2001 MDX New Car Test Drive
The Acura MDX is a totally new sport-utility vehicle. It represents Honda's acceptance that the luxury SUV market is big and still rapidly growing.
If Honda ever believed sport-utility vehicles would become such a monster success in the marketplace the company did not act like it. Late to the SUV party, Honda rebadged the Isuzu Rodeo as the Honda Passport. The Isuzu Trooper emerged as the Acura SLX.
Now comes the much-anticipated in-house SUV. Acura claims its MDX offers best-in-class V6 horsepower and torque, greatest fuel efficiency, 'greenest' emissions, and best crashworthiness. The MDX offers seven-passenger capacity and a unique four-wheel-drive system that prevents skids almost before they occur. All this is wrapped in a neat though not flashy package with the calm attention to detail expected of things Honda.
The MDX is the model of simplicity with many features but only two options. Standard are leather seating surfaces (first and second row seats) with leather door inserts; wood-patterned trim; keyless remote entry; power windows, door locks and mirrors, power tilt and sliding moonroof; cruise control, seven-speaker AM-FM/cassette stereo with in-dash CD player; power adjustable front seats; alloy wheels and a multi-function digital trip computer.
The engine (a 3.5-liter VTEC) generates 240 horsepower and 245 lb-ft of torque happily available from 3000 to 5000 rpm. The gearbox is an all-new five-speed automatic with gear ratios spaced to match the requirements unique to an SUV.
Though the full-featured line-up in the MDX is one that generally appeals to women buyers, Acura expects 70 percent of the buyers to be male. (We think the safety elements and the environmental friendliness of the MDX will prove to be extremely attractive to women.)
The optional Touring package adds a keyless remote entry linked to the two-position driver's seat and mirror memory system; eight-way adjustable passenger seat; roof rack; an outside mirror that tilts to track progress while backing up; different alloy wheels and - this is the central core of the upgrade - a killer 200-watt, eight-speaker Acura/Bose music system with in-dash six-disc CD changer.
The optional Acura Navigation System with DVD needs only one disc to cover the entire continental US. Always our favorite among nav systems for its intuitive simplicity in use, the Acura system holds some 3.7 million points of interest ranging from ATM machines to restaurants and hospitals. If you want to pick up some cash, make a stop at the nearest Chinese take out and then locate an emergency room for your over-indulgence it is all at your beck. A novel addition to the nav system, uniquely appropriate for a vehicle equipped to seek out the uncharted outbacks, is a feature that leaves 'electronic bread crumbs' on screen. No road visible under the little wedge-shaped marker that represents your vehicle? Not to worry. This nav system leaves a line that you can easily retrace back to where there be no more dragons.
The MDX is produced at Honda of Canada Manufacturing in Ontario, Canada, and Acura expects to sell 35,000 to 40,000 of them in the first year of production. A problem not unknown to Acura and Honda has been production restraints. Demand often outpaces availability. A new plant is in preparation but will not be ready for 14 months. This may help put the MDX in strong demand.