and voice prompt controls, plus the aforementioned cruise control. Likewise, the analogue dials were bright and easy to read in all conditions. The steering wheel controls, while not including the outgoing Civic’s ergonomically-designed volume switch and four-way rockers on both sides for most other functions, are made from high quality composites with good fit and decent damping.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
The A-Spec’s aluminum pedals look great.

The infotainment’s system’s upper display is controlled by rotating a big knob and pressing surrounding buttons found just below the lower centre touchscreen, this top monitor being dedicated to navigation info, smartphone connectivity, car settings, and a few other functions. The touch capacitive screen just below, on the other hand, allows comprehensive control of the audio system. Both displays are full-colour, albeit only various blue hues are used for the latter. Again, it’s dated look will only matter to those enamoured with more modern systems, because the screen is reasonably high in resolution and the interface is nicely laid out with decent enough graphics. It all works well too, while the navigation system was especially accurate. What’s more, my tester’s ELS Studio sound system pumped out tunes brilliantly, plus its satellite radio signal came in nice and clear most of the time.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
Two infotainment displays provide a lot of information at all times.

The ILX’ dual-zone automatic climate control interface is pretty straightforward, with big dials to each side and buttons in between. Again, the quality of the switchgear is pretty good, with nice, tightly fitted buttons, but Acura hasn’t even included a digital display to accompany the controls, so it all looks fairly basic. Likewise, the lower console-mounted two-way rocker switches for the heatable front seats are throwbacks to simpler times, as are the classic Honda-sourced power window and mirror controls on the driver’s door, while the fuel and trunk release levers attached to the driver’s inside rocker panel next to the floor are so old school they’re cool.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
The upper display houses the navigation system and some other features.

A classic handbrake is another sign this is an older model, and I suppose, being that Acura now uses push-buttons and pull-tabs for gear selection on most of its vehicles these days, the conventional gear lever and its time-tested PRND layout is just one more reminder of yesterday. There’s no way to shift manually by the lever itself, but that hardly matters being that, as noted earlier, the ILX comes complete with paddles. Therefore, simply slot it into “D” to eke the most from a tank of fuel or “S” for Sport mode, and drive like a miser or, alternatively, shift to your heart’s content.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
The lower display is a touchscreen for the audio system, while the large rotating knob just below is for controlling the screen above.

Sport mode allows for higher revs between gear changes, the engine freely spinning past 7,000 revs per minute when wrung out for all its worth, resulting in motive force that’s as wonderfully engaging and every bit as capable as when found in the old Si. Yes, I’m aware that I’m repeating myself, but I absolutely love this 2.4-litre four, so allow me some fanboy leeway. I’ll also reiterate that the dual-clutch automated manual is superbly matched to this peaky engine, allowing some playful fun when called upon, yet shifting early enough to save on fuel when in normal default mode.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
The ILX’ dual-zone auto HVAC interface is a bit rudimentary looking, but it all works well.

On that note, claimed fuel economy is thrifty considering the available performance, at 9.9 L/100km in the city, 7.0 on the highway and 8.6 combined, incidentally beating BMW’s 228i xDrive Gran Coupe that’s only good for 8.8 L/100km combined city/highway, but take note the Bimmer comes standard with AWD, while Mercedes’ A220 4Matic Sedan is even stingier at 8.4 L/100km combined (4Matic means AWD in Mercedes-speak, incidentally), while Audi’s FWD A3 is good for a near hybrid-like 7.8 L/100km combined.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
That’s a real gear lever in an Acura, and if you think that’s retro, check out the two-way rocker switches just ahead for controlling the heated front seats.

Now that we’ve slowed down, some finely crafted detailing worth noting includes a soft leather-wrapped steering wheel rim with nicely carved thumb spats and contrast-stitched baseball-style stitching around the inside, plus the same treatment applied to the shift knob and the handbrake lever’s grip. That handbrake feels incredibly well-made too, with a level of solidity not normally found with such devices, and this said, I must attest to preferring a hand-applied parking brake to an electromechanical one when driving a performance car. In fact, as good as the eight-speed auto is, the very inclusion of a handbrake made me long for the Si’s phenomenal six-speed manual, although I can understand why Acura didn’t bother bringing one to market, being that the take-rate would probably be less than 10 percent.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
The dash top and facing is made from premium-quality soft composite, while all plastics below the waste are of a less appealing hard variety.

Driver’s position is important for any performance car, and to that end Acura has done a fine job with this ILX. The beautifully finished front seats, complete with contrast-stitched leather bolsters and insets, the latter adorned with an hourglass-shaped strip of ultra-suede down the middle, hug the backside nicely for optimal control through tight, twisting curves. The driver seat’s adjustability was excellent, with enough fore and aft movement for most body types, which when combined with ample reach from the tilt and telescopic steering column made for adequate comfort and control.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
The leather and psuede seats are fabulous.

When seated behind the driver’s seat, which was set up for my long-legged, short-torso five-foot-eight frame, I still had plenty of space for my knees and feet, plus about three inches over my head. Likewise, Acura provides good side-to-side spaciousness, although I wouldn’t have been as comfortable if three were abreast in back. The usual flip-down centre armrest was wide enough for two arms resting, but the dual cupholders infused within were substandard for this class, particularly compared to the innovative drink-holding contraptions offered by the Germans. A magazine pouch on the backside of the front passenger seat sums up everything else provided for rear passenger pampering, while no centre pass-through or divided rear seatback means that skiers are forced to strap boards to a rooftop rack when more than two occupants are aboard.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
The glass sunroof is a bit smaller than some others in this category, but it powers open with one touch.

At least those rear outboard seats are comfortable and covered with the same high-grade leather and suede upholstery as those up front, while the aft compartment’s door panels are finished off just as nicely as the one ahead as well. This means high-quality soft padded synthetic covers the door uppers, while a nicer stitched leatherette with even softer padding is applied to the inserts and armrests, plus this segment’s usual hard composite for the lower third of each door.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
The rear seating area is comfortable and roomy enough for two adults.

Some less significant areas of weakness include a lack of fabric wrapping for the roof pillars, which is kind of a premium brand status staple, plus the ILX only gets a simple moonroof overhead, when others in the class offer larger panoramic glass openings. Also, where the soft-touch synthetic dash top is finished all the way down to its midpoint, and the dark grey inlays are up to par, the plastic used for the lower half of the dash, including the glove box lid, as well as that on the lower centre console, is less than ideal.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
The trunk is certainly large enough when compared to others in this class.

Of course, this reflects in the ILX’ aforementioned pricing, and becomes an absolute nonissue when factoring in available discounts. Adding to this car’s list of accolades is Acura’s seventh out of 17 premium brand ranking (Buick, Mini and Tesla were included as premium brands) in J.D. Power’s latest 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study, in which it was only beaten by Lexus, Porsche, Buick, Cadillac, Genesis and Lincoln, none of which compete in the ILX’ entry-level B category. Hopefully, now knowing this, plus the ILX’ many additional attributes, might leave you seriously considering a car that might not have caused you much deliberation before reading this review.

2021 Acura ILX A-Spec Tech
Not having split-folding rear seats was never good enough for this premium category.

All said, be sure to visit CarCostCanada’s 2021 Acura ILX Canada Prices page to find out more, including detailed trim pricing and available options, and while you’re at it find out how accessing dealer invoice pricing can help out when negotiating your best deal on a new vehicle, not to mention how having all this information on a smartphone app will turn you into a car buying pro the next time you’re visiting any retail dealership. Download the free CarCostCanada app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store now.

Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann

Off to a very good start, the totally redesigned 2022 Acura MDX has taken home a best-possible Top Safety Pick + rating from the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The MDX garnered a…

All-new 2022 Acura MDX earns IIHS Top Safety Pick + rating

2022 Acura MDX
The 2022 Acura MDX has earned the best-possible Top Safety Pick + rating from the IIHS.

Off to a very good start, the totally redesigned 2022 Acura MDX has taken home a best-possible Top Safety Pick + rating from the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

The MDX garnered a Top Safety Pick + ranking by achieving “GOOD” ratings in all its crashworthiness tests, including the demanding passenger-side small overlap test. The MDX also earned a “SUPERIOR” rating for its Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), plus “GOOD” for its standard JewelEye LED headlamps.

2022 Acura MDX
The MDX’ standard JewelEye LED headlamps helped it earn the highest possible IIHS ranking.

A full assortment of standard AcuraWatch advanced driver assistive and automated safety technologies allowed the MDX to earn such high marks, including the just-noted CMBS, plus Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow and Road Departure Mitigation.

By achieving top-tier status with the IIHS, the new MDX joins other Acura models that have already earned the same rating, including 2021 model year versions of the RDX luxury crossover SUV, and the TLX sport luxury sedan that achieved the ranking in February of this year.

2022 Acura MDX
The new MDX is filled with top-tier safety and driver assistive system, like this available 360-degree surround parking camera system.

Acura is already offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives on the new 2022 MDX, while CarCostCanada members purchasing new 2020 models (no 2021 model was offered) are experiencing average savings of more than $6,000. The Japanese luxury brand is also offering factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent on 2020 models.

Find out how a CarCostCanada membership can save you thousands when purchasing your next new vehicle, by informing you about all the latest manufacturer offers, and by providing you with dealer invoice pricing that can keep thousands in your wallet when it comes time to negotiate your deal. Also, make sure to download their free app, so you can always have the most critical car buying info close at hand in order to save as much money as possible.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Acura

The fact that you’re reading this means you’re probably fully aware what an Acura MDX is, but it’s quite possible you’ve never heard of A-Spec. Don’t worry, because you’re far from alone.…

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec Road Test Review

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
Acura has given its MDX a sporty optional A-Spec trim upgrade for 2019, and we think it looks great while playing in the dirt. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The fact that you’re reading this means you’re probably fully aware what an Acura MDX is, but it’s quite possible you’ve never heard of A-Spec. Don’t worry, because you’re far from alone. Basically, A-Spec is a performance trim offered across the entire Acura lineup that, depending on the model in question, may or may not include any actual go-fast sport-oriented upgrades. As for the MDX A-Spec, which is new for this 2019 model year, it’s purely a styling exercise. 

Fortunately the new A-Spec enhancements result in a very attractive bit of SUV kit, including gloss-black and darkened chrome trimmings for the grille, headlamps, window surrounds, and rear rooftop spoiler, plus a more aggressive frontal apron, painted front and rear lower skid plates, body-colour door handles, body-coloured rocker panels, bigger exhaust pipes, and a gorgeous set of 20-inch 10-spoke Shark Grey alloys on lower profile 265/45 all-seasons. That rubber might seem like the only upgrade that could possibly improve the MDX’ performance, but it should be noted these are the same as used on this SUV’s most luxuriously adorned Elite model. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
Nice and long, the MDX has plenty of room for its three accommodating rows, as well as loads of cargo. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Sliding into any one of the MDX seven seats means that you’ll inevitably have to pass over one of four A-Spec-embossed metal treadplates, while the upgraded cabin also features a unique primary gauge package that’s been brightened with additional red highlights. The latter gets framed by a thicker A-Spec-branded sport steering wheel that’s partially wrapped in grippy dimpled leather, while just below are sporty metal foot pedals. The console between the driver and front passenger gets special carbon-look detailing, and the sport seats flanking it are either covered in a sensational “Rich Red” upholstery or, in the case of my test model, special black leather with high-contrast stitching, plus plush perforated black suede-like Alcantara inserts. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
A-Spec trim blackens trim that’s otherwise chrome, paints out other areas in body colour, and beefs up the rear bumper cap. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

So what do you think? I, for one, like what Acura has done to spiff up this aging yet still worthy luxury SUV. The exterior changes add some fresh new life to what is still a good looking package, while the interior mods are as easy on the eyes as they’re tactilely pleasurable (especially the Alcantara), but let’s be clear, none of this does much to modernize an instrument panel layout that has slowly been freefalling into the realms of classic, retrospective designs. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The MDX A-Spec’s frontal design gets black chrome and gloss-black detailing along with a bolder lower front fascia. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Of course, I’m not talking about the MDX’ downright radical, left-field, but now that I’m used to it, perfectly functional and kind-of-cool lower console-mounted pushbutton gear selector, which should never be exchanged for RDX version that takes up much too much valuable space on its centre stack, or for that matter the entry-level crossover’s new rotating drive mode selector that’s equally inefficient in its size and placement and therefore forced the need to position the otherwise superb tablet-style infotainment display atop the dash instead of closer to the driver where it could otherwise be actuated via touch gestures for easier use, instead of a complex touchpad that should only be an extra add-on to complement the overall infotainment package, we all have to admit the MDX two-tiered display setup is pretty outdated. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
Like with all Acura models, the MDX receives standard Jewel Eye LED headlamps. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Why two centre tiers? Unlike the new RDX, that fits a fairly large multi-information display (MID) between two analogue dials within the primary package (although a fully digital cluster would be more competitive in top trims), the MDX gets a tall, narrow MID with simple colour graphics and minimal info ahead of the driver, and sends other MID info to the larger 8.0-inch top monitor on the centre stack. You can access the usual info from a rotating/push dial just under the second display below, while the top screen defaults to the navigation map when not in reverse, at which point an excellent multi-angle backup camera with active guidelines comes into play; the available 360-degree surround parking monitor can only be had with the previously noted top-line Elite model. This leaves more easily reached 7.0-inch touchscreen for audio and climate control adjustment, etcetera. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
An attractive set of triple-stacked LED fog lamps enhance the lower fascia design. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Before I start getting hate mail for beating up on the MDX’ obviously aging infotainment system, a problem that many other brands are dealing with as their various models attempt to stay fresh and intriguing while undergoing the same old two- to three-year refresh, and four- to five-year redesigned cycles as have been used for decades, some of Acura’s competitors have done a better job of staying ahead of the digital curve and are therefore reaping the rewards of doing so. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The A-Spec’s exclusive dark grey 20-inch alloys look fabulous, but the tires are identical to those used in the more luxurious Elite trim, so don’t add a performance advantage. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

We’ll have to wait and see what Acura brings to the table, or more specifically the instrument panel when the all-new redesigned MDX surfaces sometime before 2020 or 2021 (so far there has been no official launch announcement), but as you can tell from my RDX comments (which is otherwise one of the best crossover SUVs in its compact luxury class), I’d rather Acura choose a different infotainment direction for the next-gen MDX. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The LED taillights come standard across the MDX line, but the A-Spec badge is exclusive, of course. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

All grumbling aside, the current MDX infotainment system works well enough, and even includes such advanced features as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, Siri Eyes Free, SMS text message and email reading functionality, satellite radio, four USB charge-capable ports, and more, plus as noted my A-Spec tester also had an accurate navigation system with detailed mapping and voice recognition, this pulled up from the MDX’ mid-range Tech trim line, which also provided superb 10-speaker ELS Studio surround sound audio, hard disk drive (HDD) media storage, AcuraLink subscription services, and more. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The A-Spec uses many of the same high-quality materials as found in the regular MDX, but adds plush suede-like Alcantara to the door inserts and seat upholstery. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As usual with any Acura model, I feel tempted to list out as many features as possible, because this helps you to appreciate just how good the brand’s value proposition is, but this time around I’ll try to keep my babbling to a minimum and just detail the more important highlights such as LED fog lamps, auto-dimming power-folding outside mirrors, perimeter/approach puddle lamps, keyless entry buttons for the rear doors, and cooled/ventilated front seats as additions to the $60,490 A-Spec features menu, while additional items sourced from the Tech model include sun position detection for the climate control, front and rear parking sonar, and Blind Spot Information (BSI) with rear cross-traffic alert. s

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The MDX hasn’t changed the look of its instrument panel for a very long time, but the Alcantara seat inserts are brand new for 2019. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Advanced driver assistance systems in mind, each and every MDX trim comes standard with the Japanese luxury brand’s AcuraWatch suite of safety and convenience features, including Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lane Keeping Assist (LKAS), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM), and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with low-speed follow. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
A small colour display gets surrounded by conventional analogue dials. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Finally, some key features sourced from the $54,390 base MDX for my tester’s A-Spec trim include the brand’s signature Jewel Eye LED headlamps with automatic high beams, attractive LED tail lamps, sound-deadening acoustic front glass, a remote engine starter, proximity-sensing front access, pushbutton start/stop, ambient cabin lighting, memory for the standard power-adjustable steering column, side mirrors, and auto climate control system, an electric parking brake, a power-operated glass sunroof with shade, a HomeLink universal garage door opener, an auto-dimming centre mirror, driver recognition, a heatable steering wheel rim, transmission paddle shifters, rain-sensing wipers, tri-zone front and rear auto HVAC, Active Noise Control (ANC), Active Sound Control (ASC), heatable 12-way power-adjustable front seats with four-way powered lumbar, a power liftgate, a 1,588-kilo towing capacity (or 2,268 kilograms with the available towing package), plus more. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The A-Spec’s metal pedal upgrade even spiff up the “dead pedal” foot rest on the very left. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Of note, all of the 2019 Acura MDX trim, package, and options pricing shown in this review were sourced from CarCostCanada, where you can also find helpful rebate information as well as dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands, so make sure to check click here to save the most money possible when purchasing your next car, truck or SUV. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The MDX’ two-tiered infotainment setup delivers a lot of screen space for the money, but while functional the system is now beyond dated. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

So far in this review, I’ve criticized the MDX for some of its mostly digital shortcomings, but I have to admit that it’s still enjoyable to drive and very comfortable, no matter where you’re seated. It’s also finished quite well considering its age, particularly in A-Spec trim. Some of this model’s interior upgrades include the aforementioned sport steering wheel, which feels really good in the fingers thanks to a thick, meaty, textured leather rim and well-sculpted spats for each thumb, while the interior is also filled with an attractive combination of satin-silver aluminum trim accents and other premium-finish inlays. Additionally, Acura lays on a heavy dose of premium-quality pliable composites across the dash, each door upper, and most everywhere else including the glove box lid, with just a small section of the instrument panel below the driver’s knees, plus each side of the lower centre console, and the bottom portion of each door panel, finished in harder, less premium types of plastic. Just above, however, are some of the plushest Alcantara door inserts in the business, this exclusive to my A-Spec model. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The top screen defaults to this navigation map, and while the display isn’t the sharpest the route guidance is very accurate. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I was happy to be reminded that the MDX’ driver’s seat includes the four-way powered lumbar mentioned earlier, helping to add just the right amount of pressure in just the right spot for reducing back pain, and only wish all automakers would do likewise, while the comfortable driver’s seat also provided plenty of the usual adjustments this category offers, yet I would have also liked the under-leg support provided by a lower cushion extension, and being that this model is Acura’s sportiest large SUV, a set of adjustable side torso bolsters would be handy too. Unfortunately, even the front seats in A-Spec trim don’t keep one’s backside in place very firmly when tackling corners, but on the positive the side bolsters should provide comfort for those on the larger size. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The top screen is adjusted via these controls, the rotating dial used for scrolling, +/- functions, etc. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Not only comfortable, the MDX provides excellent visibility all around, making it easy to operate in all types of traffic situations, but before delving into its driving dynamics, I should mention how much room this SUV offers. Having set up the driver’s seat for my five-foot-eight, long-legged, short-torso frame I still had plenty of room when seated in the second row just behind. That second-row easily slides fore and aft to make more room if needed, but even with it pulled all the way forward I still had a couple of inches of air ahead of my knees and room enough for my feet while shod in winter boots, plus when that second-row seat was pushed all the way back it was downright limousine-like. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The lower touchscreen accesses audio and HVAC functions plus more, and works well enough. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

With the second-row all the way rearward, the MDX’ rearmost row is probably only good for smaller adults or children, but after sliding the middle row forward I had plenty of room and those just mentioned winter boots slotted nicely underneath. I can’t call the third row comfortable, but it should be adequate for kids and mid-size teens, which is makes the MDX more utile than many in this class. Those in the very back shouldn’t get claustrophobic either, thanks to a set of side windows and a decent view out the front, while cupholders and nice reading lamps provide a good atmosphere for long trips. Climbing out from the very back is fairly easy as well, only needing you to press a button on the back of the second-row seat that immediately slides it forward, but this said it’s not the largest throughway to enter or exit from, so take care if you’re past teenage years. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The MDX’ pushbutton gear selector takes up a fair bit of room on the console, but it uses space better than the new RDX system. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Back in second row, a handy climate control panel is added to the backside of the front centre console for rear passenger comfort, while Acura also provides two USB device chargers below. I would’ve liked to see a set of second-row seat heaters, but these only come in top-tier Elite trim; c’est la vie. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The A-Spec’s Alcantara seat inserts aid grip, which is helpful as the side bolsters aren’t very aggressive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The powered rear liftgate opens to a properly finished cargo area featuring chrome tie-down hooks and nice, high-end carpeting up the sidewalls and on the seatbacks, while a sharp looking aluminum tread plate pretties up the rear doorsill. It’s adequately roomy too, with 447 litres (15.8 cubic feet) of gear-toting space behind the third row, and a useful underfloor compartment too. Folding the 50/50-split rear seats down is easy enough, but smaller folk might want Acura to add a power option in the upcoming redesign. Dropping the second row down is a manual affair as well, and while it’s easy enough you’ll need to walk around to the side doors to do so. Cargo capacity grows from 1,230 litres (43.4 cu ft) aft of the upright second-row seats to 2,575 litres (90.9 cu ft) when all are laid flat, but take heed that no middle pass-through is available for longer cargo such as skis, meaning the MDX’ European rivals do a more comprehensive job of providing passenger/cargo flexibility. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
Special 12-way adjustability with 4-way lumbar make the MDX A-Spec front seats very comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As for the MDX powertrain, it’s probably the most experienced in its segment, which is a bonus if you’re looking for well-proven reliability, or a bane if you want the latest under-hood technology. Acura’s SOHC 3.5-litre V6 has been around since 2014, and while producing a decent 290 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque when compared to mainstream volume branded SUVs, doesn’t exactly light a fire under your seat when getting hard on the throttle when compared to some key competitors, like Audi’s 333-horepower supercharged Q7 and BMW’s 335-hp turbocharged X5, plus plenty of others, and making this issue even more pronounced is the fact the older 2007 to 2013 second-gen MDX used a 200-cc larger 3.7-litre variation on the same V6 theme that was 10 horsepower and 3 lb-ft of torque stronger for max output of 300 hp and 270 lb-ft, which means the MDX has kind of been in reverse when it comes to straight-line performance. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
Just a classic front moonroof in the MDX, with no panoramic option available. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Softening the backhanded blow in 2013, when the current 2014 powertrain was introduced, was the nine-speed ZF automatic transmission still doing an admirable job of swapping cogs. While hardly producing lightning-quick shifts, even in Sport mode, it was certainly more fun to flick through the paddles than the previous six-speed unit, and I must say it’s wonderfully smooth about its business, while Acura’s torque-vectoring SH-AWD, standard with the MDX, even makes slippery road conditions confidence-inspiring. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
Second-row room, comfort and adjustability is good. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I took the MDX up a local mountain road and was thoroughly impressed by its ability through thick, mucky snow, the white fluffy stuff having departed long before I arrived. I can only imagine how well it would work if Acura had provided some winter tires instead, but the 265/ 45R20 Michelin Latitude Alpin all-seasons circling the dark grey alloys mentioned earlier, did a fine job just the same.  

Likewise for the MDX’ capable suspension, which while set up with more focus on compliant comfort than edgy performance, is easily up to fast-paced cornering through circuitous backroads, but it’s even better at high-speed cruising down the freeway thanks to its superbly sorted fully independent suspension that tracks brilliantly while providing an excellent ride. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
Third row access is easy to operate, but there’s not much room to slip behind. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The Sport mode just mentioned comes as part of a drive mode selector that also offers Comfort and Normal settings, plus the ability to stay in a chosen mode even after shutting off the engine and returning later. So therefore, if you’re the type of driver that leaves their SUV in Sport mode all the time, Acura has you covered without any extra fuss, and likewise for those who place Comfort higher on their priority list. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
Once inside there’s plenty of space in the very back for small adults or kids. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Now that I’m on to more practical subjects, the MDX’ fuel-efficiency is quite good for this class, despite its large V6 engine. This might be due to its relatively stress-free life compared to what a turbo-four would need to do if pushing such a large, weighty SUV, the as-tested MDX A-Spec hitting the scales at 1,945 kg (4,288 lbs). The engine also features some impressive technologies including direct-injection, i-VTEC, Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) that turns off one row of cylinders when not being pushed hard, auto idle stop/start that reduces consumption and emissions even more, and the nine-speed autobox that’s tweaked to minimize engine revs, all helping this A-Spec model to achieve a Transport Canada rating of 12.2 L/100km city, 9.5 highway and 11.0 combined, which is just a bit more than every other MDX trim that get rated at 12.2 city, 9.0 highway and 10.8 combined. Speaking of fuel economy, I just recently retested the MDX Sport Hybrid, which, due to an innovative two-motor hybrid-electric powertrain, is rated at 9.1 L/100km in the city, 9.0 on the highway and 9.0 combined. I’ll make sure to review this top-line MDX soon, so please come back for the rest of this SUV’s story. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
Cargo capacity is an MDX strength. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Back to the conventionally powered MDX, I must admit to still enjoying my time behind the wheel. It’s not the fastest, best handling or most advanced crossover SUV in the luxury sector, but quick and agile enough, and offers up an excellent ride with superb comfort all-round. It’s the type of SUV you can drive all day and never tire of, and that’s just the kind of luxury I like living with day in and day out. On top of this, 2019 A-Spec trim brings a sporty new look and other refinements to the well-proven MDX package, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a number of these nicely outfitted models in better Canadian neighbourhoods this year.

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…

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
Acura has updated its popular MDX mid-size three-row luxury crossover SUV with sporty A-Spec trim for 2019, and we’ve got one in our garage. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The MDX is a street fighter first and foremost, especially in A-Spec trim, but we think it looks great mucking it up in the dirt too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
A-Spec trim means dark chrome around the grille, plus lots of glossy black accents, especially around the redesigned lower fascia. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
The A-Spec’s 20-inch 10-spoke Shark Grey alloys on lower profile 265/45 rubber look fabulous. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
Discreet A-Spec badging can be found all-round and inside too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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). 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
A revised rear bumper with a diffuser-style gloss black centre panel and bigger, fatter chromed tailpipe finishers at each corner round out the MDX A-Spec look. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
Those are perforated suede-like Alcantara inserts on the seats, adding plush all-season comfort and lots of backside grip. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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. 

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec
Here’s a better shot of those Alcantara and leather sport seats. Check out all the photos in the gallery above… (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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…

Acura rolled a few eyes when introducing its somewhat wordy Super Handling All-Wheel Drive back in 2004, but as soon as the automotive press drove the brand’s then-new 2005 RL flagship luxury sedan…

Acura marks 15 years of Super Handling All-Wheel Drive

2004 Acura RL SH-AWD
Acura introducing Super Handling All-Wheel Drive on its RL flagship luxury sedan back in 2004. (Photo: Acura)

Acura rolled a few eyes when introducing its somewhat wordy Super Handling All-Wheel Drive back in 2004, but as soon as the automotive press drove the brand’s then-new 2005 RL flagship luxury sedan all snickering stopped, it really was super. 

A decade and a half later the Japanese luxury brand is now celebrating a significant milestone, the 15th anniversary of its industry-leading torque-vectoring SH-AWD technology. To mark the event, Acura has produced a video (see below) highlighting the advanced all-wheel drive system’s history and capability. 

2014 Acura MDX SH-AWD
Shown here in 2014 trim, the 2007 MDX was second in line to receive SH-AWD. (Photo: Acura)

SH-AWD actively and continually distributes engine torque between the front and rear wheels, from 70 percent to the front and 30 percent to the rear, or 30 percent to the front and 70 percent to the rear, while additionally up to 100 percent of rear twist could be distributed to either the left or right wheel to reduce understeer and therefore aid high-speed cornering. Of course, SH-AWD has improved with each new generation, and now is either standard or available in five of Acura’s six models. 

2007 Acura RDX SH-AWD
The first-generation RDX soon followed the RL and MDX with an SH-AWD system of its own. (Photo: Acura)

The latest version of Acura’s mechanical SH-AWD, now in its fourth generation, debuted on the new 2019 RDX last year, with 40 percent greater torque capacity at the rear axle, quicker front-to-rear torque transfer, plus 30 percent faster torque transfer between the left and right rear wheels. 

2017 Acura NSX
The second-generation NSX, introduced for 2017, was the first to incorporate Acura’s new Sport Hybrid SH-AWD system. (Photo: Acura)

Looking toward the future, the 2014 RLX Sport Hybrid, the second-generation 2017 NSX, and the 2017 MDX Sport Hybrid came equipped with the most advanced iteration of SH-AWD yet. The new Sport Hybrid SH-AWD system incorporates electric motor torque for a more immediate application of four-wheel performance as well as much greater efficiency. 

2017 Acura NSX, RLX and MDX
The NSX, RLX and the top-line MDX incorporate Sport Hybrid SH-AWD, which combines performance and efficiency benefits. (Photo: Acura)

The mid-engine NSX supercar utilizes a unique design with three electric motors, two of which form a Twin Motor Unit (TMU) that distributes torque to each front wheel individually, whereas the RLX and MDX reverse the process with the gas-electric hybrid engine up front and TMU in back, distributing torque between each rear wheel, just like with the mechanical SH-AWD system. Despite the different layouts, the supercar, sport sedan and three-row SUV that feature Acura’s electrified Sport Hybrid SH-AWD system apply identical technologies and use many of the same components. 

2019 Acura RDX SH-AWD
Check out the video below to learn more about Acura’s various SH-AWD systems. (Photo: Acura)

Also notable, later this year Acura will be celebrating another milestone, one million SH-AWD-equipped vehicles sold worldwide. Past models equipped with SH-AWD have included the RL (2005-2012) that utilized the first-generation system, the MDX (2007-2015), RDX (2007-2012), TL (2009-2014), and ZDX (2010-2013) that incorporated the second-generation system with Hill Logic, VSA and TCS, the TLX (2015-present) and MDX (2016-present) that feature the third-generation system with a 25-percent lighter rear differential and more, RDX (2019-present) that boasts the fourth-generation system with a more compact and quicker responding design, and lastly the RLX Sport Hybrid (2015-present), NSX (2017-present) and MDX Sport Hybrid (2017-present) that feature the electrified Sport Hybrid SH-AWD system. 

Make sure to check out our photo gallery above to see images of all the aforementioned Acura models past and present, plus remember to watch the “What is Acura Super Handling All-Wheel Drive?” video below that details out the history and capability of Acura’s SH-AWD system: 

What is Acura Super Handling All-Wheel Drive? (6:23):