"Any press is good press," so the saying goes. With that in mind, the refreshed 2010 Acura MDX, now bearing the automaker's corporate "beak," should finally be garnering some much-needed attention.
And the Acura MDX deserves the spotlight. Nearing its tenth year of production, the seven-passenger crossover has flown under the radar, always relegated to yesterday's news as the segment rapidly expanded and welcomed interesting new competitors. Seemingly tired of watching the competition steal the conversation, Acura threw on the controversial grille and significantly updated the MDX for 2010.
We spent a week with Acura's big SUV. Pressed into family service, we put nearly 900 miles on our tester, including a one-day, 12-hour journey and more than a few trips with a full load of passengers.
While nearly everyone mentioned its questionable front fascia during the walk-around, we wondered if the Acura's on-road performance and luxury amenities were strong enough to convince us to look the other way. Follow the jump to find out...
Photos copyright ©2010 Michael Harley / AOL
Fifteen years ago, feeling obligated to answer a new threat from Infiniti and Lexus, Acura introduced the world to its first sport utility vehicle. While Infiniti and Lexus both had models in the corporate family to lean on (the Infiniti QX4 was a rebadged Nissan Pathfinder, while the Lexus LX 450 was a rebadged Toyota Land Cruiser), Acura had an empty garage. Undeterred, the automaker partnered with Isuzu and reworked the rugged body-on-frame Trooper as the "all-new" Acura SLX in 1996.
Bad press (Consumer Reports rated it "Not Acceptable" after discovering the SLX's tendency to roll during emergency maneuvers), lousy performance and an overall unappealing appearance doomed it from the start. The Acura SLX was sold for just four years before it was discontinued after the 1999 model year.
After a year without offering a high-riding wagon, Acura launched its first home-grown crossover – renamed the MDX – in 2001. While Infiniti and Lexus continued to offer brawny and capable truck-based SUVs, Acura's newest seven-passenger model shared platforms with the Honda Odyssey minivan and the Honda Accord sedan. Unlike the rugged truck-like competition, the unibody constructed MDX featured a transverse-mounted 3.5-liter V6, a five-speed automatic transmission and an all-wheel-drive system based on front-wheel-drive running gear.
The second-generation Acura MDX debuted for the 2007 model year. Completely redesigned and larger in every dimension than its predecessor, the new seven-passenger CUV shared architecture with the Honda Pilot and Honda Ridgeline pickup – both unibody front-wheel-drive platforms. While the Ridgeline featured Honda's "VTM-4" AWD, the upscale MDX was fitted with Honda's performance-oriented "Super Handling All-Wheel Drive" (SH-AWD), powered by an upgraded 3.7-liter six-cylinder running through a five-speed automatic transmission.
Acura made several big changes to its flagship SUV for 2010. Most visibly, the MDX received a facelift to align its appearance with the rest of its siblings. Under the hood sits a new 3.7-liter engine with an upgraded six-speed automatic transmission. The steering and suspension were tweaked, and 19-inch wheels were added to its new Advance package. Lastly, Acura performed a few cosmetic enhancements inside the cabin and updated many of the electronics.
Unlike some of the competition that tend to sell you on an upgraded trim level with a more powerful engine and then nickel-and-dime you for additional options, Acura's pricing structure is both simple and logical. All models share the same long list of standard equipment and the identical powertrain. However, five distinct models are created by mixing and matching three major equipment packages (Technology, Entertainment and Advance). The few available accessories, such as mud guards, roof rails and cargo liners, are negotiated at the time of sale and installed at the dealer.
The buy-in for an Acura MDX starts at $42,230 (plus $860 destination), but entry-level models rarely get parked in our garage. While the standard car is beautifully equipped, Acura chose to lend us a top-of-the-line "MDX with the Advance and Entertainment packages." The total sticker price of $54,565 included the Technology Package (navigation with real-time weather/traffic, ten-speaker surround sound with Dolby Pro Logic II and GPS-linked climate control system), Entertainment Package (DVD-based rear-seat entertainment, nine-inch display, wireless headsets, heated second-row seats and a 115-volt power outlet) and the Advance Package (active suspension, collision mitigation braking system, sport seats, adaptive cruise control, HID headlamps, 19-inch wheels and more). That's an exhaustive list of features, accessories and creature comforts – nearly to the point of sensory overload – but expected considering the sticker.
All 2010 Acura MDX models share a significantly reworked 3.7-liter SOHC 24-valve V6, now rated at 300 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque – down five lb-ft from last year, but Acura claims overall efficiency is improved. The largest powerplant in Honda's arsenal features an aluminum block, magnesium-alloy heads and a forged crankshaft to save weight. Bolted to the transversely-mounted engine is a new six-speed automatic transmission. The traditional wet gearbox utilizes Acura's Grade Logic and Shift Hold software to improve drivability and features wheel-mounted paddle shifters for manual control. Power is sent to all four wheels through the automaker's SH-AWD system, standard across all models. Acura doesn't publish acceleration times for the 4,600-pound MDX, but most publications peg its 0-60 sprint at about seven seconds (a few tenths off its mechanical twin, the slightly lighter Acura ZDX).
The MDX picked an excellent week to hang out with us. In addition to a slew of family-oriented appointments that were sure to keep its engine warm, we had a one-day 600-mile road trip inked on our calendar. The mid-size Acura would be busy, allowing us plenty of time to scrutinize its performance.
On a very positive note, there was no need to worry about being held captive within the MDX's cabin for any length of time. The driver and front passenger are pampered with supportive, incredibly comfortable seats that offer excellent back support, plus heating and cooling features. Second-row occupants have their own climate controls, heated seats and the overhead DVD-based entertainment system to keep them occupied. While the third row is best suited for children (as is nearly always the case), the back row in the MDX does seem more accommodating than most in this segment. The quality of the premium leather is impressive and the fit and finish of materials is top-notch, but it is easy to become overwhelmed with the acres of fake molded wood grain plastic (we weren't fooled for a second, and neither were any of our passengers).
Primary instrumentation is easy to visually decipher, but things become much more difficult when the task falls to the fingers. Blame the multitude of buttons that cover the steering wheel, door panel, dashboard and center console like wildflowers on a hillside in spring. The dials, knobs and switches are all functional, of course, but 1950's-era flight engineers stared at less intimidating panels. Furthermore, our tester was fitted with a color navigation screen display, monochromatic radio numerals and a glaring orange display on the instrument panel. All offered different bits of information presented in a unique manner. While we yearned for a single large display to interact with the vehicle's many subsystems, several others who rode in the SUV scoffed at our uneasiness with the dashboard ergonomics. They said it looked "futuristic" and "cool." Buck Rogers would be... proud?
Considering the level of high-tech gadgetry on the MDX, it's a bit odd that the CUV's primary controls remain so traditional. It still uses a steel key slotted into the steering column for ignition, a foot-operated parking brake with a hand release, and standard "PRNDS" transmission lever.
Driving around town, with or without a full complement of passengers, the MDX is a crossover your grandmother would adore – as docile as a pony in a petting zoo, without any handling quirks or mannerisms to make the driver nervous. The 3.7-liter engine makes sufficient torque off the line, so pulling out and merging into traffic is a breeze, and the braking system never had us questioning its performance. Outward visibility is good when underway, and even semi-decent when parking (we liked the reverse camera's multiple views, but would have welcomed the audible tone of back-up sensors as an addition). The Acura is far from petite, but it drives much smaller than its physical presence would suggest.
On the highway, Acura's largest SUV ticked off the miles effortlessly. It showed no fear when climbing steep grades and it refused to flinch when passing oversized big rigs, holding its track as if fitted with an arrow's vanes. Noise intrusion into the cabin, from the engine or tires, was kept low and muffled (and the audio system sounded great). The active suspension absorbed harsh bumps, yet was yielding enough to allow our passengers in the back to sleep as the miles rolled by.
The sophisticated SH-AWD system seamlessly transfers power to the corners of the vehicle, completely devoid of clunking or pulsing. Reminding the driver of the system's effectiveness, the MDX features a display in the middle of the primary instrument cluster that shows, in real time, how much torque is being sent to each wheel. Not the brightest thing to do while pummeling corners, but we digress.
Fuel burn is about what we expected. The EPA rates the 2010 Acura MDX at 16 mpg city and 21 mpg highway sipping premium unleaded. During our 600-mile run, we consumed two full tanks on the highway. Hand-calculated, that worked out to 19.41 mpg on the first fill-up (daylight hours and averaging about 75 mph), and 21.78 mpg on the second (reduced speeds on the highway in the dark). Our city fuel economy, reported as 15 mpg by the trip computer, wasn't as inspiring.
If forced to throw stones at the MDX, we know where we would aim. Acura calls it a "driver's SUV" that was "...tuned on Germany's famed Nürburgring track." Yes, it is surprisingly athletic (in spite of those all-season tires), but the feedback through the steering wheel is anesthetized. Regardless of what the SH-AWD is doing at each corner, the sensation from behind the wheel is exactly what you'd expect: it's a big, heavy crossover, that's very obedient, but not particularly fun. The Acura delivers the cornering G's, but fails to hand over any driver gratification in the process. A driving enthusiast would be disappointed, but the majority of drivers out there will prefer the isolation.
When looking at the big picture, it becomes obvious that Acura has finessed its flagship into owning a comfortable niche in the seven-passenger luxury-CUV segment. The mass of heavy-hitters, including the Audi Q7, BMW X5, Land Rover LR4, Lexus GX and Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, are significantly more expensive when comparably equipped. Only the Volvo XC90, more similar to the MDX than the aforementioned competitors, occupies the same price bracket. However, the Acura offers more technology than the Swede, matches the Volvo for crash safety and handily beats it in reliability.
After a very enjoyable week with Acura's flagship – arguably the best product in the automaker's lineup – we surmise that the MDX is a well-executed, luxurious, family-oriented, all-season sport utility vehicle. Heralded as such (and not as a performance vehicle), it's a leading player representing one of the best values across a wide swath of the segment.
Photos copyright ©2010 Michael Harley / AOL
For the 2010 model year, Acura has updated the style and substance of the MDX, revamping the exterior to tie-in with the rest of the automaker's line-up and making a few upgrades to its powertrain to keep up with the competition.
Obviously, the biggest change is the adoption of Acura's new corporate fascia. If you can get passed the massive shield, you'll notice a modified lower valence and a set of reworked headlamps that, like the updated RDX, retain their shape but benefit from a few tweaks to the interior elements. Out back, the changes are noticeably more subtle, with a splash of chrome trim and re-shaped exhaust pipes that tie the exterior elements together.
Photos Copyright ©2009 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.
The basic design of the interior carries over from 2009, although Acura set out to make some improvements on the functionality front. If the factory navigation system isn't fitted, Acura now offers a rear-view camera with a display embedded in the inside mirror. Option up for the technology package and the MDX benefits from an enhanced multi-mode rear camera that, in addition to the regular 90-degree view, includes a 180-degree wide-angle camera allowing you to see vehicles approaching from the sides -- particularly handy while navigating parking lots. A third mode provides a bird's-eye view of the rear, providing a clear view of the hitch when hooking up a trailer.
The DVD-based navigation system has been replaced by the hard-drive system from the TL, increasing functionality and allowing for easier upgrades. Like other modern systems, the new nav can now automatically re-route around traffic congestion based on data downloaded over the satellite radio system, along with displaying real-time weather information. All of the information is displayed on a new, higher resolution eight-inch VGA screen -- a nice improvement over the outgoing MDX, but the interface is still a bit clunky compared to the competition.
The MDX also receives adaptive cruise control and collision mitigation braking systems that were formerly available on the RL. The CMBS works like any other radar-based system, using the sensors to detect when you're closing in on the vehicle in front and then automatically applying the brakes without involving the driver.
Styling and technology upgrades aside, the biggest change to the MDX is the addition of Honda's new six-speed automatic transmission. This is the first gearbox of its type offered by Honda or Acura, and it's sure to proliferate throughout the automaker's line-up as production increases. The upcoming ZDX will be the second model to get the new cog-swapper, and expect the TL and TSX to benefit from the new 'box soon. The transmission provides quick, smooth, seamless shifts and the total ratio is spread wider than before, but the gaps in between are smaller.
The first five ratios are shorter than the previous five-speed gearbox, while sixth is slightly taller than the outgoing model's fifth gear. Off the line performance feels a bit snappier, and like the five-speed, paddle shifters allow temporary manual shifting when in Drive or full manual control when set to Sport. Another benefit of the new transmission is the double down-shift capability. While the five-speed required down-shifts to be executed one gear at a time, on the new unit a double tap of the left hand paddle induces a double gear change in a single step. It's a handy feature for hefty crossover when you need to a make a quick pass down a country road.
The other major mechanical upgrade is the new adaptive damping system. Acura has adopted the magneto-rheological dampers found on cars like the Corvette ZR1 and Ferrari 599, providing quicker responses to road conditions and a wider range of control. The Comfort and Sport modes offer distinctly different suspension setups, with the Comfort mode feeling a bit too soft, while the Sport mode making the MDX noticeably tighter.
For a big crossover, the MDX has a surprisingly sporting feel combined with a high level of luxury. Our drive time was fairly short, but expect a full review about the same time the MDX goes on sale with its yet-to-be-announced price this fall.
Class-Leading MDX Takes Luxury, Style, Performance and Technology to the Next Level for 2010
07/28/2009 -TORRANCE, Calif. - The award-winning Acura MDX luxury SUV sets even higher standards in 2010 for styling, performance, technology and safety. For 2010, the MDX features a fresh new exterior look, revised powertrain that includes a new 6-speed automatic, chassis refinements, more comfort, and improved technology along with the introduction of an all-new Advance Package-making the class leader even better.
"Already considered by many as the benchmark in its class, the new 2010 MDX significantly raises the bar yet again," said Jeff Conrad, vice president of Acura sales. "Fresh looks, an all-new 6-speed transmission and lots of new customer relevant technology make the MDX an even smarter SUV choice than ever."
Visually, the 7-passenger 2010 MDX receives more aggressive styling in the form of new front and rear bodywork, a bold new front grille and numerous new trim enhancements. Under the hood, the MDX receives a more refined 3.7L V-6 engine that teams with an all-new 6-speed automatic transmission for better performance and improved fuel efficiency. Inside, the MDX receives a host of new features and technologies that make it even more luxurious.
Ride and handling have been enhanced as a result of a revised power steering system, stiffer rear trailing arm mounting, body rigidity improvements and reduced overall NVH. Thanks to Acura's exclusive Super Handling All-Wheel Drive™ (SH-AWD®) system, the MDX's handling provides confident on- and off-road handling in addition to excellent foul weather performance.
To expand the dynamic capabilities for 2010 MDX, a new Advance package, with a revised Active Damper System and larger 19-inch wheels and tires, further enhances handling while retaining the comfortable, quiet and controlled ride quality expected of a luxury vehicle.
The 2010 MDX exterior gets a fresh new look as a result of Acura's signature design front grille, a new front fascia, revised hood, new side sills, a new rear fascia matched with rolled edge polished stainless-steel exhaust finishers, revised taillights with brighter LED lights, many new trim pieces and available 19-inch diameter 7-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels.
Inside, the 2010 MDX benefits from the expanded use of Milano leather, a new thicker sport steering wheel with racing-inspired paddle shifters, new gauges, easier to understand button placement for center stack functions, available ventilated front seats and upgraded interior trim. In addition, a host of new technology is available including AcuraLink Real-Time Weather™ and Traffic Rerouting™. Other available features include a new full VGA 8-inch navigation screen, a new rear view camera with three unique view choices, upgraded rear entertainment system, an updated audio system with a dedicated 15 GB hard disk drive (HDD) and USB port connectivity, even more LED lighting- and the list goes on.
In keeping with Acura's leadership in the application of advanced, customer-relevant features, the 2010 MDX is available with an array of technologies to improve convenience, including an all-new blind spot information system and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), and enhance safety, with Acura's unique Collision Mitigation Braking System™ (CMBS™).
For 2010 the MDX receives a new 3.7-liter VTEC® V-6. The engine continues Acura's longstanding mission to provide V-8 level horsepower and torque while retaining the size and fuel efficiency of a V-6. Based on the previous MDX's powerplant, the newly refined 3.7L V-6 develops 300 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque to provide immediate throttle response, outstanding low- and mid-range torque and excellent high-rpm power. To widen the powerband while simultaneously improving fuel efficiency, the latest 3.7-liter engine has the patented Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control (VTEC®) system applied to the intake valves, revised high-lift camshaft specs during VTEC® operation, a computer controlled dual-stage induction system and an electronic Drive-by-Wire™ throttle system.
Internally, the new 3.7L V-6 makes use of special heavy-duty components including a more rigid cylinder block, high-strength crankshaft, heavy-duty connecting rods, high compression-ratio pistons, cylinder heads with improved cooling, new intake valve springs, a new EGR system, unique long-reach spark plugs, a larger throttle body and other features.
EPA estimated city/highway fuel mileage of 16/21 mpg* (an improvement of 1 mpg city and 1 mpg highway over the 2009 model) and a large 21-gallon fuel capacity mean the MDX is perfect for long drives. Like all 2010 Acura vehicles, the MDX complies with the latest EPA TIER 2 - BIN 5 and CARB LEV II ULEV emissions standards.
The 3.7L V-6 is coupled with a brand-new Sequential SportShift 6-speed automatic transmission along with a new multi-clutch torque converter. With comparatively "short" gearing in the first five forward gears, acceleration is enhanced- while fuel efficiency and quiet cruising are optimized with a relaxed Sixth gear ratio. The transmission offers two automatic shift modes, or can be operated manually via racing-inspired steering wheel paddle shifters. Grade Logic Control, Shift Hold Control, Cornering G Shift Control and Hill Start Assist make the new 6-speed the most advanced automatic transmission ever offered by Acura. To support the MDX's 5,000 pound towing capacity, a special front-mount transmission fluid cooler is employed.
The MDX puts power to the ground through Acura's acclaimed Super Handling All-Wheel Drive™ (SH-AWD®) system, an innovative full-time all-wheel-drive system that uses torque vectoring to actively distribute the optimum amount of power not only between the front and rear axles, but also between the left and right rear wheels. With torque vectoring (and by selectively overdriving the outside rear wheel while cornering) the yaw moment of the MDX can be controlled throughout a turn as the SH-AWD® system reduces understeer to greatly enhance handling precision and ultimate cornering ability. Working in conjunction with the MDX's standard Vehicle Stability Assist™ (VSA®) with traction control, SH-AWD® provides enhanced power delivery and driver control whether it be on-road or off-road, in dry, rain, snow or ice.
When towing, special Trailer Stability Assist algorithms built into the VSA® logic help stabilize the vehicle after sensing oscillations of the vehicle or trailer. The MDX's SH-AWD® system is further enhanced with hill logic that automatically adjusts the front/rear torque distribution based on the incline of the hill grades.
With an emphasis on top-level handling performance, MDX engineers targeted the world-class dynamics and driving feel of the top European SUV competitors. This led to the development of a long wheelbase platform and a sophisticated suspension system tuned at Germany's famed Nürburgring race circuit.
The MDX's 4-wheel fully-independent suspension makes use of MacPherson struts in front teamed with a multi-link rear suspension design that is mounted to a rigid unit body structure with isolated subframes. The front suspension also uses unique hydro-compliance bushings that provide superior ride isolation and chassis vibration control. The rear suspension features aluminum-alloy uprights to reduce unsprung weight for improved response, while special trailing-arm mounting points reduce body squat during acceleration. For 2010, the MDX uses stiffer rear trailing arm mounts, incorporates numerous body rigidity improvements and delivers reduced overall NVH.
As part of the available Advance Package, the Active Damper System gives the 2010 MDX an elevated level of handling precision designed to satisfy the most discriminating drivers- all while maintaining a smooth ride. The MDX's Active Damper System features a new algorithm which provides two driver-selectable settings-Comfort and Sport-that tailor the suspension dampers for a more comfortable or more sporting ride. For 2010, the Active Dampers have been re-tuned for provide a more refined ride for Comfort mode and a more natural feeling Sport mode.
Using "active" Magneto-Rheological fluid dampers and predictive computer algorithms, the MDX's Active Damper System can respond in as little as five milliseconds (0.005 sec.) to individually adjust the damping force of the shock absorbers ahead of actual body movements to provide improved transient handling, road isolation and body control.
The Comfort mode allows for a more relaxed driving experience by prioritizing road isolation and reduced passenger fatigue caused by road inputs, while the Sport mode prioritizes handling response and vehicle body control to allow for spirited driving with high levels of precision and vehicle composure.
For 2010, new (lighter) 18-inch diameter 5-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels are standard with 19-inch diameter 7-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels available as part of the Advance Package.
For excellent stopping power and control, the MDX employs large 13.0-inch diameter ventilated front brake rotors and 13.2-inch solid rear brake rotors along with anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist.
For 2010, new attention to detail and added luxury further distinguish the MDX interior. Expanded use of Milano premium leather to the available Technology Package, improved look and feel of interior trim materials, relocated front seat headrests for improved comfort, more detailed leather stitching (such as the Lancia-style stitching on the steering wheel and shift knob), thicker steering wheel grip, increased use of LED interior lighting and revised cockpit controls make it clear that the MDX is focused on the driver- but not at the expense of passenger comfort.
The power driver seat adjusts 10 ways for optimum comfort, and the front passenger seat is 8-way power adjustable. The second-row outboard seats mirror the style and lateral support of the front seats, giving the interior a unique feel that highlights the MDX's blend of sport and utility. Convenience and cargo features abound, including under-floor storage in the rear cargo area and a standard power-operated rear tailgate. There are multiple configurations of the MDX's three rows of seating thus enabling a maximum useable cargo volume of 83.5 cubic feet. Additionally, a load flat floor is available when the second and third row seats are folded down.
The MDX offers a formidable list of standard equipment including items such as a leather trimmed interior, power moonroof, power windows, leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, a Multi-Information Display (MID) that allows access to multiple electronic functions, a tri-zone climate control system with humidity control and Bluetooth® HandsFreeLink® wireless telephone interface. For 2010, now standard are steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with integrated rear view camera screen and backlit LED instrumentation. Also standard with the MDX is an 8-speaker, 253-watt Acura Premium Sound System that features an AM/FM tuner, in-dash 6-disc CD changer, WMA player, MP3 capability, XM® Radio and an auxiliary jack for connecting personal audio devices.
The available Technology Package adds a range of advanced features designed to offer drivers increased connectivity to the world around them along with added driving enjoyment. In addition to using luxurious full-grain Milano premium leather for the seating surfaces, the Technology Package includes items such as the Maintenance Minder™ system.
The Technology Package's Acura Navigation System with Voice Recognition™ system uses a new 8-inch full VGA high-resolution color display positioned high up in the center of the instrument panel where it is close to the driver's line of sight. A new rearview camera system offers three different rear view angles-normal rear view, wide
angle rear view and a tow-friendly top view.
With data now stored on a built-in 60 GB hard disk drive (HDD) media storage device, the navigation system now boots up and operates with impressive speed. The navigation system includes AcuraLink Real-Time Traffic™ with a new Traffic Rerouting™ feature that can display up-to-the-minute traffic information including freeway flow, incident, construction and weather related incidents in 77 major metropolitan areas.
New for 2010 is AcuraLink Real-Time Weather™ that includes weather radar image maps. The Technology Package also includes a GPS-linked, solar-sensing tri-zone climate control system that automatically adjusts the temperature and fan speed according to the position of the sun.
A popular aspect of the Technology Package is Acura's renowned Acura/ELS Surround® premium audio system featuring a 410-watt Digital Sound Processor amplifier, a 10-speaker surround sound array, along with a built-in 15-gigabyte hard disk drive (HDD) media storage system that allows the MDX owner to download and store about 3,500 songs** for later playback. The Acura/ELS Surround® premium audio system offers DVD-Audio, DTS™, CD, AM/FM radio, XM® Radio, Bluetooth® Audio, along with USB port and AUX jack connectivity.
Rich with luxury, comfort, performance and technology upgrades for the 2010 MDX is a new Advance Package that replaces and goes beyond the previously available Sport Package. Building on the items in the Technology Package, the Advance Package adds ventilated front seats with specially contoured seat foam covered by perforated Milano premium leather, a sport steering wheel with unique design racing-inspired paddle shifters on the steering wheel and textured metallic interior accents.
The Advance Package also includes the Collision Mitigating Braking System™ (CMBS™), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), blind spot information system (BSI) and the Active Damper System. In addition, the Advance Package delivers 19x8-inch 7-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels and auto-leveling HID front headlights.
An available Entertainment Package includes a new Rear Entertainment System (RES) complete with a DVD player, power folding 9-inch full VGA color screen (with 400-percent improved resolution), dual wireless headphones, a wireless illuminated remote control and 115-volt plug located in the center console.
In keeping with Acura's "Safety Through Innovation" initiative, the 2010 MDX provides state-of-the-art safety for its passengers, including the application of Acura's Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ (ACE™) body structure.
ACE™ employs a network of front frame structures that work to absorb and more evenly distributes collision forces throughout the vehicle and also helps maintain the integrity of the passenger cabin in the event of a severe frontal collision. A special frame member located below the MDX's front bumper is designed to engage the front bumper of a lower vehicle, allowing the bumper systems of both vehicles to attenuate crash energy more efficiently.
Numerous standard "active safety" features that help the MDX driver reduce the risk of collision include Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) along with an anti-lock braking system (ABS) with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist. An additional active safety feature included in the available Advance Package is the Collision Mitigating Braking System™ (CMBS™) which helps the driver reduce the likelihood of a collision by alerting the driver to potential collision situations and activating the brakes if the system determines a collision likely is unavoidable. VSA® has been retuned for 2010 to deliver a 10-percent improvement in performance during hard acceleration on slippery surfaces.
Inside the handsomely appointed MDX interior, occupants will find advanced safety features including the latest generation of dual-stage, multiple-threshold airbags for the driver and front passenger.
There are also knee bolsters, front seatbelts with an automatic tensioning system with integrated load limiters, side airbags for the driver and front passenger along with side curtain airbags (with a rollover sensor) for all outboard occupants. Active front head restraints help reduce the likelihood of neck injury for front seat passengers and LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) mounting systems in the second row seating allow quick and secure installation of child seats.
The 2010 MDX is engineered to surpass the existing FMVSS 216 government roof crush test standard of 1.5 times the curb weight of the vehicle. However, the MDX is so well engineered that it is anticipated to already meet the upcoming roof crush standard of 3.0 times curb weight. Efficient use of high-strength steel creates a body structure with the stiffness to allow such results while still permitting the use a large glass moonroof.
Developed by Acura designers and engineers in California and Ohio, and tested in the company's advanced safety laboratories in Raymond, Ohio, the MDX is assembled in Alliston, Ontario, Canada.
Like all 2009 Acura models, the 2010 MDX is covered by a comprehensive 4-year/50,000 mile bumper-to-bumper limited warranty and a 6-year/70,000 powertrain limited warranty. Additional ownership benefits include Acura Total Luxury Care® (TLC®), which provides free 24-hour roadside assistance, concierge service and trip routing.
New Car Test Drive
Updated and refined, with seating for seven.
The Acura MDX is a popular contender on the luxury mid-size crossover battleground, helped by a potent all-weather drive system, efficient use of space, high level of features both standard and available, decent operating economy, and better-than-average warranty and resale value.
The 2010 Acura MDX features bold new styling to highlight significant changes for 2010 underneath. The 2010 MDX gets a new six-speed automatic transmission teamed with a revised version of its V6 engine. Acceleration improves slightly as do EPA ratings by 1 mpg. The MDX was last redesigned for 2007. Chassis refinements for 2010 include a retuned Active Damper System. Also, there is more technology on more models for 2010. The new Advance model gets thicker antiroll bars, especially in back, so it corners flatter and changes direction better.
Front and rear styling details have changed for the 2010 MDX model year, and the MDX is about an inch longer overall. Larger, 19-inch wheels are offered, taking the aggressive look one step further.
Inside, the styling and materials have been updated for 2010 as have many of the electronics and gadgets Acura has developed a reputation for, and more have been added. The top model known as Sport has been replaced with the MDX Advance model, not coincidentally the single-word Acura motto.
The Acura MDX is built on a unibody platform. It's neither an adaptation of a passenger car platform nor a truck-based platform like Chevy's Tahoe. It is not as long as the German seven-seat rivals, but close in size to many five-seat crossovers and has ample cargo space. It's a solid structure that should wear well and ride better than a truck-based utility.
From its wild grille to its elaborately stylish cat's-eye headlamps and new bumper the MDX continues to be edgy, figuratively and literally. It's quickly and easily identified and Acura and generally presents a wide stance.
The seats are laid out in three rows to accommodate seven people; flexible loading and appropriate materials make it family-friendly. It brings enough features to sate most technophiles, yet doesn't get too carried away with aids and assists.
Acura's 3.7-liter V6 is among the most powerful in its class and delivers decent fuel economy. Unlike all of its European competition there is no V8 option, nor a hybrid or diesel that some offer.
The all-wheel drive system can drive each rear wheel independently for maximum traction and to help drive the MDX around a bend. Handling is commendable and the ride taut, both comfort and performance enhanced on the Advance model.
The Acura MDX competes primarily with the Audi Q7, BMW X5, Cadillac SRX, Lexus RX350, Mercedes-Benz GL and ML, and Volvo XC90.
The 2010 Acura MDX ($42,230) comes standard with leather upholstery in the first two rows, three-zone climate control, power heated front seats with driver memory, power windows, power locks, power mirrors, power tailgate, console, cruise control, rearview camera in mirror, message center, trip computer, AM/FM/CD/MP3 sound system, XM satellite radio, Bluetooth, auxiliary audio input, and split-folding rear seats.
The MDX Technology Package ($45,905) adds hard disc navigation with VGA screen, AcuraLink communications, real-time weather (with climate-control link) and traffic, 410-watt 10-speaker Acura ELS surround sound system, multi-view rearview camera, and USB port.
The MDX Advance ($51,855) includes the Technology Package and adds an active damper system, adaptive cruise control with collision mitigation braking system, blind spot information system, ventilated front seats in perforated Milano leather, and 19-inch wheels.
A Rear Entertainment System (RES) is available on Technology ($47,805) and Advance ($53,755) models that adds a motorized 9-inch VGA screen DVD rear-seat entertainment system, heated second-row seats, and 115-volt AC power outlet.
Safety equipment includes two-stage frontal air bags and active head restraints, two-stage driver and front-passenger knee bolsters, front-seat side-impact air bags, and three-row side-curtain air bags with rollover triggering. Active safety features, designed to help the driver avoid accidents in the first place, include all-wheel-drive, electronic stability control, and anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist for panic stops.
The MDX was designed in America, at Honda's facilities in Los Angeles and Ohio, with input from design centers in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and Milan, Italy.
The grille is a metal-filled hole that looks like a battering ram, the new bumper air vents looking very much like a Pontiac cue and drawing the eye to the center. Darkened headlight housings place signals above the headlights as on much larger trucks, and the hood is relatively flat.
At the rear the license plate recess carries the same five-angle shape as the grille and the tail-lights are easily mistaken for an Audi. Tailpipes resemble a wide vacuum cleaner snorkel and, combined with a lack of roof rails and the broad shoulders, make the MDX look lower and wider than it is.
Substantial arches frame the tires to promote the rugged look, while a gentle upward curve in the body mirrors the downward slope of the glass from the front door back, all meeting up above the rear wheel. Adornment is thoughtfully limited to chrome door handles and window trim, with no cladding to hold road salt or eventually fall off.
The 2010 MDX an inch longer than the 2007-2009 but all other dimensions remain the same. Relatively speaking, the Q7, X5 and GL-Class are all notably longer, the Volvo XC90 and 5-seat Lexus RX and Mercedes ML-Class almost the same. A three-seat-row Escalade or Yukon Denali is much larger.
Acura's power tailgate system can be operated either from the key remote key fob, a button on the driver's door panel, or from a button located inside the tailgate. The tailgate motor is in the D-pillar, not the roof, which yields more headroom for the third-row occupants. The tailgate can also be operated manually.
The rear edge of the MDX is a flat-black finish not easily scuffed by errant shopping carts or bushes, but the paint on top of the bumper could be vulnerable loading and unloading the cargo area.
The engine's relatively low placement under-hood is good for stability and pedestrian protection, and gives away the MDX is more suited to pavement that four-wheel drive trail travel.
The interior of the Acura MDX is designed with luxury, business and family all in mind. It is stylish and functional, with generous space for four adults and two kids.
Seats are powered and heated in front with a driver memory system, and offer excellent support for winding lanes or long road trips. Leather, perforated for the ventilated front seats on Advance models, is the default fabric for the front two rows. Third-row seats use a synthetic substitute for leather that is easy-to-clean and more scuff resistant; besides, you don't want to spoil the little buggers too early in life. Entry an exit to third row is best left to smaller, more agile bodies though a subcompact adult will fit if needed.
A ram's horn shape dominates the dash, with wood sweeping from a near-point where the dash and console meet, up and across, then rolling right into the door trim panels. The wood is new for 2010 as is the black-matte finish on the center control panel, and we have to admit the matte-black came off better than the wood which seems too busy with graining, sort of a combination of BMW's horizontal-grain dark walnut and Infiniti's vertical grain-maple.
The driver works with a tilt-and-telescoping dished leather-wrapped steering wheel, the aluminum trim punctuated by eleven switches; shift paddles are standard for 2010. Speed and engine rpm show in two nacelles, with coolant temperature and fuel level in half nacelles outboard. The center display offers the usual mix of info and data, including a bar-graph function for the all-wheel drive that shows the power split among wheels. Trust us, if you see more than three bars for either rear-wheel and aren't going straight ahead you should return your eyes to the road.
On cars with navigation, the top center is the nav screen, a full VGA display that works faster, has real-time weather and traffic, auto-rerouting, and a lane guide to help you find your way. It is controlled using the big multifunction button at the bottom of the panel but does voice recognition as well as any such system. The screen is also used for three rear camera views; a semi-wide-angle normal display, 180-degree fisheye for backing into a parking lot with vans on both sides, and an overhead display for trailer loading or best depth definition.
Switches and controls on the center panel number 48, a lot of white-on-black that might overwhelm at first but quickly becomes more familiar. At the top, the climate controls surround a digital display for radio and climate data; there is no need to go through the central controller and nav screen to do all common operations. Below that, the audio disc drive and controls, with the DVD drive and control source underneath. Bottom center, near the nicely-angled shift lever, is the main control button and hard keys for the majority of the car's systems and setups.
The shift on the left of the console leaves space for a big cupholder on the right and a deep center console with tray for your i-whatever. The forward edges of the armrests curve outward, making less of a dent in your forearm when it's not pointed straight ahead.
Three-zone automatic climate control allows the driver, front passenger and rear passengers to set different temperatures for maximum comfort. Advance models offer seat heat front and middle and ventilated front seats, and on navigation cars the climate control system is linked to better account for sunlight.
The middle row outboard seats are nearly as comfortable as the front and fold down wide side behind the driver. Despite the nearly-flat floor we'd still recommend the center position only for smaller types or baby seats. The third row is compact though Acura did the smart thing making it two seats and 50/50 split rather than three seats.
In addition to the big console there is storage space in the doors, glovebox and right side of the console. Dropping the third-row seats (without removing headrests) increases cargo space from 15 cubic feet to 42; dropping the second-row delivers about 83 cubic feet or very nearly what the much-longer Mercedes GL delivers.
The Acura MDX offers a quiet, taut ride and brisk acceleration performance. The all-wheel drive system does not counter stupidity or physics but it adds to driving fun and with a set of winter tires should do very well in snow.
Acura's 3.7-liter V6 dishes up 300 horsepower (more than any competitor's six cylinder) and with a new six-speed automatic delivers a very good blend of acceleration and fuel economy for a 4600-pound box. The engine is smooth; it's quiet too until you lean on it and pass through 4500 rpm where the satisfying growl comes on but it never gets rough or raucous. With only moderate torque you have to have some revs on to climb a hill or pass, but the transmission and shift logic are perfectly dialed in to that.
Fuel economy for the MDX is an EPA-estimated 16/21 mpg City/Highway on premium unleaded. Among its competitors, only the five-seat Lexus RX and RX hybrid offer better mileage on gasoline; the diesel Q7, X5, GL and ML all do from 2-5 mpg better.
MDX uses independent suspension all around, a setup typical for the class and tuned more toward the BMW-enthusiast end of the spectrum than pillow-velvety Lexus style. Steering is nicely weighted and the car goes where you point it, and driving it up a winding road, where the all-wheel drive pushes the car around a bend like a giant, gentle hand guiding it, is the most rewarding.
While the plain MDX is good, the Advance car is even better. It comes with larger (19-inch) wheels and the same width tires, normally a recipe for better handling/poorer ride, but also includes an active damper system. These shocks are the same design used on top-performance Corvettes, Cadillacs and Audis and use magneto-rheological fluid to change their firmness-level almost instantly. In addition to the comfort/sport modes retuned for 2010, the Advance car also gets thicker antiroll bars, especially in back, so it corners flatter and changes direction better. Pushed to its limits the MDX acquits itself well in terms of handling dexterity and braking, and its acceleration betters many V8-powered SUVs.
For 2010 the loaded MDX includes a blind-spot warning system that works from 6 mph. Acura claims it recognizes cars and trucks but did not mention motorcycles; outward vision is sufficient that we never had the system warn us. It also has radar-based adaptive cruise control to maintain following distance and, if needed, apply the brakes when it senses an impending collision. We didn't test that latter feature either.
MDX carries a maximum tow rating of 5000 pounds, though we'd carefully consider weights and frontal area carefully for any trailer approaching that weight. Some of the larger competitors have higher ratings, up to 7000 pounds, worth noting if your boat is more than 3500 without its trailer.
The Acura MDX has a distinctive face, luxury appointments, room for a family and enough flexibility to make it all work in the same package. It's also got a smooth engine with power to spare, excellent handling and stability, and an all-wheel drive system that can help as much on a dry corner as on a snowy hill. With a good warranty and resale value, it deserves consideration on any seven-seat ski-wagon shopping list.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent G.R. Whale contributed to this report after his test drive of the MDX in Pennsylvania and Los Angeles; Jim McCraw contributed to this report.
Acura MDX ($42,230); MDX with Technology Package ($45,905); MDX with Technology and Rear Entertainment System ($47,805); MDX with Advance Package ($51,855); MDX with Advance and RES ($53,755).
Alliston, Ontario, Canada.
Options As Tested
Acura MDX with Advance and RES ($53,755).
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