So good you barely notice: The 2020 Acura MDX

2020 Acura MDX

2020 Acura MDX at a Glance

Engine3.5L V6
Towing capacity5,000 pounds (equipment required)
Tech highlightsAdaptive cruise control, dual screens, forward collision braking, rear-seat DVD, CD player
Price as tested (estimate)(MSRP Canadian)$61,090

Don’t fix what isn’t broken is the mantra Acura are again taking with the 2020 Acura MDX. It’s one of those luxury SUVs that goes about the job at hand without making much of a fuss. The 2020 Acura MDX doesn’t have a prominent, shouty front grille. There are no flashy big screens on the interior. You can’t put the exhaust into wake-your-neighbors-at 3 am mode. Acura knows the audience very well, and they play to the understated functionality they want. That’s probably why the MDX has been so popular. It’s not one to stand out in the crowd of luxury SUVs, but that’s precisely why people pick it.

Expect the expected

The thing the 2020 Acura MDX offers most is familiarity. There haven’t been many changes since this generation made its debut, and it felt just like the one we drove back in 2018. Acura and Honda have been releasing some very modern-styled interiors in the last couple of years, so the 2020 Acura MDX was a bit of a shock to enter. Not a negative shock, but the interior catches you by surprise for how (mostly) accessible it feels. On paper, it has all the hallmarks of a modern, high-tech, luxury SUV. But in practice, it somehow captures the essence of something a decade younger. It’s a hard thing to describe without experiencing it yourself.

Our tester is the well-equipped Tech Plus trim, which sits just below the high-end Elite. You get a family-friendly rear-seat entertainment system and second-row inputs for most of your tech. You can sense hints of the Pilot or Odyssey that the 2020 Acura MDX shares its platform. Easy-access third-row seats, an excellent storage well in the trunk, and adult-usable third-row seats are the shared platform’s benefits. If you opt for the towing accessories, the 2020 Acura MDX is a capable hauler; you’ll get up to 5,000 pounds of towing in the right conditions.

Room for the whole family

Imagine this: Your family of five is planning to spend a day at the nearest central Zoo. You’ve got a trip in front of you since that Zoo is over 100 km (61 miles) away. Three of the four passengers traveling with you are under the age of ten. It’s also (at the time of publication) a Pandemic, so you’ll need to pack food and bottled water for the clan. Fall weather means fall jackets that will inevitably be shed by the kids and need carrying as well. A wagon is going to be a must. For an outing that will last less than six hours, our hypothetical family is going to need a weekend’s worth of stuff. Not to mention DVDs. These typical family adventures can cause the best three-row SUVs to feel packed.

Except none of this is hypothetical. This was a real trip with real kids and a whole wagon we took. The 2020 Acura MDX demonstrated that it hadn’t lost the practical touch a family needs despite its luxury nameplate. We even had birthday presents along for the ride. The interior seating is roomy and flexible enough to be used when needed and fold flat for cargo space when it isn’t. There’s room for seven, with a three-person row in the middle. On this trip to the Zoo, our family had no problem getting comfortable for the long ride. The required luggage fit, too, which is high praise for a three-row SUV. I’m not sure a week-long road trip would have fit without the use of roof-mounted storage, however.

A ride you can’t feel

In Ontario, Canada, the early fall’s freeways are an exciting mix of fresh pavement, canyon-deep potholes, grooved asphalt, and construction. Any trip from west to east across the Greater Toronto Area encounters any number of road surfaces. Acura built the 2020 MDX to tackle these conditions with ease quietly. There’s excellent sound isolation in the doors. At this trim, the front windows and windshield are acoustic – which cuts down road noise. It also turns loud, heavy rainfall into a sound you can easily talk over.

Regardless of what or where you find yourself, the 2020 Acura MDX seems ready to get you over or through it comfortably. Acura equips the Tech Plus trim with a suite of driver assists. They work quite well. Adaptive cruise control can handle stop-and-go traffic, which does help reduce diving fatigue. Forward collision automatic braking and lane-keep assist have separate buttons. There are toggle switches if you want to disable them, which I did lane-departure warning. It crossed the line from useful passive safety feature to an overbearing nanny, shaking the wheel if you’re so much as 5 cm off-center.

2020 Acura MDX

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Good things are to come

While the 2020 Acura MDX is still the same, there is a change on the horizon. Acura has been teasing the MDX concept a lot lately, and we’re impressed. A new MDX looks to be coming in late 2021 for the 2022 model year. It gives the MDX a much-needed interior revamp, modern screens and dash, and stylish stitched leather seats. It looks like the infotainment controls got an update, and the dual screens have been replaced by real buttons again. That’s a change that will go over well with MDX customers. They have also rid the MDX of the confusing rotary dial screen controls. It can be confusing enough to use a touchscreen for some, but navigating Apple CarPlay by dial is brutal.

On the outside, the 2022 Acura MDX concept is refreshed but familiar. Acura says they’ve used design inspiration from the sporty TLX. While improved, the MDX still hasn’t lost its quiet subtlety. The 2022 Acura MDX looks the part without getting shouty or overly masculine with its styling. Acura has added three inches to the incoming MDX, so expect the roomy cabin to feel even roomier.

The few bad or exciting things

The 2020 Acura MDX doesn’t give you much to complain about, but it also didn’t leave me feeling all that excited. There are times when that kind of predictable nature is appreciated, though. There are no surprises in the 2020 Acura MDX. It’s a luxury SUV dipped into minivan functionality, ala Honda Odyssey. The engine and transmission give you the smooth and powerful performance you expect from a top-tier SUV brand, and it sounds good, too. Spend the extra $4,000 to jump to the elite trim, and you’ll find yourself in an SUV that punches above its price category.

Ultimately, this is a luxury SUV for those who live in real life. They have real kids or grandkids, a trailer to tow, maybe a doggo or two. The 2020 Acura MDX Tech Plus does its job so well, sometimes you barely even notice it’s there; until it’s not.

Dan Croutch
the authorDan Croutch
Dan is a freelance automotive and technology writer. He enjoys all things pickup trucks, classic cars, and minivans (really). The intersection of vehicles and technology fascinate him.

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