When Acura first appeared in the late 1980s, comparing one of its cars to a BMW was laughable -- Acura was still finding its way in the luxury market. Through the years, however, Acura has gotten more skilled at pumping out luxurious cars, and no Acura model more closely rivals its BMW counterpart than the MDX.
What the MDX Gets Right
The first thing that sets the MDX apart from the entire crowd, let alone from the X5, is its stylish body. It is an uncommonly balanced blend of sportiness, luxury and class that few automakers can achieve. Add to this the fact that the base sticker price is much lower than its BMW counterpart. Inside, you also get standard leather upholstery, three-zone climate control, heated seats and an eight-speaker sound system.
Under the hood, the Acura nearly matches the 300 horsepower produced by the base X5, minus the BMW's finicky turbocharging system, and its nine-speed transmission delivers a smooth gear for every speed.
What the X5 Gets Right
The X5’s exterior design takes class to a whole new level with elegant lines and long hood. Also, its standard features -- which include 18-inch wheels, LED running lights, 10-way power seats and a 10-speaker audio system -- all trump the MDX’s base offerings. Additionally, the X5's cabin is more useful with 23.2 cubic-feet of cargo space with all of the seats in place.
Under the hood, the X5's options are unmatchable. The base 3-liter pushes out 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque; the optional turbocharged diesel engine pushes the X5's fuel economy to 25 mpg on the highway; and the optional 4.4-liter V8 with 400 horsepower offers performance that Acura just can't match. Add to that the xDrive45e's plug-in hybrid powertrain that delivers 308 horsepower, up to 14 miles of electric-only driving and up to 56 mpg-e, and the X5 takes a sizable lead in terms of available powertrains.
Why Buy the X5?
Though the MDX is a more traditional crossover SUV for the masses, there is still a market for the X5. This market consists of young professionals who want a sporty SUV that also carries an impressive name and plenty of power to play with.
Verdict: Acura MDX
Pound for pound, the MDX is a better buy. It comes in at a lower base price -- and this base model includes a standard leather interior, as opposed to the BMW’s leather-like vinyl upholstery. Additionally, low long-term maintenance costs and reliability make Acura products a solid choice for any family.