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Acura MDX Road Test

By John Heilig  
Photos by Charles Ofria

Category: $35,000 - $40,000 Luxury SUV
Who should buy this car: A family looking for a High-Tech, High-Power Luxury SUV with room for 7 
Comparable models in this class: BMW X5, Infiniti QX4, Lexus RX300, Mercedes Benz ML320, Mitsubishi Montero Limited
And another one joinsthe fray. Acura has introduced the MDX, a luxury sport utility vehicle that hasbeen designed form the ground up by Acura to be class-leading in performance andutility. 

The MDX competes head-to-head with the Lexus RX300 in all categories. Thepower and performance are similar, with each vehicle reflecting the respectivemanufacturer's spin on a luxury vehicle. Like the RX300, the MDX probablywouldn't be totally at home riding the Rubicon in California, but it'll handlealmost anything a normal SUV can handle. The key is that it does it in completecomfort. 

Thefirst sensation you gain when you shift into "D" and take off is thesmoothness of the ride. Here is an SUV with ride quality to match the best ofthem. So I was surprised when I discovered that the suspension isn't some exoticcombination of intricate geometries. The front suspension is independent,incorporating struts and an "L" arm. The rear is also independent,using multi-links and a trailing arm. There are gas-pressurized shocks at allfour corners. 

This suspension package offers a smooth ride on paved roads, good handling onwinding roads, and a reasonable ride on washboard dirt roads. We took the MDX ona nice straight washboard dirt road near our daughter's house in Virginia. Insome vehicles, it's hard to hold onto the steering wheel on these roads. In theMDX, not only were we able to hold onto the wheel, the ride quality was good.There was a lot of feedback because of the road surface, but we were able tomaintain control and comfort. 

Under the hood is a 3.5-liter single overhead cam V-6 engine rated at acomfortable 240 horsepower. It also has a wide torque band, so you can stay infifth and still pull along with ease. There's no need for the transmission to gosearching for a gear that will give a higher rpm and more horsepower becausethere's adequate torque to do the job, even at relatively low rpms. 

Connecting the engine to the 17-inch wheels is a five-speed automatictransmission with a "manual transmission" shifter. It took somegetting used to, not having a "T" lever to work the gears. 

Acura has filled the MDX with some interesting features. One is a third rowof seats. This two-passenger 50-50 split rear seat pushes the MDX into aseven-passenger vehicle. The front two rows of seats are leather-trimmed, withthe third row upholstered in leather-like vinyl. Quite naturally, the third rowseats fold flat to give increased carrying capacity, and this was the use wegave the MDX most of the time. You can also fold the second-row seats, furtherincreasing carrying capacity. That's for people who don't have a lot of friendsbut have a lot of cargo to carry. Granted, legroom in the back seats isn'tgreat, but they'll do for children, or for adults on shorter trips. Maximumcargo capacity is 81.5 cubic feet, 49.6 cubic feet with the third row seats downand 14.6 cubic feet with all seats up. 

On long trips, I found it difficult to get maximum comfort from the driver'sseat. I worked up a back ache that was relieved by the heated feature of thefront seat, but I would rather not have had the ache. 

There's a huge screen in the middle of the dash that offers amlange ofinformation. You can learn your range left in the fuel tank, your mileage (21.1mpg), the outside temperature, the direction of air flow, your instantaneousmileage (useless) and a few other things. I did not have a chance to check outthe optional navigation system as it wasn't available at the time of this test,but I know Acura has an excellent GPS system in its luxury sedans so I expectthe unit for the MDX will be just as good. The screen is also quite bright, so on a dark night there's a greatdeal of light inside the vehicle. I had trouble finding the switch to either dimthe light or shut it off. 

All in all, though, the MDX is a great SUV. It's comfortable, it has utility,and it's smooth. Acura didn't provide us with a price sticker at the time of thetest, so we guessedthat it would go for somewhere between $40,000 and $45,000.  We weresurprised when we learned that the base price was below $35,000 with a loadedmodel coming in at under $40,000.

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Engine Type 3.5L SOHC VTEC V-6 
Horsepower 240 @ 5,300 RPM
Torque 245 @ 3,000-5,000  RPM
Fuel Recommended Premium 91 Octane Unleaded.
Transmission Five Speed Electronically Controlled Automatic Transmission
Tires  P235/65R17: all season mud and snow
Overall Length 188.5"
Wheelbase 106.3
Width 77"
Turning Diameter 37.8 ft Curb to Curb
Curb Weight 4,323 lbs.
Fuel Tank 19.2 Gals.
Miles Per Gallon EPA city 17, hwy 23. 
Acceleration 0 to 60 8.8 Seconds
Base Sticker Price $34,370 

Standard Equipment

  • 3.5L V6 SOHC SMPI 24-valve engine, (requires premium unleaded fuel)
  • 5-speed electronic OD automatic transmission
  • Power rack-and-pinion steering with engine speed-sensing assist
  • 4-wheel disc brakes with 4-wheel antilock braking system
  • Power sliding and tilting glass sunroof with sunshade
  • Aero-composite halogen headlamps with delay-off feature
  • Front and rear 17" x 6.5" polished alloy wheels
  • Air conditioning with climate control
  • Rear air conditioning with separate controls, air filter & rear heat ducts
  • AM/FM stereo, seek-scan, cassette, single CD, 7 speakers
  • Radio steering wheel controls
  • Cruise control with steering wheel controls
  • Power door locks with remote keyless entry
  • Garage door opener, compass, exterior temp, trip computer
  • Driver's and passenger's front airbags, driver's and front passenger's seat mounted side airbags
  • Power front and rear windows with driver's 1-touch down
  • 8-way power driver's seat 4-way power passenger's seat 
  • Leather seats
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel with tilt adjustment
  • Auto-dimming day/night rearview mirror

Major Available Options

  • Navigation System
  • Touring Package includes: Acura/Bose music system with cassette/6-disc, in-dash CD, memory driver's seat, 8-way power passenger's seat

For more information on the MDX, visit

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