Volvo XC90 vs. Acura MDX: Compare Cars

People’s Vote

People’s Vote

2017 Volvo XC90 Excellence

The two thousand sixteen Acura MDX and the two thousand seventeen Volvo XC90 are both large, seven-seat luxury utility vehicles. They display how far family crossover SUVs have evolved from traditional SUVs, in design, refinement, and features, not to mention active safety, crash testing, and on-road behavior.

The MDX was very first launched in 2014, but it gets significant updates its third year—and freshened styling will be coming for two thousand seventeen as well. This year’s switches include a fresh 9-speed automatic transmission and more active-safety features. Meantime, the big Volvo is now in its 2nd year, with a fresh base powertrain added at a slightly lower price. (There’s also a fresh, high-end Excellence model with a price tag of more than $100,000.) Each has earned some of our highest ratings among premium SUVs. And the Acura comes in at $Five,000 to $Ten,000 below the XC90 in many trim levels.

So which is the right one for you?

Either vehicle will provide convenient accommodation for up to seven people. The Volvo is higher on the luxury scale, despite a design that’s evolutionary and reserved even for the sensible Swedish brand. The MDX is a sportier drive, and it feels a bit more spacious. Both are good purchases, but the Volvo won our comparison last year for receiving the highest marks from both safety agencies.

Our ratings have switched for 2017, so our scores for the two thousand sixteen Acura and the two thousand seventeen Volvo can’t be directly compared. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.) We’ll update this comparison as soon as we’ve reviewed the two thousand seventeen MDX and can compare both cars in the same model year.

2016 Acura MDX – two thousand fifteen Chicago Auto Display live photos

2016 Acura MDX – two thousand fifteen Chicago Auto Showcase live photos

2016 Acura MDX – two thousand fifteen Chicago Auto Demonstrate live photos

The form of the MDX is unchanged in 2016, continuing to resemble a sport wagon more than a slab-sided utility vehicle, especially at the rear. The tapered roofline is an MDX hallmark, and the chevron-like chrome disrobe across the top of the grille and jewel-eye LED headlights in the defined front end distinguish it as an Acura.

While the exterior lines of the XC90 instantly say Volvo, it’s crisper and more fluid than its predecessor, launched way back in 2002. Its form also effectively disguises the seven-seat vehicle’s size; the Volvo simply doesn’t look as large as it is. Nor does it telegraph its prestige; as one Volvo executive said, the XC90 is a car for people who “do not look for a brand that defines them.”

Inwards, the front-end theme of the MDX is echoed by the dash, which has a V-shaped center stack and sloping, tiered design. The dash design complements the rest of the cabin, and the materials used for interior trim are coordinated nicely.

The MDX is roomy for its class, and the front seats are comfy, with sporty bolstering and better than average support. The fresh push-button shifter is intuitive, and frees up considerable space on the center console.

2017 Volvo XC90 Excellence

2017 Volvo XC90 Excellence

2017 Volvo XC90 Excellence, two thousand sixteen Fresh York Auto Demonstrate

2017 Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine with Polestar Spectacle Optimization

As for the XC90, its luxury is on utter display in a widely-lauded interior that distinguishes it from a host of German competitors. The seats are superbly convenient, and the interior shapes in stitched leather, textured metal, and matte wood are layered to suggest Scandinavian furniture. The 9.0-inch touchscreen in the center of the dash responds quickly to tablet-style guidelines, and is pleasurably intuitive.

The Volvo’s second-row seats slide forward and backward, and the third row will accommodate two adults if they bargain for gam room with second-row riders. Theater-style seating means each row is slightly higher than the one in front, and outward vision is excellent —aided by large windows and the massive panoramic sunroof that’s a standard feature.

Powertrain and spectacle

The Acura MDX is powered by a sleek and refined 290-horsepower Three.5-liter V-6 engine that drives the front wheels through a fresh 9-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is optional. The fresh gearbox cuts 0-to-60-mph acceleration by half a 2nd, but it wasn’t as sleek or seamless as we expected. And it doesn’t improve fuel economy, which remains at twenty two mpg combined for front-wheel-drive models and twenty one mpg with all-wheel drive (AWD). The MDX remains one of the better-handling large SUVs we’ve driven, with a Sport setting to quicken steering response, and a Convenience setting for lighter steering feel.

A fresh base Volvo XC90 is added for 2017, known as the T5. It has a 250-hp turbocharged Two.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, an 8-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel drive as standard (with the option to add all-wheel drive). But Volvo expects the bulk of its sales to come from the T6 version, with the same engine rated at three hundred sixteen hp due to the addition of a supercharger as well as its turbo. AWD is standard on the T6, and fuel economy is rated at twenty two mpg. On the road, the XC90 treats like a car, with good steering feedback, predictable roadholding, and sprightly spectacle despite its petite engine. A plug-in hybrid variant that will sell in lower volumes can run on its gasoline engine, on a 60-kilowatt (82-hp) electrified motor on the rear axle, or on both together when needed.

Both vehicles get excellent safety ratings from the IIHS and have already been dubbed Top Safety Pick+ winners. The Acura also gets the top five-star overall rating from the NHTSA—same goes for the Volvo. Both vehicles also have a total suite of electronic active-safety systems.

The XC90 ranked well when comparing two thousand sixteen models primarily for its wonderful style and appealing interior. Both SUVs are supremely safe—by crash testing standards—and are relatively equal on fuel economy, provided you don’t splurge for the pricey plug-in Volvo. ( Read more about how we rate cars .)

In the end, the Acura is a bit less expensive, somewhat sportier, and a perennial dearest among premium seven-seaters. The Volvo is more luxurious and has a nicer interior, as well as a plug-in hybrid option. Either car is a good choice, in our view, and which one you choose may come down to balancing cost, luxury, and practicality.

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