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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all. I have a 14 MDX on order because it suits my comfortable, efficient, reliable, good-handling spacious gear-hauler needs that are my priority 99.5% of the time while just baaarrreeellly meeting my off-road requirements the other .5% of the time. In particular, theres a 5 mile rough road leading to my favorite camping spot that is about the roughest terrain I typically encounter. A friend made it, carefully, in her older MDX last year. I opted for the new one to get the better MPG and adaptive cruise, but I just discovered it offers an inch less clearance than the old one! Damn! Is the whole thing lower, or are we just talking about a protrusion like the tail pipe or shock mount?

What are my options to get that extra inch back, or perhaps a bit more? I'm not too worried about traction or articulation- just making it over big rocks and ruts in the road. Some kind of air shock I could pump up and raise a few inches, and then put it down to stock height (or lower) the rest of the time, would be ideal. I'm not too concerned about the alignment or lack of sag for the few dozens of miles per year I'd have it pumped up. Alternatively, I could put a, say, 3/4" spring spacer in to give it a mild lift, and then run slightly bigger tires.

Speaking of tires, what are the biggest ones that would fit stock? Mine comes with 245/55 R19, which is a 29.6" diameter. Jumping to 255's gets me to 30" and I'd feel safe doing that, but ideally I'd like to go with a 255/60 R19, which is a 31" tire. There's not much out there for 19" wheels that would give me a 30.5" tire and I'd prefer to not have to buy new wheels. Does anybody know what would fit...perhaps with some mild massaging of the inner fender liner but not having to bend any metal?
 

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I would say the whole chassis is lower. The front air dam is the most likely thing to scrape, but it is removable. Front and rear overhangs are fairly long, so approach and departure angles aren’t great. Scuffed bumpers are likely. There is some shielding below the most sensitive parts of the undercarriage. But yeah, 3rd-gen MDX isn’t really set up for off-road and I’m not aware of any aftermarket suspension options for 3rd-gen.
 

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I wouldn't mess with trying to modify the MDX in the ways you described if I was you. I've done a lot of 4-wheeling (not in the MDX) including in deserts, mountains, rock crawling, etc. so I understand the conditions you're referring to.

Any alterations at all to the suspension would likely have a noticeable negative impact on handling. I doubt there's much available in the aftermarket in this area because the MDX isn't designed as an 'off-road' vehicle. Adding taller tires is the quickest way to raise the vehicle but even this can affect handling and at the end of the day the difference in ground clearance would be minimal. If you were to change from 29.6" tire to a 31" tire that's a difference of 1.4" which would translate to only 0.7" of ground clearance gain - not worth the effort in my opinion.

Even if you gained a couple of inches of ground clearance you'd still need to drive carefully since just a slightly bigger rock or slightly deeper rut would still impact the vehicle. That extra 0.7" of ground clearance is negated by a rock that's just 3/4" bigger than another rock or a rut that's an inch or so deeper.

The best way to handle this is to be judicious of which dirt roads you drive the MDX on - assessing its suitability. You'd need to do this even with a lifted Jeep. A lot of the issues can be avoided by careful driving - going slowly enough to spot obstacles and pick your path to avoid them, straddling ruts, sometimes going over but sometimes around big rocks, sometimes stopping and getting out to build up the road a bit by filling in some holes or 'ramp up/down' some rocks, etc.

One of the differences between a vehicle like the MDX and a lifted truck/Jeep is that without the judicious driving I mentioned the lifted truck/Jeep will get you further into the wilds before it gets stuck than the MDX will - but they'd both end up stuck. You'd just have a longer hike or more expensive tow truck call for the stuck Jeep.

You also need to consider that the MDX doesn't have skid plates, has plastic bumpers that'd be easily damaged if you were to hit a rock on approach/departure, and other damage could result if not being careful. Your friend who 'made it' to the camping spot in the older MDX may have 'readily made it' or may be very good about how they drive a rough road, or could have just gotten lucky. Keep in mind trail conditions can change overnight and typically are different from year to year, sometimes getting worse, sometimes getting better, so while maybe getting there last year wasn't too bad it could be worse this year (or vice versa).
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Yeah- like I said: barely adequate for my off road needs (my XJ Cherokee was overkill), but I think it'll get the job done. Approach angle isn't great, but at least the air damn flexes. For departure, I have a trailer hitch, so that'll help mitigate damage. Breakover or scraping an oil pan, driveshaft, or gas tank over a rock is what I'm really concerned about.

Even getting that extra .7" back from bigger tires would put me about on par with the old one (.9" more clearance). Any suggestions on figuring out if those would fit? The tires it came with are relatively new, albeit nothing special, so I'll try on those first.
 
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