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    Acura MDX vs Toyota Highlander: Which Midsize SUV is the Better Option?

    Acura MDX vs Toyota Highlander: Which Midsize SUV is the Better Option?

    For families needing a practical yet stylish SUV, two popular options to consider are the Acura MDX and Toyota Highlander. As midsize SUVs with three rows of seating, these vehicles offer a balance of passenger space, cargo capacity, features, and performance. However, the MDX and Highlander have key differences that prospective buyers should understand before deciding which model best fits their needs and budget.

    This comprehensive comparison examines the MDX and Highlander across a variety of factors to determine the superior midsize SUV.

    High-Performance Luxury vs Family-Focused Value

    The most significant difference between the MDX and Highlander lies in their identities within the SUV market. The Acura MDX positions itself as a high-performance luxury SUV that emphasizes driving dynamics, premium accommodations, and loads of technology. Meanwhile, the Toyota Highlander adopts the role of a versatile family hauler focused on maximizing value and practicality.

    So buyers must first decide which direction they want to take their midsize SUV purchase. Those desiring advanced performance with upscale features will naturally gravitate toward the 2024 MDX. But for shoppers seeking maximum space and efficiency at a reasonable price, the 2023 Highlander makes a compelling case.

    Powertrain and Performance

    Under the hood, both SUVs utilize a 3.5-liter V6 engine. Yet the MDX provides superior horsepower and torque output.

    Specification Acura MDX Toyota Highlander
    Engine 3.5L V6 3.5L V6
    Horsepower 290 hp 295 hp
    Torque 267 lb-ft 263 lb-ft
    Transmission 10-speed automatic 8-speed automatic
    Drivetrain SH-AWD standard FWD standard, AWD available
    Towing Capacity 5,000 lbs 5,000 lbs

    This table illustrates the MDX’s advantage in critical performance metrics. Its advanced Super Handling All-Wheel Drive also gives the Acura better grip and control, while the Highlander only offers AWD on certain trims. Road tests confirm the MDX’s superior acceleration, braking, and handling versus the Highlander. So drivers wanting a more dynamic, engaging midsize SUV should gravitate toward the 2024 MDX.

    However, the Highlander counterpunches in two key areas – fuel efficiency and pricing. Going with front-wheel drive and lower horsepower allows Toyota to squeeze out 22 mpg city / 29 mpg highway fuel economy, marginally beating the Acura’s 21 mpg city and 26 mpg highway ratings. And Highlander shoppers can score these efficient engines while saving thousands upfront.

    Interior Space and Cargo Capacity

    On paper, both SUVs advertise nearly identical dimensions for passenger and storage space. But experiential reviews note the Highlander boasting a slight edge here.

    In the first row, the Toyota Highlander offers a bit more headroom and legroom. The second-row space is essentially even, while the third row goes to the MDX by a hair. When it comes to cargo volume behind the rear seats, and with all seats folded down, the Highlander rates are marginally higher once again.

    So families needing to routinely transport lots of people and gear have a small incentive to pick the Toyota. Still, Acura’s margins offer no meaningful difference. The MDX counterbalances with nicer materials and amenities throughout the cabin.

    Technology and Connectivity

    While Highlander buyers can access Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration with a large touchscreen, the Acura MDX simply exists on another level for tech. The MDX Advance Package comes standard with:

    • 25-speaker ELS Studio 3D premium audio
    • Head-up display
    • Digital rearview camera
    • Built-in Amazon Alexa
    • In-vehicle digital assistant

    Additionally, Acura packs the MDX with abundant active safety systems like traffic jam assist, road departure mitigation, and low-speed braking control. All trims also feature a 10.2-inch HD center display with crisp graphics and intuitive menus. So for those wanting a luxurious tech hub on wheels with the latest innovations, the MDX outshines the Highlander.

    Reliability and Ownership Costs

    Here we have an intriguing matchup between two reputable brands. Toyota has built an empire on dependability and quality control. However, Acura also performs well in reliability metrics for the MDX:

    • J.D. Power Quality Score: 5 out of 5
    • RepairPal Reliability Rating: 4 out of 5

    The numbers above verify both Acura and Toyota produce durable and long-lasting SUVs. Perhaps Toyota edges ahead slightly according to consumer consensus. But MDX repairs may cost more on average when issues do arise. And due to lower demand, the Highlander will likely retain higher resale value over time.

    On the other hand, breakdown statistics show the MDX requires fewer unscheduled repairs than both the midsize luxury SUV segment and overall market averages. This suggests strong reliability. And owners praise the attentive service from Acura dealerships.

    So reliability projections appear mostly even between both options. But MDX maintenance quotes tend to be pricier over the years, while Highlanders have better residual values.

    Safety and Crash Test Results

    Safety remains a universal priority for vehicle shoppers. Protecting precious passengers with optimal structural reinforcements and active technology systems ranks among the top considerations for families.

    Once again, Acura and Toyota finish in a dead heat:

    • NHTSA 5-Star Safety Ratings: 5 stars for both models
    • IIHS Top Safety Pick Status: 2021 MDX and 2022 Highlander earn highest honors

    So whether choosing the MDX’s electronically-controlled brakes or the Highlander’s pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, buyers can rely on excellent protection.

    In the event of an actual crash, similarities continue. Side barrier tests from both agencies resulted in identical “Good” scores. Roof strength also provided comparable occupant shielding. Essentially, both Acura and Toyota pass every evaluative category with flying colors through meticulous engineering.

    Trim Levels and Standard Equipment

    When comparing standard features across trims, the MDX again leverages its premium status to deliver more bang for the buck:

    Acura MDX Trims:

    • MDX
    • Technology Package
    • A-Spec (Sporty Styling)
    • Advance Package (Top Trim)

    Toyota Highlander Trims:

    • L
    • LE
    • XLE
    • Limited
    • Platinum

    Entry-level variants still come nicely equipped with alloy wheels, proximity entry, and an integrated backup camera system. Toyota forces customers into higher grades just to obtain basics like a blind spot warning or a power liftgate.

    Conversely, every MDX pampers occupants with leather upholstery, heated front seats, three-zone climate control, and 18-inch wheels even in base form. Overall, Acura packs more value into standard features across fewer trims.

    Verdict: MDX Beats Highlander as Best Midsize SUV

    When conducting an objective Acura MDX versus Toyota Highlander comparison, the MDX prevails as the superior midsize SUV for most buyers. Although the Highlander offers marginally more passenger room and better fuel economy, the MDX excels in too many other meaningful areas while still providing generous interior space.

    Specifically, the Acura MDX earns victory through:

    • Stronger performance from its exhilarating V6 powertrain and handling
    • Abundant luxury appointments on all trims like leather seats
    • Cutting-edge technology features such as Amazon Alexa integration
    • Equivalent safety ratings and crash test results

    Meanwhile the Toyota Highlander counterpunches with slightly more cargo flexibility and family-friendly ergonomics. Value-focused shoppers will also appreciate its lower MSRPs.

    But in the end, those desiring a genuinely rewarding driving experience fused with upscale amenities should choose the Acura MDX as their midsize SUV. Its alluring blend of dynamics, comfort, and innovation creates an overall package that the Highlander struggles to match.