In this ultimate guide, I’ll break down all Acura MDX generations, revealing the best years for MDX to buy and the worst years of MDX to avoid.
Backed by in-depth research from authoritative sources like NHTSA, Edmunds, and Kelley Blue Book, I’ve synthesized years of data, customer reviews, and expert insights to help you choose the most reliable Acura MDX model year that fits you.
Whether you’re intrigued by the 2024 MDX’s notable improvements or wary of the 2016 MDX’s transmission problems, this detailed breakdown sheds light on the pros and cons of all Acura MDX model years.
So, let’s dive right in.
Table of ContentsShow
Acura MDX Generations
The Acura MDX, a luxury mid-size crossover SUV, made its debut in the automotive market in 2001. The first-generation MDX was lauded for its car-like ride, innovative third-row seat design, and strong V6 performance.
Before going deeper into the specific years, let’s present an overview of all Acura MDX generations from 2001 to the present.
|1st generation (YD1)||2001-2006|
|2nd generation (YD2)||2007-2013|
|3rd generation (YD3)||2014-2020|
|4th generation (YD9)||2022-Present|
Recognizing differences between generations is crucial for potential buyers, as these shifts can play a pivotal role in influencing a purchasing decision and might very well be the determining factor in one’s choice.
Acura MDX Best, Neutral, and Worst Years
When we categorize the best and worst Acura MDX years, we draw our insights from a diverse set of criteria. Here’s what we consider:
- Owner-reported reliability (surveys)
- Annual maintenance costs
- Safety ratings
- Consumer Reports reliability scores
- Consumer Reports owner satisfaction scores
- NHTSA recalls, investigations, and complaints
- Edmunds owner ratings
- JD Power owner ratings
- Kelley’s Blue Book (KBB) owner ratings
- VehicleHistory owner ratings
- Cars.com owner ratings
A graph has been provided below, showcasing combined ratings from the sources mentioned above.
We’ve also prepared a table, breaking down each MDX generation into best, neutral, and worst Acura MDX years.
|Generation||Best Years||Neutral Years||Worst Years|
|1st generation (YD1)||2006|
|2nd generation (YD2)||2012|
|3rd generation (YD3)||2018|
|4th generation (YD9)||2024||2023||2022|
When we talk about “Neutral Years”, it implies that these model years neither excelled nor underperformed. They lie in between the extremes of “best” and “worst”, offering a balanced mix of positives and negatives.
It’s worth noting that some factors we consider inherently contribute negatively to our rankings. For instance, the higher the number of complaints and recalls from the NHTSA, the lower the car’s reliability.
Now, let’s dive into the specifications of the MDX’s best, neutral, and worst years.
Best & Worst Years for Acura MDX 1st Generation (2001-2006)
With Acura MDX’s debut in the early 2000s, the SUV market witnessed the incorporation of luxury amenities paired with Acura’s vision of innovative design and technology.
2005 and 2006 stand out as Acura MDX’s best years while early – 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004 plagued with transmission issues, are Acura MDX years to avoid.
Due to the high number of NHTSA recalls and complaints for the first-generation MDX vehicles, it is recommended to do thorough research and check via VIN.
The Best Years: 2006, 2005
2005 and 2006 are Acura’s best and relatively more reliable MDX years of this generation.
The vehicle features an automatic VTM-4 four-wheel drive system that engages during off-the-line acceleration as well as when wheel slippage is detected. Additionally, the 2005 and 2006 MDX engines received a modest increase in power and produced 265 hp.
These years offered better powertrain stability, a key factor contributing to their classification as some of the best.
Consumer Reports’ test drive revealed the fuel consumption of the first-generation vehicles as 11 mpg for city and 26 mpg for highway driving.
Technological advancements were more seamlessly integrated, with GPS-based navigation, rearview cameras, and DVD entertainment becoming staple features.
However, despite the advancements, 2005 saw issues with the Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) system. Acura’s intention to provide enhanced safety was marred by intermittent, automatic, minor brake applications, which led to recalls in subsequent years.
The Worst Years: 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004
On the other hand, early years – 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004 are MDX years that require extra cautiousness which is the reason I recommend avoiding these Acura MDX years.
Entering the market with gusto, the 2001 MDX was lauded for its ambitious blend of luxury and performance. But with ambition came growing pains.
The MDX came standard with a 3.5-liter 240 hp V6 engine, delivering decent power, but the transmission paired with it was problematic. Owners frequently reported unsettling vibrations, grinding, and unintended neutral shifts, especially at lower RPMs.
The 2002 Acura MDX, while featuring similar luxury trappings and technology, carried forward the same transmission issues.
Broken engine mounts also emerged as a significant concern, causing distress among owners. Honda issued a recall, especially concerning the gear failure in transmission in both 2001 and 2002 models which posed crash risks.
The 2003 MDX, while attempting to refine the previous years’ flaws, was riddled with its own set of challenges. A bulk of its 13 NHTSA recalls were due to the Takata Air Bag issue.
However, the ghost of transmission troubles continued to haunt, with the same shuddering and gear failure. The catalytic converter’s inefficiency added to the woes, releasing a disturbing hydrogen-sulfide smell.
The 2004 model, despite advancements in infotainment and safety technology, couldn’t shake off the persistent transmission failures, a problem that lingered into 2005 and 2006.
Best & Worst Years for Acura MDX 2nd Generation (2007-2013)
Launching into its second generation, the Acura MDX sought to address the concerns of the prior years. With a significantly low number of recalls, reputable sources like Edmunds (4.6), Kelley Blue Book (4.6), and J.D. Power (80) rated this generation’s MDX models higher than average scores.
Later model years of this generation – 2012 and 2013 are considered the best Acura MDX years whereas 2007, 2008, and 2010 are the MDX years to avoid.
The Best Years: 2012, 2013
What is the best year to buy an Acura MDX? Check out the second-generation Acura MDX best years 2012 and 2013.
The 3.7-liter 300-hp J37A1 SOHC VTEC V6 engine became a staple, offering more horsepower and torque than its predecessor. The accompanying 6-speed automatic transmission was notable for its smoother shifts and greater fuel efficiency.
Acura showcased its prowess in integrating luxury with function in these years, with the trim levels boasting state-of-the-art tech, including an advanced navigation system, ELS premium sound, and innovative driver-assistance systems.
The “VTM-4” all-wheel drive system on the previous generation was replaced by the new SH-AWD “Super Handling All-Wheel Drive”.
However, I have to say that even with this transmission, the 2012 MDX still saw problems like transmission shuddering and jerking.
The 2013 Acura MDX further consolidated this with incremental updates, solidifying its position as one of the best years.
However, some owners did point out issues such as excessive oil consumption in the 2013 MDX, although these were not as pervasive as problems observed in earlier years.
The fuel efficiency of the second-generation MDX models was decent at 18 mpg for city and 24 mpg for highway driving.
The Neutral Years: 2009, 2011
2009 and 2011 served as reliable years for the MDX, not necessarily standing out for excellence, but not faltering to the degree of their counterparts.
The familiar 3.7-liter V6 and the 5-speed (which would transition to a 6-speed in subsequent years) automatic transmission continued to be the powertrain choice.
These years offered a stable if not groundbreaking driving experience. Technologically, these models remained consistent with previous years but featured subtle enhancements in infotainment and safety tech.
A few issues did arise, such as the reported Bluetooth Handsfree Link (HFL) draining battery too swiftly.
Still, they weren’t significant enough to categorize 2009 and 2011 as the worst Acura MDX years.
The Worst Years: 2007, 2008, 2010
Coming to the least reliable second-generation Acura MDX years, 2007, 2008, and 2010 are the Acura MDX years to avoid.
With the onset of the second generation in 2007, the MDX attempted to distance itself from the first-generation’s challenges.
While it packed more power, the vehicle was beset with various electrical system problems like unexpected glitches and unexplained power loss. Suspension issues also began to surface, undermining the driving experience many sought from a luxury SUV.
The 2008 MDX, although aesthetically similar to its predecessor, inherited these electrical and suspension challenges. Furthermore, the pesky Bluetooth Handsfree Link (HFL) issue emerged, leading to rapid battery drainage.
The 2010 MDX, trying to bridge the gap to the more refined later years, unfortunately, suffered from a blend of past issues, while also paving the way for future improvements.
Best & Worst Years for Acura MDX 3rd Generation (2014-2020)
Embarking on its third generation, the Acura MDX underwent a transformative evolution, placing greater emphasis on technological modernity and comfort.
However, the third-generation Acura MDX saw huge criticism about its power train. This is, actually, reflected in the Kelley Blue Book consumer rating which is 4 – the lowest amongst all generations.
As for our categorization, the most reliable Acura MDX years of the 3rd generation are 2018, 2019, and 2020 while the early – 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 are the Acura MDX years to “avoid like the plague”.
The Best Years: 2018, 2019, 2020
The best Acura MDX years of its third generation, MDX from 2018 to 2020 saw a culmination of lessons learned and technology refined.
Benefitting from years of feedback, these models were equipped with a potent 3.5-liter V6 engine, paired with either a 9-speed automatic transmission (2018 and 2019) or the all-new 10-speed automatic in 2020, which offered smoother transitions and heightened fuel efficiency.
Acura’s venture into hybrid technology with the MDX Sport Hybrid variant with a 3.0-liter V6, 7-speed dual-clutch, 1.3 kWh lithium-ion battery offered an even more fuel-efficient choice for eco-conscious buyers.
In terms of technology, these models were decked with Acura’s latest driver-assistance features, including lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control. The MDX also won the IIHS Top Safety Pick award for the 2018 model year.
The infotainment system had been revamped to be more user-friendly, and the audio system improvements delivered clearer, richer sound.
While the 2019 MDX did have occasional reports of engine stalling issues, which led to recalls concerning timing belt teeth separation and low-pressure fuel pump failure, these were promptly addressed, keeping the impact minimal.
The Worst Years: 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
Are 2014, 2015, or 2016 good years for Acura MDX? Definitely, not! Here is why:
The 2014 MDX came fitted with a 3.5-liter V6 engine, but powertrain problems soon emerged, primarily centered on the transmission and torque converter.
Transmission jerking, hesitations during gear shifts, and irregular RPM fluctuations plagued these models.
The 2014 and 2015 MDX models also presented issues with the service brakes and steering. An unnerving vibration when applying brakes and problems like the Electronic Power Steering (EPS) light illuminating without reason, leading to a sudden loss of power steering assist, caused concern.
Besides the continuing transmission woes, there were complaints of loss of acceleration, engine stalling, and transmission slips. A notable recall during this period was related to reduced fuel pump efficiency, which could result in stalling.
As the years progressed, the 2017 model also inherited the brunt of these problems, reinforcing the notion that the earlier part of this generation required more refinement.
Best & Worst Years for Acura MDX 4th Generation (2022-present)
As Acura transitioned into its fourth generation with the MDX, it set its sights on not just evolving its flagship SUV, but on revolutionizing it.
Actually, there is no MDX year in this generation to specifically avoid considering their age, but I would recommend putting extra caution in the 2022 MDX model anyway.
The Best Years: 2024
As for the data available, the 2024 Acura MDX is considered the best MDX model year of the 4th generation.
By 2024, the Acura MDX had refined many of the introductory issues of its fourth generation. The vehicle now boasted a robust 3.5-liter V6 engine, paired with a 10-speed transmission available for four trims: Base, Technology Package, A-Spec, and Advance Package.
The improved interior includes a 12.3-inch infotainment system and the Acura’s first 12-inch digital full TFT instrument cluster, touchpad, 16-way power front seats with 3-memory positions, removable center second-row seat, a removable double-sided trunk floor with carpet and plastic, and more legroom and headroom compared to the third generation Acura MDX.
Feedback from owners also indicated that the issues surrounding the vehicle’s infotainment, transmission, and engine had been substantially mitigated, rendering the 2024 MDX one of the most reliable MDX versions.
The Neutral Years: 2023
The 2023 MDX served as a transitionary year for Acura.
While the company made several improvements over the 2022 version, particularly in refining the vehicle’s transmission and addressing fuel efficiency concerns, there were still areas left to perfect.
The model did not experience as many complaints as its predecessor, but it still had occasional reports surrounding the infotainment system’s usability and some engine concerns.
However, these were not widespread enough to overshadow the overall improvements, earning the 2023 MDX its place as a ‘neutral’ year.
The Worst Years: 2022
Now, let’s see the reasons why the 2022 MDX is considered relatively less reliable.
Owners of this year’s model frequently voiced concerns about the Forward Collision Avoidance system, which would sometimes engage intermittently, causing the vehicle to brake unexpectedly. This posed not just an annoyance but a potential safety hazard.
Additionally, feedback indicated dissatisfaction with the infotainment system, with many finding it less intuitive and at times glitchy.
The transmission and engine also faced scrutiny, with some users reporting inconsistencies in their operations.
Fuel efficiency, a key concern for many modern consumers, took a hit, with the 2022 MDX offering reduced mileage at 13 mpg for city and 27 mpg for highway driving, although some of these concerns could be alleviated by opting for the hybrid variant.
If price is not a limiting factor for you, then 2022 is the MDX year to avoid considering better 2023 and 2024 MDX models.
Acura MDX Average Resale Values
The image below shows the evolution of Acura MDX’s average resale values over the years, reflecting its continued appeal and market performance.
Now that we have gone through the various generations of the Acura MDX, it’s clear that for optimal balance, the best Acura MDX models are 2006, 2012, 2013, and 2018-2020. It’s also clear that 2016 is undoubtedly the worst MDX year to avoid.
Which specific features or issues have been a deciding factor for you when choosing a model year for the Acura MDX or any other vehicle?
Share your experiences and insights below!