Consumer Reports

Acura MDX best in luxury SUV tests

The freshened Acura MDX was Consumer Reports’ top scorer in its tests of luxury SUVs. With an improved powertrain that now yields better acceleration and fuel economy, this very well-rounded vehicle is now CR’s top-rated three-row luxury SUV.
The Acura MDX earned an “excellent” overall road-test score of 85, outperforming the Land Rover LR4, which earned a “Very Good” 73; the new Lincoln MKT, which earned a “Very Good” 72; and the Audi Q7, which earned a “Very Good” 68.
Only the MDX is recommended among the four SUVs in this test group. CR only recommends vehicles that have performed well in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based on CR’s Annual Auto Survey of its more than 7 million print and Web subscribers, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test. CR doesn’t have sufficient reliability data on the MKT and LR4, and the Audi Q7 has had below-average reliability.
Prices ranged from $46,715 for the MDX to $56,555 for the Lincoln.
— Acura MDX. The MDX rides firmly yet absorbs bumps with good grace. Handling is the MDX’s strong suit, and the body stays level in corners. The Acura MDX ($46,715 Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price as tested) is powered by a 300-hp, 3.7-liter V6 engine that delivers strong performance and gets 18 mpg overall in CR’s own fuel economy tests. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts quickly and smoothly. Fit and finish are impressive. With the center-and third-row seatbacks folded out of the way, it has ample cargo space.
— Land Rover LR4. Changes made to the LR3 during its recent freshening and renaming to LR4 have dramatically improved the 2010 version. The larger and more powerful V8 engine provides effortless acceleration and better fuel economy. The ride is firm, but the suspension soaks up most bumps easily. The Land Rover LR4 ($54,010 MSRP as tested) is powered by a 375-hp, 5.0-liter V8 engine that delivers smooth and effortless acceleration but only gets 15 mpg overall on premium fuel. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts seamlessly. The interior is nicely finished. The third row folds into the floor to make luggage space, and folding the second row as well creates a huge cargo space.
— Lincoln MKT. The MKT is Lincoln’s version of the Ford Flex. Handling is not nearly as good as the Flex’s and the driving position is less than ideal with rear visibility restricted. The highway ride is quiet and serene but in routine driving the MKT leans considerably and is ungainly in tight corners. The Lincoln MKT AWD EcoBoost ($56,555 MSRP as tested), is powered by a 355-hp turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engine that delivers V8-like performance and gets 18 mpg overall. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and responsively. The interior is plush and has plenty of wood, chrome, and soft, luxurious leather. With the third row folded away, cargo space is generous.
— Audi Q7. The Audi Q7 is a roomy, seven-passenger SUV that’s pleasant for long drives. Handling is responsive in everyday driving but doesn’t shine at the limits. It has an underlying firmness at low speeds, making the ride seem worse than it is, but it absorbs bumps with sufficient isolation. The Audi Q7 Premium Plus ($54,225 MSRP as tested) is powered by a 280-hp, 3.6-liter, direct-injection V6 that provides adequate performance and gets 17 mpg overall on premium fuel. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts quickly and very smoothly. The interior is beautifully finished with high quality materials. To maximize cargo space you can fold down the third-row seats.
CR also tested the 2010 Lexus GX 460 as part of this group. In April, CR announced that it was judging the Lexus a “Don’t Buy: Safety Risk” because of a problem that its engineers experienced during one of its standard emergency-handling track tests. When pushed to its limits in CR’s lift-off oversteer test, the rear of the GX slid out until the vehicle was almost sideways before the electronic stability control system was able to regain control. After CR’s testing, Lexus halted sales of the SUV and issued a recall. Its parent company, Toyota, upgraded the software for the vehicle’s electronic stability control system, which was supposed to prevent the problem. CR had the recall work performed on its test GX 460 by a Lexus dealer and again put the SUV through the series of emergency handling tests. This time it did not slide out in the lift-off oversteer test. As a result, CR has now lifted the “Don’t Buy: Safety Risk” label and encourages all GX 460 owners to have the recall work performed on their vehicles as soon as possible.