2021 Volkswagen Atlas vs. 2020 Acura MDX

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

© 1999 - 2020 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 2020/08/11

The Atlas has a standard Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, which automatically applies 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 Atlas SEL/SEL Premium has standard Maneuver Braking 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 Atlas and the MDX have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact 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, rearview cameras, available all wheel drive, lane departure warning systems and around view monitors.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Volkswagen Atlas is safer than the Acura MDX:

Atlas

MDX

Passenger

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

138

283

Neck Compression

46 lbs.

113 lbs.

Leg Forces (l/r)

156/231 lbs.

467/511 lbs.

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

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 Volkswagen Atlas is safer than the Acura MDX:

Atlas

MDX

Front Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

57

72

Chest Movement

.5 inches

.6 inches

Abdominal Force

48 G’s

113 G’s

Rear Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Spine Acceleration

39 G’s

52 G’s

Hip Force

527 lbs.

757 lbs.

Into Pole

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

279

396

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

Warranty

© 1999 - 2020 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 2020/08/11

The Atlas’ corrosion warranty is 2 years longer than the MDX’s (7 vs. 5 years).

Volkswagen pays for scheduled maintenance on the Atlas for 2 years and 20,000 miles. Volkswagen will pay for oil changes, lubrication and any other required maintenance. Acura doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the MDX.

There are over 2 times as many Volkswagen dealers as there are Acura dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Atlas’ warranty.

Reliability

© 1999 - 2020 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 2020/08/11

The Volkswagen Atlas’ engines use a cast iron block for durability, while the MDX’s engines use an aluminum block. Aluminum engine blocks are much more prone to warp and crack at high temperatures than cast iron.

A hardened steel chain, with no maintenance needs, drives the camshafts in the Atlas’ 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.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Volkswagen vehicles are more reliable than Acura vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Volkswagen 12th in reliability, above the industry average. With 40 more problems per 100 vehicles, Acura is ranked 26th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2019 Auto Issue reports that Volkswagen vehicles are more reliable than Acura vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Volkswagen 1 place higher in reliability than Acura.

Fuel Economy and Range

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To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Volkswagen Atlas uses regular unleaded gasoline (premium recommended for maximum performance). The MDX requires premium, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.

Brakes and Stopping

© 1999 - 2020 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 2020/08/11

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

Atlas

MDX

MDX Sport Hybrid

Front Rotors

13.2 inches

12.6 inches

13 inches

The Atlas’ 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 Atlas stops much shorter than the MDX:

Atlas

MDX

70 to 0 MPH

174 feet

185 feet

Car and Driver

Tires and Wheels

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

Suspension and Handling

© 1999 - 2020 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 2020/08/11

The Atlas’ 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 Atlas’ wheelbase is 6.3 inches longer than on the MDX (117.3 inches vs. 111 inches).

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the Atlas is .9 inches wider in the front and 1.5 inches wider in the rear than on the MDX.

The Atlas’ front to rear weight distribution is more even (55.1% to 44.9%) than the MDX’s (57% to 43%). This gives the Atlas more stable handling and braking.

The Atlas SEL Premium 4Motion 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 better maneuverability, the Atlas’ turning circle is .3 feet tighter than the MDX Sport Hybrid’s (38.1 feet vs. 38.4 feet). The Atlas’ turning circle is .6 feet tighter than the MDX’s (38.1 feet vs. 38.7 feet).

For greater off-road capability the Atlas has a greater minimum ground clearance than the MDX (8 vs. 7.3 inches), allowing the Atlas to travel over rougher terrain without being stopped or damaged.

Passenger Space

© 1999 - 2020 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 2020/08/11

The Atlas has 21 cubic feet more passenger volume than the MDX (153.7 vs. 132.7).

The Atlas has 3.2 inches more front headroom, .1 inches more front legroom, .7 inches more front hip room, .4 inches more front shoulder room, 2.1 inches more rear headroom, 1 inch more rear legroom, .2 inches more rear hip room, 1.7 inches more rear shoulder room, 2.7 inches more third row headroom, 5.6 inches more third row legroom, 4.5 inches more third row hip room and .2 inches more third row shoulder room than the MDX.

Cargo Capacity

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The Atlas’ cargo area provides more volume than the MDX.

Atlas

MDX

Behind Third Seat

20.6 cubic feet

15.8 cubic feet

Third Seat Folded

55.5 cubic feet

43.4 cubic feet

Second Seat Folded

96.8 cubic feet

90.9 cubic feet

A low lift-over cargo hatch design makes loading and unloading the Atlas easier. The Atlas’ cargo hatch lift-over height is 29.7 inches, while the MDX’s liftover is 31.5 inches.

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

Atlas

MDX

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

23.8”/53”/85”

21.05”/47.3”/81.7”

Max Width

61.6”

55”

Min Width

45”

45.3”

Height

37.5”

29.5”

To make loading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, the Atlas’ 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.

Payload and Towing

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While the MDX SH-AWD Sport Hybrid is not recommended to tow, any Atlas can tow a minimum of 2000 pounds.

The Atlas has a higher standard payload capacity than the MDX (1213 vs. 1173 lbs.).

Ergonomics

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

The Atlas’ 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 Atlas SE/SEL/SEL Premium 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.

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

To shield the driver and front passenger’s vision over a larger portion of the windshield and side windows, the Atlas SE/SEL/SEL Premium 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 Volkswagen Atlas SE/SEL/SEL Premium/R-Line has a standard wireless phone charging system (Qi) in the center console. The MDX doesn’t offer wireless personal charging.

The Atlas SEL Premium’s Park Assist 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

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Insurance will cost less for the Atlas owner. The Car Book by Jack Gillis rates the Atlas with a number “5” insurance rate while the MDX is rated higher at a number “10” rate.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Atlas is less expensive to operate than the MDX because typical repairs cost much less on the Atlas than the MDX, including $80 less for front brake pads, $848 less for fuel injection and $230 less for a fuel pump.

IntelliChoice estimates that five-year ownership costs (depreciation, financing, insurance, fuel, fees, repairs and maintenance) for the Volkswagen Atlas will be $8053 to $9148 less than for the Acura MDX.

Recommendations

© 1999 - 2020 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 2020/08/11

The Volkswagen Atlas outsold the Acura MDX by 57% during 2019.

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

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