Archive for the MDX Category

Reviews: 2022 Acura MDX Tech, 2021 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring [And some Legend/Integra Stuff]

Posted in Accord, Integra, Legend, MDX, Vehicle Reviews on May 15, 2021 by tysonhugie

Let the good times roll! I got to enjoy a couple more new vehicles in recent weeks, aside from my previously-tested Honda Ridgeline in the last blog post.

The Accord is now in its 10th generation and I was blown away at the level of content for a $38k pricetag – not to mention that the car gets over 40 mpg. My video link is below.

The MDX, on the other hand, is now in its 4th generation as of the 2021 model year, and it is definitely the best yet. My video on that is also below.

Stats / Summary:

2022 Acura MDX SH-AWD A-Spec

290 hp 3.5-liter VTEC; 7-passenger, 10-speed automatic, $58,125 as-tested

Good Stuff:


  • New design is attractive
  • Attention to detail – true “Flagship” level of quality
  • Lighting front & rear

Performance / Drivability:

  • Steering wheel weight / effort
  • Great acceleration, smooth power delivery
  • Good grip and handling for a vehicle of its size & height
  • Sturdy overall feel
  • Turning radius surprisingly good

Amenities / Tech:

  • Precision cockpit design, materials and finishes top notch
  • Mini MDX in gauge cluster
  • Good screens – size, resolution
  • Nice back-up camera
  • Great panoramic roof with sliding shade
  • Sound system A+
  • Wireless charging tech
  • Tri-zone climate / heated & ventilated seats
  • Ambient interior lighting at night

Not a Huge Fan:

  • Learning curve with infotainment
  • Observed MPG (16 over 200 miles in-town)
  • Friend suggestion – Maybe incorporate HUD into this trim (Avail on Advance)

Changing things up a bit from the reviews, I will share a couple other videos about recent fun. My friend Scott from Palm Springs picked up a 1994 Legend LS coupe automatic a few weeks ago and I got to celebrate his 200,000th milestone in it on his way back to Palm Springs.

Also, another friend Mark scooped up a 1992 Integra GS-R locally that I helped him pick up, so I filmed a video with that as well. The car is now on its way to Connecticut.

Have a great weekend!

Drive to Five Review: Nevada Ghost Towning in the 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid

Posted in Ghost Town, MDX, Nevada, Utah, Vehicle Reviews on February 13, 2018 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Integra):  246,192

Odometer (MDX):  5,756

Trip Distance:  1,056 Miles

I needed a workhorse to travel back to an 1800s mining town this past weekend and Acura gave me just the right vehicle for the job.  After now completing over 1,000 miles in the latest iteration of its 3-row SUV, I can say with a certainty that the latest MDX is a capable, fun-to-drive machine that offers up first class comfort for a trip of that distance.  Do I have to give it back?

This now marks the fourth time I’ve put a third-generation MDX through its paces.  Here are some prior reviews from here on the blog:

Coming up in April, Las Vegas, Nevada will once again play home to a regional Acura NSX club meet-up called WestFest.  Last year, the event brought out over 50 cars and 80 people.  As part of the planning committee, my role is to establish and plan out the logistics of a scenic group drive to be held on Saturday, April 28th.  It’s not easy to come up with drives for a caravan of that size.


  • Where haven’t we been yet?
  • What will traffic & weather patterns be like on the day & time of our trip?
  • What are the road conditions – are they appropriate for a group of sportscars?
  • Are there any tolls or park fees to consider?
  • How can we keep everyone together, or does it make more sense to split the group?
  • Are there places for fuel and snack stops along the way?

As one can imagine, it takes a great deal of effort to coordinate such an activity.  I partnered up with my friends Dane and Brandon, both Las Vegas locals, to take the MDX out on Saturday morning and scout the terrain.  It was the perfect vehicle for our expedition to the desert:  Second-row accommodations are posh, with captains’ chairs and plenty of space all around.  There are of course independent climate controls for passengers in those areas.  Meanwhile, I pampered myself up front with a heated seat heater, heated steering wheel, and convenient cup holder for my iced caramel macchiato.  You’d think we were going to the local shopping mall and not to the middle of nowhere.

Our drive route for the day was about 160 miles and took us 4 hours from start to finish, including our sightseeing and lunch stops.

Nelson, Nevada is one of many ghost towns in the vast expanses of land around the southwest.  It’s nestled in El Dorado Canyon, about 12 miles off Highway 95 to the east.  If you blink, you might miss the turnoff, so it’s a good thing Dane was coaching me from the passenger seat on where to make my exit at Highway 165.  We passed only one other vehicle on the way into Nelson from there.

The two-laner got a little more narrow, a little more rough, and more curvy as we dipped down in elevation toward the Colorado River.  Soon the buildings of the old mining town came into view, along with dozens of old cars left out to the elements with windows down (or broken out) and interiors rotting away.  I parked the MDX in a dirt lot and we got outside to wander around a little, noting how silent it was outside aside from the scuffling sound made from our shoes on the gravel.

We must have been the first tourists in town that day, because an old man came out of what appeared to be the main general store and put away the ‘closed’ sign while inviting us inside.  The wooden building doubles as his home, but he sells all sorts of remnants of the Wild West in there.  My favorite display was an exhibit of some the various films that the town of Nelson has appeared in, including the Kurt Russell classic “Breakdown.”

Luckily for us (and unlike Kurt Russell’s red Jeep Grand Cherokee in that movie), the MDX was didn’t give us any check-engine lights or troubles of any nature.  We snapped a few photos in Nelson before continuing eastward another few miles to where we could nearly drive right to the banks of the mighty Colorado River on a dirt road.  There was a nice paved turnaround spot that I think will make for a perfect photo-op for the group of NSXs at the April event.

Our next destination on the drive loop was Searchlight, Nevada – a teeny spot on the map that (like most small towns in that area) – got its start as a mining community in the late 1800s but mostly dried up by the mid 1950s.  The name came from one of its original prospectors who said, “It would take a searchlight to find gold out here.”

Dane, Brandon, and I rolled onward toward Highway 164 westbound and then over to Interstate 15 northbound.  I hit the gas on the onramp.  For a full size SUV that’s loaded down with technology and comfort niceties, the MDX still scoots down the road with more than ample power.  I observed an overall combined MPG of about 26 despite going heavy on the throttle a few times.  Range on a full tank is in the high 400s.

The Country Club Buffet at Primm Valley Casino, right along the California-Nevada state line, satisfied our hunger before we made our last stop of the day.  Stacked along the east side of I-15 are 7 columns of vividly painted boulders, referred to as “Seven Magic Mountains.”  The massive rocks were cut from a nearby quarry and painted fluorescent colors by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone.  The art installation was opened in 2016 and will be removed sometime this year, so I was glad to get a chance to see it.

The MDX stickers at $58,000 as-tested, including Tech & Advance packages with a full suite of AcuraWatch driver-assistance aids.  I found the LKAS (Lane Keeping Assist System) to be helpful but could do without the ACC (Adaptive Cruise Control).  I much prefer to set a cruise speed and have it be maintained – with the Adaptive engaged, the vehicle starts slowing down well in advance of approaching a vehicle ahead, so you have to change lanes very early which isn’t always possible or convenient.  It’s something I could learn to live with, but just an observation.  The only other gripe I had was with the aesthetics of the black wheels.

There’s a lot to love about the MDX.  Those captivating jewel eye headlights with LED turn signals are just as much “function” as they are “form.”  The ELS Studio Premium audio system will knock your socks off.  I set the bass and the subwoofer to maximum levels for optimal punch, and it retained crisp clarity all the way up to max volume level 40.  Sirius XM channel “90s on 9” never sounded so good.  And if it’s solitude you want, a quiet cabin is easy to achieve too.  I sailed along at 75 mph with minimal wind, road, and engine noise.  The MDX’s 7-speed dual-clutch transmission keeps the revs low at those speeds.

It was tough to give the keys back after being pampered for 7 days, but I was glad for the opportunity to sample the high life!  Below is a 7-minute video and a collection of other photos from my week with the Modern Steel Metallic MDX.  Thanks, Acura, for the loaner!

Back seat comfort

Fueling up at Circle K in Phoenix

And we’re off!

Rolling into Las Vegas at sunset

5,000 mile milestone!

Arrival in Nelson

The ‘general store’ in Nelson

Loved this 1950 Buick!

Next stop:  Interstate 15

Red carpet treatment!  Brandon & Dane getting the door at Primm Valley

Seven Magic Mountains in the Nevada desert

Brandon’s 1993 Legend L 6-speed coupe

MDX parked in front of Siegfried and Roy’s house in Las Vegas!  See the “SR” on the gate?

Thanks for coming along for the ride!

500k Milestone Five-Year Anniversary & Shapshots: An Acura a Day for 7 Workdays

Posted in ILX, Integra, Legend, MDX, NSX, Vigor on November 4, 2016 by tysonhugie

Because why not?  Space #1 B1-346 always looks nice at my office.

  • Thursday, October 27 – 2017 Acura MDX


  • Friday, October 28 – 1994 Acura Legend Coupe


  • Monday, October 31 – 2013 Acura ILX


  • Tuesday, November 1 – 1994 Acura Legend Sedan


  • Wednesday, November 2 – 1992 Acura NSX


  • Thursday, November 3 – 1992 Acura Integra GS-R


  • Friday, November 4 – 1994 Acura Vigor GS


Hard to believe it’s been 5 years since the day I drove to Acura’s headquarters in Torrance, California and rolled onto the red carpet with 500,000.1 miles on the odometer in my 1994 Legend coupe.  I’m now 48,850 more miles down the highway in that car and don’t plan on retiring it any time soon.  Many thanks to those of you who have been along for the ride from the beginning, as well as those who came onboard more recently!

I’m catching a flight this afternoon to Orlando, Florida for this year’s NSXPO event.  More to come on that soon.

Have a great weekend!


Drive to Five Review: 2017 Acura MDX Advance; Canyon Lake Legend Meet

Posted in Arizona, Legend, MDX, Vehicle Reviews on November 1, 2016 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  548,850


Odometer (MDX):  1,817


Last Thursday at Bashas’ supermarket in uptown Phoenix, I put the newest Acura MDX to the test doing what it does best!  I made all the soccer moms jealous with every family’s dream ride:  a three-row SUV that brings the comforts of home into a grocery-getter that’s surprisingly fun to drive.


This striking $57k top-line model brings in all the bells and whistles, including some new-this-year amenities for second-row passengers:  heated seats and captain chairs.  The kids never had it so good!



Prior MDX write-ups are here.  I’ve been lucky to get my mitts on a couple prior iterations of this fine people-mover:

Now in its third generation, this 2017 model is the ‘refreshed’ version of the bodystyle that debuted in 2014.  This latest version wears Acura’s refreshed front end with a grille devoid of the “shield” we’d become familiar with since 2009.  Instead, the styling is now derived from Acura’s Precision Concept and is pentagonal in shape.  Continuing rearward, the design is clean and carried over from prior iterations.  The wheels are 20″ in diameter and a handsome design.  Bling bling!


The MDX gives me a “they’ve thought of everything” feeling.  The lights on underside of the sideview mirrors turn on as you approach the vehicle at night to illuminate the ground below.  The liftgate is powered electronically.  And the auto start/stop feature (a fuel-savings enhancement to shut off the motor temporarily at idle when stopped) can be triggered by the level of brake pedal pressure applied.  It took me a couple of minutes to figure that one out, but I fell in love with it when I did.



Bottom line:  this is the most technologically-advanced MDX ever, and it has to be:  the three-row luxury SUV segment in which it dwells is extremely competitive.  And clearly Acura is doing something right:  The MDX is the brand’s top-selling vehicle, moving over 5,000 units in October 2016 (up 23% over the prior September).


My test vehicle was a White Diamond Pearl All-Wheel-Drive “Advance” model with Tech, Advance, and AcuraWatch packages.  Basically, “fully loaded.”  The driver seat is 10-way adjustable.  The climate control system has 3 zones.  Everything is push-button or even hands-free.  If you can’t get comfortable driving this MDX, you’re a lost cause.  I had my fair share of fun with it during my 7 days of cruising around in it.  The MDX is the king of the urban jungle.  I noticed that for being a larger vehicle it’s still easy to navigate in crowded city streets and still has great visibility.


It’s easy to see why SUVs have such a stronghold on modern families.  It was nice to have the higher step-in height, and I loved being able to reach straight out the driver side window to swipe my badge and get into my office’s parking garage (as opposed to being in the ILX and having to reach upward to reach the sensor).  Similarly, ATMs are so much more convenient when they’re right at arm level.  I could get used to that!


Power delivery in the MDX is smooth and predictable with the 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter engine and 9-speed automatic transmission.  For having so many gears, I found the MDX to do surprisingly little gear-hunting.  It is decisive and determined to understand its driver.  While my travels didn’t take me off the beaten path, based on my prior experience with putting a third-gen MDX through its dirt-road paces, I would proclaim this SUV just as comfortable on-road as off-road.  Versatility is the name of the game.


Is there room in my garage for an MDX right now?  Absolutely.  Do I have a need for one?  Not at all.  Which isn’t to say it would come in handy from time to time.  As a single 34-year-old, I may not fit the target buyer market for this vehicle.  For those who do, it hits an absolute bullseye.

Many thanks to Acura for letting me behind the wheel!




Few other fun pieces of news below from the past week or so.

1979 Honda Accord from The Simpsons – Thanks, Tim, for sending this to me.  Love it.

MDX at night


My friend Daniel stopped by in his 2012 Acura TL, bringing the Acura count at my place to 8.


I put up some new posters at the house including three nice, framed 24×36 prints.


Battery replacement for both Legends!  Both were 4+ years old.  Thanks Autozone.


On Saturday morning, I met up with some Legend owners for a cruise to Tortilla Flat near Apache Junction in eastern Mesa, Arizona.  We cruised up Highway 88 through the Tonto National Forest.


Left to right:  Gabe, Leon, Tyson


Leon’s interior on his 127,000-mile 1994 LS coupe in Pearl White is really nice.


Gabe’s car looks great too considering it is 24 years old and has 257,000 miles.


Great scenery all around!


Group shot


Headed back toward civilization, but stopping at the shores of Canyon Lake for a pic.


Magic Number Five, High Mileage Stories, & 2017 MDX Teaser

Posted in ILX, Legend, MDX, Milestones on February 24, 2016 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  542,130


Odometer (ILX):  155,679


Ever have a weird moment when something happens and it’s too perfect to be coincidental?  You might be driving down the road and a song comes on that talks about a specific landmark you’re passing.  Or, as happened to me recently, a song came on that had a tempo absolutely identical to the pace of my ILX’s windshield wipers.  For the entire 3 minute & 33-second duration of Rascal Flatts’ “I Like the Sound of That,” my wipers were rocking out to the exact pace of that song.

But just now as I was uploading the below picture of my 55,555 and 155,555 mile odometer shots in the ILX, my eye caught the bottom of the text box I was editing here in WordPress and I saw this:


What in the world?  I had to screen shot it because the timing couldn’t have been better.


So there you have it:

  • 55,555 Miles on October 7, 2013 en route to St. George Utah
  • 155,555 Miles on February 22, 2016 on my way home from work

And both, mind you, striving for exactly 55 miles per hour but falling just a tad short.

Oh, and one more thing.  Dad turned 55 years old the next day.  BOOM.  My Instagram post:


I guess this blog really became named Drive to Five for a reason.

I had a newcomer in the garage for one night as my friend Hy entrusted me with his pride and joy 2004 Acura TSX.  With just 61,000 miles on the odometer, this beautiful little 6-speed looks like it’s fresh off the showroom floor.  I especially like the body kit and chrome wheels.



“Fastidious” is the best way to describe Hy’s care for this automobile.  Two layers of floor mats, towels on the seats, and a clear bra on the front end that keeps rock chips at bay.  It’s no wonder the car looks, smells, and drives like it’s brand new (not 12 years old).


Meanwhile the Legend got to see some daylight for a bit.  It’s developed a nagging power steering leak which is becoming quite aggressive.  That comes as a disappointment since the entire rack & pinion was replaced just 12,000 miles ago for $800 with a remanufactured unit.  How did my original power steering system last 530,000 miles before it developed a leak, and my remanufactured one lasted only 12,000?


I have a couple of high-mileage stories for you to kill time with today.


This one is apparently old news, but for some reason I’m just now learning about it.  There’s a guy named Habib who delivers medical supplies in his 2006 Honda Civic all across Kentucky.  This 51-page thread on the Civic enthusiast forums chronicles his progress as he racks up the miles.  In 2012, he was featured on Jalopnik at 750,000 miles, and as of latest update on his forum post (this month) the car is still running and driveable but sidelined at 1,100,000 due to a bad head gasket.  He plans on fixing it and continuing to drive.

I’m also introducing “Russell” from Connecticut to my blog audience.  He reached out to me this week to report that his 2001 Acura MDX has over 495,000 miles on it.  Russell bought the MDX brand new in April 2001 and has spent the last 15 years driving it on average 33,000 miles per year.  He’s on his second transmission but otherwise has had very few unexpected maintenance needs.  Most interesting of all:  his choice in fuel.  Russell has run only 87 octane for most of the MDX’s life.  “Premium Fuel Required”?  Maybe not.


Speaking of MDX news, get a glimpse below of the soon-to-be-revealed 2017 MDX in the below image from a press release that came out today.  The real deal will be unveiled in a press conference at the New York Auto Show on March 23rd.


One more little quirky mileage find:  This 1993 Acura Vigor automatic with 355,781 miles on it was found on a craiglist posting here in the Phoenix area.  How in world did that little 2.5 liter 5-cylinder get so far?  I’m tempted to call the seller/owner just to ask and find out.


My dad & stepmom are flying in from northern Utah tomorrow so we’ll have a few adventures to share with you on the flipside.

Have a great rest of the week!

Drive to Five Review: 2015 Acura MDX – Off-Roading in Bloody Basin

Posted in Arizona, MDX, Road Trip, Vehicle Reviews on March 17, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  532,742


Odometer (ILX):  116,312


Odometer (MDX):  7,636


Trip Distance:  164 Miles



“What are your weekend plans?” asked Carin at Great Clips while she worked the sides of my head with the hair clippers.  “I’m going on a little off-road drive with a few friends,” I told her.  I could see the wheels spinning figuratively in her head, probably thinking of some extreme rock-crawling adventure with Jeep Wranglers.  “What are you going to drive?”  “An Acura MDX,” I told her.  “Wait, isn’t that a luxury car?”  I took a minute to educate her.  What’s the point of having a four-by if you aren’t going to use it?



In November 2013, I did a full review of the then-new 2014 Acura MDX.  For the 2015 model year, the MDX carries onward unchanged (“if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”) and I was again this year given the chance to put Acura’s best-selling SUV through a real-world driving evaluation over the past week.  My test MDX was born in Lincoln, Alabama but already had over 7,000 miles on it by the time it arrived at my house.  It was painted Obsidian Blue Pearl and loaded to the max with option packages.  Bottom line on the as-tested vehicle was $57,765.  I’ll share details about those options later on.

For a chance to exercise this luxo-SUV on a variety of road conditions, I asked around and got a few recommendations.  The route that we chose would give us a taste of freeway, two-lane, and off-road sections over the course of its 160-mile length.


From Scottsdale, eight of us headed out on Sunday morning with a foursome of varied sport utility vehicles:  2003 Ford Expedition, 2015 Nissan Murano, 2015 Toyota RAV4, and the 2015 MDX.  The grades on Interstate 17 climb sharply from the Phoenix Valley toward Flagstaff.  The MDX cruised comfortably at 75-80 mph and it’s difficult to tell you’re even going that fast – wind/road noise is near non-existent.  Our destination was Forest Road 269, also known as “Bloody Basin Road.”  It takes off from I-17 at mile marker 259.  From there, the pavement ends and the fun begins as the road heads eastward through some remote backcountry that is rich in history.


Along the way, we would be passing by Indian ruins and other abandoned dwellings.  Bloody Basin gets its name from a series of armed conflicts between new settlers in the area and the native Apache people.  One particular massacre happened in 1864 when a party led by a man named King Woolsey killed 29 Indians.  Legend has it that the stream ran red with their blood.  Bloody Basin Road goes through the Agua Fria National Monument, a 50,000-acre area that contains some well-preserved ancient ruins that were occupied between 1250 and 1450 AD.


But you didn’t come here for a history lesson.  How about that MDX?  Over 50 miles of rough dirt road later, I can attest:  This SUV is as refined in rugged territory as it is on a high-class date to the symphony.  Bloody Basin dished out its fair share of terrain that made us raise our eyebrows in wonder:  Do we have enough ground clearance?  Is this going to scratch one of the wheels?  How deep is that water?  No task seemed too difficult to undertake.  The MDX’s MacPherson-strut-equipped suspension kept Chris’ Starbucks beverage from sloshing around too much on the washboard ruts.  And that, in his book, was enough to give it a firm stamp of approval.


Prior to the off-road portion, Mike in the Expedition had remarked:  “I brought tow straps in case we need to pull any of these ‘cute-utes’ out of the rough stuff.”  Well, Mike didn’t end up needing those straps after all.  In fact, we rolled onward confidently in the comfort of ventilated seats, XM radio, and tri-zone automatic climate control.  Heck, if we’d had enough riders, I could have had people in the back seat watching movies on the ultra-wide 16.2″ DVD system with headphones!


Meanwhile, each of the dozen or so vehicles which passed us going the opposite direction gave us the same look of, “What do they think they’re doing here in that?”  It seemed like all the other vehicles on the trail were lifted 4Runners or full-size pickup trucks. The route was full of scenic photo-ops so we took advantage of the chance to pull over and enjoy it (and, to give the dog Jake a chance to stretch his legs and lap up a little bit of water).


At one point we decided to take a steep side trail to the top of a small mountain.  The MDX 3.5-liter V6 pulled the vehicle effortlessly to the summit without even requiring a lot of throttle input.  It produces 290 horsepower and is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission that can be manually shifted with paddles on the steering wheel for maximum control.


King of the hill!  No sweat.


After about 27 miles, we made it to the junction with Forest Road 24, also known as Seven Springs Road, where we hung a right and continued on in the rough stuff.  That trail passes by a recreation area with picnic tables and a creek.  Eventually it becomes Cave Creek Road and goes past Sears Kay Ruin which I visited last year.  By this time, we were all ready to kiss the asphalt because we’d been eating dust clouds for the last few hours.


Beau and I were following Matt & Alan and I noticed that Matt’s right front tire looked low.  Sure enough, it quickly deflated and we all pulled over for some emergency roadside action.  In a matter of minutes, they’d thrown on the donut and we continued on our way.


The remarkable thing is that despite everything we’d thrown at it, the MDX alignment continued to track straight and true.  Not one shimmy, shake, or rattle, manifested itself once we got back to paved civilization.  In fact, the MDX out-paced the other 3 vehicles by sprinting through some fun corners on the two-laner heading past Bartlett Lake.  The Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive system shows its value both on-road and off.  Multiple times throughout the day, people remarked about how composed and sure-footed the ride was.  It inspires confidence to be in a vehicle that is capable of virtually any type of terrain.

I spent $4 at the self-serve coin-op car wash and by nightfall, the MDX looked as good as new again.  It’s a vehicle that gives the creature comforts of a luxury sedan, the people-hauling capability of a minivan (it seats 7), and the go-anywhere versatility of a 4×4.  Coming from my daily driver ILX, I enjoyed the higher step-in height and the more empowering sense of “presence” on the road.  It’s no wonder the MDX is Acura’s best-seller.  Many thanks to the folks at Acura for allowing me a few days behind the wheel.

Here are the rest of the pictures and a short 1-minute video from our little day-trip.

Entering Agua Fria National Monument – before getting too dirty.


Pit stop overlooking the Tonto National Forest


Ridin’ dirty


Obsidian Blue started looking like Dirt Brown.


Jewel Eyes


Rav, MDX, Murano, taking a break along Seven Springs Road



Bloody Basin is part of the 3,000 mile route from Mexico to Canada called “Great Western Trail”


So.  Much.  Dust.


Matt & Alan swapped out the Murano spare tire here alongside the road.


Lunch at Big Earl’s Greasy Eats in Cave Creek.  I’ve blogged about it before.



MDX Equipment, As-Tested

MPG 18 city, 27 highway, 21 combined

Tech Package:

  • Navigation system with Voice Recognition
  • ELS Premium Audio System with 12 Speakers
  • HD Radio
  • Tri-Zone Climate Control
  • LED Puddle Lights

Advance Package:

  • Collision Mitigation Braking System
  • Sport Seats with Perforated (and Ventilated!) Leather
  • Remote Engine Start
  • Lane Keeping Assist System & Adaptive Cruise Control

Entertainment Package:

  • 16.2″ DVD Rear Entertainment System with Wireless Headrests
  • Heated 2nd Row Seats
  • Rear Door Sunshades


Drive to Five Review: 2014 Acura MDX

Posted in Arizona, MDX, Road Trip, Vehicle Reviews on November 19, 2013 by tysonhugie

Odometer (MDX):  3,180


Odometer (ILX):  59,275


Odometer (Legend):  527,902



Button Bestseller

Of the 14,296 new Acuras sold last month, 39% of them were this one single model.  What makes it so special?  After being coddled and pampered by Acura’s flagship RLX Advance sedan last weekend, I set out to put its SUV counterpart through a similar evaluation and find out.


When I was growing up, my family’s go-anywhere rig was this Grenadine Metallic 1988 Jeep Cherokee Laredo 4×4.  My dad called it the “rattle trap,” and for very good reason.  It was perhaps the most unrefined vehicle I’ve ever been in.  We subjected it to multiple rugged hunting trips and I recall at least one time when the inline-6 engine overheated while pulling our 2 jetskis home from Lake Mead in Nevada.


Those 15″ Eagle Alloy custom wheels were so 1990’s, weren’t they?

It’s mind-boggling how far the SUV world has come in the 25 model years since that rickety 1988 Jeep rolled off the line.  I got a brief taste of the all-new 2014 Acura MDX Advance at the Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year competition a couple of weeks ago, and the MDX reigned supreme in the “Luxury Family” division there.  As over 100 athlete evaluators agreed, luxury is a role that the MDX fits very well.  It provides so many creature comforts that the window sticker has 54 separate bullet points to describe everything that’s included.


Most journalists would probably be content to just drive the MDX for a week in their normal urban commutes (yawn).  On Saturday, I decided to grab a few adventurous friends and take things a step further:  I took the MDX off-roading.


Today’s Route

Arizona Highway 88 – the “Apache Trail” – has long been a favorite drive of mine.  It’s a road with split personalities:  for the first 20 or so miles, it’s a paved two-laner with hairpins and sharp curves in abundance.  For the last 20 miles, it’s an off-road experience with some of the best desert scenery in the southwestern United States.  I last drove this road in June in the ILX.  On Saturday, I rallied a few amigos and headed for the Apache Trail hills in search of some MD Xcapades.  Here’s the route we took from Apache Junction to Roosevelt Lake.


Fueled up on $7.95 “All American” breakfast combos from the Waffle House in Apache Junction, Arizona, 9 of us set out in 3 vehicles to explore these great back-roads:  the 2014 Acura MDX Advance, a 2014 Nissan Pathfinder, and a 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer.  For the first stretch of road, I took the lead and set the pace as we climbed the twisty switchbacks of the Apache Trail.  I loved the MDX step-in height and its commanding presence on the road (I’m used to cars that sit much lower).

The 3.5 liter V6 was anxious to provide necessary torque.  Did you know that its 290-hp powerplant has no scheduled tune-ups for over 100,000 miles?  That’s something worth considering if you’re a hyper-miler like me.  The degree of body roll was far less than I would have expected from a vehicle of its high profile.  On the road, the MDX behaved more like a sedan than an SUV.



A Change of Scenery

Soon, we passed a yellow sign on the side of the road:  “PAVEMENT ENDS 500 FEET.”  I was unfraid.

As the blacktop ended and we passed a Saturn Vue that was crawling along at a snail’s pace, the MDX began to show its prowess as a mountain crawler.  Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) gave me confidence and competence in conquering the road’s terrain.  Right away, I noticed how helpful the MacPherson strut front suspension was at soaking up the washboard ruts on the road.  The suspension tuning, coupled with the AWD system, enabled all 4 tires to grab even when I went heavy on the throttle.  The MDX grips the road like it’s driving on fly-paper.  I tried unsuccessfully for 22 dirty miles to get it to lose traction.



You know those grab handles attached to the ceiling above each door inside most vehicles?  Better make sure those are tightly fastened before attempting to descend the “Fish Creek Grade” on the Apache Trail.  The ruts in the narrow dirt road quickly increased in size, the grade led us sharply downward, and there was nothing but a wooden plank guardrail separating us from plummeting into the sandstone canyon hundreds of feet below.  Still, the MDX was easy to navigate.  Its ground clearance was more than ample for making this descent, and the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters allowed me to keep the vehicle in 2nd gear without riding the brakes.


The MDX hauled 6 people down the dirt road with ease, and the truest testament to MDX people-hauling capability was this:  Nobody got motion sick!  After Nick and Kurt got settled into the far back seat, I heard Nick ask, “Now, where’s the button that I push for Tyson to bring me a drink back here?”  He found accommodations adequate there, which is rare for anyone who’s ever been forced to squeeze into the tiny seats found in most 3-row SUVs.  But I won’t be offering in-flight beverages any time soon.  Sorry Nick.


Return to Phoenix

Our crew took but a few minutes to soak up the sights at Roosevelt Dam before setting out for the trip back to Phoenix.  Roosevelt was, after all, the largest stone dam in the world when it was completed in 1911.  My passengers were all too anxious to hop back into their seats and get cozy once again for the drive back home to Scottsdale.  Paul took shotgun while Conor and Brad took the 2nd row – mastering the how-to of the MDX’s “Entertainment Package”.  They watched a DVD featuring some classic Will Farrell skits from Saturday Night Live.

With plenty of amenities for driver and passengers, the MDX made our 2-hour drive home quick and painless.  We quite enjoyed the heated/ventilated seats and the ELS audio system to the fullest.  Even at 65-75 mph, the MDX was quiet and refined.  The adaptive cruise control & lane departure systems (as also found on the recently reviewed RLX) added safety and ease to my driving experience.  All-in, this MDX retailed for $57,400.  For those interested in knowing, I averaged 20.7 miles per gallon with my lead foot, right in line with the EPA 21 mpg overall rating.




  • Very solid, premium materials.  “I love the feel of this leather,” said my friend Jason.
  • Cavernous (and very usable) storage.  Even the center console is huge enough to accommodate a purse or small laptop.  I stored a hooded sweatshirt and my camera in there.
  • Nice luxury touches.  The interior door handles are backlit by blue LED lights at night.
  • Ride quality both on- and off-road.  The MDX is extremely versatile – a true go-anywhere vehicle.
  • Comfort & convenience is top notch. Tri-zone climate control makes everyone happy.


  • Touch-screen is subject to glare and fingerprints, both of which impeded my visibility at certain times of day.
  • Entertainment system operation somewhat complex to learn.  One of my passengers said, “Kids would never figure this out.”  To which another said, “They’d probably figure it out faster than we are.”

Final Take

When the 2014 MDX showed up in my driveway last Wednesday, I text messaged a picture of it to a friend. “I’ve always liked the MDX,” he said, “… for upple-middle class mommies.”  Indeed, this vehicle is a home run with families.  It’s the SUV that moms choose when they’ve become too good for a Honda Odyssey minivan.  But in my week with the MDX, I became convinced that there’s so much more to this vehicle than just being a complacent people-hauler.  It’s equally at home on a dusty, remote mountain road as it is in a strip mall parking lot.

The MDX is the perfect match for anyone who needs all-terrain, all-weather capability but who doesn’t want to sacrifice creature comforts.  I only wish it had rained torrential downpours on Saturday so I could return the vehicle to Acura wearing a thick layer of well-earned mud.  Thanks to Acura for letting me take the MDX for a whirl!

Check out the rest of the pics and video from our day below.

Washing cars before the drive.  Only a true car fanatic would do such a thing.  Nick and Kurt wiping down the Nissan 300ZX convertible.


Matt’s Pathfinder was an Australian-spec, right-hand-drive vehicle.


Breakfast of champions.  Or, breakfast of fatties.  Waffle House is a great place to start the day.


Arrival at Tortilla Flat, Arizona:  This place was once a stagecoach stop and is now a popular tourist destination for those exploring the Superstition Mountains.


We happened to arrive shortly after a group of Mustang owners, so we backed our 3-row SUVs in as if we belonged there.


Road conditions got progressively worse as we distanced ourselves from civilization at Tortilla Flat.


Corralling the troops for a quick chat before beginning our next leg.


Tyson, Paul, Conor.  I don’t remember what I was gesturing for.


Finally, feeding the MDX a taste of Arizona dirt.


As the Apache Trail made its way toward Roosevelt Lake, there are dozens of opportunities for shots like these.  Views are spectacular year-round.  Here, the MDX was in the lead with the Pathfinder and the Lancer following behind.


We made a stop at the Fish Creek bridge to do a little hiking.  It was perfect weather outside, after all.


The MDX “Jewel Eye” headlights mirror those found in its RLX sedan sibling.


This bridge dates back to the early 1900’s when construction workers used the Apache Trail to deliver supplies for construction of the Roosevelt Dam.


Hiking around a little – Nick, Alan, Matt, Ian, and Conor


Back to the vehicles we go.


A layer of dust descended on the formerly nice MDX paintjob.


Here’s where we tried out some of the MDX’s people-hauling skills, with rows 1, 2, and 3 each filled with 2 passengers.  Nick and Kurt tried out the back.


Conor and I rode up front.


Kurt says I always capture him pointing.  So, he found something to point at!


Ian’s Lancer looked right at home on the Apache Trail as well – ready to rally.


I was impressed with how well Ian’s car was able to keep up with the SUVs in our caravan.


I’ve blogged before about the 357-foot-tall Roosevelt Dam.


As well as the 1,080-foot-long bypass bridge on Highway 188.


I’d definitely say we were inspired by the Inspiration Point Interpretive Overlook.


On the way home, Conor and Brad test drove the Entertainment system, which came with a 16.2″ wide-screen monitor and wireless headsets.


Here’s that center console I was writing about earlier.  Massive space!


Time for an MDX bath with the help of friends.  I did a great job supervising this effort while Conor, Paul, and Brad slaved away.


Conor drives a silver Acura TSX so he knows all-too-well how to keep an Acura looking shiny.


The MDX and its sibling ILX share a family resemblance but each vehicle has a distinct purpose.


Signing out until next time!


2013 “Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year” Competition

Posted in MDX, Vehicle Reviews on October 20, 2013 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  527,276


Odometer (ILX):  56,926



Some of us thrive on being on-the-go all the time.  Aside from being an avid road tripper, I juggle other hobbies including competitive long-distance running.  People who have lifestyles like mine demand a lot from their vehicles.  That is the notion behind the Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year program, now in its 10th year.

Each October, automakers enter vehicles to compete in this event that brings together athletes & autos for a day of evaluation.  Last year, I was the team captain in charge of the group evaluating the hybrid & alternative fuel vehicles.  This year, I assembled a team of 10 athletes and we spent the morning taking turns driving the 5 vehicles that were entered in the “Luxury On-Road” and the “Luxury Family” divisions.  Those vehicles were as follows:

  • 2014 Acura MDX
  • 2014 Audi SQ5
  • 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT
  • 2014 Mercedes-Benz E350 Wagon
  • 2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI

There were a few key areas of evaluation that we focused on when casting our ballots:

  • How well did the vehicle’s design & size fit with my active lifestyle?
  • Could I find a comfortable seating position?
  • Were the climate, radio, and other features intuitive?
  • Was there sufficient room & security for athletic equipment?
  • Did the engine have sufficient power?
  • And so on.

ALV was hosted at Local Motors in Chandler, Arizona.  Local Motors is a unique automaker that collaborates with buyers who help co-create their own vehicles, including the go-anywhere Rally Fighter.  Here’s a little information on LM from the company’s YouTube channel:

Local Motors is the first car company to co-create vehicles online with its virtual community of designers, fabricators, engineers and enthusiasts from around the world. Through open-source principles, Local Motors helps solve local transportation-related problems, locally; makes transportation more sustainable, globally; and delivers, through distributed manufacturing, game-changing vehicles and components.

The Local Motors facility was the perfect venue for ALV due to the availability of an off-road driving course.  The athletes on my team had a great time putting our test vehicles through their paces.  In the end, the crowns for the divisions that my team evaluated went to the Audi SQ5 for “Luxury On-Road” and Acura MDX for “Luxury Family.”  Check out the extensive photo gallery below for a closer look at the people and the cars that made this day memorable.  Thanks for reading!

Video recap:


The day before the ALV program, Acura Western Region Public Relations representative Vincent Manganiello flew in.  I was able to meet up with him for a bite to eat before heading to the ALV festivities.  I proudly wore my blue 2013 National Acura Legend Meet (NALM) shirt for the occasion.  Vince and I had a great discussion on Acura goings-on.


Ultra marathon runner Jenn Shelton also flew in to participate as a celebrity judge.  She is sponsored by Hyundai and is the country’s fastest woman to run a 100-mile race.  Yes, 100 miles.  It takes about 15 hours for her to run that distance (achieved in 2007).  Next weekend, she’s running the Grand Canyon from the South Rim to the North Rim… and back again.  Where does she get all that energy?  I had a great time visiting with her as I shuttled her in my ILX to ALV from the Phoenix airport.


Later that evening, a “welcome dinner” was hosted at The Gilbert House, in Gilbert, Arizona.  It’s a 1928 Sears Roebuck home that was converted to a catering business in the 1980s.  Famed automotive spy photographer Brenda Priddy (at left below) was on-hand to handle photography duties.  My friend (and a fellow ALV team captain) Woody was thrilled to see her.


I sat at a table with Woody and Vince for dinner.  The salmon entree was exquisite!


Always seeking ways to further tie together athletes & automobiles, ALV was pleased to welcome some retired NFL football players who served as celebrity judges.  Here, Rob and Nina Russin sat with Mr. & Mrs. Bernard Wilson (Arizona Cardinals).


On Saturday morning, check-in was a frenzy of people but we got everyone squared away with nametags and packets of information including their ballot forms.  From there, we were turned loose for walkaround presentations by the OEM representatives and then got behind the wheel for drive time.


Here I’m standing in front of some of the vehicles my team was assigned to evaluate.


Our ‘victim’ vehicles were ready to be put to the test.  Here, the Acura MDX, Mazda CX-9, and Mazda CX-5 lined up.


My ILX tried to hide between a couple of 2014 Jeep Cherokees so that it could compete.


No such luck.  What does everyone think of that new Cherokee front end?  Pretty wild!


Some of the “Best Value – Family” vehicles lined up here for a photo-op:


The 2014 Toyota 4Runner took home the award in Best Value Off-Road.  It’s a highly capable rig!


Audi representative John Shilling came to present two vehicles – the 2014 Audi SQ5 and the 2014 Q5 TDI (diesel).


We gathered for his walkaround presentation and learned about the SQ5.  Its motor is derived from the well-loved Audi S4 and has over 400 horsepower.


Hands-down, Woody’s favorite vehicle was the SQ5.  I think I smelled tire smoke when he rolled back into the parking lot.


Volkswagen representative Darryll Harrison presented the 2014 VW Touareg TDI (diesel) and its many features.


Diesel powerplants are becoming much more commonplace in new cars, and the level of refinement VW has achieved with the Touareg is remarkable.  It doesn’t even sound like a diesel.


Darryll was also busy showing off the SportWagen TDI.


Jenn took the Mercedes-Benz E350 Wagon for a spin and was all grins.


In the back seat, Mercedes representative Diedra educated us on some of the many features of the wagon.


No local car event would be complete without a spy appearance.  Brenda Priddy was there to capture the action on camera.


Ever seen a 4×4 Jeep with a Track setting LAUNCH CONTROL?  You’re looking at a control panel on the console of the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT.  It was a crowd favorite for the entire day.


Jack’s grin can only mean one thing:  He’s about to put those 470 horses to work.  The SRT is powered by a 6.4 liter HEMI motor.  This thing scoots, and as Chrysler representative Scott Brown put it, “It begs to be flogged.”  At $68,000, Scott told me that it’s not uncommon for Corvettes to be traded in on one of these.


Chuck with the impressive $70k E350 4MATIC, highly optioned out with a Sport package and AMG wheels.  Read more about this awesome wagon in my recent Drive to Five Review.


Check out this gorgeous 2014 Grand Cherokee “EcoDiesel.”  This rig has a whopping 730-mile range on a full tank of gas.  That would come in ultra handy on some of my cross-country drives.  I posed for a picture with the Jeep and with Chrysler representative Kathy Graham.


At the other end of the cost spectrum, we had the 2014 Nissan Versa Note, entered in the “Urban” category.  This car, at only $17k, was definitely a nice bang-for-the-buck ride.  It even had heated seats for that pricetag!


The Kia Soul, at around $24k as-equipped, took home the award for that category, beating out both the Versa as well as the Fiat 500L.


Speaking of Kia:  “Best Paint” was not an ALV award category, but if it had been, I would have definitely presented it to the Kia Sorento.  The jewel-like red color was so stunning that a police officer pulled one of the athletes over in it.


Mike, Jim, Will discussing facts & figures about our competitor vehicles.


The blue Buick Encore was a much smaller ride in person than I thought it might be.  Quite the fun rig!


Seat back and looking cozy in the driver’s seat, Will tested out the audio system.


The 2014 Durango was entered in the “Best Value – Family” category.  Some of the athletes even brought their kids with them in order to properly evaluate its versatility.


Here are some of my team members:  Jim, Tyson, Kevin, Cameron


Charles, Katy, and Woody


Mike, Tyson, Rob, Jack, and Paul


And Will, with the one vehicle (pictured at center) he would have LOVED to take home if Jeep had let him.


Many thanks to ALV Co-Founder Nina Russin for putting on an amazing event, 10 years and counting.


Since the core content of my blog is my love for Acura, I’ll share a little about the 2014 MDX Advance that participated in ALV this year.  The MDX was popular with the athletes all day.

Redesigned 100% for the 2014 model year, the MDX is whisper quiet going down the road.  That is, until you lay into the throttle and awaken the 290-horspower, 3.5 liter direct injection V6 engine which roars to attention.  The MDX is chock-full of driver assistance technology, including a lane-keeping system that maintains position within a lane when the driver begins to veer.


Vince completed a brief walkaround presentation for the MDX and highlighted some of its features.  This 7-seater even has tri-zone GPS-linked climate control.


“Let’s roll!” says Woody.


And they’re off.


Chuck and I were mesmerized by the signature “Jewel Eye” headlamps which have individual LED bulbs.  At nighttime, this setup provides optimal illumination.  Even the high beams are Jewel Eye.


Paul is an Acura guy through and through, since his daily driver is a 2013 TL SH-AWD, so he felt right at home behind the wheel of the new MDX.  He said he liked that the touch-screen gave “feedback” feel when pushing buttons.


This MDX in particular was equipped with the Tech, Advance, AND Entertainment packages.  Woody, Charles, and Rob (left to right, below) put it to the test.  There is a gigantic 16.2″ DVD rear entertainment system with HDMI and wireless headsets.  As-equipped, this vehicle goes for $57,400 including destination.


Congratulations to Vince and the rest of the Acura team on an outstanding vehicle!


I had a great time at the ALV program and look forward to participating again next year.