Acura’s MDX is one of America’s favorites in the midlevel luxury segment. The name almost sounds like an abbreviation for mid-crossover, doesn’t it?
The folks at Honda’s Acura division have spent a lot of time and effort to give those shopping for BMW X5s, Porsche Cayennes and other luxury crossovers an alternative.
For 2010, the MDX, which debuted in 2001, gets some appearance and feature upgrades for 2010. The most obvious change is the vehicle’s entry into the “pointy grille” club. You may or may not love the look, but Acura, years ago having ditched its model names for European style letters, now seeks a nasal distinction as unmistakable as the BMW twin kidneys or Mercedes-Benz grille. Time will tell how effective it translates into future models.
The MDX is a well equipped vehicle in its simplest form. You can notch up the goods by adding one or more packages. The Technology Package brings a navigation system with voice recognition—handy for requesting directions while on the go. You get real time traffic and weather in selected markets, too. The package also includes an amazing Surround Sound audio system with 10 speakers and Dolby Pro Logic. You may want to just park somewhere and enjoy it.
My test car also included the Advance and Entertainment packages. The details are too much to cover here, but the gist is that computers protect you with a Collision Mitigation Braking System and the Active Damper system changes your shocks in milliseconds (nanoseconds?) to keep you safe and tranquil in any driving conditions. Just push the “Comfort” button on the center console to soften up the ride when the road gets rough.
Also part of the Advance Package, the Blind Spot Information System shows you there’s someone lurking in your mirrors’ blind spots. A USB port for your iPod is also part of the package, as are 18-inch alloys and enormously comfortable and attractive perforated leather seats.
The Entertainment Package benefits rear seat passengers by giving them something to do. A drop-down DVD system with wireless headsets keeps the young ones mollified during interstate travel. The rear seats receive heating too, so the kids may just doze off and let you enjoy the surround sound and the view.
Acuras once were built exclusively in Japan, but now some originate in North America. My Polished Metal Metallic tester was assembled in Alliston, Ontario, Canada, with an engine from the U.S.A. running through an all-new six-speed automatic transmission from Japan.
Speaking of engines, this MDX gets 300 horsepower from a 3.7-liter V6. Acura is avoiding V8s—a corporate decision that could cost sales—in the name of better fuel economy and lower environmental impact. The car moves its 4,627 pounds around with surprising grace.
EPA fuel economy is 16 City, 21 Highway. I almost hit the average of 18 with an accumulated 17.3 mpg. While that does beat big cars of yore, it is not much like the numbers generated by corporate cousin Honda with its assortment of economical and environmental marvels.
The EPA gives the MDX a 7 for Air Pollution and a 4 for Greenhouse Gas. That’s pretty typical for a car with this size engine. On the positive environmental side, the Alliston factory has reduced its use of metals such as chromium and lead, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and polyvinyl chlorides (PVC). A dedicated line separates different manufacturing scrap materials for recycling. The MDX is the first Acura to use a mercury-free navigation system display screen.
The MDX can tow 5,000 pounds, and carries up to seven passengers. It’s really nice for four, but the second-row middle passenger and two souls in the far back will not be as happy with the accommodations. I tested this by chauffeuring some work colleagues to lunch one day. We put the ladies of shorter stature in the 3rd row. Climbing in and out was definitely a challenge but we all got there and back.
A double bass fits happily in back with one of the split second row seats folded down. Cargo space grows from 15 cubic feet with all seats up to 83.5 cubic feet with the second and third rows folded. That’s the utility part the car retains from its SUV ancestors.
With this much going for it, what could be wrong? Well, other than a lot of glare off the faux wood inside, a surprisingly prominent windshield wiper arm, and one tiny assembly flaw, nothing. Of course, the MDX doesn’t come cheap. Prices start at $43,090, but with all of the packages it rises to $54,615. Buyers will compare it to BMW and other competitors before they write their check, but with the MDX so technically rich and comfort laden, it could be a real contest.