2020 Ford Explorer vs. 2019 Acura MDX

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

Both the Explorer and MDX have child safety locks to prevent children from opening the rear doors. The Explorer 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 Explorer has standard Post Collision Braking, 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.

Over 200 people are killed each year when backed over by motor vehicles. The Explorer ST/Platinum has standard Reverse Brake Assist 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.

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

Warranty

There are over 11 times as many Ford dealers as there are Acura dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Explorer’s warranty.

Reliability

The Explorer has a standard “limp home system” to keep drivers from being stranded if most or all of the engine’s coolant is lost. The engine will run on only half of its cylinders at a time, reduce its power and light a warning lamp on the dashboard so the driver can get to a service station for repairs. The MDX doesn’t offer a lost coolant limp home mode, so a coolant leak could strand you or seriously damage the truck’s engine.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Ford vehicles are better in initial quality than Acura vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Ford fourth in initial quality, above the industry average. With 27 more problems per 100 vehicles, Acura is ranked 24th, below the industry average.

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

Engine

The Explorer has more powerful engines than the MDX:

Horsepower

Torque

Explorer 2.3 turbo 4 cyl.

300 HP

310 lbs.-ft.

Explorer 3.3 DOHC V6 hybrid

318 HP

322 lbs.-ft.

Explorer Platinum 3.0 turbo V6

365 HP

380 lbs.-ft.

Explorer ST 3.0 turbo V6

400 HP

415 lbs.-ft.

MDX 3.5 SOHC V6

290 HP

267 lbs.-ft.

MDX Sport Hybrid 3.0 SOHC V6

321 HP

289 lbs.-ft.

Fuel Economy and Range

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

MPG

Explorer

RWD

2.3 turbo 4-cyl.

21 city/28 hwy

AWD

2.3 turbo 4-cyl.

20 city/27 hwy

MDX

FWD

3.5 SOHC V6

20 city/27 hwy

AWD

3.5 SOHC V6

19 city/26 hwy

A-Spec 3.5 SOHC V6

19 city/25 hwy

Transmission

A 10-speed automatic is standard on the Ford Explorer, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a nine-speed automatic is available for the MDX.

Brakes and Stopping

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

Explorer

Explorer ST

Explorer ST opt.

MDX

MDX Sport Hybrid

Front Rotors

13.6 inches

13.6 inches

14.3 inches

12.6 inches

13 inches

Rear Rotors

12.4 inches

12.8 inches

13.8 inches

13 inches

13 inches

The Explorer ST’s optional 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.

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the Explorer has larger standard tires than the MDX (255/65R18 vs. 245/60R18). The Explorer ST/Platinum’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the MDX (275/45R21 vs. 265/45R20).

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

Having a flat tire is dangerous, inconvenient and expensive. The self-sealing tires available on the Explorer can automatically seal most punctures up to 3/16 of an inch, effectively preventing most flat tires. The MDX doesn’t offer self-sealing tires.

Suspension and Handling

The Explorer’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 Explorer’s wheelbase is 8.1 inches longer than on the MDX (119.1 inches vs. 111 inches).

For greater off-road capability the Explorer has a greater minimum ground clearance than the MDX (7.9 vs. 7.3 inches), allowing the Explorer to travel over rougher terrain without being stopped or damaged.

Chassis

The front grille of the Explorer (except 3.3 V6 non-Hybrid) 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

The Explorer has 20 cubic feet more passenger volume than the MDX (152.7 vs. 132.7).

The Explorer has 2.6 inches more front headroom, 1.6 inches more front legroom, 1.7 inches more front hip room, .7 inches more front shoulder room, 2.2 inches more rear headroom, 2.4 inches more rear legroom, 1.3 inches more rear hip room, 2.8 inches more rear shoulder room, 3.3 inches more third row headroom, 4.1 inches more third row legroom and .3 inches more third row hip room than the MDX.

Cargo Capacity

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

Explorer

MDX

Behind Third Seat

18.2 cubic feet

15.8 cubic feet

Third Seat Folded

47.9 cubic feet

43.4 cubic feet

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

Explorer

MDX

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

20.8”/49.8”/83.9”

21.05”/47.3”/81.7”

Max Width

59”

55”

Min Width

48.1”

45.3”

Height

33.7”

29.5”

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

To make loading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, the Explorer Limited/ST/Platinum’s 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

Maximum trailer towing in the Acura MDX is limited to 5000 pounds. The Explorer offers up to a 5600 lbs. towing capacity.

While the MDX SH-AWD Sport Hybrid is not recommended to tow, any Explorer can tow a minimum of 3000 pounds.

Servicing Ease

The engine in the Explorer is mounted longitudinally (North-South), instead of sideways, as in the MDX. This makes it easier to service and maintain, because there are no rear spark plugs and the accessory belts are in front.

Ergonomics

The power windows standard on both the Explorer and the MDX have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the Explorer 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.

In case you lock your keys in your vehicle, or don’t have them with you, you can let yourself in using the Explorer’s exterior PIN entry system. The MDX doesn’t offer an exterior PIN entry system, and its extra cost AcuraLink can’t unlock the doors if the vehicle doesn’t have cell phone reception or the driver can’t contact the service.

To help drivers see further while navigating curves, the Explorer Platinum has standard adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle. The MDX doesn’t offer cornering lights.

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

To quickly and conveniently keep personal devices charged without cables tangling and wearing out, the Ford Explorer Limited/ST/Platinum has a standard wireless phone charging system (Qi) in the center console. The MDX doesn’t offer wireless personal charging.

The Explorer ST/Platinum’s Active Park Assist 2.0 can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, starting, stopping and changing direction automatically. The MDX doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

Recommendations

The Ford Explorer outsold the Acura MDX by over five to one during 2018.

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

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