Skip to main content

Acura 2016 MDX 9 speed: The difference between faulty and user preference

For MDX drivers that prefer the less aggressive shift pattern of earlier offerings, the ZF 9 speed may take a bit of getting used to. We believe it’s worth the effort.

Join us...    

Metaphorically throwing oneself under the bus as an automotive journalist can be time consuming as well as debasing as to one’s audience. Such was the case with the creation of the TLX owners' forum of 2014. “Tell us about your 2015 TLX ownership experience,” seemed like a worthwhile project at the time, and it has(good or bad) connected us with our readers; most of them happy with TLX with one exception; the 9 speed ZF Transmission with IDS feature.

Enter, 2016 MDX SH-AWD equipped with the ZF 9 speed automatic transmission and Integrated Dynamics System (IDS)

Torque News recently had the privilege of spending a week behind the wheel of Acura’s latest MDX offering. Our test mule was the top of the mark 2016 MDX. SH-AWD with Advance and Entertainment Packages. Much like the storied “Girl Next Door” and the obsessive teenaged boy that couldn't see enough of her, 2016 MDX for us was love at first sight.

Dressed to the 9s, “Blinged out’”in custom rims, chrome top rails, gorgeous Forest Mist Metallic paint, tinted glass, and Acura’s state of the art Jewel Eye ™ headlamps and digital tail lights, 2016 MDX caught our collective imaginations as to things to come. As with any first date, anticipations ran high with just a bit of trepidation, and she took a moment or two to get acquainted with.

Torque News had driven 2015 Acura MDX through Western Arizona on a romp from Phoenix to Sedona. We, like most MDX owners interviewed were pretty damn happy with MDX as it was. Although finding the 6 speed to search a bit while driving through the city at lower speeds, it was second to none when engaged in highway travel; as was our test MDX with 5,000 showing on the Odometer.

In other words, our MDX had broken in a bit and remained as tight as the inner workings of a fine Rolex Watch. It was as close to perfect a driving experience one could anticipate from a premium midsize, V6 powered SUV.

Acura ups the performance and fuel economy quotient through 9 speed transmission integration

And then, as with any new technology, the reader complaints started rolling in… Once again the transmission change sparked a dialog with the Acura MDX loyal and want-to-be new owners. For the old-school (most MDX buyers are 50 years +) the 9 speed shift pattern lacks familiarity. For the new buyer looking to MDX for cushy- Suburban or Tahoe- want-to-be Cadillac or Lincoln Continental ride, shift patterns and fall asleep, down-soft seats, you’re not going to find it in 2016 MDX. “Sport-Like” may be the key to measurable difference between “ Faulty” and user preference.

2016 Acura MDX is a high quality and mostly-fun to drive premium midsize SUV. However, as noted by our team and reader’s commenting on what they perceive to be an “Abrupt” or rough-shifting 9 speed transmission, we all need to step back from the monitor for a moment or two and consider the possible benefit and utility of this relatively new transmission technology.

What the ZF 9 speed automatic transmission, steering wheel mounted paddle shifters and IDS drive system affords the end-user, is a transformer-like drive and ownership experience exclusive to Acura.

Torque News-Acura discovered that when transitioning from Normal to Sport or Sport + drive with the push of a button, 2016 MDX took on the acceleration capabilities of a more powerful V8 engined crossover. For highway cruising or slow transitional 2-lane road travel, we found “Economy” or “Normal” drive mode to be akin to a quiet stroll through a virgin rain forest in early summer; quiet and calming.

In the 680 miles of driving 2016 Acura MDX,( 200+) miles when we took delivery, we noted a gradual softening of the driver’s seat, a “working in” of the suspension, and a growing familiarity with MDX systems. As with all of today’s high tech featured cars and light trucks, 2016 MDX comes with a bit of a learning curve.

Personal preference set aside, we believe that MDX when weighed against the competition offers the greatest overall purchase and drive-ownership value on the market today. It’s # 1 in North America for reason; it’s that good!

As to the ZF 9 speed automatic transmission and IDS: Based on our experience, Acura has made the right transmission choice for MDX. We found the 9 speed and IDS system to work flawlessly, and did not experience any “harsh” shifting. Any transmission gear wandering at lower speeds and transitioning through traffic is all but gone.

However, there is a notable difference between this transmission and prior MDX model-year offerings. Is it faulty? No! Will it take a few miles driving under mixed weather and road conditions before the 9 speed is second nature? Certainly. Thus, the difference between “Faulty” and user preference.

Join us...    


Maggi Parris (not verified)    April 29, 2016 - 9:30AM

My brand new 2016 had a pretty rough transition from dead stop to 30 miles an hour and then smoothed out from there. Six months in the MDX developed a squeal, which ended up meaning a total replacement of the transmission, water pump and other stuff. Since I got it back, the rough transition from stop to go is even more pronounced. So much so, that I am ready to move on to another brand.

Andrew Shonnard (not verified)    July 23, 2016 - 1:53PM

I also had a transmission failure. It needed a new transmission at 13,200 miles. It squealed between 2nd and 3rd gear and had a bad flutter. Coolant had gotten into the transmission. What can be done. I'm ready for a different car. This is the second MDX with a major failure. My last one, 2013, had a engine failure at 37000

MikeS (not verified)    September 20, 2016 - 10:44PM

My 2016 MDX just had a complete transmission failure at 4500 mile. They are replacing it this week. Very sad what they did to a perfectly good transmission

Kelley (not verified)    September 23, 2016 - 11:56PM

Brand new transmission being put in with 1,524 miles on my 2016 MDX. My 2014 had major electronic issues causing such issues such as, but not limited to: locking me out of my own car (twice), failure of power steering and breaks, entire instrument panel nonfunctional for days, rear view camera turning on while driving down the highway. Yet I got the 2016 and this is what I am dealing with. This is my 4th MDX. I am thinking that it will be my last.

RT (not verified)    September 30, 2016 - 3:15AM

In reply to by Kelley (not verified)

This just happened to us. All of these electronics issues. Then car broke down. Acura Marin is telling us a rock hit the radiator and caused all systems to go down and the car might be totaled. Yeah right. They never serviced the vehicle for the electronics issues. Said it was due to plugging in an iPhone via USB. How insane is that? Blaming their issues on apple.

Jim B. (not verified)    September 25, 2016 - 2:53PM

My 2016 MDX ADVANCE is okay, but I'm easy on the car. Really cannot get used to the " Push Button" shift! Hate it! One has to consentrate every minute on the thing, unlike the reliable by rote shifter! Also dislike the the lousy fuel saver button that stalls out the car at stops. Miserable pause when restarting on the green light, or getting going at speed with cars bearing down on you! Have always first turn this button off for normal driving. All those engine shut downs has to be hard on the engine too! Looking at the 2017 Mercedes GLS 450 now because of preceding b.s.

tseng (not verified)    August 23, 2017 - 2:35AM

same here, transmission replaced at 10,000 miles,.. plus numerous quirks that have been replaced or deemed cannot duplicate and comes and goes.

1. Transmission jerky, jolt, misshift, not holding gears, unintended acceleration, erratic gear hunting, lack of smoothness/refinement, slow to accelerate, causes my wife and kids to have headaches from all the movement
2. Power Steering- humming/soft grinding sound at low speed turns (sounds as if there is no power steering fluid)
3. Left Side mirror auto tilt down mechanism faulty, it would suddenly haphazardly move to the extreme right and continuously click- I have this on video recording multiple occasions.
4. Right Side mirror auto tilt down mechanism faulty, it would suddenly haphazardly move to the extreme right and continuously click- I have this on video recording multiple occasions.
5. Driver door is misaligned, dealer adjusted and made it worse- they said Acura representative says it is correct according to manufacturers specifications. You need to slam the door closed to close door properly or else the door bounces back open.
6. Creak sound coming from rear entertainment housing (monitor is in stored position) The sound comes out whenever there is a small bump or minor imperfection on the road
7. Faulty power trunklid mechanism
8. Front Driver Power Window actuator, fitment, excessive rubber gaps
9. Front Passenger Power Window actuator, fitment, excessive rubber gaps
10. Both Rear Power Windows actuator, fitment, excessive rubber gaps, and wind /air coming into the cabin
11. Audio control, usb severe delay in functioning, track controls
12. Rear camera intermittent delay

just to name a few..

Fgbay (not verified)    November 14, 2017 - 9:05PM

My 2016 mdx just started making the squeaking noise when shifting between 20-25 miles . I am so disappointed with Acura !

Parks McCants    November 14, 2017 - 11:07PM

In reply to by Fgbay (not verified)

Are you the original owner of the MDX? How many miles does your MDX have on it, what model? Was your vehicle subject to a service bulletin or recall? Are you currently under factory warranty? If so, use it! Please keep us up to date on your progress with the dealership service department. While this event is disappointing, a car no matter how well built is subject to component failure. May your repair experience be a positive one.

Sam (not verified)    January 12, 2018 - 1:22PM

About 26k on the 2016 mdx, tranny was extremely rough first several thousand miles, smoothed out a bit, but is again very rough, I thought I was getting motion sickness last month in regular traffic. New software update 2 weeks back, but it seems the same again. My wife drives the car most of the time and has never complained about her past 10+ vehicles, she complains about the mdxtransmission often. Glad we leased it as we will definitely be giving it back, not seeing the value in a car that has almost a 60k sticker.

Michael (not verified)    January 16, 2018 - 2:09PM

In reply to by Parks McCants

Hi Parks -

I question your post, I am having transmissions issues on 2016 MDX. My Service Manager at Acura has the MDX and has issues. Service manager said this is a known problem and said he can't wait to get rid of his.

We are leasing and will be turning this back to Acura in 12 months (Jan 2019) and can't wait.

steve (not verified)    June 15, 2018 - 4:46PM

I dont know if I have a transmission problem or not. Acura says I dont have a problem because they cant duplicate and no DTCs being set. From a stop, MDX hesitates. No change in RPM, no movement, accelerator pedal somewhere between idle and full throttle, transmission engages, MDX lurches and RPM surges to corresponding accelerator position. Acura says there is a time lag between putting into gear and all the sensor talking before the vehicle responds and there is no specification of an acceptable delay. I think they don't know what the problem is. They haven't replaced or updated anything. Denying there is a hesitation/problem. Started at 2 weeks old and its been in the shop 72 days (5 times) and no resolution. Don't know what to do. Any suggestions?