The 2019 Acura MDX shows off upgraded interior fitment, new available premium exterior colors, drivability and dynamics enhancements, and an A-Spec sport appearance package. The new MDX A-Spec starts at $54,800 with standard Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive. Metro News Service photo

A-spec-ial SUV: Acura brings A-spec package to MDX for first time

When you’re up against brands like Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW and even Porsche in one of the most competitive segments in the automotive industry, it’s a challenge to remain relevant. Thus is the challenge the Acura MDX was up against for the 2019 model year.

Honda’s luxury branded midsize SUV has stiff competition. But for 2019, the Acura MDX maintains a competitive balance and remains very much in the mix.

Although the MDX is in the middle of a lifecycle, Acura introduced an exciting trim package for this model year that breathes some life into this otherwise-conservative luxurious family hauler. The A-Spec package turns the MDX into an-all new SUV. This is the first offering of the youthful, sport-driven A-spec package on any Acura SUV. With this package comes a unique exterior that includes 20-inch wheels and low-profile tires. This gives the MDX A-Spec a more aggressive posture.

Additionally, the grille has a distinctive look with a glossy black fascia and special LED headlights that look like little jewels. That same glossy black accent flows on the profile and frames the windows. It’s a subtle, but noticeable difference from the other MDX trims.

At the rear, the same A-spec look continues on the tailgate and the dual exhaust tips. A quick glance gives the impression that the MDX has been redesigned. And I think that’s the intent with this package. Additionally, there’s some bold exterior paint colors that are only available for the A-spec MDX. My tester was a vibrant blue pearl coat.

The Ohio-manufactured MDX has always been a solid-performing SUV. It lacked personality in its performance, but that doesn’t mean it’s pokey. Quite the contrary, as the 3.5-liter V6 makes for nearly 300 horsepower – 290, to be exact. The nine-speed automatic transmission is amazing. It’s one of my favorite transmissions found in an SUV of this size. It is a great complement to the overall solid performance. The Super Handling All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) is added as an A-spec standard. This boosts the overall performance; it handles so well in all road conditions. Steering is responsive, and the MDX is quite nimble and athletic. Change the driving dynamics with a turn of a knob and you can really make this SUV perform how you want. There’s Comfort, Normal and Sport. I preferred the MDX in Comfort mode, as I found it to be quiet, smooth and controlled, while the Sport mode tended to overshift at times.

The interior brought a wow factor that I hadn’t experienced in an Acura SUV in quite some time. My tester had a bold red interior. The suede-like seats had nice contrasting stitching, making them feel special. This is what I would expect from a luxury brand. With the A-spec, Acura shakes off any criticism that the MDX is just an overpriced Honda. There are so many high-quality touchpoints and lavish features. The brushed metal accents were styled perfectly and complemented the other red accents found inside.

The seven-passenger MDX has ample room in the second row. As is the case with far too many midsize SUVs, the third row is a little cramped and best suited for children. There’s 15 cubic feet of cargo room behind the third-row seat. That area expands 38.4 cubic feet with the third row folded flat. Overall, there’s 68.4 cubic feet of cargo room with all seats folded.

Honda’s infotainment is well organized and flows perfectly in the center stack. However, this system is Android-based; as an Apple snob, I found it a little cumbersome, although it does integrate with Apple CarPlay. Once I employed CarPlay, I overcame some of the system’s issues. Acura, however, put in a touchpad interface, similar to ones found in Lexus that are highly criticized. I’m not sure why so many luxury brands feel the need to overengineer their infotainment systems with this type of interfaces. They’re not intuitive and they distract the driver. Simple is better!

The MDX with the A-spec package has a starting price of $54,800, making it nearly $10,000 more than the base trim MDX; the excitement and refreshed appeal of the A-spec comes at a price. The other trims of the MDX have little to no changes for this model year.

The EPA rating for the AWD MDX A-spec is 19 mpg/city and 25 mpg/highway. In a week’s worth of normal driving, I averaged 22 mpg. That higher-than-average (21 mpg) total could be due to driving in Comfort mode over Sport mode. But honestly, that’s how the SUV felt best suited to me.

Sure, the Acura MDX is still a conservative SUV. And it may not have the sex appeal of others in the segment, but the A-spec package brings exciting looks to this midsize SUV. It sports one of the best-looking interiors in the segment, and the best-looking interior ever offered for the MDX.

2019 ACURA MDX A-SPEC

  • Price/As-tested price………………………………………… $54,800/$54,800
  • Mileage……………………………………19 mpg/city; 25 mpg/hwy
  • Engine……………………………………… 3.5-liter V6
  • Horsepower…………………………… 290 hp/267 lbs.-ft.
  • Transmission…………………………… 9-speed automatic
  • Drive wheels……………. All-wheel drive
  • Final assembly point……………. East Liberty, Ohio

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