Detroit 2013: 2014 Acura MDX Prototype Cuts a Clean Path

Acura is very proud to reveal the new MDX is 16 percent more aerodynamically efficient than the model it replaces. Much of this improvement comes from a new front-end treatment; some of it comes from the car's 1.5-inch-lower sloping roofline. While the MDX is slicker than the model it replaces when the winds kick up, we'd hazard that the 2014 MDX is just as slick as it ever was.

When we say "slick," we mean that the MDX has always been, and will continue to be, an inoffensive SUV that mixes handsome styling (nothing brash here) with good performance and commendable driving dynamics and convenience. That the 2013 MDX continues to lead Acura's sales sheet even as a new model sheds its shiny cloth cover is a testament to its philosophy of trying to be all things to all people. Even as Nissan unveiled a new SUV concept hoping to "shock the market," Acura's MDX reveal seemed to say "this is the new model. The previous one was very good, this one is better, and it's going to be difficult to hate it."

In person the MDX looks better than pictures would suggest, but this is still unmistakably an Acura three-row crossover. The flashiest features on this prototype are its headlights, the new Jewel Eye LED arrays that we first saw on the NSX and RLX prototypes. The combination of LED headlights and LED running lights on the lower front fascia are a nod to the three-row crossover customer's taste for mild bling, but this trucklet will hardly be mistaken for an Escalade or Mercedes-Benz GL. The rest of the car is gently curved and creased, with a few strips of LEDs and chrome and not much more embellishment.

The longer wheelbase (which increases second-row legroom; whether or not it does the same for the third row is unconfirmed) does stretch the MDX's proportions a bit, but overall it lacks the melted/stretched look of the Infiniti JX. Acura wouldn't show off the MDX's interior, but expect tasteful appointments, lashes of leather, and a start button in a shade of deep rouge. If you're willing to pay for it, there'll also be the option of Acura's ubiquitous ELS premium surround sound system. If memory serves us correctly, it'll be quite loud.

There's no secret that Acura is struggling with some of its models: its RL has been relegated to niche status and tech-happy customers may not warm to the 2014 RLX's bland looks; the ILX can be a good performer but also curiously optioned and curiously priced; the TSX's future is hazy; the stunning NSX (which reportedly received a standing ovation at last year's Detroit show; no car has since) is still two long years away from showrooms. But the MDX, as always, provides the Japanese luxury automaker with a solid backbone. The MDX didn't need to be brash or hugely different because it's a known quantity, a trusted performer on the road and on the spreadsheets.

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