2018 Volvo XC90 vs. 2017 Acura MDX

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

For enhanced safety, the front and middle seat shoulder belts of the Volvo XC90 have pretensioners to tighten the seatbelts and eliminate dangerous slack in the event of a collision and force limiters to limit the pressure the belts will exert on the passengers. The Acura MDX doesn’t offer pretensioners for the middle seat belts.

For enhanced safety, the front and middle seat shoulder belts of the Volvo XC90 are height-adjustable to accommodate a wide variety of driver and passenger heights. A better fit can prevent injuries and the increased comfort also encourages passengers to buckle up. The Acura MDX doesn’t offer height-adjustable middle seat belts.

Both the XC90 and MDX have child safety locks to prevent children from opening the rear doors. The XC90 has power child safety locks, allowing the driver to activate and deactivate them from the driver's seat and to know when they're engaged. The MDX’s child locks have to be individually engaged at each rear door with a manual switch. The driver can’t know the status of the locks without opening the doors and checking them.

The Volvo XC90 offers an optional built in child booster seat. It’s more crash worthy than an added child seat because of its direct attachment to the seat. Acura doesn’t offer the convenience and security of a built-in child booster seat in the MDX. Their owners must carry a heavy booster seat in and out of the vehicle; XC90 owners can just fold their built-in child seat up or down.

Using vehicle speed sensors and seat sensors, smart airbags in the XC90 deploy with different levels of force or don’t deploy at all to help better protect passengers of all sizes in different collisions. The XC90’s side airbags will shut off if a child is leaning against the door. The MDX’s side airbags don’t have smart features and will always deploy full force.

The XC90 has a standard Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS), which use a specially designed seat to protect the driver and front passenger from whiplash. During a rear-end collision, the WHIPS allows the backrest to travel backwards to cushion the occupants and the headrests move forward to prevent neck and spine injuries. At the same time the pretensioning seatbelts fire, removing slack from the belts. The MDX doesn’t offer a whiplash protection system.

The XC90 has standard Automatic Braking After Collision, which automatically apply the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The MDX doesn’t offer a post collision braking system: in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, more collisions are possible without the protection of airbags that may have already deployed.

The XC90’s driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The MDX doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the XC90 and the MDX have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front wheel drive, height adjustable front shoulder belts, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, lane departure warning systems, rearview cameras and available around view monitors.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does side impact tests on new vehicles. In this test, which crashes the vehicle into a flat barrier at 38.5 MPH and into a post at 20 MPH, results indicate that the Volvo XC90 is safer than the Acura MDX:

 

XC90

MDX

 

Front Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

51

72

 

Rear Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

94

133

Spine Acceleration

40 G’s

52 G’s

Hip Force

608 lbs.

757 lbs.

 

Into Pole

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Max Damage Depth

12 inches

13 inches

HIC

209

396

Spine Acceleration

29 G’s

37 G’s

Hip Force

383 lbs.

481 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

Warranty

The XC90’s corrosion warranty is 7 years longer than the MDX’s (12 vs. 5 years).

Volvo pays for scheduled maintenance on the XC90 for 3 years and 36,000 miles. Volvo will pay for oil changes, lubrication and any other required maintenance. Acura doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the MDX.

Reliability

To reliably power the ignition and other systems and to recharge the battery, the XC90 has a standard 210-amp alternator. The MDX’s 150-amp alternator isn’t as powerful.

The battery on the XC90 is in the trunk, which protects it from hot underhood temperatures which can degrade battery life. By keeping the XC90’s battery 20 to 30 degrees cooler, its life is increased by years. The MDX’s battery is in the hot engine compartment.

Engine

The XC90 has more powerful engines than the MDX:

 

Horsepower

Torque

XC90 T6 2.0 DOHC 4 cyl.

316 HP

295 lbs.-ft.

XC90 T8 2.0 DOHC 4 cyl. hybrid

400 HP

472 lbs.-ft.

XC90 T8 Polestar 2.0 DOHC 4 cyl. hybrid

421 HP

502 lbs.-ft.

MDX 3.5 SOHC V6

290 HP

267 lbs.-ft.

MDX Sport Hybrid 3.0 SOHC V6

321 HP

289 lbs.-ft.

As tested in Car and Driver the XC90 T8 is faster than the Acura MDX V6:

 

XC90

MDX

Zero to 60 MPH

5.3 sec

5.9 sec

Zero to 100 MPH

14.6 sec

16.4 sec

5 to 60 MPH Rolling Start

5.8 sec

6.2 sec

Quarter Mile

14 sec

14.6 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

98 MPH

95 MPH

Top Speed

132 MPH

113 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the XC90 T8 running on electricity gets better fuel mileage than the MDX Sport Hybrid (63 city/61 hwy MPGe vs. 26 city/27 hwy).

On the EPA test cycle the XC90 T8 running its gasoline engine gets better fuel mileage than the MDX Sport Hybrid (26 city/30 hwy vs. 26 city/27 hwy).

On the EPA test cycle the XC90 gets better fuel mileage than the MDX:

 

 

XC90

MDX

 

2WD

T5/Auto

22 city/29 hwy

20 city/27 hwy

V6 w/Start/Stop/Auto

 

 

n/a

19 city/27 hwy

V6/Auto

4WD

T5/Auto

22 city/28 hwy

19 city/26 hwy

V6 w/Start/Stop/Auto

 

T6/Auto

20 city/27 hwy

18 city/26 hwy

V6/Auto

The XC90 T8 can drive on battery power alone for up to 14 miles. The MDX must run its internal combustion engine to move.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the XC90’s front brake rotors are larger than those on the MDX:

 

XC90

MDX

MDX Sport Hybrid

Front Rotors

13.6 inches

12.6 inches

13 inches

The XC90’s standard front and rear disc brakes are vented to help dissipate heat for shorter stops with less fading. The rear discs on the MDX are solid, not vented.

The XC90 stops much shorter than the MDX:

 

XC90

MDX

 

70 to 0 MPH

167 feet

185 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

126 feet

135 feet

Consumer Reports

60 to 0 MPH (Wet)

137 feet

140 feet

Consumer Reports

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the XC90’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the MDX (275/45R20 vs. 245/60R18).

The XC90’s optional tires provide better handling because they have a lower 35 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the MDX’s optional 50 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the XC90 offers optional 21-inch wheels. The MDX’s largest wheels are only 20-inches.

Suspension and Handling

The XC90 has a standard automatic front and rear load leveling suspension to keep ride height level with a heavy load or when towing. The XC90’s height leveling suspension allows the driver to raise ride height for better off-road clearance and then lower it again for easier entering and exiting and better on-road handling. The MDX doesn’t offer a load leveling suspension.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the XC90’s wheelbase is 6.5 inches longer than on the MDX (117.5 inches vs. 111 inches).

The XC90’s front to rear weight distribution is more even (51.7% to 48.3%) than the MDX’s (57% to 43%). This gives the XC90 more stable handling and braking.

The XC90 T6 AWD handles at .84 G’s, while the MDX SH-AWD pulls only .82 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

For greater off-road capability the XC90 has a 2.1 inches greater minimum ground clearance than the MDX (9.4 vs. 7.3 inches), allowing the XC90 to travel over rougher terrain without being stopped or damaged. The XC90 w/Air Suspension’s minimum ground clearance is 3.2 inches higher than on the MDX (10.5 vs. 7.3 inches).

Chassis

As tested by Car and Driver while under full throttle, the interior of the XC90 T6 AWD is quieter than the MDX SH-AWD (71 vs. 76 dB).

Passenger Space

The XC90 has .8 inches more front headroom, .2 inches more rear headroom, .4 inches more rear legroom, .7 inches more third row headroom, 3.8 inches more third row legroom and 4.3 inches more third row hip room than the MDX.

The front step up height for the XC90 is 3.2 inches lower than the MDX (15.8” vs. 19”). The XC90’s rear step up height is 1.4 inches lower than the MDX’s (16” vs. 17.4”).

Cargo Capacity

The XC90 has a standard third row seat which folds flat into the floor. This completely clears a very large cargo area quickly. The MDX doesn’t offer seats that fold into the floor.

Pressing a switch automatically lowers or raises the XC90’s optional third row seats, to make changing between cargo and passengers easier. The MDX doesn’t offer automatic folding seats.

To make loading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, the XC90’s cargo door can be opened and closed just by waving your foot, leaving your hands completely free. The MDX doesn’t offer a hands-free gesture to open its cargo door, forcing you to put cargo down if your hands are full.

Towing

The XC90’s minimum standard towing capacity is much higher than the MDX’s (4000 vs. 3500 pounds).

While the MDX SH-AWD Sport Hybrid is not recommended to tow, any XC90 can tow a minimum of 4000 pounds.

Ergonomics

Unlike the driver-only memory system in the MDX, the XC90 has standard driver and passenger memory, so that when drivers switch, the memory setting adjusts the driver’s seat and outside mirror angle and the front passenger seat also adjusts to the new passenger’s preset preferences.

The power windows standard on both the XC90 and the MDX have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the XC90 is engaged the driver can still operate all of the windows, for instance to close one opened by a child. The MDX prevents the driver from operating the other windows just as it does the other passengers.

The XC90’s rain-sensitive wipers adjust their speed and turn on and off automatically based on the amount of rainfall on the windshield. This allows the driver to concentrate on driving without constantly adjusting the wipers. The MDX’s standard intermittent wipers change speed with vehicle speed, but can’t turn on and off or change speed based on changing rainfall.

Heated windshield washer nozzles are standard on the XC90 to prevent washer fluid and nozzles from freezing and help continue to keep the windshield clear in sub-freezing temperatures. The MDX doesn’t offer heated windshield washer nozzles.

In poor weather, headlights can lose their effectiveness as grime builds up on their lenses. This can reduce visibility without the driver realizing. The XC90 offers available headlight washers to keep headlight output high. The MDX doesn’t offer headlight washers.

To help drivers avoid possible obstacles, the XC90 has standard cornering lights to illuminate around corners when the turn signals are activated. The MDX doesn’t offer cornering lights. The XC90 also offers optional adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle.

Optional air conditioned the front and second row seats keep the XC90’s passengers comfortable and take the sting out of hot leather in Summer. The MDX doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats for the second row.

The XC90’s optional Park Assist Pilot can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, with the driver only controlling speed with the brake pedal. The MDX doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

Economic Advantages

Insurance will cost less for the XC90 owner. The Car Book by Jack Gillis rates the XC90 with a number “8” insurance rate while the MDX is rated higher at a number “10” rate.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the XC90 is less expensive to operate than the MDX because typical repairs cost much less on the XC90 than the MDX, including $96 less for a water pump, $45 less for an alternator, $95 less for a starter and $916 less for a power steering pump.

Recommendations

Motor Trend selected the XC90 as their 2016 Sport Utility of the Year. The MDX was Sport Utility of the Year in 2001.

The XC90 was chosen as one of Automobile Magazine’s “All Stars” in 2016. The MDX hasn’t been picked since 2002.

A group of representative automotive journalists from North America selected the XC90 as the 2016 North American Truck of the Year. The MDX was Truck of the Year in 2001.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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