2020 Chrysler Pacifica vs. 2020 Acura MDX

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

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For enhanced safety, the front and middle seat shoulder belts of the Chrysler Pacifica 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.

Over 200 people are killed each year when backed over by motor vehicles. The Pacifica has standard Rear Park Assist with Stop that uses rear sensors to monitor and automatically apply the brakes to prevent a rear collision. The MDX doesn’t offer backup collision prevention brakes.

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

For its top level performance in IIHS driver-side small overlap frontal, moderate overlap frontal, side impact, rear impact and roof-crush tests, with its optional front crash prevention system, its “Acceptable” rating in the new passenger-side small overlap crash test, and its available headlight’s “Acceptable” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the Pacifica the rating of “Top Pick” for 2019, a rating granted to only 88 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The MDX has not been fully tested, yet.

Warranty

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There are almost 9 times as many Chrysler dealers as there are Acura dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Pacifica’s warranty.

Reliability

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A hardened steel chain, with no maintenance needs, drives the camshafts in the Pacifica’s engine. A rubber cam drive belt that needs periodic replacement drives the MDX’s camshafts. If the MDX’s belt breaks, the engine could be severely damaged when the pistons hit the opened valves.

To reliably power the ignition and other systems and to recharge the battery, the Pacifica has a standard 180-amp alternator (220-amp - Pacifica optional). The MDX’s 150-amp alternator isn’t as powerful.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Chrysler vehicles are more reliable than Acura vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Chrysler 16th in reliability. With 25 more problems per 100 vehicles, Acura is ranked 26th.

Fuel Economy and Range

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On the EPA test cycle the Pacifica Hybrid running on electricity gets better fuel mileage than the MDX Sport Hybrid (87 city/76 hwy MPGe vs. 26 city/27 hwy).

On the EPA test cycle the Pacifica Hybrid running its gasoline engine gets better fuel mileage than the MDX Sport Hybrid (29 city/30 hwy vs. 26 city/27 hwy).

The Pacifica Hybrid can drive on battery power alone for up to 32 miles. The MDX must run its internal combustion engine to move.

To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Chrysler Pacifica uses regular unleaded gasoline. The MDX requires premium, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.

Environmental Friendliness

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In its Green Vehicle Guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the Chrysler Pacifica higher (7 out of 10) than the Acura MDX (3). This means the Pacifica produces up to 24.5 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the MDX every 15,000 miles.

Transmission

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The Pacifica Hybrid has a standard continuously variable transmission (CVT). With no “steps” between gears, it can keep the engine at the most efficient speed for fuel economy, or keep it at its peak horsepower indefinitely for maximum acceleration. The MDX doesn’t offer a CVT.

Brakes and Stopping

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

Pacifica

MDX

Front Rotors

13 inches

12.6 inches

The Pacifica stops much shorter than the MDX:

Pacifica

MDX

70 to 0 MPH

164 feet

185 feet

Car and Driver

Suspension and Handling

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The Pacifica’s drift compensation steering can automatically compensate for road conditions which would cause the vehicle to drift from side to side, helping the driver to keep the vehicle straight more easily. The MDX doesn’t offer drift compensation steering.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Pacifica’s wheelbase is 10.6 inches longer than on the MDX (121.6 inches vs. 111 inches).

For better handling and stability, the average track (width between the wheels) on the Pacifica is 2 inches wider in the front and 2 inches wider in the rear than the track on the MDX.

Chassis

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To almost totally eliminate engine vibration in the passenger area, the Pacifica has liquid-filled engine mounts. The liquid helps further dampen engine harshness. The MDX uses conventional solid rubber engine mounts.

The front grille of the Pacifica uses electronically controlled shutters to close off airflow and reduce drag when less engine cooling is needed. This helps improve highway fuel economy. The MDX doesn’t offer active grille shutters.

Passenger Space

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The Pacifica offers optional seating for 8 passengers; the MDX can only carry 7.

The Pacifica has 32.4 cubic feet more passenger volume than the MDX (165.1 vs. 132.7).

The Pacifica has 2 inches more front headroom, 1.5 inches more front hip room, 2.7 inches more front shoulder room, 1.3 inches more rear headroom, 2.4 inches more rear legroom, 7 inches more rear hip room, 3.9 inches more rear shoulder room, 3.1 inches more third row headroom, 8.4 inches more third row legroom, 8.9 inches more third row hip room and 6.5 inches more third row shoulder room than the MDX.

For enhanced passenger comfort on long trips the Pacifica’s middle and third row seats recline. The MDX’s third row seats don’t recline.

The front step up height for the Pacifica is 2.7 inches lower than the MDX (16.3” vs. 19”).

Cargo Capacity

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The Pacifica’s cargo area provides more volume than the MDX.

Pacifica

MDX

Behind Third Seat

32.3 cubic feet

15.8 cubic feet

Third Seat Folded

87.5 cubic feet

43.4 cubic feet

Second Seat Folded

140.5 cubic feet

90.9 cubic feet

A low lift-over cargo hatch design makes loading and unloading the Pacifica easier. The Pacifica’s cargo hatch lift-over height is 24.3 inches, while the MDX’s liftover is 31.5 inches.

The Pacifica’s cargo area is larger than the MDX’s in almost every dimension:

Pacifica

MDX

Length to seat (3rd/2nd/1st)

23.2”/57.5”/92.5”

21.05”/47.3”/81.7”

Max Width

49.3”

55”

Min Width

48.8”

45.3”

Height

47.6”

29.5”

The Pacifica has standard Stow ‘n Go™ second and third row seats (except Hybrid for the second row), which fold 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 Pacifica’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 Pacifica’s available liftgate can be opened and closed just by kicking your foot under the back bumper, leaving your hands completely free. The MDX doesn’t offer a hands-free gesture to open its liftgate, forcing you to put cargo down if your hands are full.

Towing

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The Pacifica’s standard towing capacity is much higher than the MDX’s (3600 vs. 3500 pounds).

Ergonomics

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The Pacifica’s instruments include an oil pressure gauge and a temperature gauge - which could save your engine! Often ‘idiot lights’ don’t warn you until damage has been done. The MDX does not have an oil pressure gauge.

The power windows standard on both the Pacifica and the MDX have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the Pacifica 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 Pacifica’s power window, power lock, power mirror and cruise control switches are lit from behind, making them plainly visible and easier to operate at night. The MDX’s power mirror switches are unlit, making them difficult to find at night and operate safely.

To shield the driver and front passenger’s vision over a larger portion of the windshield and side windows, the Pacifica has standard extendable sun visors. The MDX doesn’t offer extendable visors.

The Pacifica (except Hybrid Touring)’s optional ParkSense Park Assist can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, steering and operating the brakes. The MDX doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

Economic Advantages

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According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Pacifica is less expensive to operate than the MDX because it costs $436 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the Pacifica than the MDX, including $175 less for a water pump, $37 less for front brake pads, $122 less for a starter, $1183 less for fuel injection, $206 less for a fuel pump and $619 less for a power steering pump.

IntelliChoice estimates that five-year ownership costs (depreciation, financing, insurance, fuel, fees, repairs and maintenance) for the Chrysler Pacifica will be $10738 to $12582 less than for the Acura MDX.

Recommendations

© 1999 - 2019 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. This vehicle comparison and all of the content in it are provided only by license from Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of America. If you are not a legally licensed user of this vehicle comparison, it is against federal law to access it, copy it, forward it or use it in any manner whatsoever. Any unauthorized use of this vehicle comparison is a violation of U.S. and international law and is punishable criminally and civilly. 6IUEX-0KENZ 45.55.47.189 2019/10/14

J.D. Power and Associates rated the Pacifica second among minivans in owner reported satisfaction. This includes how well the vehicle performs and satisfies its owner’s expectations. The MDX isn’t in the top three in its category.

The Pacifica was chosen as one of Car and Driver’s “Top Five/10Best Trucks” for 3 of the last 3 years. The MDX hasn’t been picked since 2001.

The Chrysler Pacifica outsold the Acura MDX by over two to one during 2018.

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