Acura MDX SUV Forums banner

1 - 20 of 57 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
35 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I am going to replace my 2014 Base MDX and have been doing the research. Looks like another MDX, but I read about issues, in general, with the 9 speed transmission. The issues seem to be more active with the 2016 and less with the 2017. However, I find very little detail about the 2018 , and believe me, I have been searching looking.

It looks like I could avoid the issues with the 9 speed entirely by waiting for the 2018 Sport Hybrid. But a 2018 SW-AHD 9 speed w/Tech would be a negotiable price (and less expensive) than the Sport Hybrid which likely won't be negotiable for quite a while.

Confusion increases with reading that the 9 speed is fixable with software updates and assuring proper fluid levels but I also read a comment from someone who claims to know an engineer who works at Z9 and claims that "the transmission is fixable". Add to the mix the fact that, after many years, Honda has designed a new transmission and that 10 speed will replace the 9 speed - an indicator that the 9 speed isn't very good?

So my question for you is where does the 9 speed transmission issue sit today relative to a 2018. Is the transmission a poor performing problem, a stinker that kind of works, just mildly annoying once in a while or not really much of an issue?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,952 Posts
I own a 2017, so maybe I'm biased? But I also have first-hand day-to-day experience... So I guess take it how you want.

Is it my favorite transmission? No.
Do I regret buying it? No.
If my MDX was "totaled" and I needed a new vehicle would I buy another MDX with the ZF9? Yes.

I'm on both of the main Acura MDX forums... I don't recall a single thread about an actual failure of the ZF9. The only failures have been attributed to a defective warmer unit that allows transmission fluid to mix with engine coolant. This affected many 2016 units. There were five 2017 units affected, otherwise the 2017 model year was safe.

There have been several software updates to the shift logic. Personally, I think they've done a good job reacting to customer feedback and making the transmission shift closer to what people expect -- within the limitations of the mechanical design. The 4-5 and 7-8 shift will always feel a little different, because of the dog clutches.

As for as "some random guy on the internet knows another random guy (who won't go on record with their name/credentials) who claims to have inside information".... Well, you believe what you want to believe. I don't put much (any) faith or weight on those type of statements.

Ultimately, go to a dealer and play around with a MDX. Take it on a long test drive. Heck, go home, sleep on it, then come back and take it on another long test drive.

If the MDX doesn't suite your needs, then don't buy it. If you like the MDX but hate how the transmission shifts on your test drive, then don't buy it. But if you like the MDX, and the transmission doesn't bother you on the test drive then I say BUY IT!

As for the ZF9 vs Honda 10 speed... It's hard to say. Only the insiders know for sure. My opinion is: Honda has always liked to make their own transmissions. They're one of the few manufacturers who does. Honda wanted something "flashy" for their premium products (Acura and top-trim Honda Pilot) and their proven Hondamatic 6AT was "dated" in marketing terms. So Honda contracted with ZF for the ZF9HP48 to buy them time. Now we have the Honda 10 speed coming out... These things take time to develop, so I don't believe that Honda is releasing the 10 speed because of any problems with the ZF9... To the contrary, Honda certainly had to be working on the 10 speed prior to the ZF9 coming out -- it takes too long to design these things. Just my thoughts, though. I have no inside information or proof.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
35 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Thanks - your input is pretty much what I was looking for.

And I agree with you about internet feedback - it often has to pass through a BS filter before using. Owner/user feedback is always best, but there hasn't been much about the 2018 9 speed. In the usual scope of things, that should be a positive indicator because people spend much more time complaining than making positive comments.

The things I have read about the Honda 10 speed, at least as it is being used in the Odyssey, have been uniformly positive.

Agreed about a test drive being a critical factor, as always. I should have mentioned that I live in Upstate New York and my interest piqued a couple of weeks ago. Before I do a test drive, we need to get rid of enough snow to be able to drive normally without having to worry about sliding off the road. I would also like to try out the Sport Hybrid because of what I have read.

Anyhow - good stuff. Much appreciated.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,952 Posts
Agreed about a test drive being a critical factor, as always. I should have mentioned that I live in Upstate New York and my interest piqued a couple of weeks ago. Before I do a test drive, we need to get rid of enough snow to be able to drive normally without having to worry about sliding off the road. I would also like to try out the Sport Hybrid because of what I have read.
You may consider doing a test drive now, so you can see how it handles in the snow. SH-AWD is phenomenal and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how well it handles the white slush. Of course, go back and test drive during good weather on clear roads, as well. But you have an opportunity here that many people don't get -- whether due to time of year, or location -- to see how the MDX handles weather.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
20 Posts
I went from a 2014 to a 2017 without much Research because I was happy with the 2014 and wanted to stick with an MDX. I didn’t notice much difference in my brief test drive of the 2017 but several days after taking ownership I began to notice the difference in the transmission; in particular, how it shifts from 1-2-3; and then again from around either 4-5 or 5-6th gear, in that it hesitates at first then changes abruptly. The sensation is exaggerated when the car is driven with a light foot and tends to improve when driven more aggressively. But since you mentioned it, driving in snowy conditions requires the light footed approach. Anyway, after research on this forum, I had my dealer upgrade the firmware and it did reduce the hesitation and has smoothed out the gear changes, but at the cost of dulling the performance somewhat. The good news is if you drive in S mode then the performance feels quite a bit more spirited. What the new firmware did not solve is the surge i continue to feel when I manually shift from 5-4 and again from 4-3rd gear. Furthermore, it seems my fuel consumption may have gone up somewhat.
All in all, I’m quite less annoyed by the transmission behaviour since the firmware change and I’m told the dealer expects more versions to become available. In comparison, I enjoyed the 2014.
However, I am a huge fan of the adaptive cruise control of my 2017 and even come to like having the active lane keeping feature. I’m always eager to change vehicles after 4 years so don’t actually regret getting the 2017.
Bottom line is go test drive and see if it’s something that will bother you.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
149 Posts
I don't like my 2017 with the ZF. As stated, almost no evidence of anybody being stranded by it, but I discharge it for behavior unbecoming of what an Acura should be. The fact there is so much discussion and so many posts about it is by itself an indication. The RDX doesn't seem to have any of this discussion about it's tranny by comparison. In fact, I have had one as the loaner for the many times my MDX has been in the shop and it drives fantastic. Would I get another MDX? perhaps. But not one with the ZF.

FWIW, make sure that the vehicle is cold when you test drive one. Many of the performance symptoms are more acute when it is cold. The dealers tend to either bring a warmed vehicle or they insist on the salesperson driving it for the first part of the ride to "show and tell" the feature. Caveat emptor.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
869 Posts
Well, there is an upside to how much my wife hates the 9-speed ZF trans ( and push-button shifter ) in my 2016 Pilot Touring: she will drive her 6-speed equipped 2014 MDX until its wheels fall off, with her hand firmly wrapped around the shift lever as if she were Charlton Heston grasping his rifle.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
499 Posts
I'm not the primary driver of our MDX but in regular driving I have zero complaints about its behavior, in fact lately I've really been impressed with how smooth and quick shifts around town. The ZF is always trying up shift and is a bit reluctant to give me downshifts unless I bury the pedal. Programming logic vs hard part failures, gee I think I'll take a durable unit that Acura actively improving with software updates vs. a turd with broken hard parts that Acura is denying warranty on. Some joyless people in this world can't let go of their crusade against the ZF, for the rest the latest software solves any concerns. By the way, the software updates are mostly 2016 MY, our 2017 was great out of the box. Extended test drive, decide for yourself.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
35 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
I agree about the SH-AWD. I have it in mine (your comment caused me to update my signature to show the SH-AWD). Here in Rochester, NY we average 100" snow per year. Buffalo & Syracuse flank us and they get a little more than we do. Winter is usually 5+ months in total. The SH-AWD has been a terrific performer in the snow and because of that, I feel a lot better driving the MDX when it rains, as well.

The interesting thing is that there seems to be a diminishing set of less than positive about the ZF9 as you move from 2016 into later 2017 models. The 2014 is buttery smooth. So far, the input indicates that the ZF9 equipped models are not. For a ~$50K spend, it is reasonable to expect better.

Vic's comment above is what has been my nagging concern:
"As stated, almost no evidence of anybody being stranded by it, but I discharge it for behavior unbecoming of what an Acura should be."

What I am really hoping for is to hear from the owners of the 2018 to see if improvements continued and had mostly solved the issue.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
869 Posts
IIRC there have been some reports of hard failures of the ZF9HP in Honda Pilots. ( Dead on the highway... ). IMO that transmission hasn't been out long enough to assess long-term reliability, irrespective of what some zealots like to believe. And the jury is still out on whether the ATF warmer issue has been contained. I've been bitten twice by that nightmare, once with a Honda 5-speed and once with a ZF 9-speed. At least the ZF was kind enough to start chirping about it while the thing was under warranty. In this case, being a whiny princess was a good thing. The persistent temperamental misbehavior I could do without. I have a daughter for that kind of aggravation.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
713 Posts
sometimes people don't reveal their sources because they don't want people they know to be at risk of losing a job. The world is an intolerant place these days. Where I work if someone disagrees, even if they are 100% right their career is over. Literally I have heard, "we don't promote people who ask ANY questions. We like people who just agree and go along."
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
149 Posts
What I am really hoping for is to hear from the owners of the 2018 to see if improvements continued and had mostly solved the issue.
Well, to the best of my knowledge it is still the same ZF that is in the '17. If it is performing better in the '18, then it would seem that it would be due to a software change only. To extend this questionable thinking on my part, if that were the case, I would hope that Acura would have issued a TSB for the '17 owners that are dissatisfied with the operation of their transmissions.

To offer balance to my disappointment with my very expensive Acura, I'll say this: I still have no plans to get rid of it and I'm not sure how much better the other choices are out there. In the case of the Mercedes, BMW or Porsche, it would cost a great deal more than the Acura to find out. I'm just saying this level of mechanical function is not anywhere near what I expected from an Acura. And for the idea that it is only a small percentage of owners with an axe to grind, I'd suggest a quick google search of "ZF 9 speed transmission issues" or a review of the two MDX forums to draw your own conclusions.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
17 Posts
I had one of the 2010 “two cycle” engine MDXs with the Bluetooth battery draining module and failed active dampers. I looked at the 2017 MDX but didn’t pull the trigger because of the reported issues with the 9 speed transmission. I just wasn’t willing to deal with another MDX with known issues. Looking forward to the 2021 refresh of the MDX that is supposed to get similar features to the upcoming 2019 RDX refresh. In the meantime, I am enjoying the 2018 Toyota Highlander Limited Platinum AWD with $10K still in my pocket.


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
25 Posts
I traded in my 2009 MDX for a 2017 MDX in September 2016. Over 16 months, it was in the shop over a dozen times. In addition to the many issues with the car, I had a transmission issue which was never corrected, with the transmission seemingly going into neutral somewhere between 2nd and 3rd, and then kicking in agressively, lurching the car forward unexpectedly.

After my fourth visit in December (tailgate sensor replaced, tailgate switch replaced, fuel door not opening) I walked across the street and had Volvo buy out my lease and put me in an XC90.

Oh, and I had the frame of my entire middle row of seats replaced during the first week of ownership because it was rusted out... straight from the factory. Quality control, who needs it?

It was my third MDX, and it will be my last Acura.

Sent from my SM-N950W using Tapatalk
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
606 Posts
After my fourth visit in December (tailgate sensor replaced, tailgate switch replaced, fuel door not opening) I walked across the street and had Volvo buy out my lease and put me in an XC90.
After what you dealt with in a brand new vehicle I can't say I blame you. However I'd be curious how much better the XC90 holds up; reading on the Sweedespeed forums there is a fairly large sample size of complaints in the new (16+) generation of the XC90. Hopefully it works out better for you then the MDX did.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
575 Posts
Personally I like my 2016 MDX. I like the pushbutton transmission controls - a lot - and wouldn't want to go back to a faux mechanical shifter (it is still just a switch, not connected to anything mechanically). I usually don't use the sport mode, but it is useful in heavy traffic to keep from upshifting just when you need to slow down. It is fun when pushing a little on winding roads but costly on fuel. For the great majority of my driving I just leave it in "D" and it performs well. As others have said, some shift points can be less than smooth - a problem that was partially solved by a firmware update. This is probably caused by the fact that two of the four clutches are "dog" clutches, which don't slip and thus require close rpm matches for the shift. Also, the first couple of gears are really low, great for coming off lights quickly or moving loads or trailering, but definitely an acquired taste.

Set against the negatives, according to one source this transmission gets 16% better gas mileage versus the 6 speed. I can believe it; this car does really well at the pump (unless driven hard of course). And what is often overlooked is that the firmware is adaptive to the driver's style. I would strongly recommend to anyone buying a used or demo MDX to have the service department reset the learning system so that it adapts to your style (easy for them to do).

Bottom line is that although it is not quite as smooth as one might reasonably expect in a (lower end) luxury SUV, it is acceptable to me. And the fuel mileage is very good.

BTW I do not find the paddle shifters particularly useful - with 9 speeds a downshift may entail dropping 2 or even 3 gears, and it is easy to not get that right manually. When downshifting in order to accelerate (e.g.pass someone) the automatic gets it right - at least for me and my style and whatever settings the controls have learned. And try as I might, my manual shifts in stop-and-go traffic are much rougher than the tranny in "S" mode. (Until this car I have only had manual transmissions since 1973, so it is not a lack of experience there.)

As always, YMMV.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
25 Posts
After what you dealt with in a brand new vehicle I can't say I blame you. However I'd be curious how much better the XC90 holds up; reading on the Sweedespeed forums there is a fairly large sample size of complaints in the new (16+) generation of the XC90. Hopefully it works out better for you then the MDX did.
You're right, and I'm very aware of the issues that have come up in the 2016+ XC90. So far, most reports have been with the 2016 itself, and a few with the 2017. That said, I know with any modern vehicle, with so many electronics, is only a matter of time.

Unfortunately, with the MDX, I just got to a point where I resented it and needed out of it.

I hope everyone on here has better luck than I did!

Sent from my SM-N950W using Tapatalk
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
606 Posts
You're right, and I'm very aware of the issues that have come up in the 2016+ XC90. So far, most reports have been with the 2016 itself, and a few with the 2017. That said, I know with any modern vehicle, with so many electronics, is only a matter of time.

Unfortunately, with the MDX, I just got to a point where I resented it and needed out of it.

I hope everyone on here has better luck than I did!

Sent from my SM-N950W using Tapatalk
Definitely can understand. I love the look of the XC90, the only part that scares me is reliability, although as you point out Acura isn't the same from reliability as in years past. Both Acura and Infiniti are now both middle of the heap in Consumer Reports reliability, with Volvo a few spots below.

Although all of those reliability ratings, which were updated in October 2017, are likely mostly based on 2016 vehicles given their review cycle (send out survey in March 2017, collect feedback and publish results in October 2017). The MDX, QX60 and XC90 all underwent some redesign in 2016 (primarily transmission and infotainment except XC90 which is complete redesign), and the 1st year of any major change/redesign almost always has a lot of issues. All of this likely had a huge impact on the reliability of all 3 brands and vehicles. I'm curious to see this October how the reliability ratings for each vehicle changed for the 2017 model year.

Conveniently, the Audi Q7 which is the top rated in this category, 2016 was the last model year of their old generation. 2017 marks a redesign of the Q7 and as such their current reliability ratings don't include any issues from that redesign. And of course the Enclave was redesigned in 2018, meaning those issues likely won't show up until next year. So reliability ratings for the Q7 and Enclave could be inflated considering they don't include the latest redesign.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
606 Posts
Also regardless of vehicle, don't forget about Lemon Law. Whether it's the MDX, XC90 or any other vehicle, Lemon Laws are there in case you get stuck with a new vehicle that has tons of issues.

In fact, many owners of the XC90 on Sweedespeed forums have successfully been able to convince Volvo to buy back defective vehicles and essentially give them a refund. By doing this the manufacturer doesn't have to list the vehicle title as a lemon, which would force them to sell them for pennies on the dollar. You definitely need to have all paperwork together outlining the fact you've made multiple trips to the dealer to get serious problems resolved and need to be able to effectively tell your story to the manufacturer in order for them to consider it, and as always YMMV. Each manufacturer will be different in terms of how willing they are to do this on a case by case basis.

So if you buy any new vehicle and are stuck with a defective vehicle that has a lot of actual problems (more than just not liking a vehicle's shifting patterns), please remember that you still have some protections.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
499 Posts
We're all likely to have better luck than the few that have real problems, its basic statistics. The MDX is a very reliable vehicle. As most of us already know, a negative experience is many times more likely to result in a thread, post, or review than everything going as planned.

The number of threads about the 9 speed for instance are a real data point, but then one needs to apply some critical thinking skills to what one reads. Clearly it's the behavior of the 9 speed that people complain about (mostly in the 16MY), this is MUCH different than a high failure rate which in the case of the 9 speed is virtually zero. It would be much different if there was a high failure rate, but it's 100% on you if you buy a car that you don't like how it shifts. Message boards and all the reviews in the world will not answer the question if you'll like how the MDX operates.

The people that test drive and buy an MDX and THEN complain about how it shifts remind me of the people that buy a house near an airport and then complain about the noise.
 
1 - 20 of 57 Posts
Top