After driving my MDX for 4800 miles and getting used to the transmission, I spent a large part of Sunday towing a 5x8 u-Haul trailer from NH to Boston to NYC. This allowed me to pull a not-too-large trailer in many different speeds/conditions, and really understand just how the MDX likes to provide power to the wheels. Pulling a trailer helps to bring out the real "needs" in these situations.
As others have said, the MDX (specifically my '13) loves to go to a higher gear and keep the RPM's low for fuel economy. The "power" comes when the RPM's get above 2500 rpm, and you have to get to a lower gear for that to happen. The net-net is that the "-" paddle shifter became my close friend during that trip, and I got pretty good at using it by the time I reached my destination. In normal non-trailer driving, the accellerator pedal is pretty good about helping with downshifts when you give it gas - but not always. When pulling a trailer, it's not nearly as sensitive, and you have to use the paddle shifter to go down a gear for power. On my return trip to NH without the trailer, I didn't have to use the paddle shifter much at all, but those few times when I could feel it start to lug along, a quick blip and it was much happier.
I tried using the "S" mode when trailering, but when in stop/start driving, the requirement that you must shift up with paddle shifters (after the 1-2 auto shift) was a bit of a pain, so I opted for the downshift method in the "D" mode as being more friendly in traffic.
As a comparison, when I drive my wife's '12 TL with the almost identical drivetrain (3.7L, SH-AWD, 6-speed auto), you NEVER need to hit the paddle shifter to achieve power (unless you wanna play around). It's either the gearing ratios and shift points - or maybe the greatly reduced weight - but the TL behaves much more crisply and you don't ever get that "I need more power" feeling like you can in the MDX from time to time.
But don't get me wrong - the MDX is a blast to drive. You just need to get used to it and anticipate when you want it to have that extra shot of power. That paddle shifter is great for that.
Andy from Southern NH
2012 Acura TL SH-AWD Tech - Wife's, 17k miles, White
2013 Acura MDX Base - Mine, 14k miles, also White
2014 Honda Accord LX - Oldest kid's, new, Black
Previous Honda/Acura family vehicles:
2012 Honda Civic LX Coupe
2006 Honda Pilot LX AWD
2005 Honda Accord LX
2004 Honda Pilot EX-L AWD
1996 Acura RL
1993 Acura Legend L
1991 Acura Integra GS coupe
1990 Acura Integra LS sedan