First Look: 2014 Acura MDX Prototype

The Acura MDX you can buy today at dealers is not an old car, nor is it a bad one; thanks to its handsome styling and endearing driving dynamics, all the SUV would need to last another six or so years on sale would be a nice freshening. Acura seems to agree with this statement: the 2014 MDX Prototype on the stand at the Detroit auto show isn’t a massive departure from the current model; rather, it’s an elegant follow-up to today’s successful crossover.

As with most Acura concepts that end in the word “Prototype,” what you’re looking at is at least 90 percent similar to the car you’ll be able to test drive in a few months. With that said, Acura will only release major details on the exterior of the vehicle, not the interior. Fine by us: the existing MDX’s interior was perfectly fine.

On the subject of the exterior, the largest change to the 2014 MDX is that the new SUV rides a longer platform than the previous-generation model. Acura says that the stretch pays dividends for second- and third-row passengers, which were slightly cramped in the current model. Visually speaking, that stretched wheelbase shows in the elongated rear doors and long rear quarter panels with stretched quarter windows. Strangely, the 2014 MDX claims a “more spacious cabin” despite having a roofline some 1.5-inches lower than the 2013.

Elsewhere around the car, however, the visual updates are fairly conservative. The MDX keeps Acura’s corporate grille insert reminiscent of certain Gillette products, but it’s a bit more inset into the grille, in the same vein as the RDX or ILX. The headlights are even shorter as the car makes moves from HID projectors to “Jewel Eyes,” Acura’s new LED headlight arrays. The lower front fascia houses a faux-skid panel and two apertures with thin LED running lights.

Out back, the MDX follows the lead of its smaller sibling, the RDX, and uses flat-top taillights that take on the shape of sideways letter Ps. Inside are two horizontal strips of LEDs, which match the reflector strips (also lit by LEDs) next to the rear skid plate at the bottom of the bumper.

The updates may look minor, but Acura says that its main focus was increasing the trucklet’s aerodynamic efficiency. Those slices, bulges, and curves not only look handsome, but they also serve a purpose: the 2014 MDX is 16 percent more aerodynamic than before.

Better aerodynamics means better fuel efficiency, and Acura also spent plenty of time and money on other ways to increase the all-important MPG figures. That starts with the engine: out is the old 3.7-liter engine and in is the 3.5-liter, direct-injected SOHC V-6 from Honda’s Earth Dreams toolbox. Power output figures haven’t yet been released, but expect the engine to produce similar figures to the 2014 RLX, which uses the same engine: 310 hp, and 265 lb-ft. The engine also includes variable cylinder management to shut off three cylinders under partial throttle and low load.

Just how efficient will that make the 2014 MDX? That isn’t clear yet: while we do know that the new V-6 will be more efficient than the one it replaces, it’s unclear what type of transmission will be bolted to the back of it. Acura is silent on the matter, but we expect to see an updated version of the current six-speed automatic transmission, just as in the 2014 RLX.

Recognizing that the MDX is popular in warmer climes as well as the Snowbelt, the 2014 MDX is the first generation of MDX to offer either front- or all-wheel drive. Fans of torque vectoring will be pleased to know the 2014 MDX AWD will continue to use Acura’s excellent Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system.

This being an Acura, the MDX will arrive in showrooms equipped with plenty of high-tech safety and infotainment features. The 2014 will offer adaptive cruise control with the addition of a low-speed follow feature that will accelerate and decelerate the car automatically in stop-and-go traffic; the forward collision warning and blind-spot information systems remain optional. The 2014 also adds lane-departure warning with a brake-based lane-keep assist, and a multi-angle rear-view camera.

While Acura won’t let us see inside the MDX just yet, we do know that the car will feature plenty of infotainment goodies as well. They include a new version of Acura’s ELS premium audio system, which now works with Pandora and Aha internet radio services. The car also features a new generation of AcuraLink that offers fee-based safety services like remote locking/unlocking, a live concierge, and automatic 911 operator dialing.

The MDX will go into production shortly at Acura’s Lincoln, Alabama plant; the car is due in showrooms “by mid-2013.”

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20 City / 28 Hwy

Cargo (Std/Max):

15 / 91 cu. ft.