High-tech Acura MDX offers speedy comfort and impressive features
special to the daily
A beautiful, capable and technologically advanced update on what was already one of the premier entries in the upscale SUV market, the 2007 version of Acura’s acclaimed MDX blends power and fine features into one immaculate driving experience.
With a smooth and comfortable ride and a design envelope that puts it well beyond the range of your average ‘ute, the new MDX is an astounding machine. A sweeping and encapsulating wrap-around interior cabin design makes you feel like you’re at the controls of some futuristic vehicle; a small set of third-row seats allows you to carry seven passengers in the height of forward-looking style.
Priced at about $47,795 for a top-of-the-line Sport/Entertainment equipped model featuring one of the most impressive, Surround Sound stereo systems on the market, the MDX’s audio, navigation and even climate-control gadgetry is a little intense at first but can be relatively easily mastered.
And with a 3.7-liter VTEC V-6 producing 300 horsepower ” coupled with Acura’s advanced all-wheel drive system and a slick five-speed automatic transmission featuring a SportShift manual mode ” the MDX is a formidable all-season hauler.
Parked on a grippy set of P255/55 R18 tires matched to attractive alloy wheels, handling is a little heavy, especially in parking situations. I enjoyed a good overall driving feel with just a slightly top-heavy experience during sharp cornering or heavy braking, despite a million or so electronic systems designed to mitigate the vehicle’s 4,597-pound curb weight. In snow and on ice, the MDX was an absolute champion; those 300 horses are a lot of fun and can get the vehicle flying in no time at all. Combined gas mileage was in the low 20s on Acura-mandated premium fuel.
This year’s update on the MDX’s exterior has given the automobile a more progressive look, with a compelling hood and nose design, a largely unadorned, just slightly dimpled body line and the clean lines of an overhanging air spoiler on the rear roof.
Inside, a high seating position (with extremely comfortable heated leather seats, even in the second row, all finished in a unique, angular design) gives great views of the road, although the relatively small rear window means slightly obscured rear vision. Click a button on the center console and you can also soften the ride when carrying passengers, or firm things up for a sportier experience.
The dash and doors are finished in a beautiful mix of glossy hardwood-styled trim, leather and aluminum. Deep instrument cowls with ultra-bright blue and white gauges surround a helpful but somewhat distracting information screen, itself offering up trip computer data. Even the steering wheel design is cool, mimicking Acura’s Star Trek-styled logo, with full audio, speed and even speech input controls at your fingertips.
The triangular center stack contains an Airbus-worthy complement of electronic controls, topped by a bright 8-inch navigation and information screen that also includes a back-up camera.
One of the coolest features is the AcuraLink navigation system, which will project real-time traffic conditions and highway speeds and warn you of accidents (sadly, only in urban areas, at present).
The regular navigation system can be controlled by voice recognition and was, in my experience, a little overly sensitive when I didn’t follow its exact directions ” but usually readapted to my new route after a bit of nagging. Program it correctly and it will even come up with Zagat reviews of restaurants in your travel area.
The audio system is simply stunning, with Surround Sound and the ability to play multichannel DVD audio, which will literally blow you away. Acura and Honda, unfortunately, still have never figured out how to properly interface their stereos with XM Satellite radio and that portion of the sound package is oddly tinny.
Some of the technology, admittedly, was beyond my comprehension ” the tri-zone climate control system is magically connected to the GPS system and can tell when sunlight is entering the cabin, automatically adjusting the temperature.
Second-row riders get their own full climate controls and a DVD entertainment system with wireless headphones and three accessory headphone jacks.
Actually accessing the small third-row seating is a bit of a stretch, requiring a leap over the flopped-forward second-row seats, so it’s best left to nimble children.
The MDX’s rear tailgate is also electronically controlled, and can be opened using the keyfob, a button in the cabin or the handle on the back.
Sound a little overwhelming? Perhaps. But if your automotive tastes run towards the forward-looking, with extreme comfort and excellent performance as part of the package, the MDX might be a good choice. Just get ready for a bit of time spent actually reading the owner’s manual to pick up on all of the subtleties.
Price as tested: $47,795
Includes: 3.7-liter VTEC V-6 engine, five-speed transmission with SportShift, SH-AWD system, leather-trimmed seating, third-row seating, voice-recognition navigation system, rearview camera, rear DVD entertainment system, AcuraLink real-time traffic function, 10-speaker Surround Sound audio system, 18-inch alloy wheels, auto-leveling Xenon headlamps, XM Satellite radio
Stated mileage: 17 mpg city, 22 mpg hwy.
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