DRIVING NORTHWEST: The 2011 Acura MDX

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by TOM VOELK / KING 5 Car specialist

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KING5.com

Posted on January 20, 2011 at 2:27 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 20 at 9:32 PM

If you haven’t noticed, the crossover market has become very very competitive.  From the basic budget models to premium plushmobiles, there’s bound to be one that fits your payment plan. 

Today I’m looking at an upper middle class favorite, the Acura MDX.  Bristling with technology and supremely solid on the road, it has always appealed to those who have the means.  This is the second generation, back in 2010 it was refreshed inside and out including the controversial corporate grille. 

Starting at $43,440 the price is reasonable… within the pack it runs in at least.  The completely loaded example that I’m profiling with Advance and Entertainment packages will set your kid’s orthodontist back $54,965 with destination.  Isn’t it frustrating that you helped pay for so much of it?

55 Grand Is Not Exactly Pocket Change

That’s why I always suggest people do their homework.  As a seven-passenger crossover, MDX goes up against BMW X5, Volvo XC90 and Audi Q7.  Since the third row often sits empty it can be argued that BMW X3, Lexus RX, Cadillac SRX, Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland, Porsche Cayenne and Audi Q5 are competitors as well. 

MDX delivers nicely in every aspect of its mission.  Starting with the cockpit, it looks rich with exceptionally soft leather wrapped over supportive heated and ventilated chairs.  A large band of wood-like trim flows through the soft touch instrument panel.  Acura has packed it full of technology and lots and lots of identical buttons making it a bit confusing at first. 

The Acura/ELS DVD surround sound audio system with 15 gigs of song memory is among my favorites.  Satellite navigation gets you to your destination, everything from weather radar image maps to a traffic rerouting feature makes the journey less stressful.  I prefer touch screens to Acura’s knob operation. The system (with no fancy name like MMI or iDrive) has voice recognition but for some reason VR systems don’t hear me well even though my wife says I talk too loud.  Gripes?  The center console door is split down the middle and a bit awkward to get into and keyless ignition is not available.

The same screen that shows nav, iPod info, and weather reports displays a unique rear view camera with three different angles- normal, wide angle, and a top view that helps folks who need to hitch a trailer alone.

Power Trip

MDXs 3.7 liter V-6 VTEC V6 engine develops 300 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 RPM.  The only tranny is a six-speed automatic.  Manual gear changes can be done with steering wheel mounted paddles included in the Advance package, hinting toward sporty intention.

Sure enough the MDX moves briskly.  0-60 happens in just under 8 seconds. It prefers premium fuel and is EPA rated at 16 city, 21 highway, a bit thirsty.  When cornering, MDX uses a sophisticated system called Super Handling All-Wheel Drive.  It turns the outside rear wheel faster which guides it around turns in a confident manner. The result is a crossover that feels very secure in all sorts of conditions.  It’s not intended for severe off-roading but hey, when is the last time you did that, huh?

Driving Tech

Someone camping out in your blind spot?  MDX will let you know with a light in the side view mirror. The Advance Package adds radar assisted cruise control that automatically adjusts speed to match the car ahead. Drivers can tune the ride softer for comfort or firm it up for sport.  Collision Mitigation Braking System warns distracted drivers if a crash is imminent and if it becomes unavoidable, it automatically applies the brakes to lessen the severity.

While the MDX handles very well, it doesn’t quite have the soul found in BMW’s X5.  Avid enthusiasts will detect the difference, other buyers won’t.  That’s what test drives are for, only you can determine if the road feel and communication of the Bimmer is worth the extra cost which is in the neighborhood of around $12,000 when both are equipped like my tester.

The three passengers in the middle row will appreciate comfortable heated seats.  There is no fore and aft adjustment to max out legroom but space is fine, the seats recline and there is the option of watching movies since this does have the Entertainment package with a generous sized LCD screen that glides down from the ceiling.  Row number two easily folds flat to haul really big stuff.

Moving To The Back    

Easy access to the third row is only on the passenger side and it’s not exactly easy to get back there.  It’s only for children and adults you’re not crazy about.  At least it’s there for emergencies.  Really though, buyers need to move up to a full sized SUV or a minivan when looking for generous room for seven. 

People buy crossovers to haul stuff and in this case the TP does not lie.  Open the motorized hatch and there’s room for two bundles of Kirkland brand bath tissue behind the usable 3rd rows, which is bout par for the course. Drop the third row and there’s room… for 11 packs.  A shade less than average in class but still very useful.

Safety is always a concern.  The expected electronic stability control helps keep accidents from happening in the first place.  Multi stage airbags and Acura’s advanced body structure called ACE protects in case impact is unavoidable.

Style Points

Acura’s origami-like design has been a topic of conversation lately.  Not only do I see MDX as the brand’s best product, it’s also their best looking vehicle.  MDX received a mild makeover for 2010 that gave it new LED tail lamps and the controversial shield grille.  Personally I’m fine with it on this particular vehicle since it matches the overall angular lines.  It tends to look better when matched up with silver and charcoal paint. 

In the end, MDX is a sophisticated and rewarding luxury crossover that’s very price competitive.  It’s one of those vehicles that like an ambassador.  Both men and women tend to agree it’s good looking, it drives well and it gets the chores done.  It’s a crossover that should be on a well-off family’s test drive list.
 

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