HAVANA, Ark. -- A corkscrew road in western Arkansas --scaling the steep southern face of Mount Magazine, tallest bump between the Alleghenies to the east and the Rockies out west -- works like a Formula One race circuit to challenge both driver and car in tests we devise to sample the surprisingly sporty road manners of the re-provisioned 2016 MDX -- elegant 7-passenger crossover utility vehicle in the motor pool of Acura.
Dressed in slinky skin wrapping a unibody structure and packing a forceful V6 powertrain, MDX for 2016 represents the third generation of Acura's mid-size 3-row CUV and it scores a number of high-tech electronic upgrades, including an advanced new 9-speed automatic transmission with pushbutton electronic gear selector.
Producing an agile kind of CUV that's easy to drive and capable of multiple uses is the big idea behind MDX and explains why Acura's wagon has been so popular since the first edition debuted as a 2001 model. Its name drives home the multi-task nature, with the initials meaning Multi-Dimensional Cross-Trainer, in the image of a toned athlete accomplished in various sports. Acura works it as a refined luxury vehicle with cushy appointments and fancy features, yet the three rows of flexible seats permit different uses as a workhorse hauler.
The monocoque structure of MDX is like a car's platform melding chassis and body into a cohesive entity that's extremely rigid. Then isolate the independent suspension system on sub-frames, add electric power motion adaptive rack and pinion steering and disc brakes for all corners with anti-lock brake system and vehicle stability assist with traction control.
A transversely mounted engine in the front bay directs its formidable muscle to the front wheels which also steer.
MDX 2016 is available with front-wheel-drive traction or all-wheel-drive through the spry wheel control of Acura's SH-AWD (Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive) equipment upgraded with a new twin-clutch rear differential and increased torque vectoring response to improve turning action.
Power stems from Acura's aluminum 3.5-liter V6 with single overhead camshaft, direct injection, drive-by-wire throttle and i-VTEC (intelligent variable value timing and lift electronic control) valvetrain technology. It delivers 290 hp at 6200 rpm and 267 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm.
The driver-oriented cockpit of MDX features a leather-wrapped steering wheel, instrument cluster with LED backlit gauges and an 8-inch touchscreen Multi-Information Display.
Two bucket seats covered in leather occupy the front row of the cabin on either side of a floor console. A leather bench split 60/40 goes to the second row and slides fore and aft for comfort adjustments or power-slides forward with the touch of a button for easy access to third-row seats that split 50/50 and fold. Row 2 seats drop forward and Row 3 seatbacks fold into the floor for a quick disappearing act to make room for more cargo. With all second and third seatbacks down, MDX offers 68.4 cubic feet of flat-floored storage space.
Standard gear on MDX ranges from a power sunroof and power liftgate to keyless entry and pushbutton ignition, 3-zone climate controls, power for windows and door locks and mirrors, 10-way power heated driver seat, leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped multi-function sport steering wheel with paddle shifters, cruise control, Multi-View Rear Camera and a premium 8-speaker audio kit.
Also standard, the IDS (Integrated Dynamics System) allows a driver to choose a suspension mode (Comfort, Normal, Sport) to suit mood and driving conditions.
Acura offers MDX equipment upgrades clustered in packages. The MDX Technology Package brings a navigation system, rain-sensing wipers, Lane Keeping Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Warning, Forward Collision Warning, Bluetooth, AcuraLink and a 10-speaker Acura/ELS audio system. MDX Advance and Entertainment Packages add front/rear parking sensors, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Assist and Collision Mitigation Braking plus a rear seat DVD kit with 16-inch screen.
New for 2016 issues, AcuraWatch is a package option but its contents are included in the Advance Package and some features also apply to the Technology Package. The AcuraWatch contents encompass Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Mitigation Braking System, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist System, Road Departure Mitigation, Blind Spot Information and Rear Cross Traffic Monitor.
Acura's MSRPs for MDX 2016 go from $42,865 to $57,080.