Thursday, June 27, 2013

2014 MDX: Sounding Out My Choices

When I bought my 2010 Acura MDX back in late 2009, I told Patrick, my salesperson, "I'll be seeing you again in about four years." At the time, I presumed that Acura would roll out their new body design in 2013 (the first MDX design lasted from 2001 through 2006, so I figured the second one would last from 2007 through 2012), and that way I could give them a year to work out any kinks before I bought my next MDX.

I've been impressed with the MDX over the years. My first MDX was a 2001 model, well-made and well appointed for its time. I was taken enough with the redesign that I bought a 2007, which I found to be a major improvement over the 2001 in design, performance, and features.  Best of all, the ELS audio system offered DVD-Audio playback; I had begun buying DVD-Audio multichannel discs when we got an Acura RL, and had been quite enchanted with the sound quality and the distinctive multichannel sound. Acura was pushing the format, including a sample ELS DVD-Audio disc with each vehicle sold. As a result, the proportionate number of Acura owners who also own DVD-Audio discs is probably pretty respectable. I know I was an enthusiastic supporter of the format.

I upgraded to a 2010 MDX, as I've mentioned, figuring that would hold me until the next model came out. As it turned out, Acura held onto the second generation body design for an extra year, so we're just now seeing the third generation body design this month as the 2014 model reaches dealerships.

There are many things I like about it: the fact that it sits slightly lower (19.5" step-in height rather than the old 21" step-in height), has push-button ignition, improved iPod and Pandora connectivity, a higher-torque engine that gives impressive performance with significantly improved mileage, a second-row seat that drops flat for cargo loading (the old model only dropped to about a 10 degree angle), a slightly longer cargo area when you drop the second and third row seat. I like the telemetrics system they've implemented.

But there are drawbacks as well. The cargo area is a full 2" lower at its highest point; since I have to use the Acura to pick up our comics shipment each week, and that can be quite large, I need as much cargo space as I can get. The cargo area is also 2" narrower at its narrowest point (between the rear wheel wells); it just barely fits two of the standard sized "double" boxes are used by comics distributors, but it's so close that I am relatively certain the inside of the car will get scuffed from loading and unloading. The narrower vehicle also offers each front seat passenger 1" less hip room and 2" less head room than the 2010 Acura. I've always appreciated the voluminous driver and passenger space the Acur afforded, and hate it that they've narrowed the vehicle and lowered the height of the cargo capacity at the same time they lowered the vehicle's step-in height (there's no reason that giving the vehicle slightly less ground clearance and a more accessible step-in height mandated less interior head room as well). I also dislike the fact that they've replaced a number of buttons with touch-screen controls; in some cases, it requires navigating through multiple screens to do things that used to be done with a single button push. And I'm bothered by the cheapening of the car's looks; the pillars used to be covered with fabric, but now they're cheap plastic. The interior looks a bit more pedestrian and less well-made.

Worst of all, there's no DVD-Audio playback. Even if you opt for the DVD Entertainment system, the player won't play DVD-Audio discs, which is really short-sighted; that would have been a great way to keep the player and encourage veteran owners like me who have DVD-A discs to upgrade to the entertainment system even though we never have rear-seat passengers. So I have a couple of hundred great multichannel high-res audio discs that I can no longer listen to in the MDX if I go with the current model.

I have to give them credit in other regards, though. They've improved the ELS audio system in a number of other ways. XM Radio playback, which was always a weak point before, now sounds remarkably crisp. They've upgraded from Dolby Pro-Logic (for imitation multi-channel sound from two-channel sources) to DTS Neural Surround, which has a much richer and more encompassing sound field. And they've finally figured out how to make monophonic sound seem to fill the cabin, rather than always seeming to come from the front speakers only. (My Equus has handled this wonderfully, making me all too aware of how badly Acura handled both XM radio and monophonic music.)

Now I have to decide what I want to do. Thankfully, the vehicle I want won't be available for a couple of months anyway, so I'm not tempted to rush into a decision. But I have to admit that I really hate it when stepping up to a new model means stepping down insofar as some much-appreciated aspects of the vehicle are concerned...


Chandra Donepudi said...

I feel your pain regarding the DVD-A. I can't pull the trigger to upgrade my 2010 Advance until I figure out how to get my multichannel fix.

I have been working on a possible solution for people like us. There is software out there that can rip the high resolution tracks off the DVD and save them as FLAC files. I am looking for hardware to hook into the HDMI port to play back these high res files.

My most likely candidate is Dune

There is an iPhone app that you can pick your songs, playlists, etc. Will need to make the iPhone a hotspot so they can be on the same network. I haven't bought the player just yet. Doing as much research as I can before I spend my hard earned bucks.

Anyway, at least I have some hope that a new MDX is a possibility. Hope I cheered you up a little!

Chandra Donepudi said...

Hey there,

I feel your pain regarding the DVD-A. Truly disappointing that Acura has taken a step backward in this way.

On the brighter side, I've been working on a way for people like us to get their multichannel fix. There is software out there to rip your DVD-A to multichannel FLAC files. These can be played in small set-top boxes and controlled with an iPhone (you will need to generate a hotspot from the iPhone to get them on the same network or get an airport express for the car). You can select your album, song, playlist, etc with the iPhone. No more fiddling with discs!!

My best candidate right now is Dune Others include Popbox V8 as well as Android boxes like the Ouya. I haven't bought any yet, just doing thorough research before I spend my hard earned dollars. But there is hope, so cheer up.